CHAMPS! James Whitbread, Nicholas Pavlechko, and Asher Cunningham (Left-Right) line up with their gold.
CHAMPS! James Whitbread, Nicholas Pavlechko, and Asher Cunningham (Left-Right) line up with their gold.
Jacob Will

Three Little Lions Bring Home Gold From Northwest Regional Wrestling Tournament

The Little Lions sent five wrestlers to the Northwest Regional Championships at the Altoona Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 24. James Whitbread, Nicholas Pavlechko, and Asher Cunningham all took first place in their weight classes and Noah Young and Peirson Manville placed second. This was the second year in a row that State High sent five wrestlers to the Northwest Regional Champions and the third year straight that State High had at least three wrestlers to win the Region Championship. 

The first championship bout was the 107-pound weight class with six-seed Little Lion Noah Young taking on one-seed Gavin Heverly from Central Mountain. Freshman Noah Young had taken second place in the District 6 Championship the prior week after losing to Heverly by fall. This time, things looked completely different.

Freshman Noah Young looks for a shot of a takedown. (Jacob Will)

Young gave up an early takedown but got an escape to keep the match 1-2 after the first period. The second period was made up of a long scramble, and after two, the score was 6-3 with Heverly ahead.

Starting the third, Young chose the bottom and got to his feet fast for an escape. However, some quick offense from Heverly caught Young in a bad position. Heverly locked up a pin at one minute and 20 seconds. Despite the loss, Young was the first Little Lion on the podium that night. 

The next weight that State College sent a finalist to was 133 pounds. Freshman James Whitbread carried a three-seed into the finals to face Jordan Rutan, Punxsutawney’s one-seed. Whitbread won the District VI Championship in the 133-pound weight class and carried his success through the Northwest Regional tournament. Before the match, Whitbread said, “I came in with a lot of confidence and excitement for this bout. I knew I had to win it and it is definitely some momentum going into the state tournament.” 

After the first, Whitbread had a 2-1 lead which he then doubled in the second period to 4-2. 

In the final period of the match, Whitbread secured a five-point throw to take gold with the 9-3 victory over Rutan. He was the first Little Lion of the night to win gold and the first freshman to win the Regional for State High since Asher Cunningham in 2022.

Freshman James Whitbread throws an opponent for a five-point throw. (Jacob Will)

The 145-pound weight class held a highly anticipated matchup between the Little Lions’ number one seed Pierson Manville and Central Mountain’s number six seed Luke Simcox. The prior week, Manville won the D6 Championship due to an injury forfeit by Simcox. This week, the two finally met up in a wild bout. 

The first period ended with the same score it started as aggressive ties and shots by each led to no points being scored. The second period stayed low-scoring and ended with a 1-0 Simcox lead. Manville was then forced to choose the bottom position to start the third.

Senior, Pierson Manville, attempts to throw an opponent before going out of bounds. (Jacob Will)

Manville got up quickly from the bottom but was still wrapped up by Simcox. Simcox then tried to return Manville and with some roll through magic, Manville was able to get his quick escape to even the score at one. The third period ended 1-1 forcing a minute of sudden victory where once again no scoring occurred.

In the first period of overtime, Manville was able to get an escape with 15 seconds left to take the lead. Simcox still got his chance in the second overtime and he was able to follow up with an escape of his own. 

Because Simcox had taken the first point of the match, he was able to choose his position for the final overtime period. Simcox chose the bottom and got his escape to upset the number one ranked Manville and take the gold medal. Despite his loss, Manville still came away with second place to be the third wrestler to place top two of the night for the Little Lions. 

The fourth wrestler of the night for the Little Lions was Asher Cunningham, the undisputed one-seed in the 160-pound weight class. He faced Deakon Schaeffer of Mifflin County who was the 6 seed. Cunningham, the Penn State commit and back-to-back Regional Champion, had dominated throughout the tournament and continued his dominance in this bout.

Junior Asher Cunningham rides out an opponent for the final seconds of the period. (Jacob Will)

In the first period of the match, Cunningham recorded five takedowns to secure an early 10-4 lead. In the second, his dominance continued with seven more takedowns as Cunningham would take down and release his opponent to rack up his points. After two periods, Cunningham led 24-11. Cunningham ended the bout with one more easy takedown to secure the tech fall after four minutes and 41 seconds of wrestling.

Cunningham had a stone-faced reaction to his easy victory. “No [emotions] really,” he said after the bout, “Just gotta get to States. That’s about it.”

The last Little Lion to wrestle on Saturday was the top-seeded heavyweight, Nicholas Pavlechko. He took on Wyatt Maines, the six seed from Hollidaysburg. Pavlechko was already a back-to-back regional champ and looked to add one more before moving on to the University of Indiana to continue his wrestling career. 

Pavlechko had already pinned his opponent the week prior in the District VI Championship, so he came out very relaxed. As for how he felt before the match, he said, “I’m pretty chill, so when I going out there I’m like ‘alright I’m just going to pin this dude,’ so I’m always pretty cool and [always] have a smile on my face.” 

Pavlechko did exactly that during this match and dominated. Pavlechko began the bout with three extremely quick takedowns. He then worked to secure the fall and got it in just 59 seconds. Pavlechko was the third Little Lion to bring home gold on Saturday night and the gold medal was the perfect ending for the back-to-back-to-back regional champ. 


Senior, Nicholas Pavlechko, looks for the pin in the first period. (Jacob Will)

This regional tournament was a PIAA State Championship qualifier for the Little Lions individual wrestlers. All five Little Lion wrestlers who wrestled in the Regional Championships traveled to Hershey for the PIAA Individual State Championships where many continued their success. 

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