After capturing his fourth regional title and solidifying himself as one of the finalists in the states, Bellefonte’s Jude Swisher demonstrated nothing but gratitude and praise toward his teammates.
Swisher–who’s record now stands at 38-1 after a 3-0 weekend at the PIAA Class AAA NW regional wrestling tournament–was one of two Red Raiders to qualify for the state tournament.
The other Bellefonte scrapper making the trip to Hershey. Aidan O’Shea, Swisher’s friend and teammate who found a way to overcome loss in the semifinals and rattle off two crucial wins.
“Aidan O’Shea is probably one of the people I’m the proudest of right now,” Swisher said with a smile across his face and his first-place medal draped around his neck. “It’s been a roller coaster for him. He struggled with injury, and he struggled with close defeats. What sets him apart is his ability to get back up and keep trying. He’s become one of my closest friends, I could not be more thrilled to go share this experience of going to Hershey with him.”
O’Shea’s resiliency–which Swisher noted–was on full display Saturday afternoon inside of Altoona’s Field House. The senior entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed in the 132-pound bracket. But O’Shea didn’t let the tournament ranking define him.
After opening up with a, 16-0, win over General McLane’s Ben Watkins in the round of 16 O’Shea began to turn some heads and pick up some momentum. In the quarterfinals came another shutout victory for O’Shea as he topped Clearfield’s Ty Aveni to advance to the semifinals where he ran into a roadblock.
O’Shea fell to Williamsport’s Braden Bower–one of the state’s top wrestlers at 132–in the semifinals. Despite the loss, O’Shea’s day was far from over.
“One of the hardest things do, I think, in this sport is when you’re in the semi’s and you’re six minutes away from going to the state tournament and you lose a tough match and have to regroup. He was able to refocus and get a win under his belt and just wrestle a good solid match to punch his ticket to states,” Red Raiders coach Mike Maney said regarding O’Shea.
Bellefonte’s 132 pounder ended up “regrouping” and he did it as the Red Raider faithfully packed with coaches, parents and wrestlers cheered him on.
O’Shea rattled of two wins–over DuBois’ Brendan Orr and Shikellamy’ Isaac McGregor–to take third place and join Swisher as Bellefonte’s lone two advancing to the next round.
It was nothing but business for Swisher this past weekend and it took care of whoever was in his way.
“I owe it to nobody but my coaches, my parents, my teammates, my friends and my God. Very little of it I feel was of my own doing. Surreal–is kind of like the word that’s left. I’ve won, I’ve lost, I laughed and cried in that gym,” Swisher said as he pointed to Altoona’s high school. “At the end of the day this is another stepping stone toward the ultimate goal.”
Swisher entered as the top seed in the 145 division and left as the No. 1 wrestler. Bellefonte’s other senior who’s ready to compete with the best at the PIAA championships went a perfect 3-0 on his way to his fourth state appearance.
After pinning General McLane’s Kyle Cousins (1:49) in the quarterfinals, Swisher rolled past Altoona’s Will Young in the semifinals. Swisher’s first challenge came in the title bout against an opponent familiar to him.
“Riley Bower is as seasoned as they come. State medalist, regional champ himself. He’s been winning tournament since he could walk. His Williamsport coaches–they know what they’re doing. They breed winners,” Swisher said after taking down Bower, 7-0, in the finals. “We had a close match in January, and I came away from that three to one. All I’ve thought about since that match was getting better and here, I demonstrated how much better I’ve gotten. †
After blanking Bower, Swisher now has 15 consecutive victories.
“He leads by example,” Maney said regarding Swisher. “When you have a wrestler that their legacy’s going to be around a lot longer than just their time at high school, he’s a great student, teammate. He wrestled with a lot of confidence and needs to carry that into next week (States).”
Outside of Swisher and O’Shea, both Garrett Choates (113) and Gage Long (138) placed fifth Bellefonte.