Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

A. J. Schopp and T. J. Albright qualified for the PIAA state wrestling championships for Tyrone, with first and third place finishes over the weekend at the Southwest Regional Tournament at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
Call them the alphabet twins. Both Schopp and Albright go by initials instead of the usual first name. They are linked to one-another, yet are very different.
Albright (33-9, 134-41 career) is the last of an incredible total of six future 100 career match winners that was part of the 2003-04 Golden Eagle lineup, going to the state tournament as a freshman that year and winning an eighth place medal at Hershey. Returning to the Giant Center as a senior after a two loss and out junior year at states, and nearing the end of his high school career, T. J. will attempt to repeat and better that medal performance beginning Thursday.
Schopp (36-3 as a freshman), appears to be on the fast track to become the next 100-match winner for the Eagles. Although there was no outstanding wrestler chosen at the Regionals, if there had been, Schopp would have been a shoo-in for the honor. Just beginning his high school career, A. J. avenged two losses suffered earlier in the year, and won the 103-pound title at Johnstown, by handing an undefeated District 7 champ his first loss of the year in the Regional finals.
Schopp majored Dylan Corey of Burrell, 10-0, in his first match, then defeated North Star’s Joe Lascari, Off the Mat magazine’s top ranked 103-pounder, 5-2 in the quarterfinals. Lascari had edged Schopp 6-4, in overtime, in the Thomas Chevrolet Tournament finals. In the semifinals, A. J. hammered Pat Myers of Penn Cambria, by a 17-2 tech fall that avenged a 4-1 loss at the District 6 tournament two weeks ago. Then completing his trio of big wins, Schopp fell behind undefeated District 7 champion Frank Martellotti (38-0) of Shady Side Academy, 4-1 after the first period in the finals. The Golden Eagle freshman tilted Martellotti twice for five nearfall points in the second period for a 6-4 advantage, then added a takedown and three more back points for a solid 11-4 win and the championship.
“That was an outstanding tournament for A. J.,” said Tyrone wrestling coach Blair Packer. “You can’t ask anything more out of him for a freshman coming in here, beating two kids that defeated him earlier on in the season and beating them masterfully. It was a great experience for him, to blow his competition away. Just qualifying for states is great, but the way he went about it is a big, big bonus. He has paid his dues, he deserves everything he gets. This was his night.”
Since District 6 moved to the Southwest Tournament in 1997, Schopp joins John Givler (1998), Thadd Westley (2004), and Terry Tate (2004, 2005) as the only Tyrone Regional champs.
Albright opened his regional tournament with a fall over Drae Johnson of Valley, but dropped into the consolation brackets with an 8-5 loss to Glenn Winslow of Cambria Heights. In the losers’ bracket, T. J. pinned Tanner Ripple of Bedford, in 1:49, avenged a loss in the finals of the Thomas Tournament by downing Sam Zimmerman of North Star, 4-1. It would be the last point Albright would allow, defeating Mount Pleasant’s Zack Sheridan 5-0 and Paul Myers of Penn Cambria, 3-0 for third place.
In the consolation semifinal match against Sheridan, Albright used a second-period nearfall and third stanza reversal for his points. After two scoreless periods in the third place final, T. J. escaped and took down Myers in the third period, for the win.
“His quest, of course, was to win the tournament, but sometimes it doesn’t happen,” said Packer about Albright. “When that happens, you have to be able to bounce, to come back and take what you can, finish in the top five. That’s what he did. There is no shame in that. T. J. is a three-time state qualifier now. Kids have come out of this tournament fifth and placed in the top five at states. Sometimes kids hit their peak here, sometimes at states. You never know, with a little luck T. J. could hit his stride at states.”
Schopp and Albright are part of a contingent of 27 wrestlers from District 6 to advance to the PIAA tournament, including five champions: Schopp, Cody Feathers of Claysburg-Kimmel (125), Ryan Jacoby of Moshannon Valley (135), Eli Norvell of Huntingdon (145) and Zac Bennett of Westmont-Hilltop (189). District 7 will take 33 wrestlers to Hershey and District 5 will advance 10.
Tyrone finished 10th in the team race with 47.5 points. Burrell won the team title with 103,5 points, followed by Westmont-Hilltop (76), Shady Side Academy (75), Huntingdon and Keystone Oaks (69). Mount Pleasant (68) was sixth, Penn Cambria (62) Chestnut Ridge (57.5), Richland (55) and Tyrone finish out the top 10.

By Rick