Penn State 285-pounder Jon Gingrich is an example of how much hard work in the right atmosphere will pay off.
Gingrich was never a state champion at Bald Eagle Area. In fact, the highest he placed in Hershey was fourth at 215 pounds his junior year in 2009. He didn't even win a bout at states the following year at 215.
And then he backed up Cameron Wade as he redshirted his first year at Penn State and then again last season as a redshirt freshman.
While he was doing that, he was putting on weight to become a college heavyweight, learning what he could from coach Cael Sanderson, working on his flaws in practice and going to open tournaments.
When Wade graduated, the job wasn't given to him. He had to deal with transfer Jimmy Lawson, and the two shared the weight until recently. That's when Gingrich won an elimination bout against Lawson in conditions that were certainly less than ordinary for a elimination.
"It was pretty cool," Gingrich said. "We kind of made it similar to a dual meet. We set a big mat out in the [Rec Hall] gym, and we had the lights dimmed down. [Sanderson] wanted to make it like a real match, so we'd both get the same feeling."
Gingrich hasn't been ranked, but it's a safe bet he will be soon. He's beaten two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 this season, including Michigan State's fourth-ranked Mike McClure, 5-3, on Sunday afternoon at Rec Hall.
Gingrich could be tough for opponents to deal with the rest of the season as his confidence builds with every win.
"Success builds confidence," Sanderson said. "I think it's the greatest builder of confidence. Hopefully, he just keeps going. He's very tough, strong and explosive as you can see."
Not all has come up roses for Gingrich. He didn't place at the Southern Scuffle, losing to Missouri's eventual champion Dominique Bradley and then lost his first consolation bout.
"The Scuffle didn't go as planned," Gingrich said. "I had every intention of going down and winning it. After I lost, I wasn't focused for my first consolation match, and it showed. Coming back, I kind of knew I can't let this stuff distract me. I need to stay focused. If I do that, I feel like I can beat anybody."
Bearcats get tested again
Huntingdon, ranked third in the Mirror rankings, passed a big test over the weekend when it beat fourth-ranked Philipsburg-Osceola, 36-29, in the Juniata Duals finals. The teams are scheduled to face off again on Jan. 31 at Huntingdon.
The Bearcats will face an even bigger test tonight when they host rival Mount Union. Huntingdon is 8-1, losing only to Bald Eagle Area, 39-27, while Mount Union is 13-1, losing only to West Branch, 40-21.
West Branch appears to be the favorite to win the District 6 Class AA Team Duals, but the Bearcats and the Trojans will have something to say about that.
The Duals finals are set for Feb. 2 at Tyrone High School.
West Branch, ranked sixth by Off the Mat, will face a big test Wednesday night when it hosts fifth-ranked Brookville.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.