Gill puts competition in proper perspective

PIAA wrestling notebook

03/04/17 By Gary M. Baranec Hollidaysburg's Hunter Gill wrestles Cathedral Prep's Kawaun DeBoe in the heavyweight bout at the AAHS Fieldhouse.

HERSHEY — Canon-McMillan’s Brendan Furman, who went on to win the 285-pound title at the PIAA Class 3A Championships, had just pinned Hollidaysburg’s Hunter Gill in 40 seconds in the quarterfinals.

Most wrestlers obey an unwritten tournament sportsmanship tradition by shaking the hands of the opposing wrestler’s coaching staff after they shake hands with their opponent.

Gill took it a little further than most after he was pinned by Furman on Friday.

As he was shaking hands with the Canon-McMillan coaches, he said, “Sorry I didn’t give him much of a match.”

When Gill left and Furman came back to his corner, one of the Canon-Mac coaches said to Furman, “That might be the nicest heavyweight in the world.”

What prompted Gill, who suffered a pull of his intercostal cartilage (muscles that run between the ribs) that required medical personnel to wrap his chest and sides, to say that to the coaches?

“I wrestled him previously at the Flo National Tournament, and it went to overtime,” Gill said. “I lost by giving up a takedown. So, I figured I could at least give him a match even if he was going to win.”

Gill, who will likely play football at Juniata College, would have loved to have gotten one more win. One more win in the third round of consolations would have gotten him into the medal rounds. He was definitely disappointed in not medaling in his second trip to Hershey.

“You work from elementary until now to get this goal, and then losing in the round to place is just crushing,” Gill said as he tried to hold back his emotions. “I’d say my career is pretty successful overall. I won over 100 matches.”

When that story about the Cannon-McMillan coaches was retold to Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore after Gill was eliminated with a pin by Blue Mountain’s Erech Noecker, he laughed.

“He is, that’s his character,” Moore said. “He’s a tremendous kid. We were fortunate to be able to coach him for four years and be around him. I think he certainly left his mark on the Golden Tiger wrestling program.

“He’s just one of those quality kids that you love to be around.”

Asked if he’s ever coached a kid like Gill, Moore said, “I have not. He’s the first one. He’ll shake hands, and he’s got the same mentality after each match. He puts it out there, and if it’s not good enough, he’s going to shake the guy’s hand and show good sportsmanship. He’s just a quality kid.”

How much pride does Gill take in his sportsmanship?

“That’s what I’m all about,” he said. “When people take fits on our time, I give them a hard time and say ‘That’s not why you do this sport. You do this sport to have competition.’ It’s not all about winning. It’s about having the competition.

“From elementary school until seventh grade, I never won a match. In eighth grade is when I first started winning. I just learned through losing that it’s not all about winning.”

Pfahler in Ridge’s thoughts

As was reported in Sunday’s Mirror, Chestnut Ridge state champion Justin McCoy dedicated his performance to Ridge’s first state champ Gary Pfahler, who died a week before the state tournament was laid to rest this past Saturday.

The Lions had a reminder of Pfahler, who coached McCoy and other elementary wrestlers for his senior project, with them while they were in Hershey.

“We had Gary in our thoughts this week,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “We had Gary’s shirt on our medical bag with us, and our thoughts and prayers are to his family.”

Jim Clark, who coached Pfahler to state title before retiring, was at the tournament to watch McCoy win.

Lazor coached Pfahler’s stepbrother, Josh McDannel, to the state finals in his first year as the Lions’ coach, but McDannell lost. Both the coach and the wrestler took the loss hard, so Saturday was a big difference.

“Obviously, they’re completely opposite feelings,” Lazor said. “With one, you feel disappointed and sad for the young man. He had an opportunity to put himself on the board as a legend, and that didn’t quite come through. You’re always wondering what you could have done.

“Then when a win does happen, you just feel elated and joy for the young man because he’s earned it as much as anybody.”

Baney doesn’t break a sweat

Huntingdon’s Seth Baney finished third at 160 pounds, and he didn’t even have to wrestle on Saturday. Baney won by forfeit over Reynolds’ Gavin Wilkerson in the third-place bout. It was unknown why Wilkerson had to forfeit.

“There wasn’t really a third-place prize that would have really sweetened the deal,” Baney said. “It was coming back and be able to beat people that I lost to, basically avenging my losses. I just did it by rethinking what I was doing, wrestling smart and wrestling hard. It definitely depended on who had more heart.

“If you lose in the state tournament at all, you have to keep your head in it and have to have the heart to want to keep going.”

Baney advanced to the third-place bout by beating Moshannon Valley’s Brown, 3-1, in overtime in the consolation semifinals. Brown beat Baney in the ultimate tiebreaker, 4-3, in the District 6 finals.

“I think he’s a great opponent,” Baney said. “I think he’s a really good wrestler. I think that was the first time I’ve beaten him in the five times we’ve wrestled. So, it was really nice to end my career with that win.”

Baney had plenty of time then to watch teammate Jacob Oliver win his second straight state title at 170 pounds. Oliver gave up the first takedown to Susquenita’s Dalton Group, but Oliver scored nine unanswered points to win, 9-2.

“Oh my gosh,” Baney said, “it’s the most amazing friend to have a friend who is as good as Jake winning another state championship. He’s a great practice partner, great friend and like a brother. The start was stressing me out a little bit. I didn’t want it to go quite like that, but I was really happy to see him doing what he does best.

Cassidy takes third

Bedford’s Kaden Cassidy, who attends Bishop McCort, had a breakout freshman season for the Crushers.

Cassidy won the District 6 and Southwest Regional Tournament title before finishing third at 106 pounds at the state tournament. His only tournament loss was to Reynolds’ eventual champion Beau Bayless, 4-1, in the semifinals.

“I can do better,” Cassidy said. “I’ve just got to come back next year and try to get first. I think I did well in the tournament, but next year I’m going to be looking forward to the tournament and try to get first like junior high.”

Cassidy won a junior high state title in the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships last year while attending Bedford’s junior high.

Mount Union’s Josh Boozel, whom Cassidy beat in the district and regional finals, finished second at 106, losing 5-0 to Bayless in the finals.

“That’s fine with me,” Cassidy said. “He’s a junior, so he’s only got one more year left after this year, and I’ve got three more years. So, I can earn it back in the next three years.”

Dugan gets honor

Two-time Moshannon Valley state champ and current Off The Mat editor Mark Dugan was named the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Man of the Year.