McCoy eyes 2nd state title

Despite its success over the years, especially recently, Chestnut Ridge has never had a wrestler win two state titles.

That could change this weekend.

Returning state champion Justin McCoy enters the PIAA Class 2A Championships as a favorite to claim his second gold medal.

Last year, he captured the 145-pound title, becoming only the second Lion to win gold and the first since the late Gary Pfahler in 2008. He defeated Bishop McDevitt’s returning state runner-up John Pipa, 5-2, in the finals.

This year, he enters at 152 pounds with everybody looking to knock him off. Only one person has beaten the 42-1 McCoy this year, and that was a three-time West Virginia state champion.

“That would be real exciting,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said of the potential to have a two-time state champ in the program. “He’s got four wins to do it. It’s something that he’s capable of. He’s put the time and effort in to give himself that opportunity.”

McCoy has earned three medals in Hershey, and he’s looking to become the first in school history to earn four. Former teammate Aaron Burkett is the only other Lion to earn three.

What’s it going to take to win it all?

“He just needs to stay himself, stay aggressive and do what he’s been doing all year,” Lazor said. “He’s been looking awesome, putting a lot of points on the board. He’s a hard man to keep up with when he’s working hard like that.”

“Experience is something that he should have an advantage on over the other guys, but you never know how anything will turn out. There’s a lot of great wrestlers down there. He’s going to have to work hard, limit mistakes and try to capitalize on theirs.”

The tournament begins at 9 Thursday morning at the Giant Center in Hershey with a short preliminary round, followed by a first round. A win in the first round means wrestlers are done until Friday. A loss means they will have to wrestle in the consolations at 1:15.

McCoy is one of 18 wrestlers from the area who will look to place in the top eight to earn a medal. Three of those are teammates in Southwest Regional champion Jared McGill (160), Levi Hobson (170) and Austin Crouse (182).

McGill is 42-0 and looking to earn state gold, which would be the junior’s third state medal. The returning fourth-placer will have to get a through a returning state champion in Wyalusing’s Creighton Edsell most likely in the quarterfinals. Edsell finished second in the Northeast Region, losing to Mifflinburg’s Tyler Stoltzfus, who is in the opposite bracket.

“So be it,” Lazor said. “If he’s going to win it all, Jared is going to have to beat him at some point along the line. He has every bit of a chance to win that bracket as anyone else in there. He’s been putting the time in, looking great. He and McCoy have been going hard in the room, and it’s hard to imagine anyone working as hard as those two do.”

There are also four wrestlers from Penn Cambria in 2016 qualifier Chase Proudfit (132), Brock Talko (138), Jarred Stoy (160) and Southwest runner-up Derek Brown (170), who went 1-2 in last year’s tournament.

“I tell you what, they’re going to have to wrestle hard,” PC coach Todd Niebauer said. “They’ve all put a lot of time in. Some of their shots are a little longer than others, but we’re not going down there just because we’re happy to be there. I think they’re looking forward to it as much as I am.

“I think (Brown) went down there a little tight in his first year, so I’m hoping he’s ready to go. I expect he will be. I think it will help him having three of his teammates with him.”

Huntingdon has three wrestlers competing in Ryder Kocik (182), Alex Mykut (195) and Landon Fisher (220). Fisher is a returning state qualifier.

“I expect the same thing he’s done all year,” Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut said of Fisher. “He’s wrestled extremely well. He’s beat a lot of the kids in his bracket, so I think that he knows he can compete with some of the best kids in the state. He’s excited and ready to show what he can do and get on the podium.”

Glendale regional runner-up Brock McMillen (113) and Isaac Krause (152), Everett’s three-time qualifier Garret Cornell (126), Central Cambria’s two-time state qualifier Nate Martin (285), Tussey Mountain’s Brady Villa (126), Central’s Braeden Swab (138) and Portage’s Cole Sossong (160) will also be looking for medals.

The area Class 2A wrestlers had the weekend off, so what did they do in the meantime?

“We’ve been training,” Lazor said. “We cut them back a little bit, maybe not quite as long, but short and hard. We’ve been getting some good workouts in and just trying to get the boys ready.”

“We went to Central and worked out with Swab, and we worked out with Hollidaysburg a little bit,” Niebauer said. “We ended going to the Summit (Tennis & Athletic Club) one day and just swam and did a workout. We just gave them a little break to rejuvenate them.”

Now, though, the nerves, excitement and emotions will ramp up as they take the Giant Center floor to wrestle with the best in the country.

“It’s exciting,” Lazor said. “It’s that time of the year that the kids have been working on since they were little kids and been dreaming about. Trying to get some of those dreams to come true is always exciting.”

“I’m looking forward to it a great deal,” Mykut said. “The guys are pretty excited to get down on the Giant Center floor again and compete.”