Motivating factor: Ridge’s McGill focused on winning elusive state gold
By Todd Irwin
Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill cleared a big hurdle in the quarterfinals of last year’s PIAA Class 2A Championships by beating Wyalusing’s returning state champ Creighton Edsell, 4-2.
McGill then jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Port Allegheny’s Jacob Kallenborn, but he went to his back when Kallenborn slipped through a tilt attempt. McGill got off of his back after giving up the five-point move and came back to tie the score twice, 5-5 and 7-7. When he released Kallenborn in the third to get another takedown, he wasn’t able to and lost, 8-7.
McGill, who was 42-0 entering the tournament, came back to finish third at 160, including pinning Edsell in the third-place bout.
“That was a real tough loss,” McGill said. “I went into the state tournament undefeated, and I won a couple big tournaments during the regular season. I beat a defending state champ in the quarterfinals, and then I got caught on my back. That was real tough. But you always have to come back and get the next best thing.”
“That hurt a lot,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “He was beating the kid, controlling him, trying a tilt and his arm slipped. The next thing you know he’s on his back. He battled his way back, but he fell short. You feel that he controlled most of the match, but he ended up losing. That’s something he’s had to get over and move on from.”
The loss and the third-place finish are on McGill’s mind every day.
“It motivates me a lot,” McGill said, “just walking through the gym into the wrestling room, seeing third place by my name really stings. It drives me to work really hard during practices.”
The state medal was the third of his career. He finished sixth as a freshman at 132 and fourth as a sophomore at 170.
“It means a lot to be a three-time state placewinner and hopefully a fourth this year,” McGill said. “But the ultimate goal is to be a state champ, and I haven’t done that yet. Hopefully this year I can come out on top.”
So far so good for McGill, who is 23-0 and ranked No. 1 at 170 by PA Power Wrestling. One of his wins was a 17-6 major decision over Penn Cambria’s third-ranked Derek Brown.
With his wrestling credentials, it appears McGill, coming off of his third Thomas Chevrolet Tournament title, is the one guy every good wrestler is focused on.
“I don’t feel like I have a target on my back,” he said. “I’m a returning state placewinner, but I didn’t win it last year, so I feel like I’m the one that should be training real hard. I feel like I should be chasing other people.
“I think I’ve been wrestling well. I put a lot of time in during the offseason, and it seems to be paying off.”
In the offseason, he came in third at the NHSCA Junior National Tournament, finished second at Flo Nationals and helped Young Guns take third at the NHSCA Duals.
“It helps a lot,” McGill said of the offseason wrestling. “You’re not just wrestling the best guys in the state. You’re wrestling the best guys in the country.”
McGill was the first Chestnut Ridge wrestler to win a Powerade Tournament last year, and he earned his second title this season with a 4-2 overtime win over McGuffey’s Christian Clutter in the finals at 170.
“That was something cool I accomplished this year,” McGill said. “It’s nice to be a two-time champ, not just one. I set the bar high with two of them. It was a tough (finals) match. I don’t think I wrestled my best. I got down early, and I was upset with myself a little bit. I just had to hang on for a win.
“Any time you win the Powerade Tournament, you know you did something special,” Lazor said. “Some of the best kids in the nation are there.”
Wrestling elite wrestlers is nothing new to McGill, who won two Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling titles before he got to the high school level.
He started wrestling when he was 3 years old. His dad, Scott, started a club and invited some of the best area wrestlers to work out.
“Back when I was younger, I worked out a lot with (Central Cambria two-time state champ) Max Murin, Morgan Deremer, Justin McCoy, (Penn Cambria’s) Nolan Link – some older kids that were also doing really well. That definitely helps out a lot.”
He, of course, burst onto the high school scene in grand fashion as a freshman by knocking off Bedford’s returning state champion Nathan Gabriel, 10-8, in the dual meet. He finished with a 33-8 record and a state medal.
The next year, he made a severe jump up in weight, from 132 to 170. He still went 43-7, won the second of his three District 5 titles
“I actually didn’t cut any weight at all,” he said. “After my freshman year, I was tired of cutting weight, didn’t really want to do it. So I wrestled up at 170.”
For three years, McGill and his practice partner McCoy made an awesome 1-2 punch for the Lions. McCoy, though, is now wrestling for Virginia, which has been an adjustment for McGill.
“It’s actually a lot different,” he said. “He was my practice partner since I was 4 or 5 years old, but you’ve got to change and adapt. I’ve been practice a lot with Austin Crouse and Duane Knisely, so I’ve been working out with bigger guys. They’re doing well, and it’s working out for me.”
McGill is a leader on a team that starts 10 underclassmen, including four freshmen. The Lions are 10-0, ranked No. 1 by the Mirror and sixth by PA Power Wrestling. They’ll attempt to win their seventh straight District 5 Duals title this weekend.
“I pride myself in being a good leader on the team,” McGill said. “I want to be good for the younger kids to look up to, follow in my footsteps and do all the right things. It’s always nice to pass down the knowledge that was passed down to me.”
McGill, who has a career record of 145-16, verbally committed to Army before his junior season. But he switched his commitment to Pitt in the offseason.
“Pitt started recruiting me after states last year,” McGill said. “I really liked the coaches, the atmosphere and the other recruits that were there. They’re really setting the bar high.”
Soon, McGill will vie for his fourth District 5 title, his second Southwest Regional crown and that elusive state gold.
“I’m actually really excited,” McGill said. “The postseason is always an exciting time of the year. The goal is to see how well you in the postseason. I think my chances are pretty good. I feel like I’m one of the best in the state pound for pound. I’ve just to go out there, do my best, let it fly and see what happens.”
“He wants to make sure he gets it done this year,” Lazor said. “Regardless of it happens or not, he’s done a lot of great things in this sport for our program. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
What would it be like to win states? It’s something he has dreamed about for many years.
“It would be awesome,” McGill said. “That’s been the goal since I was a little kid, so it would be a great feeling.”