Lions’ McClellan at 220 for postseason

By Todd Irwin

tirwin@altoonamirror.com

Altoona’s Parker McClellan has been one of the elite 195-pounders in the state the last couple years, winning a District 6 Class 3A title and finishing second at the Northwest Regional last season.

But when the District 6 Tournament rolls around in a little more than two weeks, McClellan will be at 220.

Moving up a weight can be risky, but some wrestlers have been able to handle the jump. D.J. Hollingshead, McClellan’s former teammate at Altoona, moved up for the postseason and finished second in the state at 170. For others, though, it backfired.

So why the move up?

“When I make it down to states, I think it’s going to be the best fit for me to place,” McClellan said.

It will also be a less bumpy road to the state tournament.

If he had stayed at 195, McClellan would have to deal with Clearfield’s returning state runner-up Luke McGonigal and State College’s state third-placer Cole Urbas, who are ranked first and second, respectively, by PA Power Wrestling. McClellan is ranked seventh at 195.

“Two of the toughest guys in the state are in our district and region – McGonigal and Urbas,” McClellan said. “Those are two really tough matches for me. That’s what made me want to go up.”

McClellan, who is 24-4, tangled with McGonigal at the Clearfield Bison Duals and dropped an 8-2 decision.

“Not that he didn’t give him a good match,” Altoona coach Joel Gilbert said, “which he definitely did. He was tilted twice in the match. So we kind of made the choice that maybe the best place to be is 220 in the postseason.”

Still, it had to be a tough decision to move up in weight by 25 pounds. McClellan is 6-foot-3, so he’s more on the lean side.

“Yeah, it was hard,” McClellan said. “I’m about 20 pounds under weight, so it’s tough to make that decision to have to gain all that weight and bump up against kids who are outweighing me by about 20 pounds. I think I’ll be fine either way once I gain a little bit of weight. It’s pretty hard (to gain weight) with my body type because I’m more of a skinny guy.

“I’ve been eating about twice my normal portions, and I’ve been putting on some weight. I’m about 203 right now, so I think I need to gain about seven to 10 more pounds, and I think I’ll be good. It’s going to be tough to gain that much weight within the next couple weeks, but I’m definitely going to have to try.”

McClellan experimented with the move up by wrestling at 220 at the Ultimate Warrior Tournament, where he finished second, losing 9-5 to Shippensburg’s second-ranked and undefeated Cole Forrester in the finals.

“We wanted him to wrestle 220 at the West Branch tournament to determine whether he could handle the weight class and whether he felt comfortable wrestling at that weight class,” Gilbert said. “(In the finals), it was 4-4 going into the third period. It was one of those things where we made a mistake, and he was able to capitalize and get a five-point move on us.”

McClellan said he has to adjust his style with the move up, especially from the neutral position.

“I have to watch my shots,” McClellan said, “because if I get caught underneath those guys when I’m outweighed, it’s tough to recover from that. I really have to be heavy on the head, wear them down, get them tired and use my stamina to my advantage. I think my stamina is going to be a lot better than kids who are 20 pounds heavier than me.

“(Being tall is) good and bad because I have longer legs, so that’s a little bit to my disadvantage, but I have the leverage, so I can reach farther and really pull in those ankle picks.”

One advantage McClellan, who has 14 falls, might continue to have at 220 is his top wrestling, which is where he dominates. Once he gets on top, he’ll look to hook up a cradle, and it’s hard to defend.

“I love to ride legs, so I don’t think they’re too familiar with that either,” McClellan said. “They pretty much wrestle on their feet most of the time. I think it’s going to be a great advantage to me, especially with cradles and everything.”

McClellan, who has a career record of 99-43, hasn’t always been the best on the mat. He didn’t really start wrestling until the fifth grade, and he struggled early on.

“I was honestly terrible,” he said. “When I got older, I really started to love the sport, and going to Young Guns, it made me love it even more. When you love something, you’re going to get better at it.”

As a freshman, he went 16-20 and placed fourth at 160 at the district tournament. The following year, though, McClellan went 26-12 and finished second at 170 at districts.

“I was pretty weak when I was younger,” he said, “and it was tough wrestling guys who were seniors and had man strength. It helped me learn a lot about myself. I started getting good around my sophomore year. I had Brinton Simington as my practice partner, so that helped me a lot. We’d push each other every day, and I started learning more about the sport.”

As a junior, McClellan returned to the district finals and won his first title. He made it to the regional finals, where he ran into a buzz saw in General McLane’s Ethan Laird, who rang up an 18-2 technical fall. And then he went 0-2 in his first trip to states to finish with a 33-7 record.

“It was awesome making it down to states,” McClellan said. “I think I was a little nervous wrestling at states, and I wasn’t strong enough as well. My first match, I had a tough guy who was super strong. So, all offseason I worked on my strength, and I worked on everything I did wrong once I got down there.”

McClellan has come along way since his freshman year.

“He really came on last year,” Gilbert said. “That was his breakout year. He’s a solid wrestler in every position now. Before, he might have been solid is just one position. I think he’s improved in his top position, which was always his best position because of his length.

“He’s also improved on his feet. He’s learning to defend himself better also get in on his opponent’s legs. I’d have to say he’s improved leaps and bounds for us, that’s for sure.”

McClellan hasn’t made his college choice yet. He wants to wrestle at West Point, but if he doesn’t wind up there, he’s considering UPJ and Campbell University to continue his wrestling career.

Before then, though, McClellan wants to gather in all of the medals he can, including a state medal, when the postseason begins.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” McClellan said. “This is what we work for all season – to get it done at districts, regionals and states.”

“I think he can win the district and the region and place in the state tournament,” Gilbert said. “I think he has just as good of an opportunity as everybody else at his weight class.”

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