Lock Haven leaves impression on McClellan

By John Hartsock

jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

Lock Haven University senior Ronnie Perry provided one of the most thrilling stories in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland this past March by taking second place at 149 pounds.

Perry — a seventh-place finisher in the PIAA Class 3A tournament as a high school wrestler at Solanco — had entered this year’s NCAA tournament as a 15th seed in his weight class but battled all the way to the championship final before losing, 10-1, to three-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford of Penn State.

Perry’s enthusiasm for the Lock Haven University wrestling program had an impact on Altoona Area High School senior Parker McClellan, who decided to continue his wrestling career on the collegiate level at Lock Haven after a visit to the school this spring.

“When I went up to visit, Ronnie Perry sold me on the place very well,” said McClellan, who reached the PIAA Class 3A state championship match and finished second at 220 pounds himself this past March. “Just hearing from his experiences … he finished seventh at states in high school but finished as a national runner-up in college. If you can do that at Lock Haven, that’s an amazing thing. That convinced me that Lock Haven would be the best choice for me.”

McClellan, a two-time District 6 Class 3A champion and two-time Northwest Class 3A Regional Tournament finalist, compiled a 105-44 career record in four seasons at Altoona with 49 falls. In his senior season, he had a 30-6 record and became Altoona’s third state runner-up since 2015.

Like Perry, McClellan wasn’t one of the favorites in his 220-pound weight class at the 2018 PIAA tournament, but caught fire and reached the championship match by topping previously unbeaten Cole Forrester of Shippensburg by overtime tiebreaker in the semifinals. McClellan was finally stopped in the championship round by Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka, 7-5.

“All I ever wanted was a state medal, and I trained really, really hard,” McClellan said. “I trained all summer and all during the wrestling season, and to finally get to states and beat some of the best guys in my weight class was the most amazing feeling. There was no better feeling than getting to the semifinals and winning in overtime — it’s something that I’ll remember forever, and it’s always going to push me to work harder in college.”

McClellan’s hard work has made him a good role model for other Altoona wrestlers, according to Mountain Lions coach Joel Gilbert.

“He’s one of those guys who we want our younger guys to look up to,” Gilbert said. “He earned all his accolades through hard work and dedication in the weight room and club wrestling. He’s wrestled all over the country, and he took advantage of every opportunity that he had to get better. He’s a quiet kid who will do whatever it takes to be a champion.”

McClellan is an excellent student who carried a 3.8 grade-point average in the classroom at Altoona. An ROTC scholarship recipient, he will major in Business Information Systems at Lock Haven and will wrestle at either 197 or 285 pounds. McClellan isn’t sure whether or not he will redshirt during his freshman season next winter at Lock Haven.

“It’s a great place to be wrestling because it’s right in the heart of Pennsylvania, and all the best wrestlers come out of Pennsylvania,” McClellan said. “I think it will be a great place for me to improve as a wrestler and as a person.”

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