Pfahler will be remembered for great state tourney
I was shocked and in disbelief on Thursday night when I saw a Facebook status that former Chestnut Ridge wrestler Gary Pfahler had died.
It couldn’t be true, I thought. He was so young.
In 2008, I had covered him as he shocked so many by beating Burrell’s returning state champion, Jordan Shields, 4-3, to capture the 140-pound Class 2A title. He was Ridge’s first, and still at this point, only state champion.
Couldn’t be true, right?
Unfortunately, though, it was, and it came on the heels of another shocking death in former North State and UPJ star Nick Roberts.
The official cause of death is unknown.
Pfahler, who had been a Marine and had a brief stint as a mixed martial arts fighter, passed away in Florida.
When I think of Pfahler, though, I think of what he did in Hershey nine years ago tomorrow, and the celebrity status that followed him after winning the state title.
I think of him avenging a regional loss to South Side Beaver’s Dominick Demor in the state semifinals, 6-5, with the deciding points coming on a reversal by Pfahler, who did a front somersault from the bottom position and wound up behind Demor for a reversal. Former coach Jim Clark talked last week about how athletic Pfahler was.
Clark, who was retiring at the end of the tournament, and assistant coach Scott McGill hugged as Pfahler won the state title. They all hugged when Pfahler ran to their corner after his hand was raised.
Later, a couple hundred fans stood in the snow to great him as he came home to Pleasantville. A school assembly was held in his honor. Pfahler, whose senior project was coaching elementary wrestlers, signed autographs at a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Tournament. The Mirror named him Wrestler of the Year.
“It’s been awesome,” Pfahler said at the Mirror’s all-star photo shoot. “Everyone loves me now. I’m like a celebrity at Chestnut Ridge.”
He talked about becoming a “nerd,” to become better at wrestling and staying out of trouble that had had found him in the past, making his parents proud.
“They’re as happy as I could ever make them,” Pfahler said. “I did make them mad a lot when I was younger. They’re proud of me to see that I’ve changed, straightened up, stayed out of trouble and accomplished my goals.
“It’s nice to see that people like you whenever you’re not being such a jerk. I definitely wish I could have started (changing) a little bit earlier, but it happens, and I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
Yep, that’s the Gary Pfahler I will remember.
According to former Bedford Gazette sports editor Ryan Spring, Pfahler’s funeral service is 11 a.m. at the Crossroads Bible Church in Bedford. The viewings are Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.
Sunday was a great day
Switching gears, Sunday was a great day if you’re a wrestling fan.
The finals of the Big Ten Conference Championships were aired on the Big Ten Network (Paying attention, Flo Wrestling?), and the pairings came out for this week’s state tournament.
More to come on the state tourney later this week.
Todd Irwin can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1