Glendale star hoping to take next step at Hershey

Glendale’s Brock McMillen has come as close as a wrestler can get to standing on top of the medals stand at the PIAA Class 2A Championships.

McMillen finished second at 113 as a freshman in Hershey last season, dropping a 7-3 decision to Mount Union nemesis Josh Boozel in the finals.

“I have to move on,” McMillen said after the loss last year, “and I’ve got three more years of it.”

A year later, McMillen is 39-1 and is the top seed at 126 pounds for the state tournament. What will it take for McMillen to take that next step up the medals stand and become Glendale’s first state champion?

“The first thing is he’s got to keep doing what he’s been doing, and he’s been successful all year,” Glendale coach Billy Dubler said. “I think he’s the favorite to win. I think there’s a little bit more pressure when you’re favored to win, especially being a runner-up last year.

“My main job is just to keep him loose and keep focused on getting takedowns and wrestling good in all three positions. If he focuses on his effort, then the wins will come, and I think the state championship is going to come.”

While McMillen came so close to winning gold, other area retuning medalists are looking to make that climb to the top of their respective weight classes. A total of 24 area wrestlers will compete with the rest of the state’s elite in the three-day tournament after having last weekend off.

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.

“I’m always looking forward to it,” Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer said. “It’s the last tournament of the year, and if you’re there, you better be excited about it.”

The most decorated of those other area medalists is Chestnut Ridge’s 36-0 Jared McGill, who has placed three times at the rugged tournament and is the top seed at 170.

He finished sixth as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and third at 160 last year, when he beat Wyalusing’s returning state champ Creighton Edsell, 4-2, in the quarterfinals and lost to Port Allegheny’s Jacob Kallenborn, 8-7, in the semifinals.

“He’s in a good spot physically and mentally,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “It’s a tough tournament. You’ve got the best kids in the state banging heads, so anything can happen. If he keeps wrestling the way he has been, you’ve got to like his chances. Hopefully he’ll enjoy it as he goes through.

“He’s been the top seed in tournaments before. I don’t think it’s anything new to him. It’s pressure on anyone going for a state title, but he seems to be doing well. He seems to be light-hearted about it.”

Everett’s Garret Cornell finished third at 126 last season in his third state tournament appearance. Cornell (31-4), though, is coming off of a fifth-place finish at a very deep 132-pound weight class at the Southwest Regional.

Bedford junior Kaden Cassidy took third at 106 as a freshman at Bishop McCort, before missing last year’s postseason with an injury. Cassidy (34-1) is coming off of a Southwest Regional title at 132, and he’ll be looking to carry that momentum to Hershey.

Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown finished sixth at 170 last season, and he’ll be looking to climb higher on the medals stand at the same weight in his third state tournament appearance.

“I expect him to end his career on a positive note,” Niebauer said. “I’m hoping he wrestles the way I know he can wrestle, and we’ll see what happens. Obviously our goal is to place high, higher than what we did last year. You have to be ready to go every match. I think he’s ready.”

Brown’s teammate, Chase Proudfit, is wrestling in his third state tournament, and he’ll be aiming for his first medal.

Portage’s Cole Sossong made it to the second day of last year’s tournament at 160 before he was eliminated. Sossong is 38-5 and is coming off of a third-place finish at 160 this season.

Moshannon Valley senior Jon Dale qualified for Hershey as a sophomore, and he was a win away from making the medal round. He’ll be looking to medal at 152 after taking sixth at the regional tournament.

While they are making their first appearance at states, Chestnut Ridge regional runner-up Kai Burkett and Glendale third-placer Suds Dubler, who wrestled in a highly anticipated regional semifinal at 106 that Burkett won, 7-3, could be on another collision course at a very loaded weight class.

Burkett would have to beat Reynolds’ returning state champ Gary Steen in the quarterfinals to make that a possibility.

“Flo said that’s one of the toughest weight classes in the tournament,” Billy Dubler said, “and I agree. Suds is excited. I think Suds can do a great job. I think he’s got a real good shot at placing. If he believes in himself, maybe he can be a state champion too.”

The 220-pound weight class is also loaded with area wrestlers, including Chestnut Ridge’s regional runner-up Duane Knisely (34-6), Glendale third-placer Cory Johnston (39-4), Central Cambria fifth-placer John Croft (32-10), all of whom are in the same bracket. Everett fourth-placer Shane Clark (27-12) is in the top bracket.

Philipsburg-Osceola regional runner-up Chase Chapman (132) and Hunter Weitoish (152) and Tussey Mountain runner-up Damon Lemin (195) are making the trip.

Tyrone’s Hunter Walk (113) Bellwood-Antis’ Trentin Whaley (195) are making their first state trip, as are Penn Cambria’s J.C. Smychynsky (182), Ridge’s Nathan Holderbaum (113), Cambria Heights’ Seth Link (160), Northern Bedford’s Austin Mowry (170) and Huntingdon’s Myles Baney (170).

What the new guys, as well as the veterans, will experience is how deep the weights are and how tough the tournament is.

“I think it’s the toughest tournament in the country,” Coach Dubler said. “It’s the toughest state in the country when he comes to wrestling. If you’re a medal winner in Pennsylvania, you’d be a state champion in a lot of other states.”

“It’s a very tough tournament,” Lazor said. “Anything can happen, so you have to wrestle your best, stay in good position, believe in the stuff that got you there and don’t do anything too crazy. Hopefully it all goes well.”