Wrestling helped Lantzy All-Stars hone football skills

Lantzy All-Star Football Game

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Johnstown High School’s Trojan Stadium.

Teams: Both the South and North have several players from the Mirror coverage area on their rosters.

On the net: Render Broadcasting will carry the Lantzy game online at catcountry1063fm.com. It will go on the air beginning at 6:15 p.m.

The sports of football and wrestling at the high school level share a very harmonious relationship.

Most of the skills that are required for success in one sport are also required for success in the other.

Football players are helped by their wrestling backgrounds, and vice versa.

Three area players on the South team in tonight’s Ken Lantzy All-Star Football Game, set to kick off at 7 p.m. at Johnstown High School’s Trojan Stadium, are outstanding wrestlers who have also distinguished themselves in football.

Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill became his school’s third PIAA wrestling champion and a four-time PIAA medalist this past March, while Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown also won his second PIAA wrestling medal, and Portage’s Cole Sossong was a state medalist in his senior year.

McGill won the PIAA Class 2A 170-pound state wrestling title as a senior, and will be playing slotback for the South team in tonight’s Lantzy Game.

Brown earned a third-place medal in the PIAA wrestling tournament’s Class 2A 170-pound division this past season, and will play linebacker in the Lantzy Game, while Sossong, who took sixth place in the PIAA wrestling tournament in March, will play outside linebacker in tonight’s game.

McGill joined Justin McCoy and the late Gary Pfahler this past season on the short list of Ridge wrestlers who have won state championships. McGill also finished sixth in the state wrestling tournament as a freshman at 132 pounds in 2016, fourth as a sophomore at 170 pounds in 2017, and third as a junior at 160 pounds in 2018.

McGill, who is going to compete in NCAA Division I collegiate wrestling at the University of Pittsburgh, said that his wrestling background has been beneficial to him in football.

“Wrestling has helped a lot with just mindset, just knowing to go out there and give 100 percent, keep going, and never give up,” McGill said. “It also helps you with footwork and balance.”

The state title was a long-coveted goal for McGill, who was also a four-time District 5 champion.

“It was pretty special to me,” McGill said of winning the state title. “It’s been a goal of mine that I was working toward since I was five years old and started wrestling, and finally getting that goal checked off feels pretty good.”

McGill, who plans to study sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, is excited to be wrestling collegiately for the Panthers and their head coach, Keith Gavin.

“He was a national champion himself, and he knows what it takes to win it all,” said McGill, who was a three-year starter at linebacker and a three-year starter on offense at slotback and running back in football for Ridge.

Penn Cambria’s Brown will also pursue a Division I wrestling career and major in either business or a medical field of study at Clarion University after earning third- and sixth-place PIAA wrestling medals at 170 pounds in high school.

“I had a great career in wrestling in high school, and I hope it continues to be very successful at Clarion on the Division I level,” said Brown, who started two years as a running back and two years as a safety in football at Penn Cambria. “(Wrestling) has helped me get better leverage on people, and I know how to maneuver my body better than most. That helps with tackling and running the ball.”

Sossong — who will attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and major in business management but won’t wrestle collegiately — was a two-year starter at linebacker and a starter in his senior year at fullback in football for Portage.

He said that he has known McGill and Brown all of their lives through wrestling.

“We’ve known each other since elementary school,” Sossong said. “We came up through the years wrestling with and against each other, practicing with each other. It’s cool being around kids that you know. I’m just excited and blessed to be able to play in this game.”

Brown and McGill feel the same way.

“It’s an honor,” Brown said of his participation in the Lantzy Game. “I just want to play one more (football) game before I start wrestling in college, and it’s nice to get that opportunity this weekend.”