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Amputee and cancer survivor inspire at states

We know about Glendale’s Brock McMillen’s heart problems and how he’s had to overcome adversity this season en route to a second state title.

He’s an inspiration to many, but there were two other inspirational wrestlers who had to arguably overcome more adversity than McMillen.

Fans at the Giant Center were pulling for West Perry sophomore Deven Jackson and Canton’s Timmy Ward.

Jackson is a double leg amputee who remarkably placed fourth at 106 pounds in Class 2A. According to reports, Jackson lost both of his legs at 8 years old due to complications from meningitis.

Jackson was a fan and media favorite. I know I was pulling for him every time I saw him wrestle. Jackson is a wonderful example of what somebody can do if they set their mind to accomplishing great things.

When he earned a 1-0 ultimate tiebreaker win over Reynolds’ Kane Kettering to reach the medal round, one of Jackson’s coaches scooped him up and ran off the mat toward the wrestlers’ entrance to the floor as fans cheered him.

His opponents probably weren’t fans of him because he is so hard to wrestle. They can’t shoot on his legs, so they have to find alternate ways to score points against him.

Jackson reminded me a little of Anthony Robles, who won an NCAA title for Arizona State in 2011 despite having only one leg. Robles is now a motivational speaker and wrestling commentator.

Ward, who finished sixth in Class 2A at 170, had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy in late 2018 into 2019, according to a great story in the Williamsport Sun Gazette.

It’s been a little more than a year since Ward’s last chemo treatment.

Can you imagine what he’s had to overcome?

Officiating was bad

While those two were great, feel-good stories, the officiating at the PIAA Championships drew a lot of boos at the Giant Center.

The officiating was pretty bad.

Wilson’s Kolby Flank’s controversial winning takedown of Chestnut Ridge’s Duane Knisely was just one example of the poor officiating.

Another came in the finals at 132, when Burrell’s Ian Oswalt was initially awarded a takedown of McMillen even though nothing had changed for about 10 seconds. The referee, who hesitantly made the call, did meet with the mat judge, and the takedown was waved off.

Poor officiating shouldn’t happen at the state tournament when this is so much on the line.

Only the best of the best officials should be working the tournament, but there were many refs making their first appearance in Hershey.

One referee familiar with the situation said there were 20 officials working the tournament for the first time.

Let that sink in.

Some were fine, but others were clearly not ready for the spotlight of the state tournament.

Hall, Brooks shine

It was good to see Penn State’s Mark Hall win his third Big Ten title at 174 and freshman Aaron Brooks earn his first title at 184 on a weekend in which the Nittany Lions struggled.

The Lions went 2-3 in the finals and finished fourth in the team standings. Heck, even unbeaten Nick Lee lost to Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher.

Hall avenged his dominating loss to Iowa’s Michael Kemerer, 8-5. He looked much more like himself.

Todd Irwin can be reached at tirwin@altoonamirror.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1.

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