Good as gold: McMillen, Cassidy return home as champs
HERSHEY — It’s been a challenging year off of the mat for Glendale’s Brock McMillen, who has dealt with an arrhythmia, which affects the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat, as well as blood pressure problems.
So, an overtime tiebreaker in the 132-pound finals bout with Burrell’s Ian Oswalt of the PIAA Class 2A Championships wasn’t as pressure-packed as being life-flighted from Altoona to Pittsburgh in September.
McMillen adapted in the tiebreaker like he’s adapted to taking his medication, escaping in the first 30-second tiebreaker and tilting Oswalt for three nearfall points in the second tiebreaker period to win, 5-1, and capture his second state title Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“It feels real good,” said McMillen, who finished second in Hershey as a freshman. “I try not to get nervous for a match. I just go out and wrestle. I was never too nervous. I mean it’s just a wrestling match, and I just go out and wrestle.
“This one feels better. I’ve been through a lot this year, so it means a lot to win. I think (the health problems) helped me push through adversity a lot more on the mat. Even if I was losing, I’d still score and come back and win.”
The three area finalists went 2-1. Bedford senior Kaden Cassidy won the 138-pound title with a 10-6 win over Saegertown’s second-seeded Kenny Kiser, while Chestnut Ridge freshman Calan Bollman suffered a 4-2 loss to Montoursville’s Branden Wentzel in the 106-pound finals.
“It feels good right now,” Cassidy said. “It’s going to feel a lot better later going to sleep tonight knowing that I’m a state champion.”
McMillen and Oswalt, who went into overtime in the Southwest Regional Tournament finals, wrestled through a scoreless first period.
“Ian is a good competitor. He’s hard to score on,” McMillen said. “There are not a lot of takedowns out there. It had to be won on top and bottom.”
In the second period, Oswalt escaped 15 seconds into the period. With less than 30 seconds left, Oswalt made a takedown attempt, but McMillen defended with a funk roll.
The wrestlers stayed in the same position for about 10 seconds before referee Robert Presley slowly gave the takedown to Oswalt. But, after conferring with the mat judge, Presley waved off the takedown.
“The right call came about eventually,” Glendale coach Billy Dubler said, “but I don’t know what prompted the referee to make that call because there was clearly no control. The situation didn’t change for 10 seconds as they were laying there in a stalemate. In that instance, I’m just super happy that there’s a second referee right there.”
McMillen escaped 5 seconds into the third, and the wrestlers stayed on their feet the rest of the third and throughout the overtime. Oswalt rode tough in the first 30-second tiebreaker until McMillen escaped with 6 seconds left.
Rather than just ride Oswalt in his 30-second tiebreaker, McMillen caught his wrist and tilted him for back points.
“I felt like I had the wrist secured,” McMillen said. “I kind of caught it off the whistle, and I just went right into a tilt.”
When his hand was raised, McMillen, who finished with a 36-3 record, simply slapped hands with his coaches and ran off the floor.
“It feels great,” Dubler said. “You kind of expect it now at this point. He’s been in the finals all three years. I don’t want to lose sight of how special these moments are because they don’t come around often even they’ve been coming the last few years.”
The likely plan early in the season was to have another heart catheterization after the season was over, but McMillen said that hasn’t been settled yet.
“I’ve got to go to the doctors and figure it out,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
Cassidy rolled into the finals with two technical falls and a pin, but Kiser (43-4) was a lot tougher to wrestle.
Cassidy was aggressive right off the first whistle, and he finally nailed a takedown with 43 seconds left in the first period.
Cassidy is usually dangerous on top with his tilt, but Kiser avoided getting turned.
“He’s a strong kid, had a good standup,” Cassidy said. “I had his wrist two times, but the clock ran out the one time.”
In fact, Kiser escaped in the second, but Cassidy took him down at the edge of the mat with 1:29 left in the second.
Cassidy took a 4-2 lead into third, where he reversed and gave up a reversal. Kiser cut him to make the score 7-4. Kiser scored a takedown with 11 seconds left, but Cassidy escaped and slipped through a Kiser headlock attempt at the edge of the mat before the buzzer for the takedown.
Cassidy, who had lost in the semifinals as a freshman at Bishop McCort and last season at Bedford, celebrated with the feed me motion, slapped his coaches’ hands and ran off the floor.
“That was fantastic,” Bedford coach Joel Easter said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid. He’s a good kid all around.”
Cassidy, who finished with a 38-0 record, will now prepare to continue his wrestling career at George Mason University. He probably ate some more ribs afterward.
“I’ve been eating ribs four days in a row,” Cassidy said. “Shout out to Ruby Tuesday. I’ll tell you what, those ribs are really good.”
Bollman made repeated shots on Wentzel in the first two periods, but Wentzel fought off all of them. Bollman defended a Wentzel shot with 13 seconds left in the second.
Wentzel released Bollman to start the third, which got the Ridge freshman thinking.
“I’ll be honest, when he cut me, it kind of made me feel like I was weak,” he said. “That played a little factor (in the third period).”
The score remained 1-0 until Wentzel (46-7) took Bollman down to his back for four points with 42 seconds left in the bout.
“He was pushing the pace pretty much that whole first period,” Ridge coach Josh Deputy said. “I don’t know if a little anxiety came into it toward the end. That third period is a long two minutes for a lot of kids. He’s got it under his belt now, so I think the next time we’re ever in that situation, it will be a different outcome.”
Bollman, whose last loss was to Latrobe’s Class 3A state champ Vincent Kilkeary at the Powerade Tournament in late December, immediately escaped. But a takedown wasn’t in the cards for the young Lion, who finished with a 40-4 record.
“It hurts a little,” Bollman said. “I just have to come back next year and work harder to be on top.”
“He’s only going to continue to get better,” Deputy said. “He understands there are some things he needs to work on, but what a great weekend. I’m super proud of him.”