Wrestlers of the year: McMillen, Cassidy pull off rare feats in winning gold
Winning a state title is very tough to do in Pennsylvania, which is considered the best state in the country in wrestling.
Bedford senior 138-pounder Kaden Cassidy and Glendale 132-pounder Brock McMillen not only won Class 2A state titles but they also accomplished their respective feats in rare fashion.
Cassidy defeated Saegertown’s Kenny Kiser, 10-6, in the finals to finish the season 38-0. He is one of two Class 2A wrestlers and six overall to finish unbeaten this season.
“Not many people do that,” Cassidy said. “Winning states is nice, but going undefeated is even better. It feels really good.
“In that finals match, he was a good wrestler. I think I controlled it. There are a lot of good wrestlers out there, but I had a lot of closer matches than that.”
McMillen, of course, wrestled this season taking medication for a heart problem that caused him to be life-flighted to Pittsburgh in the offseason. In addition to his arrhythmia, which caused his heart rate to soar to more than 200 times a minute, he had to battle low blood pressure late in the regular season.
He was still able to win his second state title in his third finals appearance, surviving a 5-1 overtime tiebreaker win over Burrell’s Ian Oswalt in the finals.
“This one feels better,” McMillen said after winning the title. “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.
“I think it is harder to repeat,” Glendale coach Billy Dubler said. “Not only is it harder to repeat, people have more tape on you, people are studying you, people know when the brackets come out that’s the guy I’ve got to beat. On top of all that, he was having his medical condition. It was really remarkable.
“When you’re in the season, you don’t want to constantly think about and talk about (the heart condition) too much because you’re afraid it’s going to wear on his confidence. He looked great at Hershey. He looked like his normal self. He had the focus look in his eye, especially in the third period.”
McMillen and Cassidy have been rewarded for their feats by being named the Altoona Mirror’s Co-Wrestlers of the Year. It’s the second year in a row McMillen has earned the honor, sharing it with Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill last season.
“When you look at the Altoona Mirror Wrestler of the Year for the past however many years, it seems like you’re always in the company of a state champion. It’s really, really special,” said Dubler, named the Mirror’s Co-Coach of the Year with Ridge’s Josh Deputy.
“I don’t think that Brock will truly be able to appreciate this until he gets some more years under his belt. Some day when he’s old and can’t wrestle anymore, he’ll be able to soak it in and appreciate it.”
“It means a lot to me,” Cassidy said, “especially from a local newspaper like the Altoona Mirror. It feels good to get recognized.”
McMillen went 36-3 this season after going 43-1 last year. He might have also had gone unbeaten if he had not had low blood pressure at Escape The Rock, where he suffered three losses and finished sixth.
He was held out of the following week’s Fred Bell Tournament as his medication was being adjusted.
“It was like how are we going to get him right to be where he needs to be to even be a contender for that title?” Dubler said. “It was really heartbreaking. I haven’t seen him have three losses in a weekend in his life. Most of the problems happened in the third period, where he couldn’t be himself.”
Cassidy, meanwhile, was rolling. He had 16 technical falls in his first 18 bouts and had a goal of breaking the state record of 29, which he figured was held by Exeter’s Austin DeSanto. He finished with 24 technical falls.
Cassidy went on to win his second District 5 title and third overall. McMillen improved his health enough to win his second District 6 title. Cassidy captured his third Southwest Regional title, while McMillen earned his second.
Cassidy, who finished third in Hershey as a freshman at Bishop McCort and third last season, breezed to the finals, even getting a rare pin in the semifinals. He finally got the monkey off of his back with a win in the finals.
“That’s one thing that does feel a little bit different – the weight is off of my back,” Cassidy said. “I’ve been injured a lot in my career, and that held me back. I can go to college feeling good.
“In the postseason, the only match I felt nervous for was the finals match. I felt loose during the postseason. I really didn’t feel pressure at all. I feel that’s why I peaked and wrestled really well.”
McMillen, who has a career record of 120-8, reeled off two major decisions in his first two bouts at Hershey before hitting a five-point move in the third period of the semifinals against Reynolds’ Kaeden Berger to win 8-5.
McMillen, who verbally committed before his junior season to wrestle for Pitt, can focus now on his health and winning his third state title next season.
“I really didn’t want to take about being a three-timer when he won last year,” Dubler said. “I just wanted to enjoy it and get prepared for next year. But right now, it’s here. He’s got the second one under his belt, and there’s only one more thing left to do.
Cassidy, who went 106-7 in his career, is preparing to continue his wrestling career at Division I George Mason, where he’ll likely redshirt his freshman season. He expects to be at 141 pounds in the future.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Cassidy said. “I can’t wait for college wrestling. I know I’m going to get my butt beat a little bit at the beginning, but it’s just how I bounce back and how I improve as a wrestler.”
of the year
Year Name School
2019-20 Brock McMillen Glendale
Kaden Cassidy Bedford
2018-19 Brock McMillen Glendale
Jared McGill Chestnut Ridge
2017-18 Justin McCoy Chestnut Ridge
Parker McClellan Altoona
2016-17 Max Murin Central Cambria
Jacob Oliver Huntingdon
2015-16 Jacob Oliver Huntingdon
2014-15 Max Murin Central Cambria
Jonathan Gabriel Bedford
2013-14 D.J. Hollingshead Altoona
2012-13 T.J. Brandt Altoona
2011-12 Tony Risaliti Central Cambria
2010-11 Evan Link Penn Cambria
2009-10 A.J. Schopp Tyrone
2008-09 A.J. Schopp Tyrone
2007-08 Gary Pfahler Chestnut Ridge
2006-07 Nathan Link Penn Cambria
2005-06 Brian Shaw Hollidaysburg
2004-05 Garrett Scott Juniata Valley
2003-04 Garrett Scott Juniata Valley
2002-03 Nate Morris Central Cambria
Garrett Scott Juniata Valley
2001-02 Jarrett Musselman Clays.-Kimmel
2000-01 Eric Gibbons Bedford
1999-00 Jon Condo Philipsburg-Osceola
1998-99 Eric Frick Hollidaysburg
Derek Tipton Claysburg-Kimmel
1997-98 Charlie Brenneman Hollidaysburg
1996-97 Chris Musselman Clays.-Kimmel
1995-96 Jody Strittmatter Cambria Heights
1994-95 Shad Benton Central
Ike Crissey Bedford
1993-94 Brian McGarvey Glendale
1992-93 Dave Distler Huntingdon
1991-92 Tony Albertelli Penn Cambria
1990-91 Jason Kutz Altoona
1989-90 Brian Murphy Cambria Heights
1988-89 Tony Owens Tyrone
1987-88 Jason Shea Huntingdon
1986-87 Doug Rosenberry Altoona
1985-86 Dave Yahner Cambria Heights
1984-85 Ken Myers Tyrone
1983-84 Jeff Husick Tussey Mountain