HERSHEY — The Bedford County wrestlers had a strong trip to the PIAA State Championships by bringing home five medals including a gold for Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill.
The other four also had great tournaments that included surprising wins and tough losses with Bedford’s Kaden Cassidy taking third. Chestnut Ridge’s Nathan Holderbaum earning fourth, and Everett’s Garret Cornell and Ridge’s Kai Burkett placing fifth
It was the second state medal for both Cassidy (third in 2017) and Cornell (third in 2018), while Cornell and McGill are the only seniors in the group.
Cassidy takes third
Cassidy, who lost to the eventual state champion Joshua Jones of Saucon Valley in the 132-pound semifinals, bounced back in the consolation semifinals to beat Cornell for the third time this year.
The Bedford junior was matched up with St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Zack Witmer in the third-place match on Saturday, and Cassidy had a 3-2 win over Witmer in the regional semifinals two weeks ago.
Cassidy got a big takedown out of the funk position to start the match for a 2-0 lead after the first period. However, Witmer escaped in the second and took down Cassidy before riding in him out for the rest of the period for a 3-2 lead.
Cassidy got a reversal to start the third period, but Witmer escaped to tie the bout at 4-4.
The two wrestlers again got a funk position, and after as they rolled through, Cassidy came up on top for the takedown for a 6-4 lead. Witmer got out, and he got in deep on a double leg that knocked Cassidy to the mat, but the buzzer sounded to end the match with Cassidy holding on for a 6-5 win.
“I feel good right now,” said Cassidy after getting his medal. “I was wrestling with a bad knee. I think I only took one shot. My scrambling was good that match. I gutted that one out. Third and fourth place is a big difference to me.”
Cassidy was upset that he lost in the semifinal, but he knows that he has another shot.
“Jones is a good wrestler,” Cassidy added. “I will wrestle with him in the college (at George Mason). I was hurting after the semifinal, but I didn’t realize it until about five minutes after the match. I was hurting emotionally.
“But I still have next year. My goal next year is to win.”
Cassidy ends the year with a 37-2 record and is 68-7 on his career.
Cornell places fifth
Cornell has had an outstanding career for the Warriors, and he went out the best way he could have — with a pin.
He wrestled Northwestern’s John Wheeler for fifth place at 132 pounds, and the bout was scoreless after one period.
Cornell picked bottom for the second period, and he set up one of his signature moves to take the lead. He hit his peterson roll and put Wheeler on his back for a four-point move for a 4-0 lead after two periods.
Wheeler didn’t like his chances from the bottom, so he took neutral for the third period. Cornell got in deep and finished a takedown before slapping a cradle on Wheeler. With Everett head coach Robbie Ripple encouraging Cornell to “finish him,” Cornell got the fall in 3:46 for his 141st win, which is a school record.
He finished the year at 37-6 and his career at 141-23 with 71 falls. One of those wins this year was against Glendale’s Brock McMillen, which was the only loss of the season for McMillen as he went on to win the 126-pound title.
“I finished it off with a bang,” said Cornell after walking off the mat with the win. “I wanted to get it.
“This means a lot to me. You work hard and get what you deserve. I hope this sets up some goals for some of the younger wrestlers.”
He is only the third Everett wrestler to place two times at the states joining Paul Clark (third in 1982 and first in 1983) and Jeff Clark (fifth in 1987 and fourth in 1988).
Young Lions take fourth and fifth
If at any time during the year, you had asked anyone who would have been the second-highest placing Lion at the state tournament, not many would have said Holderbaum, but his fourth-place finish helped the Lions to a sixth-place finish in the team standings as did Kai Burkett’s fifth-place finish.
Holderbaum agreed when he smiled and said “Not me,” when he was asked that question after getting his medal.
But the junior Lion fought his way into the consolation finals, where he faced Elizabeth Forward’s Ryan Michaels, the Southwest Regional champion.
Michaels dominated the Chestnut Ridge wrestler with either a takedown or reversal to go along with a set of backpoints in each period in a 14-0 victory.
Holderbaum was disappointed with the loss, but he was all smiles with the medal around his neck.
“I wanted to come down here and maybe win a few matches,” he added. “I did that and so much more. I am very happy.”
Holderbaum went 30-13 and is a two-time District 5 champion. He finished higher as states (fourth) than he did at regionals (fifth).
“Holderbaum wrestled his tail off,” said Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor. “We knew he had the ability with that speed and athletic ability. To see him let it loose and trust to hit moves, you can see what can happen with that kid. We can see what he can be.”
Burkett cruised into Friday night’s semifinals, but he dropped two bouts, first to an undefeated wrestler and then a 6-2 bout to the defending state champion, Gary Steen of Reynolds.
He wrestled Gavin Bradley of Athens for fifth place. Burkett put on a riding clinic on the shorter Bradley in the 6-0 win. He got the opening takedown in the first period, and he rode Bradley for the rest of the period. In the second period, Bradley picked neutral, and the two wrestlers got caught in funk situations several times before Burkett got a takedown with 16 seconds left for a 4-0 lead.
Burkett wanted top for the third period, and he used a tilt for two backpoints to set the final.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Burkett with the medal around his neck. “I went out there to wrestle. I just wanted to win.
“I didn’t wrestle my best match in the semifinals. It was not the way I wanted to wrestle.”
The fifth-place medal is one place higher than his brother, Aaron, earned his sophomore year.
“He has bragging rights in the house, and I’m sure that he’s going to use them when he gets home tonight,” Lazor said with a laugh. “He wrestled hard. He gave Steen a great match in the consys, and he had some points that he didn’t quite receive. He wrestled a great weekend.”
Lazor was pleased with how his team wrestled all tournament, and he is glad that Holderbaum, Burkett, and Duane Knisely are all returning with state experience under their belts.
“Knisely lost some close ones, and he beat some kids who are walking around with medals,” said Lazor. “That’s a kick in the butt. He knows that he can do this.
“We only have three seniors and have three of these guys coming back. We gotta grow and spread out our weights.”
STATES NOTES: McMillen and Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington (113) were the state champions from District 6, while St. Joseph’s Kolby Franklin (195) and Mount Union’s Jake Ryan (285) were runners-up. ... Meyersdale’s Jalen Stephens (285) was a third-place finisher, while North Star’s Hunter Tremain (195) was fourth and Berlin’s Tristan Pugh (145) was sixth. ... Other area state placewinners were: Forest Hills’ Eric Gibson (third at 138); Portage’s Cole Sossong (fifth at 160); Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown (fifth at 170); West Branch’s Cory Johnston (fifth at 220); West Branch’s Tyler Denochick (seventh at 126); Southern Huntingdon’s Kole Winfield (seventh at 285); and Westmont Hilltop’s Hudson Holbay (eighth at 152). ... Aside from McGill, two other Thomas Tournament wrestlers won state titles with Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer (182) and Greenville’s Jacob McMaster (220), while Freedom’s Trent Schultheis (152) and Bryson Miller (182) were runners-up.