The Gazette coverage area continues to produce a wealth of wrestling talent, and this past season was no different.
In 2018-19, there were nine district champions and five state medalists from the local contingent. All of them and others represent this year’s Gazette Wrestling All-Stars.
The group is led by Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill, who became the 11th different state champion in coverage area history by winning the 170-pound Class AA title last month.
The Lions’ program also enjoyed many of the local highlights on the team front this winter. They won their seventh consecutive District 5 Duals championship and finished third in the state team tournament for the second straight year. A week later, they won the District 5 Tournament team title for the eighth straight time.
Below is a closer look at each of the first team All-Stars, which were selected by the Gazette Sports Staff. There were co-first team selections at both 132 and 220 pounds.
Kai Burkett had a strong freshman season and built on that as a sophomore.
He won his second district championship and was a regional finalist. In Hershey, Burkett finished fifth for his first state medal. He was 35-6 this season and will carry 66 career wins into next winter.
“Kai had a great season,” said Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor. “He has steadily improved since the beginning of his freshman year, and now has placed himself among the state’s best. He leads by example and work ethic.”
One of the stories of the postseason was Chestnut Ridge junior Nathan Holderbaum.
Holderbaum went 15-5 from the beginning of February on, which included a district title and avenging a couple of earlier defeats.
He placed fifth at regionals, then advanced to the state semifinals. Holderbaum wound up fourth with an overall mark of 31-13.
“Nathan finished with a bang,” said Lazor. “He has great speed and agility, and has improved on the mental aspect of the sport. The sky is the limit, and it will be real exciting to see how far he can go.”
Bedford’s Mathew Emerick quietly put a good season together in the lowerweights, and he gets the first team nod at 120 this year.
Emerick finished at 20-8 after defaulting out of the district tournament with an injury. His record includes victories over eventual District 5 champion Eli Brougher and state qualifier Jimmy Gwyer.
“Mathew is one of the most athletic kids I have ever coached,” said Bedford coach Joel Easter. “He beat a lot of good kids.”
Brady Villa had a solid career at Tussey Mountain, which included his senior season of a 28-6 record.
Villa captured the district title after dropping in weight at the end of January. Villa, a state qualifier as a junior, leaves the Titans with an 82-30 career mark and will wrestle at Shippensburg University.
“I know Brady is disappointed with the end result of his season, but I am extremely proud of him,” said Tussey Mountain coach Mason Replogle. “He worked hard every day in practice and put in endless hours of extra work at home.”
One of the 132-pound co-choices for the first team, Bedford’s Kaden Cassidy put together an outstanding junior season after missing most of his sophomore one due to injury.
Cassidy was 37-2 this season, going unbeaten from the middle of December until the state semifinals. Along the way, he won his second district title, his second regional crown, and placed third in the state for the second time as well. He’s 68-7 for his career.
“Kaden is one of our team leaders and works hard every day to get better,” said Easter. “He does the extra work that gets you to the next level. He does the right stuff on and off the mat.”
Joining Cassidy in the 132-pound spot is Everett senior Garret Cornell.
Cornell had a win over Cassidy early in the season and finished the year at 37-6. After placing fifth at regionals, Cornell took fifth at the state tournament for his second straight medal in Hershey. His career record is 141-23, with that win total ranking him tied for fifth overall all-time in the coverage area.
“I can’t say enough good things about Garret,” said Everett coach Robbie Ripple. “He is very humble and has been a great team leader since ninth grade. At Everett, he holds just about every wrestling record there is. He’s one of the best role models I have ever had the privelage to coach. His work ethic is off the charts and he will be very hard to replace.”
Northern Bedford junior Ian Sherlock enjoyed a breakout season to gain first team status at 138 pounds.
Sherlock was 21-5 overall, which included his first district championship. Of the 21 wins, Sherlock pinned his opponent in 14 of them.
“We relied heavily on Ian earning bonus points for our team,” said Northern Bedford coach Brian Dutchcot. “He is extremely tough in the top position and improved this year on his feet. This helped him win some big matches.”
Bedford senior Nathan Gabriel was another who quietly went about his wrestling, and ended with a solid record and a spot on the Gazette’s first team.
Gabriel was 25-10 this season and a two-time regional qualifier.
“Nathan’s just a great kid to coach and my senior leader,” said Easter. “He is going to be hard to replace, and I know he will successful in whatever he does in life.”
Everett’s Macen Akers parlayed his football success into the same on the wrestling mat.
As a senior, Akers had his highest win total and was 28-10 overall. A three-time district runner-up, Akers had 73 career victories.
“Macen’s the best overall athlete I’ve coached,” said Ripple. “He’s a great team leader and student. He always made the right decisions on and off the mat, and is someone our younger athletes looked up to. Like I said with Garret, Macen is almost impossible to replace.”
Claysburg’s Kobe Harr made a sizable jump in his win total this season, and it landed him on the first team at 160.
Harr was 27-7 as a junior and reached the regional tournament.
“I was very pleased with Kobe’s performance this year,” said CK coach Matt Musselman. “He fought through some injuries the last two years, and did well this year. He is dedicated to improving over the summer, and I am excited to see how he does next season.”
There’s not a lot that hasn’t been said about Jared McGill’s wrestling credentials, and all he did this season was enhance them.
McGill went a perfect 40-0, with his wins including a fourth district championship, a second regional title, and his first state championship to cap off a tremendous high school career.
McGill was 161-16 for his career and ranks second all-time in area wins behind his former teammate Justin McCoy (167). He also joined McCoy as Chestnut Ridge’s only two four-time state medalists, and he is the first undefeated state champion from a Bedford County school since Everett’s Paul Clark in 1983.
“It is truly remarkable for a young man to have the record he did over the last two years with our schedule (86-1),” Lazor said of McGill. “He is a great wrestler who cares about the team success as much as his own. And that type of leadership has settled in with our younger wrestlers.”
Chestnut Ridge’s Austin Crouse turned in another strong season that included a district championship.
Crouse was 28-10 as a senior. After two seasons that produced 29 victories, Crouse had 60 wins in the last two years.
“Austin had another great year and works as hard as anyone and is a positive voice in the practice room,” said Lazor. “Although he fell short of his goals this year, he helped lead the team to another medal.”
Tussey Mountain’s Damon Lemin won more bouts that his previous varsity time combined as a senior.
Lemin went 29-9, increasing his win total by 15 from his junior season. He was a regional finalist to reach the state tournament for the first time.
“Damon had an excellent senior year,” said Replogle. “He continued to improve from week to week and peaked at the perfect time in the postseason. He worked hard all year and definitely deserved his trip to Hershey.”
The first of two co-choices at 220 is Chestnut Ridge junior Duane Knisely.
This season, Knisely was 35-8 in winning his first district championship before a runner-up finish in the regional tournament. Knisely has 78 career wins going into next season.
“Duane really came on and added some really good technique to his natural ability,” said Lazor. “That enabled him to have some great success in tough tournaments. It will be interesting to see what he becomes next year.”
Everett’s Shane Clark didn’t wrestle for a couple of years, but it didn’t diminish what the senior accomplished this season.
Clark was 28-14 and had a strong postseason that included his first trip to the state tournament. All of it made him a co-choice at this weight class.
“Shane had a good season and worked hard,” said Ripple. “He was the guy on the team that made it fun for everyone. I wasn’t sure how he was going to do in taking two years off, but he did very well. We enjoyed coaching him.”
Chestnut Ridge’s Dalton Seace won 70 bouts in a three-year varsity career that didn’t feature much wrestling background before that time.
Seace made an impact though, which included this season’s 30-9 record and his second straight district championship where he beat eventual state medalist Jalen Stephens.
“For a young man that wrestled only three or four years, Dalton accomplished some amazing feats,” said Lazor. “Ability was never a question, as he is the best natural athletic heavyweight I have coached. He could go on to do great things if that is what he chooses.”