HERSHEY — The all-time dream for a Pennsylvania high school wrestler is to bring home a gold medal from the PIAA State Wrestling Championships.
Chestnut Ridge’s Jared McGill is different from almost all of those wrestlers in that not only did he dream about the gold medal, he lived it.
One year to the day after having missing his chance to win as a junior, McGill easily captured the 170-pound title with an 8-2 victory over McGuffey’s Christian Clutter to become the third Chestnut Ridge wrestler to win a state title.
“It feels amazing,” McGill said minutes after receiving his gold medal, the fourth state medal of his career. “I’ve been working for it since last year of states last year.
“I’ve been thinking about it every day — the workouts, the lifts, everything. It feels so good. It felt so amazing on the medal stand. Such a relief.”
McGill’s riding was a huge factor in the win. He got the early takedown on Clutter, and he tried several moves to turn the McGuffey senior, but to no avail for a 2-0 lead after the first period.
The Lion picked bottom for the second period, and Clutter got him in a crab ride. However, McGill got his hips up and turned back into Clutter to get a reversal. McGill had got the lead to 5-0 after Clutter was hit for stalling for the second time before the end of the period.
Clutter picked bottom for the third period, and despite obvious movement from McGill, the Lion was called for stalling twice to give Clutter a point, while Clutter was hit two more times for stalling to give the Lion an 8-1 lead.
McGill freed Clutter for an escape and tried to get a takedown for a major decision, but the match ended with an 8-2 win for McGill.
“I knew that he was a good defensive wrestler and a good athlete,” McGill said of Clutter. “He is going to college to play football. Best of luck to him. I know he’s a great wrestler, but I knew that if I got the first takedown I would be fine.
“I wrestled well. I got into the handfight right away, rode well and got out on the bottom right away.”
He dominated Clutter in beating the McGuffey wrestler for the third time this year. McGill was 40-0 on the year, and only five of those victories were regular decisions. Three of those against Clutter.
The Lion has signed his letter of intent to wrestle at Pitt next year.
“I’m excited to get after it in college,” McGill added. “I’m so excited to get to Pitt. I will take a couple weeks off and get back at it.”
On March 9, 2018, McGill went out in the state semifinals and lost to Port Allegany’s Jacob Kallenborn, 8-7. He came back with two wins in the consolations including a victory against a defending state champion to take third in the state.
“It was like a death in the family to bring back the loss to Kallenborn,” McGill said. “That lost last year was the most devastating thing to happen to me. Coming down here and redeeming myself really feels great.”
On top of the loss at states last year, he saw his teammate, Justin McCoy, lose in the state final to Frazier’s Thayne Lawrence, a wrestler who McCoy had dominated just two weeks prior.
“That was in the back of my mind, but I knew that I just need to go out there and wrestle my match,” McGill said. “Just go out and have fun. That is what the Ridge wrestling program is all about. Don’t let anything out on the mat.
“I didn’t have any flashbacks to (last year’s match with Kallenborn), but it will always be there. I try to always move forward and stay positive.”
That was the last loss of his high school career, as he won the next 42 bouts, and he won 86 of his last 87 matches to finish with an astonishing 160-16 career record, the second-most wins in Chestnut Ridge and District 5 history behind only McCoy.
He is only the fourth Bedford County wrestler to place four times at states along with McCoy, Bedford’s Ryan Easter, and Northern Bedford’s Jan Clark. Claysburg-Kimmel’s Derek Tipton was the only other one from the Gazette’s coverage area.
“To be in the same category as them is amazing,” he said. “They were great wrestlers.
“Confidence has helped me a lot and being down here four times. Knowing this my last year, I wanted to have fun and not let the pressure get to me. Have fun and be grateful.”
He is a four-time District 5 champion, a two-time regional champion and three-time regional finalist, and two-time Powerade Tournament champion.
“It feels good to end my high school career on a positive note,” he added. “A lot of great wrestlers from this area had never won a gold medal. It feels great.”
Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor was quite emotional when talking about his senior state champion.
“I’ve known him since he was five when I moved in the area,” Lazor said as he choked back some tears. “I’m his neighbor. I’ve watched him grow. We’re tight. It’s nice to see him get something that he deserves. If he’d have gone through his career without a state championship, it would have been a shame because is good enough to get it.
“He came down to the last chance, and he stepped up and got it done. He is really deserving.”
Lazor was very flattering about McGill as a teammate, not only about his wrestling ability.
“He’s the best leader that I’ve had in 21 years,” Lazor added. “He encourages in the wrestling room and he cheers for his teammates. He is always cheering and jumping around for his teammates. The team aspect is very important to him.
“Last year, he wanted a team medal and said that he would trade it for one of his own. He wasn’t lying.”
The Chestnut Ridge fanbase wouldn’t trade McGill or what he has done for the program for anything. After winning his title, he ran into the stands and gave big hugs to his parents and grandparents among other people.
“I hugged the whole ridge community up there,” McGill added.
“I want to thank my coaches. Coach Lazor has been my neighbor since third grade, and coach (Josh) Deputy, I don’t even know what to say about him. He has been a working with me on my technique and on getting my shots. I need to thank coach (Brian) Gibbons for working out with me, and coach (Pat) Berzonski for all the mindset stuff.
“I need to thank coach Lazor for everything.”