McCort's Gibson, Forest Hills' Arrington dominate at SW regional tournament

Eric Knopsnyder, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·4 min read

Feb. 28—INDIANA — Mason Gibson and Jackson Arrington showed exactly why they top the state rankings in their respective weight classes, while two other No. 1s from the area struggled at the Southwest Regional Class 2A Wrestling Tournament on Saturday.

Gibson, a Bishop McCort Catholic freshman, and Arrington, a Forest Hills junior, turned in two of the most impressive performances in the event.

Pandemic protocols forced the PIAA to alter its postseason schedule. In previous years, the top six in each weight class would advance to Hershey for the state tournament. Instead, 14 local wrestlers who earned top-five finishes will return to the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex for Saturday's West Super Regional.

Gibson continued an incredible run through his freshman season. He scored 63 points in three victories by technical fall, including a 25-9 victory over Tyrone's Hunter Walk in the finals. Gibson also beat Walk in the District 6 final last weekend.

"Next weekend it will be the same mindset," Gibson said of the super regional. "Another tournament, more practice for the big stage — states at Hershey. I'm so ready for that. I'm prepared, but I'm going to take one match at a time. Same mindset as always — tech fall, tech fall. Just go out there and do my thing."

Arrington matched Gibson's dominance and helped the Rangers finish second in the team standings. The No. 1 132-pounder in the state according to PA Power Wrestling, Arrington recorded a pair of technical falls before pinning St. Joseph's Catholic Academy's Zack Witmer for a second consecutive week.

"I think I wrestled better this weekend than I did last weekend in the finals," Arrington said. "That's an improvement."

The North Carolina State recruit said that Jake Strayer continues to play a big role in his breakneck pace, as the Forest Hills coach is continually urging Arrington to score a takedown and then release — or "cut" in wrestling parlance — his opponent in an effort to score another takedown.

"It's perfect," Arrington said. "We see eye to eye on pretty much everything whenever I'm wrestling. He's even more crazy cutting people than I am. I think that's why we're getting so good, is Jake being such a good coach and knowing what we should do at all times to get better."

Easton Toth, Arrington's 126-pound teammate, finished second after a 7-2 loss to South Park's Joey Fischer in the championship bout. Earlier in the day, Toth avenged a regular-season loss to Chestnut Ridge's Ross Dull.

Ryan Weyandt dropped a controversial 9-8 decision to Carlynton's Oleg Melnyk in the 160-pound semifinals but rebounded to place third in the bracket.

Chestnut Ridge qualified nine wrestlers for the regional tournament but had a rough tournament from the outset.

"It wasn't a good day," coach Josh Deputy said. "It was very frustrating. We were flat. We seemed lethargic. Maybe that's on me. I've got to figure out what we did and hopefully these guys that are left for next week, we'll see what we can do to fix things."

The Lions advanced four wrestlers to the West Super Regional but none captured a regional title, and No. 1-ranked Calan Bollman lost a pair of matches on the day. A state runner-up in 2020, he pinned North Star's Nathan Pelesky to finish fifth at 113 pounds and earn the region's final spot in the super regional.

"I think it was good that he lost there and had to face a little bit of adversity now," Deputy said of Bollman being upset by Mount Union's Bryce Beatty in the quarterfinals. "It's a four-step process instead of a three-step process. We have next week to rebound.

"He's still there with the best in the state. He's just going through a rough patch right now. This might have been something to springboard him for next week."

Luke Moore was the runner-up at 152 pounds after a 2-0 loss to Laurel's Grant MacKay, Dull finished third at 126, and Jack Moyer beat Forest Hills' Dustin Flinn 2-1 for the final spot at 145 pounds.

Chestnut Ridge still managed to finish third in the team standings, just 7.5 points behind champion Burrell and four back of Forest Hills.

"Most people would like to be in this spot, but it just wasn't good today," Deputy said.

Meyersdale's Jalen Stephens was the other top-ranked local wrestler to fall in the regional tournament. Stephens finished second at 285 pounds after a 5-0 loss to Marion Center's Marvin Beatty in the final match of the night.

Richland's Cooper Warshel rebounded from a quarterfinal loss to finish third at 145 pounds while Westmont Hilltop's Hudson Holbay edged North Star's Connor Yoder 6-4 for third place at 152.

Cambria Heights' Ian Eckenrode dropped his first match of the day but came back to place third at 189 pounds.

Ryan Habert of Ligonier Valley placed fourth at 138 pounds.

Bedford's Camden Koontz (126 pounds) and Chestnut Ridge's Kobi Burkett (132) and Daniel Moore (172) each finished sixth.