MONROEVILLE – In some ways, Saturday’s Mid-Winter Mayhem looked like so many other wrestling tournaments over the past several years, with impressive performances by Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington and the Chestnut Ridge team.
In others, it looked like no high school wrestling tournament most had seen before, with eight mats stretched over the Monroeville Convention Center floor, everyone in attendance wearing protective masks and the 28-team tournament split into two separate events to adhere to limitations on gatherings.
Five local wrestlers captured Mid-Winter Mayhem titles in Division 1 – Chestnut Ridge’s Brock Holderbaum (106 pounds) and Calan Bollman (113), Bishop McCort Catholic’s Mason Gibson (120) and Erik Gibson (152), and Forest Hills’ Arrington (132). North Star’s Nathan Pelesky (113) and Berlin Brothersvalley’s Brady Boburchock (215) were victorious in Division 2.
Mason Gibson made his much-anticipated debut, and the nation’s top-ranked freshman did not disappoint, as he scored a pair of technical falls before notching a 10-2 major decision over Brookville’s Owen Reinsel, who finished fourth in the state last season.
“I felt great. I came in here with the mindset to take it one match at a time,” Mason Gibson said. “He’s been all over, ranked in the state. I went in there with the mindset that we’re both 0-0 and just go at it.”
Erik Gibson, a two-time state medalist who, like his younger brother, transferred to Bishop McCort late last year, beat Laurel’s Grant MacKay 5-2 in the finals.
“The last time they wrestled, he lost – I believe it was freestyle,” Mason said of his older brother. “I’m proud of him. He came back and beat him. It was a great match. Both kids wrestled hard.”
Arrington, who won a state title in 2019 and finished third last season, looked very good in his first action of the COVID-delayed season. He beat Hempfield Area’s Briar Priest 10-5 in the championship round.
Arrington wasn’t particularly pleased with his performance in the finals but he said he does feel as though he’s matured and gotten better over the past 10 months.
“Just the overall wrestling, I feel like everything is coming together this year,” he said. “When I’m thinking about moves, I can see them coming together. Everything clicks. It’s one shot into this and this and this. Its more chain wrestling.”
Deputy's Lions roar
Chestnut Ridge won titles in the first two weights. Holderbaum, a sophomore who was making his varsity debut, beat Pine-Richland’s Shane Simpson 7-2 for the 106-pound title.
“I’m not surprised,” Lions coach Josh Deputy said. “He’s good. Every day, you see progression with him. I think it’s just the beginning for him.”
Bollman, who finished second in the state as a freshman last season, was pushed in the 113-pound, as he edged Gavin Caprella of Lima Central Catholic 3-2. Bollman needed to ride the Ohio wrestler for the entire third period for the victory.
Deputy said it was important for Bollman to get an early test.
“Calan needs those matches, and he embraces them,” Deputy said. “He likes that. He’s a competitor. To see him get pushed like that, it’s good.”
The Lions had pool runners-up in Ross Dull (126) and Sam Albright (132) and finished second to Malvern Prep – which is ranked fifth nationally – in the team race.
“I thought it went really well,” Deputy said of his team’s first competition of the season. “I didn’t know what to expect with our first time here. Traditionally, our first time on the mat we’ve been a little slow. I thought we wrestled pretty well today for the first time. I like where we’re at. I like the mindset, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
'Taking care of business'
North Star’s Pelesky beat Berlin’s Landon Ulderich 7-1 for the 113-pound title in the Division 2 event, which was run separately from the Division 1 tournament.
“He’s off to a good start right now,” Cougars coach Tim Rosa said of Pelesky, who is 7-0 and beat returning state medalist Cayden Walter of Brookville by major decision last week. “I’d have liked to have seen him get some more matches today but there’s nothing we can do about that. He’s going out and taking care of business.”
Boburchock took care of business, too.
After losing two big matches last season – including the Mid-Winter Mayhem final – Boburchock learned to play it smart this time, as he built and early lead then avoided any big moves in his 8-5 victory over Trinity’s Ty Banco for the 215-pound title.
“After taking second last year and getting an early lead and losing it, that was pretty rough,” Boburchock said. "Coming back and winning it makes it so much better."