Mason Gibson has already been named the top middle school wrestler in the country, but even that might not be high enough praise for the 14-year-old Forest Hills student.
Gibson became just the second eighth grader to win the prestigious Super 32 tournament, as he beat Cory Land, a sophomore from Moody, Alabama, 5-4 in the title match in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Sunday.
That capped a 7-0 weekend for Gibson, who joined Ryan Crookham in 2017, as the only eighth graders ever to win a Super 32 title in the varsity division.
“It just proves how much hard work I’ve been putting in,” said Gibson, a three-time Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling champion who entered the tournament as the No. 17 seed in his weight class. “I’ve been dreaming about it and visualizing it.”
Bill Bassett, who has coached Gibson for years as part of the Ranger Pride Wrestling program, said it's hard to express how impressive the accomplishment is.
“Mason is going to wrestle a junior high schedule this year,” Bassett said. “It would be like an eighth-grade quarterback leading his high school football team to a national championship. It’s unfathomable for most people in any other sport.”
Gibson, who FloWrestling ranked as the top junior high wrestler at any weight, built a 5-0 lead over Land, the No. 1 106-pound wrestler in the nation, in the finals and held on for the victory. Gibson’s 4-3 win in ultimate tiebreaker over California’s Maxximus Martinez was even more difficult. Gibson trailed in the third period, but he continued pushing the pace, which resulted in a stalling point with 2 seconds remaining that sent the bout to overtime.
“I knew he was going to get called for stalling,” Gibson said. “I just kept pushing the pace. I knew he was broken.”
Gibson was the only local wrestler to place in the varsity division. His older brother, Erik, who was a PIAA bronze medalist in March, went 4-2 at 145 pounds. Erik Gibson’s only losses were to two other Pennsylvania wrestlers – DuBois’ Ed Scott and Midd-West’s Avery Bassett.
Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington, who won a PIAA title as a freshman last season, went 2-2 at 120 pounds. Chestnut Ridge’s Kai Burkett went 3-2 in the same bracket while Lions teammate Nathan Holderbaum went 2-2.
Tristan Pugh, a Shanksville-Stonycreek senior and Division I Appalachian State commit who wrestles at Berlin Brothersvalley as part of a co-op, finished 1-2 at 145 pounds.
Bo Bassett, who is a seventh grader at Forest Hills, won the Super 32 belt at 80 pounds in the middle school division.
He beat his Pennsylvania rival, Nathan Desmond, 4-2 for the title.
“Bo had a pretty tough weight and got to wrestle one of Pa.’s up-and-comers in Nathan Desmond,” Coach Bassett said. “They keep making each other better. Win or lose, they make each other better. It’s like a chess match.”
Bo’s younger brother Keegan, who had been the only local wrestler to win a Super 32 belt at any level until this year, finished fourth at 70 pounds in the 11-and-younger division.
Forest Hills’ Melvin Miller, the younger brother of Mason and Erik Gibson, finished second at 75 pounds in the 11-and-younger classification.
The group of young RPW wrestlers, along with those already at the varsity level, has helped shine a national spotlight on Forest Hills.
“Everything we do is together,” Mason Gibson said. “We win together, we lose together. We work hard together, and we always have each other’s back.”
Chestnut Ridge’s Dominic Deputy took eighth place at 70 pounds in the middle school division while his brother, Kooper Deputy, was fifth at 60 pounds in the 11-and-younger division.