Sam Herring

Sam Herring, who will be an eighth-grader at Bishop McCort Catholic, gestures during a match at the U.S. Marines Corps 16U National Wrestling Championships, in Fargo, North Dakota, on Sunday, July 18, 2021.

Sam Herring is beginning to feel right at home in the Keystone State – even when he’s 1,200 miles away in Fargo, North Dakota.

Herring, who will be an eighth-grader at Bishop McCort Catholic next month, placed second at the U.S. Marine Corps 16U National Wrestling Championships on Monday.

The tournament is one of the toughest in the nation, and Herring, who moved to St. Michael in 2020, was proud to help Team Pennsylvania capture the team title in freestyle.

“I am new to the state and new to the culture here. It was a big difference here,” Herring said in a phone interview from North Dakota. “We had this camp, and there are college coaches from all over the place. I had (Ohio State wrestler) Sammy Sasso and (Penn State grad) Mark Hall in my corner a lot this week. That’s something I never had before. It’s a culture like no other.”

Pennsylvania tied the Fargo record for most U16 All-Americans with 21, including four runners-up, but the Keystone State did not produce a champion.

Mason Gibson, who will be a sophomore at Bishop McCort, finished third at 126 pounds. The Crimson Crushers’ Devon Magro went 4-2 at 126 but did not place. United’s Josef Garshnick went 2-2 at 94 pounds, while McCort’s Luke Sipes was 1-2 at 138.

Chestnut Ridge’s Patron Plummer, who will be a sophomore in the fall, finished 3-2 at 132 pounds in the 16U women’s division.

Bishop McCort’s Erik Gibson and Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington each earned All-American honors in the Junior division.

Gibson won his first five matches and reached the 152-pound semifinals before falling 12-8 to New Jersey’s Daniel Wask. Arrington also reeled off five consecutive wins before losing 10-0 to Oklahoma’s Jordan Williams in the quarterfinals.

Arrington will wrestle for third on Tuesday, while Erik Gibson is in the fifth-place match.

Herring won six consecutive bouts to reach the 106-pound final. He made five of them look easy, with four technical falls and a 9-2 victory. Herring did have a close call in the round of 32 as he beat Caio Aron of Texas 12-12 on criteria.

“The techs were simple,” Herring said. “I was able to get my attacks and finish on top.”

Herring looked like he might be able to do the same in the final, as he scored a takedown and two quick turns for a 6-0 lead on top-seeded Anthony Knox of New Jersey.

Knox stormed back, however, scoring 18 unanswered points for a technical fall.

“I just wasn’t good enough today. I couldn’t get to legs, and I couldn’t stop his offense,” Herring said. “I was able to score a lot of points right away, but if I can’t keep from giving up 18, I’ve got issues.”

Herring said his top game improved tremendously thanks to a trip with Bishop McCort teammate Bo Bassett, who is representing the U.S. at the Cadet World Championships on Tuesday in Hungary. Herring accompanied Bassett to a training camp earlier this summer.

“I was able to go to the World Team Camp in South Dakota,” Herring said. “That was an experience like I never had before. I jumped so many levels. It was an eye-opening experience, and I got so much better as a wrestler. I picked up so many things that I was able to take to Fargo.”

Herring won six folkstyle state titles in Tennessee – despite being unable to compete in a state tournament the past two years because of the pandemic and an injury – but he’s probably better known for his “Home Mat Advantage” podcast and social media presence. So, in some ways, Fargo marked his coming-out party as a competitor.

“There are a lot of people that know of Sam Herring – I have built a pretty big brand through my podcast – but this is probably the first time a lot of people got to see me compete on a big stage,” he said. “I put a lot of work in over the past year, especially since April, when I was able to come back from a couple of injuries that I was dealing with.”

Herring said it’s little consolation that he probably opened some eyes with his performance.

“I think I’ll be proud of that (second-place finish),” he said, “but I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied. When you set a goal, it means a lot to be able to accomplish that. I put the work in and still fell short.”

Herring will look to bounce back in the Greco-Roman portion of the tournament, which begins Thursday.

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