Kaden Cassidy has been waiting a lifetime for this opportunity.
The Bedford junior will finally get a chance to compete in the Thomas Chevrolet Wrestling Tournament for the first time. The event begins at 10 a.m. Friday and continues through Saturday, with the finals set for approximately 5:30 that night.
“I’ve always wanted to wrestle in it my whole life,” said Cassidy, a 132-pounder who grew up in Bedford but as a freshman he attended Bishop McCort Catholic – which has never wrestled in the tournament. He missed last year’s edition with an injury.
“I’ve been watching it for a long time, even when I couldn’t wrestle in it. It’s pretty cool to be able to wrestle in the tournament.”
Cassidy is 17-1 this season and could get an opportunity to avenge his only loss of the season, a 4-2 setback to Everett’s Garret Cornell in the Panther Holiday Classic. Cornell, who is the third-ranked 132-pounder in the state according to PA Power Wrestling, is the top seed. Cassidy, ranked seventh statewide, is the second seed, which means they could meet in the finals.
“It’s hard not to look ahead, but I’ve got to get business done first,” Cassidy said. “It would mean a lot (to avenge the loss), but it’s just another match. I’ve prepared for it the same way. I didn’t do anything special for him. I work the same for everyone.”
The Thomas tournament annually brings together some of the top teams in the state, especially from the Southwest Region, and it’s no different this year. Chestnut Ridge will be seeking its sixth title in seven seasons, but it might not be easy this time around. Burrell is the No. 4 dual meet team in the state according to PA Power Wrestling – two spots ahead of Chestnut Ridge. No. 7 Greenville, No. 17 Freedom Area, No. 21 North Star and No. 24 Newport are also in the 28-team field.
Other local squads include Berlin Brothersvalley, Cambria Heights, Central Cambria, Conemaugh Township, Meyersdale, Penn Cambria and Somerset, in addition to the host school.
Chestnut Ridge has a pair of returning champions in Kai Burkett (106 pounds) and Jared McGill (170).
Berlin Brothersvalley’s Tristan Pugh has moved up a weight class to 145 after capturing the 138-pound title a year ago.
McGill, the top-ranked 170-pounder in the state in Class AA, beat Penn Cambria’s Derek Brown – who is No. 3 according to PA Power – 17-6 earlier this month, but there won’t be a rematch there, as Brown is at 182 pounds for the tournament.
McGill is the field’s only top-ranked wrestler in the state, but Meyersdale heavyweight Jalen Stephens is No. 2 at his weight and Greenville’s Jacob McMaster is second at 220 pounds. Those are two of the deeper weight classes in the tournament. The 220-pound class could has six wrestlers ranked in the top 25 – including Chestnut Ridge’s Duane Knisely (No. 10) and Central Cambria’s Jon Croft (No. 13). The heavyweight class features five ranked wrestlers, including Chestnut Ridge’s Dalton Seace at No. 20.