May 16—BERLIN — Jared McGill knows that college athletics at the Division I level are serious business, so the Chestnut Ridge graduate and Pitt wrestler was excited to be around some youngsters just learning the sport on Saturday.
“These kids are definitely having a lot of fun,” McGill said at The Shop in Berlin, where he and Pitt teammate Jake Wentzel were conducting a clinic. “That’s what it’s all about, just getting them to love the sport and love everything about it. Once you get to a certain age, it’s more serious, and it’s time to win matches when you get older.”
McGill knows plenty about winning — he was a PIAA champion and four-time medalist in high school — but he learned quickly how difficult wrestling can be at the Division I level. After winning his first four matches as the 174-pound starter for the Panthers, the redshirt freshman lost his final six this season.
“It’s definitely a big jump,” McGill said. “I have a lot of good practice partners in the room. I just have to get adjusted to the competing side of things. It’s a lot deeper than one match. In high school, I might have to worry about one or two guys. Now it’s literally week in, week out you’re wrestling the best guys in the country, and you have to be ready.
“It’s just a completely different grind than it was in high school,” he said. “Getting this first year under my belt was good. I’m looking to make some changes. Not that I had a bad season, but I could have had a better season.”
Wentzel provides an example for the improvements that McGill will look to make over the course of his career. The two-time state champion from South Park High School went 10-13 against Division I competition in his first season as a starter and lost five of his final six bouts. He improved to 9-6 as a sophomore and 18-7 as a junior before going 13-2 and finishing second nationally at 165 pounds this season.
Wentzel plans to take advantage of the NCAA’s decision to grant athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, so he’ll look to win a title in his sixth season at Pitt.
He and McGill are friends with Tanner and Taylor Cahill, Berlin residents and former Division I wrestlers who run The Shop — a gym that features martial arts and boxing classes in addition to wrestling.
“It’s cool to have this kind of support from your friends,” Tanner Cahill said.
McGill was happy to be able to be a part of the clinic, which drew wrestlers from Berlin, Conemaugh Township, North Star, Rockwood and Somerset.
“It’s always good to give back to the District 5 community,” he said. “Making District 5 a better overall area and giving these kids an opportunity to learn and a chance to become one of the best wrestlers in the area and even the state and the country. Pennsylvania has the best wrestling, so if you’re doing well here, I’m sure you’re doing well everywhere else.”
McGill and Wentzel seemed to connect with the young wrestlers, who ranged from kindergarten pupils to high school students.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Tanner Cahill said. “Sometimes for college guys, they have trouble showing technique, because it’s like how do you tone it down enough for an 8-year-old but also help the guy who is 15 or 16 and trying to get better? I think they’re doing a really good job.”