Apr. 22—Three local wrestlers have a quest for Budapest.
Ranger Pride Wrestling’s Bo Bassett, Mason Gibson and Sam Herring will compete in the Cadet World Team Trials in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, this weekend. The champions at each weight will qualify for July’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.
They will look to join a select group, as former North Star and Pitt-Johnstown standout Nick Roberts is believed to be the only local wrestler to have made a world team. He did it a decade ago.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Bassett said of this weekend’s tournament. “We’ve been talking about this for years. We’re all excited. We’re going to do the best that we can.”
Bassett will be wrestling in the Greco-Roman competition on Friday and freestyle on Saturday and Sunday, while Gibson and Herring are concentrating solely on freestyle.
A seven-time Pennsylvania folkstyle champion, the 14-year-old Bishop McCort Catholic student has been generating national headlines for his dominance. He was a 2019 finalist for the Sports Illustrated Kids’ SportsKid of the Year and opened even more eyes with his performance at the Ultimate Club Duals last weekend in State College. Wrestling against some of the nation’s best, Bassett went 7-0 and outscored his opponents 66-0, with all of his victories coming by 10-0 technical fall, except the one where he pinned his foe while leading 6-0.
Bassett is a heavy favorite at 45 kilograms, according to Matscouts’ Willie Saylor.
“Bo Bassett, I think, is the real deal,” Saylor said during a preview of the freestyle tournament. “He’s going to smash here.”
Corby VanDeventer, Saylor’s co-host, went even further in his prediction.
“Nobody’s scoring on Bo Bassett,” he said. “He’s going to run through this tournament and won’t give up a point.”
Bassett is one of 12 wrestlers in the 45-kilogram weight class as of Thursday evening.
Idaho’s Mack Mauger, Oklahoma’s Stockton Allen, Ohio’s Javaan Yarbrough and Iowa’s Dru Ayala are expected to be his toughest challengers. Bassett beat Ayala 10-0 last weekend and pinned fellow Keystone State wrestler Davis Motyka, who will also be in the weight, a week earlier at PA Power Wrestling’s Redemption Dual.
Like Bassett, Mauger and Yarbrough were Kids Freestyle national champions in 2019.
In addition to getting to wrestle in Budapest, Bassett is excited for the opportunity to attend the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
If he makes the world team in freestyle and Greco-Roman, he could spend two weeks getting high-level coaching.
“To get a week in Colorado and to wrestle in Budapest — I’ve been dreaming about that for so long,” said Bassett, who grew up idolizing three-time world age-group champion Spencer Lee of Murrysville and learning from Roberts. “Carrying the flag around on my back if I won a world title would be a dream come true.”
Gibson is already a prominent name in the wrestling world, despite being just a freshman at Bishop McCort.
He won a Super 32 title in the varsity division — becoming just the second wrestler ever to do so — before finishing second in 2020.
He was being compared to some of the all-time greats in Pennsylvania before losing by fall to Notre Dame-Green Pond’s Brett Ungar in the PIAA Class 2A championship in March. That was the only blemish on his 21-1 record, and Gibson quickly shifted his attention to making the world team.
Gibson views this as the biggest event of his life.
“It’s definitely the top tournament right now, as of this year,” the 16-year-old said. “Going to Super 32 as an eighth-grader, that was big, but now this is bigger. It’s worth more. You’re trying to get that world team spot. That’s something big. That’s something special to do.”
Gibson’s bracket has nearly 50 wrestlers in it, including Manheim Township’s Kamdyn Williams, another freshman looking to put Hershey disappointment behind him. Williams was a favorite to win a state title at 113 pounds, but did not make weight for the state tournament.
Saylor picked Gibson to win the title, while VanDeventer projected the McCort wrestler to fall to Indiana’s Sergio Lemley. That can’t happen, as Lemley is registered at 60 kilograms. Alabama’s Cory Land, Oklahoma’s Cael Hughes and Iowa’s Gable Porter are expected to be some of the toughest competitors at 55 kilograms.
“Mason’s in a very, very tough weight,” RPW coach Bill Bassett said. “When the lights are on, Mason Gibson is at his very best. He’s not afraid to let it all hang out. He’s not scared.”
Gibson went 7-0 at the Ultimate Club Duals, outscoring his opponents 65-8 while racking up four technical falls and two pins.
“After wrestling those top guys, I’m ready,” Gibson said. “All of the practicing, all of the hard work, I’m ready. I want to go out there and get on that world team.”
Another Bishop McCort middle school student, Herring probably is better known outside of the region than he is in it.
A six-time Tennessee state champion, Herring moved to St. Michael as a talented wrestler who has already made a name for himself in the wrestling media world.
Herring and Bellefonte Area High School student Jude Swisher shared the National Wrestling Media Association’s Journalist of the Year award in 2020 for their work on the Home Mat Advantage podcast. Herring has also served as announcer on matches live-streamed by FloWrestling.
As much as he enjoys being behind the microphone, Herring would rather be on the mat.
“I’ve dreamed of winning a world championship at every level — Cadet, Junior, Senior and Olympic — since I was watching Spencer Lee and those guys winning when they were my age,” Herring said.
Herring is one of 15 wrestlers entered at 48 kilograms.
Bethlehem Catholic’s Nathan Desmond is one of the favorites, which could work in Herring’s favor, as organizers try to separate wrestlers from the same state. California’s Aden Valencia is another highly rated wrestler in the weight class.
Herring hasn’t been able to compete in weeks, as he suffered “a little foot injury” that had him in a walking boot earlier this month. He missed out on the opportunity to add a Keystone State title to his collection and has only been able to wrestle for a little more than a week, but he’s not worried.
“This area has some pretty good training,” he said. “Before I got banged up, I was peaked and ready for the state tournament, wrestling at the best I have ever. From there, I had a little bit of a setback but didn’t stop all my training. I got a lot stronger, especially in my upper body.”
Coach Bassett said it would have been almost impossible to keep Herring out of the World Team Trials.
“I think Sam’s so anxious to compete, this is the next event he’s allowed to compete in, and he’s going to. He’s only had a handful of practices. Obviously, cardio may hinder him deep into the event, but he’s a seasoned vet as far as knowing the sport.”
That’s one area where Herring disagrees with his coach, saying that conditioning won’t be a problem.
“I’m not worried at all. I’ve been training very hard,” he said. “I think I’ll have one of the best gas tanks.”