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City to host PJW Junior High State Championships this weekend

Mar. 1—A total of 40 area athletes will compete in this weekend's Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Junior High State Championships held at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial, 326 Napoleon St., downtown Johnstown.

Thirty boys and 10 girls have their sights set on earning a spot on the coveted podium on Sunday afternoon.

With all of the wrestlers competing in one bracket per weight class, the event creates top matchups.

"Out of all the wrestling state championships in Pennsylvania, I feel this one is the hardest to win because of one bracket," Bishop McCort Catholic coach Bill Bassett coach said. "All of (Class) 2A, 3A and prep wrestlers battle it out for one championship.

"It's a huge indicator for future high school success."

This is the 10th straight year the city has hosted this tournament. The action begins at 3 p.m. Friday, continues at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday's session kicks off at 9 a.m. Finals are slated for 1 p.m. Sunday.

Bishop McCort eighth-grader Keegan Bassett is the lone area returning state champion from 2023. Bassett decisioned Emmaus' Emilio Albanese 5-3 in sudden victory for his fourth Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling title.

His older brother, Bo Bassett, earned eight Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling crowns and is undefeated this season as a sophomore.

Bishop McCort teammate Austin Carfley was runner-up.

North Star's Brady Meyers was seventh.

"It is amazing to have middle school states here in Johnstown," Bill Bassett said.

"Lots of friends and family are able to come watch and support the wrestlers.

"There are very few high-level events the wrestlers and families get to sleep in their own beds for. I think this definitely gives us some advantages. We have access to our wrestling rooms if needed, not having to stay in hotels and to have the whole Johnstown community here to support the wrestlers is a nice bonus."

Bishop McCort has done well at the junior-high level over the past few years, paving the way for the Crimson Crushers' success at the varsity level this season. Bishop McCort earned a silver medal at the PIAA Class 2A dual tournament in early February.

"Every year, the team does well at this event and I look for the same type of results," Bill Bassett said. "Our wrestlers have been working very hard and always get excited to wrestle states in Johnstown. The past few years, we had three junior high states champions each year, which is impressive for one school. In 2020, Bo Bassett, Mason Gibson and Devon Magro won. In 2022, Bo Bassett, Jax Forrest and Sam Herring prevailed.

C.J. Pensiero, Melvin Miller and Keegan Bassett each earned gold in 2023."

Area boys in the tournament are Bedford's Jacob Fisher (212), Nathan Gardner (192) and Johnny Ingraham (172); Berlin Brothersvalley's Carter Durst (157); Bishop McCort Catholic's Bentley Bainey (157), Keegan Bassett (96), Will Buckley (124) Carfley (117), Jamison Forrest (103), Emory Gunby (132), Eli Herring (110) and Jayden O'Farrill (157); Central Cambria's Hadyn Strittmatter (103); Chestnut Ridge's Kooper Deputy (82) and JonMark Harbaugh (140); Ligonier Valley's Levi Foust (147); Meyersdale's Gavin Kalp (192) and Caleb Sines (147); North Star's Deklyn Gageby (89), Joseph Kimmel (140), Colton Lisbon (96) and Meyers (252); Penn Cambria's Nate Mack (140); Richland's Ian Foy (252); Rockwood's Dawson Shaffer (132); and Somerset's Tyler Bridge (103), Chase Elchin (192), Hayden Evans (110), Rylan Riggs (96) and Chad Schrock (124).

Keegan Bassett will face Benton's Samuel Cumberland in the first round Friday. Shaffer is the top seed at 132 and will face either Boyertown's Carter Ramus or Compton Speck in the round of 32.

Local girls in the event are Bedford's Noelle Murray (202); Central Cambria's Alizae Kelly (167), Lydia Sheehan (127) and Makenna Smith (112); Chestnut Ridge's Juliet Alt (150); Forest Hills' Emma Dallavalle (105); Meyersdale's Aurora Comfort (119) and Abigail Ickes (150); North Star's Laikyn Paxton (167); and United's Lainee Worthington (98). Smith is the top seed at her weight.

Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.