BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – Call it a ‘war wound’, a ‘battle scar’ or a ‘badge of courage’. But no matter where Adam Gilson goes from now on, he will always wear the physical proof that he competed at the state wrestling tournament, hard.
On Thursday night at Hershey’s Giant Center, Gilson’s season and career came to an end where all good ones do, at the PIAA Class AAA Championships. The Cedar Crest 195-pound senior ended his scholastic days with a 33-7 season mark and 99 all-time wins, on the heels of two tough, hard-fought setbacks.
In the evening wrestlebacks, Gilson was beaten 3-1 by Liberty junior Orlando Miller. Gilson had been relegated to the 195-pound consolation bracket by a 2-1, triple overtime loss to Jordan Wertz of Boyertown, in an earlier, afternoon preliminary bout.
During his season-ending setback to Miller, Gilson was cut above the right eye, during some hard wrestling, with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter. After the injury stoppage, Gilson couldn’t muster a tying takedown, and then received four stitches – without a ‘local’ – on his eyebrow.
“I can’t say I have any regrets,” said Gilson, only the third wrestler in the 40-plus-year history of the sport at CCHS to make states. “I made it here. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I ended by season with some stitches. That’s cool.”
“It’s (attending states as a spectator throughout his career) a big motivation,” continued Gilson. “To actually get on the mat, it’s a different situation. I’m proud to have made it to the best high school wrestling tournament in the nation.”
“Doing that helps,” said Cedar Crest head coach Barry Spohn of Gilson’s past as a spectator. “Coming into this year, the goal was to get here. He kept saying, ‘If I get here, I’ll place.’ But it was a very competitive weight class.
“Once you get here, you want to get to the medal stand,” added Spohn. “But you can’t say anything bad about today.”
Although Gilson enjoyed modest early leads in both of his losses, he ended the tournament with zero takedowns.
“That was the difference in all of my matches,” said Gilson, who finished fourth at the District Three Championships two weeks ago. “If I get a takedown, I win, and I’m still wrestling. But there were some tough wrestlers on top.”
“Once you’re here, that’s what it comes down to,” said Spohn. “Matches come down to takedowns. He’s (Gilson) pretty tough to score on. He defends shots pretty well.”
Following a scoreless first period with Miller, Gilson broke out on top with an escape 29 ticks into the middle stanza. But Miller notched what would prove to the decisive takedown with 34 seconds remaining in that period.
Then ten seconds into the final period, Miller padded his advantage to 3-1 with another escape. Gilson found the ‘shooting’ difficult against the lanky wrestler from the Northeast Region.
“He was just really tall,” said Gilson of Miller. “When that happens, it’s a different game plan. You have to get through those long arms and long legs.
“This time of year, I don’t get nervous,” Gilson continued. “I just show up and wrestle. I’m always shorter than everybody else. But he’s (Miller) the tallest guy I’ve ever wrestled.”
“I thought he wrestled well,” said Spohn. “That first match both wrestled cautiously. No one wanted to make a mistake. I’m proud of the effort. He didn’t give anything away. And that second kid was long.
“I don’t think so (Gilson’s first match took a lot out of him),” added Spohn. “That guy (Miller) lost in overtime too. He looked more gassed than Adam. I think the injury time may have allowed him to catch his breath.”
Gilson dropped his afternoon opener when Wertz escaped from the down position nine seconds into the third overtime period. Gilson had had the same opportunity in the second extra session, but couldn’t work his way out of Wertz’s ‘ride’.
Neither wrestler had scored from the standing position in the initial, one-minute overtime period.
“I would say it’s hard,” said Spohn of adjusting to the electric atmosphere that is the state tournament. “That’s one of the reasons we came here last night (Wednesday). He’s come here a lot of times to watch. But once the whistle blows, you’re ready to go. I thought he handled it well.”
Following a scoreless opening stanza, Gilson escaped Wertz with 40 seconds left in the second period to assume his 1-0 edge. And Gilson was 29 seconds away from advancing, before Wertz broke free of his hold near the end of regulation.
The bout went to ‘bonus grappling’ with the score knotted at one.
“It was a tough day,” said Gilson, who’s considering continuing his wrestling at Shippensburg and Millersville Universities. “Ninety-nine (career wins), that (stinks). That kid (Miller) I should’ve beat. And the first kid (Wertz) I should’ve beat.
“I was the third state qualifier from Cedar Crest,” Gilson added. “That was my main goal all year. I wrestled all the tough guys. I wrestled the best of the best. I just came up short.”
“We had a good group here,” said Spohn of the Gilson supporters. “We made up some shirts. It’s a good thing for the program. It shows the kids that someone can get here.”