East Juniata High School's Garrett Gabel is headed to Hershey to compete in this year's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling championships. The Tiger junior competes in the 182-pound weight class as a member of the Juniata High School wrestling squad, with which EJ's wrestling team was combined a few seasons ago.
Gabel was one of four local wrestlers to compete in the Southwest Regional Tournament February 24 and 25 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he finished sixth, which was good enough to earn him a trip to Hershey's Giant Center, where the state championship action will begin on Thursday morning, March 9. He began the tournament by winning a 7-3 decision over his opponent from Bentworth High School, but lost his second match by a 15-0 technical fall to a wrestler from Bethlehem-Center. He then scored two pins, the first in just 47 seconds over a Huntingdon Area High School opponent and the second in 4 minutes and 38 seconds over a competitor from Chestnut Ridge. He then lost his next match, by a 10-0 score to a Burrell High School wrestler. His final match of the tournament was also a loss, a 16-0 technical fall at the hands of a Greater Johnstown wrestler, but by that time, he had secured a spot in the state championships.
Gabel had made his way into the regional action by winning a bronze medal at the PIAA District 6AA Tournament in Altoona, February 17 and 18. Joining him in advancing from that level were his fellow wrestlers from East Juniata, 145-pounder Tyler Wileman and 160-pounder Jared Heister, who are both sophomores. The final member of the wrestling squad to reach the regional tournament was Juniata High School senior Nathan Foltz, who wrestled in the 285-pound class. Wileman, Heister, and Foltz were unable to finish high enough in the regional competition to qualify for the state tournament.