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Freshmen earn All-American

Elise Gao ‘26

Apr 19, 2024

Last weekend, three Blue Storm wrestlers, Gavin Boyd ‘27, Ethan Shirk ‘27, and Brayden Pearson ‘27, participated in the High School Nationals, a prestigious invitational tournament comprised of top wrestlers from all over the United States. Despite being freshmen, Mercersburg’s trio ended with two sixth-place finishes and took home two All-American titles—the most in the school’s history.

About the tournament, head wrestling coach Matt Shirk explained, “This was the largest tournament in the nation; it is also the biggest tournament in the nation [for] the year. This is the premiere tournament, and it’s also [classified by] age group. Shirk was around 128 [pounds]. Boyd had fifty guys in his weight class, and Ethan had a hundred and twenty.” Pearson added, “This is my first time going to this tournament, and I knew that it was going to be a tough tournament, so I went in there, thinking, ‘Hey, it might not go the way we want, but just keep pushing.’”

Preparing for the tournament was a challenge since the tournament itself took place weeks after the high school wrestling season had ended. Coach Shirk commented, “We get some of our athletes for two seasons, and we have access to them kinda during that. But during that third season, it gets kinda tricky, like practices and squeezing in [training sessions] after lifting. Gavin [Boyd] is in Strength and Conditioning, and BB [Pearson] is in lacrosse. So when Boyd finishes his gym session, he waits until BB and Ethan [Shirk] get off their respective practices. It’s like getting them where we can fit them, putting the training in after their obligations.” Boyd stated, “In-season, everyone’s doing that one-a-day practice at school, but preparing and knowing before [the] season ends that you’re going to have to stay after a little bit, and you’re going to have to do some extra work. Because those two, three, or four weeks before that tournament and after normal practice has ended, it’s not really preparing during them; the season really begins during the winter and continues later in the year even when the [normal] season ends.” Pearson quipped, “I just found myself doing a lot of meditation–that’s something that’s really helped me out this year.”

He went on to say, “It was a fun experience, especially with the group we had. But, at the tournament, I think we got a little bit better as a team.” Boyd added, “Well, I’ve known everyone, pretty much the top eight wrestlers in [my] bracket for years now, and I really think all eight of us could have been interchangeable at times. Whereas in the consolation semi[finals], where I ended up losing 7-6 to the kid who ended up being third, it really is interchangeable. The placements: they’re okay. I mean, being All-American is okay, but I think it really comes down to, at the end of the day, just putting in that extra effort and putting in that extra time.”

Shirk ended by saying, “These are the top kids in the nation. As Gavin and I were just talking, we’re putting plans together and getting the takeaways from the tournament. We’re going to build on it along with the other strategies and practice routine and what we need to work on and just continue to grind. Just work on it to get better. You know, just to be the better version of yourself. That’s always the goal.”

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