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Muncy’s Ethan Gush was in attack mode at sectionals

In the past, Ethan Gush has been happy to sit back on his heels and let the fight come to him. Saturday, at the District 4 Central Sectional, the Muncy senior went into attack mode.

He didn’t wait to counter the offense of Bloomsburg’s Stephen Roeder. Instead, he created the action. It led to an impressive performance in a matchup of state-ranked wrestlers in the 172-pound final, and Gush walked away with his first section championship.

“Usually I’ve been more defensive, just go with the flow. I changed that,” Gush said. “I’ve been working on my footwork and attacking more and being more on my offense.”

Gush’s previous plan has worked quite well throughout his career. He’s been a four-year starter for Muncy and was a key part of the Indians becoming the first Lycoming County team to place at the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships in 2018 when they took fourth. He recently won his 100th career match, joining his brother Noah as two of the 19 wrestlers in Muncy history with 100 career wins.

But Gush has never quite reached the level he’s wanted to as a wrestler. He qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore, but fell a win shy of returning to Hershey last March. It left a bitter taste in his mouth, one he didn’t want to repeat. So Gush changed up his tactics and became a more offensive wrestler.

He enters Saturday’s District 4 Class AA tournament as the No. 2 seed at 172 pounds behind only returning state bronze medalist Gavin Garcia of Southern Columbia. His only losses have come to Benton’s returning state fifth-place finisher Nolan Lear, and Selinsgrove three-time state qualifier Coy Bastian.

He’s got a long way to go to reach the podium in Hershey for the state tournament, but Saturday was a pretty good start. In his previous two trips to the sectional tournament, a loss to Montoursville’s Dylan Bennett in 2019 and Cael Crebs in 2020 kept him from winning a section title. Saturday, he went through two state-ranked wrestlers to finally climb atop the podium.

He defeated 21st-ranked Lane Lusk in the semifinals, 8-4, before beating 13th-ranked Roeder in the final, 6-3, to win the 172-pound title. He was one of only six wrestlers across the 39 sectional brackets to defeat multiple state-ranked wrestlers to win a section title Saturday.

“It’s new to me to attack like this,” Gush said. “But I do it in practice all the time with (teammate Ty Nixon) and all my partners. I keep working on it. I was on a mission this week.”

Gush is leaving everything he has on the mat because he knows he’s no longer going to wrestle once this season is over. The two-time all-state football player considered playing football at the collegiate level, but has decided to join the Air National Guard instead.

It’s something his brother, Noah, also did after posting 115 wins in his career at Muncy. The goal is to help use his service in the Air National Guard to help pay for college. Gush has always had ideas of joining the military, and seeing how joining the Air National Guard was able to help his brother, he felt it was the best path forward for himself.

“I was going to try to play football in college, but I didn’t know if that was the best route for me because I’m trying to get my college paid for,” Gush said. “And since I know I’m not going to be (wrestling) in the future, it’s good I get to do this one last time and give it my all. I did it the same way in football, too.”

GETTING MOTIVATED

Conner Harer was keenly aware of where he was in the state wrestling rankings throughout the season. He didn’t particularly care for what PA Power Wrestling thought of him. It’s been part of the driving force to the Montgomery freshman’s season.

So he went out in the first tournament of his first postseason looking to make a statement. Consider that mission accomplished.

Harer emphatically established himself as one of the best 138-pounders in the district, if not the state, last weekend when he won the Central Section title.

“I definitely wrestled well, but not to my full potential,” Harer said. “But it was fun scoring a lot of points.”

Score a lot points, Harer definitely did. He scored 13 points before recording a fall in the quarterfinals. He won by technical fall, 20-5, in a little over 2 minutes in the semifinals. And he finished off his day with a 17-2 technical fall in 3:19 against Central Columbia’s Isaac Kester in the 138-pound final.

Harer was rated the third-best freshman in the state by PA Power Wrestling coming into the season. But for much of the season he was ranked in the 12 to 14 range before recently making a big jump after dropping to 138.

“It definitely motivated me,” Harer said. “A lot of kids I majored were all ahead of me. It definitely fueled me to work harder to show everyone that I should be ranked higher.”

Harer comes into the district tournament seeded second at 138 pounds behind returning state qualifier Hayden Ward of Canton. Southern Columbia’s Ian Yoder is the tournament’s third seed and a former state qualifier. Harer knows the road is going to get only tougher from here, but he sees it as an opportunity to prove himself.

“This is just a stepping stone to show people I’m here to win,” Harer said.

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