By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
HERSHEY - Despite dropping a 6-0 decision to Chestnut Ridge sophomore Kai Burkett, Athens freshman Gavin Bradley became just the second Athens freshman to earn a state medal here, placing sixth at 106 pounds in the PIAA, Class AA wrestling championships Saturday afternoon at the Giant Center.
"To be only the second freshman at a storied program to win a state medal is awesome, it's definitely an amazing accomplishment," said Athens coach Shawn Bradley.
"Hats off to him, he worked his butt off and had a great tournament. I wish I had 20 more like him, he earned it.
"He'll be back, and he's got great things ahead of him," added Bradley.
Of the five place-finishers ahead of Bradley, four are nationally-ranked, including newly-crowned state champion unbeaten junior Sheldon Seymour of Troy.
"Gavin is only a freshman and there were no expectations coming down here to a super-tough weight class and he places," said Bradley. "It's a testament to his work ethic, and what got him here."
Burkett scored a takedown midway through the one-minute first period, and rode out the final 32 seconds to take a 2-0 lead into the second period.
Another takedown with just 14 seconds remaining in the second period gave Burkett a 4-0 lead heading into the final two minutes.
Burkett chose top to start the third, and rode Bradley the entire two minutes, tilting him for two near-fall points after the midpoint of the stanza and holding the move until the buzzer.
"It definitely wasn't his best match of the tournament, or of the postseason," said Shawn Bradley.
In 2013-14, Brian Courtney lost his opening-round match, then reeled off five consecutive wins to finish third, becoming the first-ever Athens freshman to earn a medal. Courtney finished his career with a 153-6 record, two state titles and a runner-up finish to go along with third-place finish as a freshman.
In 1981-82, Dave Kennedy did not place as a freshman, but returned as a sophomore to finish second, and as a junior to finish fifth, before capping his career off with a state title as a senior. He finished his career with a 150-10 record.
Gavin Bradley wraps up his freshman season with a 34-12 record.
IN PHOTOS: Athens freshman Gavin Bradley. ... PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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