Midd-West senior Avery Bassett said every time he steps onto the wrestling mat he knows it’s about more than whether he wins.
“My drive, and the reason I wrestle, is to bring glory to God,” Bassett said. “That’s true for matches and practices. That thinking helps me get through hard practices, because I know I’m doing it for a bigger reason.
“I can do that even when I’m losing, which allows me to wrestle free.”
Wrestling freely has certainly translated into winning for the 160-pounder.
“Avery has dedicated his life to the sport of wrestling,” Midd-West coach Dale Franquet said. “He does all the right things in the sport of wrestling, and outside the sport of wrestling. He’s always focused on learning and improving.”
Bassett (26-0) is the top seed heading into today’s Class 2A District 4 tournament at Williamsport High School.
“It’s definitely going well,” Bassett said of his season. “I’m ready to get deeper into the postseason. I’m confident with how I’m wrestling, and I want to make a run at the state title.”
Bassett — who is 143-17 in his career, and placed third in the state last year — also recently sent the school record for victories.
Bassett’s performance on the mat, his academic performance (4.0 GPA) and commitment to community service are why he was selected as The Daily Item’s Scholar-Athlete of the Week, sponsored by SUN Orthopaedics of Evangelical, as well as PPL Electric Utilities.
The award honors local student-athletes who thrive in the classroom, in the community and on Valley playing fields.
Coming off a disappointing finish — for him — to his junior season, Bassett said he didn’t think there was anything he needed to improve, but that didn’t stop him from working during the offseason.
“I’ve been working really hard,” Bassett said. “I see improvement everywhere, to be honest.
“I was training a lot. I wanted to win states last year, and I didn’t, so I worked hard. ... It was different because I couldn’t go to as many tournaments, but I was still able to find places to train. That’s all that mattered.”
Franquet said where Bassett has shown the most growth during his career as a Mustang has been mentally.
“The biggest improvement between his freshman year and this year is his mindset,” Franquet said. “He knows that what he does works, and what the program believes in works, so he’s relaxing and having fun.”
Earlier this month, Bassett pinned Loyalsock’s Gavin Rice in 23 seconds for his 139th career win, setting the program record for victories in the process.
“It wasn’t really a goal, but it was a really cool thing to experience,” Bassett said. “I had been keeping track, so I knew how many wins I needed.”
Franquet said he knew long ago that Bassett had a chance to be special.
“Coming up through the program, he was pretty successful,” Franquet said. “He’s progressed from there. He loves the sport, and with his work ethic I knew he’d be pretty successful.”
Bassett’s success has given him some clout when he volunteers to work with the elementary wrestling program.
“It’s a blessing in itself to have a kid like Avery working with the elementary kids,” Franquet said. “He’s helping those guys learn the right way, and they look up to him. They come into the gym and see his name as the winningest wrestler, and they respect that.”
Bassett said he enjoys his work with the youth, especially since his younger brother, who is in second grade, has started wrestling.
“I enjoy seeing the kids in the elementary wrestling program excel and get better,” Bassett said. “I want to help them. I’ve gotten to work a lot with the elementary wrestlers at Twisted Steel (Franquet’s youth sports center in Middleburg) since it opened, which is really cool since they weren’t able to have a season.
“I like to help them get better.”
Bassett, who is homeschooled, has a 4.0 GPA, and is currently taking courses in statistics, advanced literature, physics and Spanish.
“It’s always the goal to keep my grades up no matter what, but there is a little more expected,” Bassett said of being homeschooled.
Bassett, who last year took a course in oceanography, said he previously was drawn to math and science, but has been enjoying writing more this year.
Being homeschooled also allows more flexible for training, and to take a missions trip that Bassett has planned for shortly after the state tournament.
“He is a kid who is willing to help out and give extra no matter what,” Franquet said. “That’s in wrestling, with his family, in his friendships, wherever it’s needed.”
Bassett committed to wrestle at George Mason earlier this season, and will be headed there when he graduates.
“They have an up-and-coming wrestling program,” Bassett said. “The coaching staff is awesome, and it’s a place I can really excel as a student, too.”
First, he has some business to take care of as a Mustang.
“I need to do what I’ve been doing, and wrestle to the best of my ability,” Bassett said. “It will work itself out.”
Franquet added: “He just needs to keep the same mindset. He can obtain that goal as long as he stays healthy, and is ready to compete every match.”