When Avery Bassett arrived at Hershey’s Giant Center several weeks back for the PIAA Class 2A Wrestling Championships, Midd-West’s talented junior had one and only one objective streaming continuously through his determined body and mind.
And that singular drive was to mine state gold.
Yet while Bassett was extremely disappointed after dropping his first match at the three-day event and falling into the consolation bracket, he methodically worked his way back through the 145-pound weight class … and wound up finishing third.
So while the medal hanging from his chiseled shoulders wasn’t the one he was so hoping to capture, Bassett still managed to climb the steps of the Giant Center podium and take his rightful place among Pennsylvania’s best middleweights.
“I wanted to be on top,” said Bassett, who after falling in his opening-round bout, bested six consecutive opponents en route to claiming a spot on the medal stand. “But I was happy with myself that I was able to come all the way back for third.”
“That first bout down (at Hershey) was really frustrating, but after that he just came back and persevered,” Midd-West coach Dale Franquet added. “I knew he could compete with any kid in that weight class.”
Well, success on statewide wrestling mats, along with the lofty GPA (97%) he carries, is why Bassett is the latest recipient of The Daily Item’s Scholar Athlete of the Week award 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 Susquehanna Valley playing fields.
After falling to Erik Gibson of Forest Hills 7-1 on March 5, Bassett began his march toward third place by recording a convincing 13-0 major decision of Hamburg’s Bailey Gimbor that was highlighted by a pair of three-point nearfalls.
Bassett’s determined medal drive continued one day later, as he downed Fort LeBoeuf’s Joel Huck (9-2), Newport’s Dorian Gonzalez (6-3) and General McLane’s Jackson Spires (6-1) before ending the day with a forfeit victory over the injured Gibson.
While the victory over Gonzalez ensured Bassett’s spot on the podium — he didn’t place in his first two state appearances — the wins over Spires and Gibson meant Bassett was in the third-place match March 7 against Sullivan County’s Nate Higley.
Higley dealt Bassett his first setback of the season in the District 4 Class 2A championship match, winning 8-4. Bassett returned the favor at states, claiming the bronze medal by edging Higley 3-1 in the sudden victory phase.
By avenging his loss to Higley and staking his claim to third place, Bassett closed out his junior campaign with a 39-3 mark. And with another season remaining in his high school career, Bassett already has piled up a sparkling 112-16 mark.
Following a short yet well-deserved breather, Bassett resumed his rigorous training regimen earlier this week — with several objectives clearly in mind.
“I don’t think I really need to add anything (to my repertoire),” Bassett said in matter-of-fact fashion. “I just feel like I need to keep working on the skills that I already have.
“It was a pretty good season in general, I guess, but I’m definitely not satisfied with it,” Bassett added. “I just want to work harder this offseason to come back and win states.”
Perhaps Bassett will join training forces with soon-to-be Selinsgrove senior Nate Schon, who won a Class 3A state title as a sophomore yet finished second earlier this month.
After all, Schon was the former Midd-West student who convinced Bassett to try wrestling when the tandem was in the third grade — but only after the football season ended.
“Eventually, I just fell in love with (wrestling),” said the 18-year-old Bassett, the soft-spoken youngster who was born in Phoenix but relocated from Arizona to Snyder County in third grade when his parents decided to return to their native Pennsylvania.
Well, Bassett also has college wrestling in his not-so-distant future as he issued a verbal commitment before his junior season began to join the surging program fronted by Kevin Ward at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
“The coaching staff is just great and I like the atmosphere there a lot,” said Bassett, who is still pondering his college major yet has the widely diverse Defense and Strategic Studies track among several things he’s considering. “I know that serving (my country) is something that’s interested me, so I’ll be able to go that route.”
In the meantime, Bassett will continue to work out near his home and at Midd-West whenever possible, travel to Middletown to train under the Team Nauman banner while competing in folkstyle and freestyle events yet still focus on his academic work.
Bassett’s schedule likely is more flexible than most of his Mustangs teammates since, aside from one semester as a sophomore at Midd-West, he’s been home schooled by his mother since he was in the sixth or seventh grade.
Bassett also is an active member of the youth group at his church — Harvest Union County Church — near Mifflinburg.
Among the subjects Bassett is studying — while Governor Tom Wolf closed all of Pennsylvania’s schools in an effort to arrest the Coronavirus spread, Bassett remains plugged into the books — are Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry, British Literature, Oceanography and Advanced United States History.
Bassett also admits that technical coursework such as Mathematics and the Sciences — which may fit snugly into a number of potential majors at West Point — intrigue him.
“I think being a good student and a good wrestler takes a lot of self-discipline,” Bassett admits. “That’s what it really comes down to in the end.”
“Avery’s got inner arrogance, he’s not an outer arrogance type kid,” Franquet added, referring to Bassett’s matter-of-fact yet confident approach. “He’s relaxed and physically prepared and mentally prepared when he steps on the mat and ready to compete seven minutes, eight minutes, if he has to.
“And he’ll battle in all three positions and hopefully come out with a winning score.”
Bassett also spends as much time as he can helping out with the Midd-West elementary wrestling program that includes his 7-year-old brother. And if the younger set pays close attention, they’ll be able to see how much he enjoys dominating opponents on the mat.
While Bassett isn’t one of those “let him out and take him down again types” that likes to score points that way, he prefers to ride adversaries and use some well-developed pinning combinations to put a foe on his back and end a match in a hurry.
“I think my strongest position is probably top position,” Bassett admitted. “I like getting on top of guys and just beating them up and not letting them up.”
And Bassett will have one more season to impose his will — and add to an impressive haul that includes three sectional titles, three District 4-AA medals, one Northeast Region crown in three appearances and one state medal in three tries.
“I can’t really pinpoint one thing,” Franquet said. “He just enjoys being around it, has fun with the sport and likes competing.”
And winning, too.