Wrestling community helped Franklin Regional senior through family tragedy

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Garrett Thompson has never advanced past the WPIAL Class AAA Championship.

But the senior has big plans to end his high school career.

Despite being in one of the toughest weight classes in the state, 152 pounds, Thompson (21-3) wants to end his high school career atop of the podium in Hershey on March 13.

Not only has the coronavirus made it tougher because there are fewer berths, Thompson’s toughest WPIAL opponents are the top two wrestlers in the state: Seneca Valley senior Alejandro Herrera-Rondon and Waynesburg sophomore Rocco Welsh.

There are other 152-pound contenders in the WPIAL that are tough as well. Connellsville junior Jared Keslar is a PIAA placewinner and Thomas Jefferson senior Michael Zacur and North Allegheny sophomore A.J. Rohan are accomplished competitors.

It will be a difficult challenge, but Thompson is ready for it.

He’s already faced difficult challenges throughout his high school career. Losing his father, Sean, to brain cancer before the start of his sophomore season taught him a lot.

“I have to thank the wrestling community,” Thompson said. “All my coaches, all my friends and teammates and the parents helped me and my family get through it.”

He said his mom, Shelley, and brother Evan and sister Lauren, are grateful for the support they received from the Franklin Regional community.

“There were constantly people coming over and bringing food to the house and people coming over to visit,” he said. “We had a lot of support, and I feel wrestling helped me out a lot.”

Thompson said wrestling helped him take his mind off the tragedy in his life and got him through the rough times.

“Garrett is an awesome young man,” Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe. “He’s dealt with a lot of adversity. As tough as it’s been, he’s shown great character. He works hard and has responded by doing all the right things.

“He’s gone through something that not many young people go through, and I’m very proud of him. He’s having a great season and overall a great career.”

Thompson (92-30) was favored to win his first section title. At the WPIAL championships, he must finish in the top 3 to advance to the West Super Regional at Altoona on March 6.

Helping Thompson reach his goal are teammates Finn Solomon and Mario Sarnic. They battle him in practice and make him work hard.

“Being able to wrestle my sophomore season and help the team as much as I could and they helped me a lot,” Thompson said. “I always had someone to talk to if I needed.”

Thompson said he wants to wrestle in college and will make a decision after the season.

But for now, his focus is keeping it going the next few weeks and get to Hershey.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.


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