By: Tim Birney | | March 12, 2021 | Photo courtesy Tim Birney


HERSHEY — Athens junior Gavin Bradley will wrestle for state gold here this evening at the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships at the Giant Center, and he’ll be wrestling a very familiar foe.

Bradley, now 40-1, will square off with Wyoming Area’s Jaden Pepe (18-1) in the 113-pound finals shortly after 5 p.m.

Athens coach Shawn Bradley said Gavin Bradley is not content with an appearance in the finals.

“I asked Gavin if he was done, he said, ‘Nope.’   We’re here to get one more,” said Shawn Bradley. “Hopefully, it erases that hurt he had last weekend.”

Gavin Bradley opened his action Friday morning with a 6-4 win over Bentworth freshman Chris Vargo in the quarterfinals, then dispatched of Western Super Regional champion Coen Bainey of Bald Eagle Area with a 10-7 decision in the semifinals.

“(Vargo and Bainey) are both really good kids,” said Shawn Bradley. “It’s hard to wrestle Gavin the first time through because of his pace and his strength — he keeps such a fast pace, and he’s really strong.”

Gavin Bradley scored a takedown just seven seconds into his quarter-final match-up with Vargo, who entered the bout with a 17-1 record. After riding top for 40 seconds, Bradley was whistled for potentially-dangerous actions as he worked a power-half.

Bradley cut Vargo loose, then needed just nine seconds for another takedown and a 4-1 lead with 59 seconds remaining.

About 40 seconds later, Bradley was whistled again and penalized a point for potentially-dangerous action on his power-half. Fargo scored an escape in the closing seconds, cutting Bradley’s advantage to 4-3 after the first two minutes.

Shawn Bradley took the blame for the “potentially-dangerous” calls.

“That’s more my fault than anything,” he said. “As you can tell, we spend 90 percent of our time on our feet. We probably need to spend a little more time on the mat, but you make your money on your feet.

“Gavin can turn anybody because it’s tighter than heck up there,” noted Bradley. “He just has to attack that arm, be a little more aggressive, instead of being nice with it.”

Gavin Bradley chose neutral to start the second period, and scored a takedown midway through for a 6-3 lead. Fargo escaped about 30 seconds later to trim the deficit to 6-4, and the duo remained on their feet for the final 42 seconds of the second period.

Vargo chose bottom to start the third period, but Bradley was able to ride him the entire two minutes to preserve the win

“Gavin did a nice job on top in the third period,”said Shawn Bradley.

In the semifinals, Bradley scored a takedown 14 seconds into the bout to take a 2-0 lead, but Bainey recorded an escape 15 seconds later to make it 2-1. The duo remained on their feet for the final 91 seconds of the first period.

Bradley chose neutral to start the second period, and scored a takedown with 1:26 remaining. He cut Bainey loose 14 seconds later to make it 4-2. Bradley added a little cushion to his lead with another takedown with 15 seconds remaining, upping his lead to 6-2 entering the final two minutes.

Bainey, who entered the match with a 23-1 record, scored a switch off the third-period whistle to trim the deficit to 6-4, but Bradley quickly escaped to take a 7-4 lead.

Midway through the period, Bainey scored a takedown and momentarily had Bradley in a cradle, but the Athens wrestler quickly broke the hold and escaped to take an 8-6 lead with 46 seconds left.

Just eleven seconds later, Bradey got in on a single-leg, and finished it off for a 10-6 lead. Bainey escaped with 14 seconds remaining, but Bradley fought off his takedown attempts to preserve the win.

“That match was a lot closer than it probably should have been,” said Shawn Bradley. “(Gavin) gave him five escapes, and gave up one reversal — the kids scored two points, we gave him five.”

Bradley and Pepe, who is now 18-1, have met in the finals each of the last two weeks. Bradley won a 5-3 decision at the Northeast Regionals, while Pepe scored a 9-6 decision at the Eastern Super Regionals.

“(Pepe) did a great job last week making a couple adjustments,” said Shawn Bradley. “Hopefully, it’s our turn to make a couple adjustments.

“We said last week, it we’re going to lose to him that was the time,” noted Bradley. “Hopefully this week, we can clean some stuff up.

“Of course, if (Gavin) doesn’t get dropped on his head last week that match might have been different,” he added.

Shawn Bradley said the key will be for Gavin Bradley to keep the pressure on Pepe.

“Gavin just has to wrestle, keep the pace high and make (Pepe) wrestle six minutes. We just need to make it a track meet.”


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder / owner of River Road Media Group. He was born and raised in the Valley, graduating from Waverly High School in 1984.

Birney earned an Associate's Degree in Journalism from SUNY Morrisville in 1986 and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism / Public Relations from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1988. He began his newspaper career at The Daily Review in Towanda in 1989, before moving on to The Evening Times in 1995. He spent more than 10 years at the Times, the last four as Managing Editor.

River Road Media Group includes five sites in "The Sports Reports" family that cover 24 school districts in five counties: Valley Sports Report (launched Aug. 10, 2009), Tioga County (NY) Sports Report (Aug. 13, 2018), and Northern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 31, 2020); Northern Tier West Sports Report (March 15, 2021) Southern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 16, 2021).