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Top 25 Countdown 2021

Top 25 Countdown No. 5: Golden Grapplers – Taylor, Gill, VanDee

Brookville's Nathan Taylor atop the podium at Hershey. . is counting down what we believe are the Top 25 moments/games/performances of the 2020-21 high school sports season in District 9 and District 10.

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It’s been said by many industry experts that Pennsylvania is the best state in the country for high school wrestling.

It’s certainly on a shortlist, so to win an individual state title is a remarkable accomplishment. To do so in a year with an added ‘Super Regional’ only adds to the mystique.

A pair of Class 2A wrestlers – Brookville’s Nathan Taylor (285 pounds) and Hickory’s Louie Gill (106 pounds), as well as Cathedral Prep’s Jake VanDee (113 pounds) in Class 3A, can lay claim to PIAA gold, the ultimate goal for any high school wrestler in Pennsylvania.

Taylor and VanDee were dominant, while Gill, just a freshman, showed a tremendous ability to bounce back throughout his run to the crown. In the end, each stood atop the podium.

Unlike previous years, a trip to Hershey automatically meant a medal with only the top eight advancing in each weight class after the addition of the East and West ‘Super Regionals.’

After a 2-0 decision in his opening round win at states, Gill avenged losses to Saegertown’s Hunter Robison, beating him, 5-2, and followed that up with a gold-medal-clinching victory over Cooper Hornack of Burrell, who he lost to in the Super Regional.

Hickory’s Louie Gill (far right).

Taylor, a senior, started his path to gold in Hershey with a pin and followed that up with a 5-1 decision in the semifinals before beating Riley Robell of Bishop McDevitt 5-3 in the finals.

VanDee, a sophomore, garnered three consecutive 2-point wins – 2-0, 4-2, and 3-1 to have the gold medal draped around his neck.

Cathedral Prep’s Jake VanDee (center).

The journey was different for all three with Taylor the only one to go through the postseason unscathed, but the final destination was the same.

Gill began his postseason run at the Section I tournament rolling to a first-place finish and earning a pin in the finals.

The following week, Districts 9 and 10 both held their championships where Taylor and VanDee began their postseasons.

Taylor began his charge in dominant fashion earning all of his victories at districts via fall, including two in the first period.

Gill wasn’t quite as lucky, he earned a pair of wins to get to the finals, but dropped a decision to Robison in the finals. No matter, as he still moved on to regionals.

VanDee had no problem winning districts himself, notching a pin in the finals.

The same scenario played out the following week in Class 2A, as Taylor won the Northwest Region title, while Gill once again dropped a close decision to Robison and VanDee won three matches to also take first.

Instead of advancing to states, all three entered the West ‘Super Regional,’ yet another challenge brought about for these grapplers in the wake of COVID.

Again, Taylor rolled via two pins and a major decision, while Gill battled back in a major way.

After falling in the quarterfinals, Gill rattled off a pair of wins to take third and punch his ticket to Hershey.

VanDee faced a similar path as Gill, losing in the quarterfinals and winning twice to capture third.

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