OJR’s Bolig not one to shy away from a challenge
|Owen J. Roberts’ Gordon Bolig grapples|
with Nezar Haddad of Parkland in the
182-pound match at the PIAA Class AAA
Team Duals Tournament at Giant Center in Hershey.
Bolig won 3-1 in overtime. (Mercury file photo)
POTTSTOWN — No one was surprised to see Norristown’s Brett Harner and Owen J. Roberts’ Gordon Bolig advance through their 182-pound bracket and meet in Saturday night’s final of the AAA Southeast Regional.
No one was happier, either, than Bolig.
“It was good to wrestle him,” said Bolig, never one to turn down an opportunity to wrestle a good opponent.
Well, Harner is about as good as it gets. Pound for pound, he’s arguably the best in District 1. He has 187 career wins, a total that could easily be higher if not for Norristown’s demanding schedule. He’s a three-time district champion, three-time regional champion, and three-time state medalist. He’s also nationally ranked.
“I wanted to see what he was like,” Bolig said. “I wanted to see what makes him so good. I sure found out.”
Bolig, who showed how dominating he can be with a quarterfinal pin and how clutch he can be with a thrilling one-point semifinal decision, was no match for the versatile Harner in the final. Though closer at times than the score may have implied, he fell behind 8-0 midway through the final period before three back points in the waning seconds closed out the 11-0 loss to Harner.
“He’s certainly tough on his feet, hard to get out from on the bottom, and you’re not going to ride him, either,” Bolig said of Harner shortly after receiving his silver medal and reservation in Thursday’s opening round of the PIAA Championships out in Hershey.
While Bolig doesn’t own as eye-popping a resume as Harner does, he is still quite the competitor. He’s come a long, long way since his freshman season, which ended with a rather abrupt exit from the Section Four Tournament and a mediocre 14-12 record. As a sophomore, he worked his way to the regional and more than doubled his win total with 32. Last year, he was golden at sections and districts, finished third at the regional to qualify for states, and again upped his win total to 34 before he was done.
This winter, Bolig has not only reached some lofty expectations but soared by a few.
The loss to Harner was only his fifth in 50 bouts. The first two occurred back in December at the Beast of the East Classic — one to two-time national prep champion and the nation’s No. 1 ranked Eric Morris of Wyoming Seminary, the other to two-time national prep medalist and Princeton-bound Troy Murtha of Georgetown Prep, Md. The other two setbacks were in mid-January at the Escape the Rock, both to Princeton-bound Nezar Haddad of Parkland, one of which he avenged with a sudden-victory win over Haddad during last month’s state team duals.
“A few times we thought about bumping (Bolig) around, but he always wants to go out and wrestle the best,” OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said earlier this season. “That’s the way he is. He works so hard. He’s tough. And he wants to go against the best.”
Bolig will get an up-close look at Pennsylvania’s best later this week at states, where he debuts against Belle Vernon senior Adam Nickelson (37-2), the Southwest Region runner-up who was eighth in the state a year ago. Should he beat Nickelson, he’ll no doubt see Bald Eagle Area’s unbeaten and returning bronze medalist Jacob Taylor, who is one spot in front of Harner at No. 4 in the national rankings.
“Going out against all (the highly-touted opposition) doesn’t bother me,” Bolig said Saturday night. “I just know I have to wrestle well. Yeah, it makes you a little nervous, but I try to visualize the match warming up, then go out and attempt to hit my moves.
“This loss (to Harner) shouldn’t have any effect on me. Everyone knew he was favored, and everyone knows he’ll be favored (at states) with Taylor. I just know I have to get two more wins to get a medal. I won’t be thinking of this or any other losses when I get out there.”