Evan Henderson should be the favorite heading into his Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic match.
Just don’t tell him that.
Henderson, who is from New Florence and wrestled for United before transferring to The Kiski School three years ago, became the first local wrestler to compete in the main event of “The Rose Bowl of Wrestling” since Meyersdale’s Michael Warnick in 1989.
And Henderson likely will have his hands full with Cam Tessari, a four-time Ohio state champion with a career record of 189-3.
Thing is, one of those losses came to Henderson earlier this year. He beat Tessari for the 140-pound championship in the Ironman tournament.
But Henderson, who prefers to be the underdog, doesn’t like to remember that.
“I’m looking back and saying ‘I didn’t wrestle that well. He should have beat me,’ ” Henderson said.
Despite going 152-9 in his career and winning a pair of prep national championships, Henderson didn’t know how to handle being the favorite. He had a huge target on his back after the Ironman tournament, when he was ranked as the top 140-pounder in the country.
“It was just the pressure creeping up on you. I like to chase guys,” he said. “I don’t like guys chasing me. I like keeping the underdog deal kind of going on.”
Henderson, who has spent hours upon hours in the wrestling room for most of his young life, suddenly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t fun anymore. All of that pressure changed his outlook on the sport.
So he took a step back and decided that the biggest problem was the pressure he was putting on himself.
“I was trying to get back to having fun,” the North Carolina recruit said. “There was a time in the season where I didn’t like wrestling anymore. I kind of wanted to quit.”
He said he’s gotten back to having fun again. And he’ll look to keep that attitude heading into the Dapper Dan match, which pits Pennsylvania’s top wrestlers against those from the rest of the United States.
Henderson’s twin brother, Robert, struggled with a knee injury during the prep national championships and finished sixth at 145 pounds.
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Still a Trojan: William Livingston is a Greater Johnstown alumnus who has made his impact as a Trojan of a different sort.
The 1954 graduate, who grew up in the Roxbury section of the city, went on to become a physical education teacher at Derry Area High School. A wrestler in high school, Livingston helped start the wrestling program at Derry.
He coached the team for “six or seven years” before stepping down, but he’s never ventured far from the sport, and serves as the team’s statistician.
Livingston, who said he has only missed one day of competition in the four decades of wrestling at Derry, saw two Trojans – 119-pounder Jimmy Gulibon and 140-pounder Travis Shaffer – capture PIAA championships last weekend in Hershey.
“It’s great,” he said of the accomplishment for the school, which has had two other champions – Mike May and Troy Dolan – in its history.
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Long time coming: Ligonier Valley’s Josh Patrick knew that it had been years since the school had produced a state placewinner, but he wasn’t planning to make history with his performance in Hershey.
“I really didn’t think about that,” he said. “I knew I was the first one for awhile, but I didn’t know how long. I didn’t know the historical impact of it.”
Ligonier Valley’s only previous placewinners were champion John Chendy in 1978 and runner-up Chad Menzie in 1979.
Patrick, a sophomore, finished fourth at 112 pounds while his younger brother, Justin, qualified for the tournament but did not place. With those two, Ligonier Valley coach Tom Bridge figures to have potential placewinners for the next few years.
“Justin was quite disappointed,” Bridge said. “We thought he could beat his first guy. He needs to grow into a 103-pounder. He wrestled, I think, 85 last year. He was disappointed, and sometimes I think that motivates you do better.”
Eric Knopsnyder is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat.