Max Gourley is comfortable being busy, juggling rigorous football and wrestling workouts as he prepares for his junior year at Gettysburg High School.
That’s a good thing, considering the next four days are booked solid for the standout athlete.
Gourley is set to compete for Team Pennsylvania in the 16U National Duals, held in Spokane, Washington. He will wrestle at 182 pounds in both the Greco-Roman and Freestyle tournaments, which begin today and conclude on Saturday. Gourley expects to get as many as 15 matches during the four days.
“Not only coach (Chris) Haines, but my PA coaches have prepared me for all the matches I’ll be getting,” said Gourley on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s really rewarding to see the hard work paying off. I couldn’t have done it without my team and coach Haines. They’re a big part of where I’m at right now.”
To those not familiar with the Gettysburg program, Gourley came out of nowhere last season. And he came on like gangbusters.
Brimming with athleticism, Gourley out-muscled and out-maneuvered most opponents at 182 pounds. He was 24-11 during his first regular season as a varsity starter before splitting six postseason bouts. Included in his sophomore campaign were 17 pins, as well as two major decisions and a pair of technical falls.
Haines believes Gourley’s primary asset on the mat is his core strength which allows him to deliver crunching falls, as well as an uncanny ability to work himself out of danger. Gourley doesn’t hide the fact that he’s quite comfortable in scrambles that would make most wrestlers hit the eject button.
“It’s tough to make Max uncomfortable on a wrestling mat,” said Haines, Gettysburg’s head coach. “He does well in situations where most kids would panic and freak out.”
Gourley caught the eye of Team Pennsylvania representatives with strong showings in both Greco-Roman and freestyle at the Northeast Regional on May 4 & 5 at East Stroudsburg University. He placed third in both tournaments, posting a combined record of 7-2.
In freestyle, Gourley gained a measure of redemption after losing to Austin Raynor of New Jersey by 10-0 technical fall in his opening bout. He won his first two consolation contests by fall and 11-1 decision to earn a rematch with Raynor. The Gettysburg grappler made good on his second chance by doubling up the Garden State grappler, 8-4.
In Greco, Gourley won three times via fall, with his only loss a 10-0 setback against Nicholas Feldman of Pennsylvania.
“It’s my first year in Greco and I’m still learning along the way,” said Gourley of the discipline in which wrestlers are not permitted to make leg attacks. “My style has helped me out, not only with freestyle but with Greco. My core strength has helped out a lot, too.”
Haines agreed that Gourley’s strength is an asset, especially as he becomes more comfortable wrestling outside of folkstyle, the format used for scholastic competition.
“Max has some of the heaviest hips there are, it’s hard to maneuver him and score on him in Greco,” said Haines. “With freestyle, Max isn’t a big shooter. A lot of his lack of defense is more a lack of experience and understanding how to not give up points and exposure on offense.”
Gourley is the lone wrestler from District 3 on the team in Washington, which Haines believes can serve as an advantage.
“He’s a bit nervous being the only Gettysburg kid this week but this will set him up for more success,” said Haines. “It’s tremendous to experience it all and take it in. Because it’s dual meet he’ll be on the bench with a team and seeing a lot of great wrestling.”
Gourley said the PA squads gathered at Clarion University last Friday to begin four days of workouts, which were intense but also designed with a team-building aspect.
“We got to know each other, which really helped,” he said. “Our chemistry is solid considering a lot of us didn’t know each other.”
Haines sees a win-win situation in having Gourley gain invaluable experience competing on a national level, while Gettysburg continues to place wrestlers in tournaments with widespread exposure.
“It’s huge for Max to participate with Team PA and it’s huge for our program,” he said. “He’s the first male wrestler we’ve had competing at this level.”
Gourley recognizes the opportunity at hand and plans to take full advantage.
“I expect to have a winning record and I want to gain confidence in terms of my wrestling,” he said. “I want to take in this experience because it’s once-in-a-lifetime. I’m grateful to have been selected.”