Check, check, check.
Max Gourley had three specific items on a shortlist to help him determine which college he would attend next fall. The Gettysburg senior wrestler firmly believes he found a school that checks off all three boxes in Virginia Military Institute.
“I wanted a coach that had faith in me and that I could make an impact on his program, and I wanted a school that was very prestigious in engineering,” said Gourley. “And I wanted a military aspect because after college I’m going to pursue a career in the military. VMI was the best fit for that and I’m really excited to be wrestling there.”
Gourley took a pair of visits to the public military college located in Lexington, first in early October and again last week. He said he’ll study mechanical engineering while competing on the NCAA Division I level.
In Gourley the Keydets are getting a physical wrestler who has yet to fully tap his vast potential. As a junior Gourley went 40-11, placing third in the District 3 Class 3A Championships at 182 pounds to punch his first ticket to the state tournament. He was an integral part of a lineup that brought home Gettysburg’s first district team tournament title since 1999.
Gourley has a penchant for pinning, with 47 falls among his 67 career victories. His ability, and willingness, to go big during a bout has never been questioned. Gettysburg head coach Chris Haines said Gourley’s commitment to improving his fundamentals will help provide him with all the tools necessary to compete on the highest level.
“He has all the intangibles that most kids don’t have, he just needs to continue improving the basics,” said Haines, who helped 2020 seniors Dylan Reinert and Luke Sainato land respective places on the North Carolina State and Edinboro University wrestling rosters. “Max has the five-point moves and desperation things down and he is extremely confident with those. Things like mat awareness and strategy he continues to improve upon.”
Gourley has been wrestling nearly non-stop this fall, competing numerous tournaments while continuing his training regimen. He went a combined 33-7 wrestling in events that included the Bison Duals and Olympic Club Duals in Pennsylvania, the Super 32 Challenge in South Carolina and the NHSCA Preseason Nationals in Iowa.
Wins were not the main objective, rather a byproduct of Gourley raising his level of execution in areas that required improvement.
“The goal wasn’t to win, the goal was to work on things that we struggled with during last season,” he said. “For me that was neutral and working on my shots. I also focused on starting matches (well) instead of starting slow and having to come back from a point deficit. Those were the things I was looking for over the offseason.”
Haines commended Gourley’s dedication and offseason level of offseason participation.
“He put in a tremendous amount of time and hopefully we have the platform to show it off this winter,” said Haines, alluding to the uncertain status of the upcoming scholastic season due to COVID-19. “We are a spring-heavy program and we lost all of our spring tournaments. When the fall rolled around we approached it as if it was our season. This fall we did more wrestling than we ever have in my 17 years of coaching.”
VMI wrestles as a member of the Southern Conference under third-year head coach Jim Gibson. The Keydets, who list 10 Pennsylvania products on their current roster, went 6-13 overall and 3-4 in SoCon matches last season. VMI’s schedule included matches against PA schools Franklin & Marshall, Edinboro, Clarion and Bloomsburg.
Gourley will join former Biglerville standout Blake Showers, who is in his freshman year at VMI. Showers was a three-time PIAA medalist who won 138 matches during his career as a Canner.
Gourley said he plans to give ‘110 percent effort’ during his senior season with hopes to capture a state championship before turning his attention to VMI. He is ready to embrace the physical and mental demands that await a freshman stepping up to the Division I level.
“Any challenges that arise, I’ll think of them not as challenges but as opportunities,” he said. “I’m really excited to wrestle for VMI.”