Gardner wins with work ethic

Published 5:02 am Friday, February 20, 2009

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
As a freshman, Gabe Gardner made a friendly wager with Washington coach Dan Riggs.
Almost a decade ago, Riggs was a hot shot wrestler at Delone Catholic School in Hanover, PA and finished seventh at the 2000 Pennsylvania state wrestling tournament.
As soon as Gardner heard about Riggs’ feat, he told Washington’s head coach that he’d beat that mark.
Now, the Pam Pack senior will get his final chance.
Last Saturday, Gardner captured the 135-pound individual title at the NCHSAA Class 3A East Region Wrestling Championships and secured a spot in this weekend’s state tourney.
Gardner has been one of the feel good stories for the Pam Pack. As a junior, Gardner won 25 matches, but missed out on the state tournament. It was a bitter disappointment for Gardner, as he had qualified for states as both a freshman and a sophomore.
Instead of sitting around and sulking, Gardner decided to rededicate himself to wrestling. He started to run more, began lifting weights on a routine basis and attended a few wrestling camps.
Coach Riggs took notice of Gardner’s hard work throughout the offseason and believes his 135-pounder has reaped the rewards of all his hard work.
With his regional championship victory, Gardner picked up his 46th victory of the season, extending his Pam Pack single season record for wins. He also won the 123rd match of his career, moving him into second place on Washington’s career wins list behind only two-time state runner-up Gerald Lawrence, who won 139 matches in his career. Gardner is now 46-6 on the year and 123-42 in his career.
Gardner enters today’s state meet ranked 10th in the state among 135-pounders in Class 3A. But the Pam Pack star has goals set higher than that.
Gardner will square off against Trinity’s Shane Sheppard (42-8) in the opening round of today’s NCHSAA Class 3A State Wrestling Championships. Sheppard is currently the No. 5 ranked 135-pounder in Class 3A.
According to Riggs, Gardner has got the ability to make some noise this weekend.