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Photo: One year after losing to Anthony Knox of New Jersey in the 2021 Super 32 Challenge, Bo Bassett (top) of Johnstown, Pa., avenged that loss at 113 pounds to Knox in this year’s event that was held last month in Greensboro, N.C.
By Pat McDonald
A tough loss on a big stage can eat at a wrestler, but it can also sharpen his focus and strengthen his drive.
For Bo Bassett, the past year has been all about one thing — avenging a loss from the 2021 Super 32 Challenge finals.
Bassett, a freshman at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown, Pa., dropped a 10-4 decision to New Jersey standout Anthony Knox in the high school 106-pound finals at Super 32 a year ago. That loss turned into motivation for the highly-touted Pennsylvania wrestler, who turned the tables on Knox in the 2022 Super 32, where Bassett claimed a 10-5 victory at 113 pounds
“Ever since that loss last year it was about 365 days before I beat him this year in the finals,” said Bassett, who had won a 2021 Cadet World championship prior to the annual preseason national high school even in Greensboro, N.C.
“It was a really tough time,” Bassett said. “Obviously you never want to lose and I think I really learned from it,” he added. “I think I took it in a positive way. My coaches, my dad, they were all really positive about things and I just really worked my butt off and thought about that loss for a year straight
“I was pretty glad to get that match back. The process was just working hard, doing everything right and being motivated. I think I had a really good game-plan going in. I think I was a little bit more mature than last year. My body is changing … I think I was bigger, faster, stronger and overall, just a better wrestler because I trained so hard after that loss.”
Now Bassett will turn his attention to his first high school season at Bishop McCort — although it will end without him or his teammates being able to compete for a state championship.
Bishop McCort was banned from wrestling in the postseason for the 2022 and 2023 seasons and Bassett’s father and high school coach, Bill Bassett, was suspended for two years for alleged recruiting violations.
For Bo Bassett and his teammates, the punishment wasn’t what they were hoping for but it really didn’t change their mindset.
“This season, obviously we only get to wrestle the regular season but we’re still going to be in the tournaments like Ironman and Powerade, the bigger ones, which I value more than states,” he said. “It’s a shot not being able to wrestle the (PIAA) postseason but we’re definitely going to get our good matches in and hopefully (I will) make a mark being a freshman.”
Bassett said the McCort wrestlers remained focused on getting better each day and accomplishing their goals throughout the entire ordeal.
“We just stayed positive. My dad was really big on staying positive and just working hard,” he said. “Obviously, everyone wants to go to states and wrestle, but that got taken away from us so now we’re just going to make the most of the other tournaments and work really hard (preparing) for those.”
Bassett credited the wrestling community with showing him and the Bishop McCort program plenty of support during the difficult situation.
“The amount of support we got when we went through all that was amazing. The wrestling community overall is just so tight. I know a lot of people … it’s just really cool to have connections and lifelong resources and friends. It’s definitely a really close family. Wrestling is a large community but it’s also a small world,” Bassett said.
The McCort wrestlers are also looking at the bright side — they will get a head start on their competition when it comes to getting ready for the upcoming freestyle season.
“One advantage that we will get is we’ll be able to start freestyle about a month, month-and-a-half early, so that should give us an advantage going into the world team trials and the world cycle,” he said.
While it may be Bassett’s first year wrestling varsity, he won’t be phased by the jump in levels like some junior high wrestlers.
“I’ve been wrestling the high school level since I was in seventh grade, but now I’m officially a freshman and officially at that high school level,” Bassett said.
Bassett is lucky enough to work with clubs like Young Guns and David Taylor’s M2 Training Center as well as getting a chance to train with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
“It’s a huge advantage,” he said. “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence. I get to wrestle with those (Penn State) guys. I get to wrestle with the local college guys, we have a really good D-II college (Pitt-Johnstown) here. I wrestle with Jake Ealy and Nate Smith and they are really big. I get help from them weekly.
“I think wrestling the older guys and being in rooms like Penn State definitely gives me confidence and I’m getting better every time I go.”
Of course, Bassett’s success all starts at home with his dad and coach.
“I look at it differently when we’re in the room,” Bo said. “I look at him as a coach and obviously when (we’re out of the room), he’s my dad. It’s definitely an advantage because I just have a better connection and we’re good on the communication side of things.
“I have a lot of really good other coaches too, that help him out, so I think my coaching is really good and I think with my dad it’s even better with that relationship.”
The younger Bassett is happy to have his dad coaching him, but they can also “turn it off” and just hang out as father and son.
“We can turn it on and off. We’re thinking about wrestling a lot of the time — a majority of the time — so it’s a lot of wrestling. But then we can shut it off and you know just chill out and watch football or something. It’s definitely a good relationship … and it’s a lot of wrestling,” he said the young prep.
When asked about his future, Bassett is confident he will find success at all levels … and he’s certainly not going to hang up his singlet any time soon.
“I just see myself wrestling for a really long time, and I’m pretty excited about that,” he said. “I think I have a pretty big future in wrestling, it’s what I like to do. I think we’re going to have a really good team in high school, and then I plan on wrestling in college and then international.”
When it comes to his college choice, the lifelong Penn State fan said he will be taking all his visits before making one of the biggest decisions in any wrestler’s life.
“I’m really excited for (the recruiting process),” Bo said. “I’ve seen some of the people I look up to and my cousin go through that process. It’s definitely going to be really cool, and I think I’m definitely going to take my visits and make sure I make the right decision.”
(Pat McDonald has covered wrestling for more than 20 years in Pennsylvania, New York and Maine, winning numerous awards. He is currently the executive sports editor of the Morning Times and Daily Review newspapers in Bradford County, Pa., and serves on the board of directors for the Maine Amateur Wrestling Alliance.)