The argument as to the best wrestler ever to wear a North Forsyth wrestling singlet ended Monday.
The honor now goes to Penn State redshirt freshman Mark Hall, who won the 174-pound championship at the prestigious Southern Scuffle tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee – and did it wearing a Raiders singlet for all five of his matches.
Hall’s résumé makes it a no-brainer. In February, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation won his sixth Minnesota high school state championship, a state record. In September, he won the 74 kg title at the 2016 Junior World Wrestling Championships in France. He’s now at Penn State wrestling for legendary coach Cael Sanderson but redshirting because the Nittany Lions, winners of five of the last six NCAA Championships, are again loaded with enough talent to let Hall develop and postpone his four years of eligibility.
That’s why Hall found himself at the Southern Scuffle on Sunday competing unattached to Penn State, unseeded, but also under-prepared – he forgot his singlet.
“Only I would forget a singlet for the souther [sic] scuffle,” Hall tweeted early Sunday morning. “Somethings [sic] never change. New year [sic] same me.”
Good thing Raiders wrestling coach Travis Jarrard was one of the tournament’s directors.
Jarrard has helped run the tournament the past six years, and this time he’d come straight to Chattanooga from Osceola, Florida where North had been competing in the Knockout Christmas Classic tournament. There was no time to unpack all the extra Raiders wrestling gear in his truck.
As wrestlers began to weigh in for the Southern Scuffle early Sunday morning, Hall’s father came up to Jarrard and the other tournament director and explained his son’s predicament. Jarrard went to his truck and came back with a North singlet – size: large; color: black with a big gray skull behind the Raiders’ signature NF logo.
“The next thing you know one of the best wrestlers in the country is wearing a North Forsyth singlet at the top regular season college wrestling tournament in the nation,” Jarrard said.
Slowly, as Hall made his way through the bracket – defeating wrestlers from The Citadel, LeHigh, Penn and Oklahoma State en route to being named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler – others in the Georgia wrestling community watching online noticed Hall’s unique singlet. Jarrard began to get emails, text messages and tweets from other wrestlers and coaches. Images of Hall in North’s singlet at the tournament showed up on wrestling websites, including TeamUSA.com after Hall was named the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week.
But Jarrard said the best reaction came from North wrestlers Cole Tenety and Paul Watkins, who were there to watch the tournament in person.
Hall was set to wrestle on Mat 1, so Jarrard implored Tenety and Watkins to watch, leaving out the part about the singlet. When Hall checked in at the table, the two immediately noticed.
“Paul just looked at me and was like, ‘How?’” Jarrard said.
After the Scuffle was over, Hall took time to pose for photos with Tenety and Watkins and autograph the singlet. Jarrard said it will go up in North’s wrestling practice facility.
“Very gracious,” Jarrard said. “Very humble kid for as talented as he is.”
The what-if game started not long after. What if Penn State keeps Hall’s redshirt this season, preserving his eligibility to wrestle for the next four years? What if the Nittany Lions return to the Scuffle each of those four years? And what if Hall defends his Scuffle title four straight years?
“We could have our first five-time Southern Scuffle champion,” Jarrard noted.
And North would have the singlet from the first one.