3 wrestlers become All-Americans

Collin Gaj, Caroline Hattala, and Calvin Lachman make their mark in national competitions at the Fargodome.
Posted on 07/20/2023
Quakertown wrestlers, from left, Collin Gaj, Mason Ziegler, Gavin Carroll, and Calvin Lachman stand outside the Fargodome.By Gary Weckselblatt

Six Quakertown Community High School students headed to perhaps the world’s largest wrestling competitions and three came away as All-Americans at the 2023 U.S Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals in the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State University.

Collin Gaj and Calvin Lachman each earned their All-America prize this week following last weekend's girls’ tournament where Caroline Hattala captured her honors. Collin was sixth at 152 pounds, Caroline sixth at 200, and Calvin eighth at 220.

“What these kids accomplished is very impressive, and I’m so proud of each of them,” Panthers’ Coach Kurt Handel said. He admitted, however, that each one believes they could have achieved more.

“The ones who got to the podium, it wasn’t the spot they wanted,” Coach Handel said. “And the ones who didn’t get to the podium, they wanted to be there. You don’t get to this level and like losing.”

All Quakertown wrestlers won matches, including Mason Ziegler, Gavin Carroll, and Ashley Stank. The coach said it was the first time that four boys qualified for the national tournament.

“This is a national tournament,” Coach Handel said. “To get here, you have to earn it. That makes this extra special.”

The three All-Americans each received large plaques for their extraordinary accomplishments. “They call them stop signs out here,” Coach Handel said. “In the wrestling world, that’s pretty impressive.”

It’s been a tremendous year for the Quakertown wrestling program, which has had three state champions - John Rittenhouse (1987), John Hangey (1988), and Pat Flynn (2006) - until Collin, only a sophomore, capped off a 49-0 season with the 145-pound crown. Mason, a junior, finished second at 121 pounds, and Calvin, a junior, was one victory shy of placing. And although the PIAA hasn’t sanctioned girls wrestling until the 2023-24 season, Caroline, a freshman, won the 190-pound title and fellow freshman Ashley finished fifth at 100 pounds.

The six wrestlers, who will take some time off, will return for the winter campaign. Calvin (University of Pennsylvania), and Mason (Lehigh University), have already accepted scholarship offers. Collin has 40 schools that have reached out to him, Coach Handel said. Stanford will be flying him out there in the fall. He’s also interested in visiting Nebraska and North Carolina State. Those visits are likely to be more fun than the 20-hour bus ride to Fargo.

Coach Handel praised the students for their hard work to qualify for nationals. He continued to commend Quakertown’s youth wrestling program and Strayer Middle School for making the high school team so successful. “It’s these programs and the parents that sacrifice so many weekends to make this happen,” Coach Handel said. “And it’s these kids wanting to and having the talent to do it. It’s what makes Quakertown a special place.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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