Jason Montgomery puts the finishing touches on a pin during his dual match against Peters Township. The Bethel Park senior recently finished fourth in the prestigious Powerade Tournament.
If Jason Montgomery didn’t possess the “Eye of the Tiger” after missing his sophomore season due to a torn labrum, he certainly acquired it after falling short of his goal to finish first at the Powerade Tournament held over the holidays at Canon-McMillan High School.
“Eight months,” said the Bethel Park High School senior, musing about the time he missed on the mats as a 10th-grader. “It was tough because I lost all my strength and I couldn’t be in the weight rooms. That made me hungry. I want to make up for lost time and that is why my senior year is so important. After Powerade, too, I am hungrier than ever. More focused. I’m on fire now.”
Montgomery, indeed, was ablaze when he pinned Noah Hardy in 52 seconds during a dual match against Peters Township. It was Montgomery’s first bout since finishing fourth in the Powerade Tournament. He improved to 15-3 overall.
Montgomery’s losses have come against Jared McGill in the King of the Mountain Tournament to start the season. McGill, from Chestnut Ridge, won the Powerade Tournament but Montgomery was unable to avenge that defeat because he had lost to Kyle Hormet of Waynesburg, 4-3, in the semifinals. Montgomery then dropped a 15-3 decision to Belle Vernon’s Scott Joll in the consolation match.
Montgomery started the Powerade Tournament with three, first-period falls and then posted a 10-3 decision against Max Cosmides to advance to the Final Four. Though Cosmides was a Florida state runner-up, Montgomery said the match did not give him confidence.
“I know I’m that good and can perform that well,” he said in a manner that was not boastful but confident.
In the semifinals, Montgomery led Hormet before surrendering a takedown in the final 30 seconds of the match.
“I made a mistake for sure,” he admitted. “He and I have a lot of history and we should meet again at WPIALs. I’m confident I’m going to beat him.”
Disgusted with his semifinal showing, Montgomery took his frustrations out on his next opponent and scored a technical fall, 18-1, against Ryan Weinzen of Norwin in 3:38, before he succumbed to Joll.
“I was mad about my semifinal loss but in the medal round for third place it all went wrong,” said Montgomery, who fell behind, 5-0, after one period against Joll. “When I fell that far behind, I had to change my wrestling style and that didn’t work out too well.”
Montgomery’s Powerade Tournament, however, did turn out better than last year’s event. He lost in the “blood round” to the Waynesburg wrestler and therefore did not place.
Although Hormet and Joll did not wrestle in the 170-pound weight class last year, Montgomery expects to face both of them later this season. He hopes that Powerade is not an indication of his future fate.
“I hope my performance doesn’t set the tone for the season because I wrestled below my expectations. My goal was to win the weight class and anything less than that was a disappointment. But, I will avenge my losses.”
Robert Stewart believes Montgomery will.
“Jason is very driven,” said the BP wrestling coach. “He sets high goals for himself. He does what it takes to be successful in and out of the wrestling room. His goal is to be a WPIAL and state champion. Those are goals that he can definitely achieve. I expect him to have a successful year.”
History is on Montgomery’s side. He posted a 37-11 record last year and placed seventh at the 2017 PIAA championships.
“My experience will help for sure,” said the 18-year-old son of Renée and David Montgomery. “Just being there at states last year and knowing what it’s like and what it takes will help me.”
So far, it has taken years of sweat and toil. Thanks to a nudge from his father, who wrestled at Grove City High School, Montgomery embarked on a wrestling career 10 years ago.
“I wasn’t good when I started. It took six years to get better,” he said.
What changed was Montgomery committed to wrestling year round. He joined the Quest Wrestling School and competed all over the country in Flo Nationals, even racking up a 7-0 record at last summer’s duels in Virginia Beach.
“Jason is an extremely hard worker who is very focused,” said Stewart. “He’s a leader in our room because he sets a great example for the rest of the guys.”
Montgomery sets the tone on and off the mats. He maintains a 4.4 GPA, is a member of student government and is bound for the University of Pennsylvania. He will wrestle for the Quakers while majoring in philosophy, politics and economics.
“I picked Penn because of the coaching staff. That was the main thing,” Montgomery said. “I loved the school and the wrestling program is going in the right direction. Hopefully, I can be an All-American and a national champion there.”
Before then, it’s all about redemption. Adhering to Dan Gable’s philosophies and his own determination, Montgomery will conquer his demons.
“I want to be a champion and I’m going to work as hard as I can and give it all I can and avenge my losses,” he vowed.