The Gladiator of Park High

Park High Wrestling Senior Night celebrates lone senior Shane Gibson, ranked #1 in Montana Class A 205
Liz George —
Friday, January 25, 2019
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Senior Shane Gibson (205) takes down a Belgrade wrestler at Park High School Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Cole Murphy)

Still breathing heavy from the bout, Shane Gibson listened attentively when I told him we didn’t have to do the interview right away and suggested he take some time to catch his breath. Ever determined to push through obstacles, Gibson shook his head and quietly insisted, “No, it’s alright. We can do it now.”

Sitting on a bench in a quiet corner of what would soon become his alma mater, Gibson leaned down to unlace his shoes. After each question I asked, Gibson took a moment before answering, as though he was carefully considering exactly what he wanted to say.

Being the first member of his family to wrestle, Gibson was already nine years old when hitting the mat first entered his mind.

“I wasn’t built for basketball, unfortunately,” Gibson shrugged.

The Blitzkrieg Youth Wrestling Club sent flyers to East Side School and something about it struck young Gibson. He brought the flyer home and after a few practices at the Fairgrounds, Gibson was hooked.

“I started to be able to have a connection to and really understand my body and what I was doing with wrestling. I made a connection in my mind and I thought it was the coolest thing I’ve ever felt,” Gibson said.

Through the years, Gibson faced many challenges. But those challenges were part of what made wrestling great in Gibson’s eyes.

“There was always something I could improve on, which I love because it never gets old,” he explained.

Still, the most difficult test for the young athlete wouldn’t come until Gibson’s junior year.

“I had a good season, and then January last year I got bronchitis. I wrestled through divisionals with bronchitis and ended up with fourth place,” Gibson sighed.

A few weeks later at the state tournament, Gibson continued to struggle.

“I probably should have gotten third or fourth, but my mindset wasn’t good. I wasn’t wrestling very well and I was sick. I didn’t wrestle the way I wanted to and I didn’t finish the way I wanted to. It has haunted me. It still haunts me.”

Gibson said the experience hit him pretty hard. He felt discouraged and frustrated.

“I didn’t want to be around the sport. I didn’t want to do it.”

Despite everything, Gibson wasn’t down long. After taking a very brief break, Gibson was back in the practice room as often as possible. Now, he’s looking forward to and preparing for a comeback at the state tournament next month.

“(Last year) won’t haunt me once I get to the state tournament,” he said.

Gibson has been preparing for a comeback since his difficult 2017-2018 season came to an end.

A few days a week, Gibson and his teammates hit the gym at 6:30 a.m.. Gibson usually runs with 45 pound weights and then moves on to sprints.

After school, Gibson and the rest of the Rangers hit the mat to work on technique and live wrestle to simulate a true match.

“There have definitely been some long days. The 6:30 a.m. to another practice after school is tough but it makes you mentally tough. It starts your day off right,” assured Gibson.

No matter how hard it got, Gibson said he never wanted to quit. He said there was always a part of him that knew if he continued to work hard, then there would be success.

He was right. Gibson is currently ranked #1 in Montana Class A 205.

“It’s a sport unlike any other. It’s 100% based off your heart and what you put into it. Hard work gets you everywhere. Athletically, kids are gifted. In wrestling, if you have an athletic kid, he’s usually pretty tough. But no matter what, if you’re against an athletic kid, you can beat him with technique and conditioning,” said Gibson, adding, “I need to make sure I stay aggressive.”

After his final home match of his Park High School career, Gibson reflected on his time as a Ranger.

“A lot of people have come and gone, but everybody has made a connection with each other on every team I’ve seen. The people here and the connections; that’s what I’m going to miss the most,” Gibson said with a smile.

Gibson has been approached by multiple universities, but he isn’t sure where his path will lead yet.

“I can’t make a 100% decision yet. I’m just running my race at the moment and I’ll see where it leads me,” said Gibson.

Down the line, Gibson thinks he will probably continue wrestling. He’d even consider coaching, too. He hopes to see more people join the wrestling program at Park High.

Gibson wants anyone curious about wrestling to know that it will change your life, adding, “The gains that your body receives and what you mentally gain makes it overall worth it. This sport is the closest to life as it can get. You can’t get through life successfully without working hard, and that’s what this sport is all about.”

For right now, the tournaments are what Gibson is focusing his energy on. He has his heart in the state tournament.

“I want to get the weight of divisionals and all these tournaments overwith. Just being (at the state tournament) and being in the moment and being able to wrestle on those mats…that’s what I’m most excited for,” Gibson said.

Gibson was escorted into the Park High gym on Senior Night by his parents Rick and Sandy, and his grandparents David and Joann.

His head coach Ben Hahn said he would miss working with the young wrestler.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Hahn said proudly over the speakers, adding, “Shane works hard on and off the mat. You have to push yourself. It’s not easy.”

Gibson also excelled in the classroom, even getting inducted into National Honor Society, is an All-Conference football player, an Academic All-State recipient, and is a two-time All-State wrestler with 2nd and 6th place finishes in previous years.

Gibson was the final wrestler to hit the mat at Thursday night’s dual against Belgrade. He won by pin at 1:22 in the first round.

Gibson stood tall with his broad shoulders casting a shadow on his defeated opponent. He turned to the stands filled with cheering students and spectators. Gibson slowly raised his arms into the air at his side, welcoming the cheers as though possessed by the spirit of Marcus Attilius. It would be his final win at home as the Gladiator of Park High.