TIGHT HOLD: Chambersburg Trojan wrestler Garett Hammond, pictured here vs. Mitchell Ramsey of Mechanicsburg in January, will attend Penn State.
TIGHT HOLD: Chambersburg Trojan wrestler Garett Hammond, pictured here vs. Mitchell Ramsey of Mechanicsburg in January, will attend Penn State. (Public Opinion file photo/Ryan Blackwell)
In the end, Garett Hammond made the choice he was wired to make.

You want a challenge as a wrestler? Then try to break into the lineup of two-time defending national champion Penn State and its roster of All-Americans.

Difficult? Absolutely.

But Hammond, who won the Trojans' second-ever PIAA state title last March, is not programmed to go around a hurdle; he'll take it head-on. He knows what he wants and he believes going to Penn State is the most direct route possible.

"I want to be a national champion that's my goal," Hammond said. "Penn State had three national champions last year and two more in the finals. So, for my goal, that's the place to be."

Should Hammond impress the coaches enough as a freshman, he could earn a starting spot. With the Lions' loaded lineup, that may not be realistic, however. It's more likely he would be redshirted, then compete for a spot the next year.

Hammond said, "Once you earn a position, then you start to see more scholarship money."

What he sees is a long list of advantages at PSU.

"The practice facility is great, probably the best in the country," Hammond said. "The coaching staff is the best and there are three or four Olympians there every day. They have a wrestling club there, so there are all those guys - they call them resident athletes - to train with, too.

"You get an education at a prestigious university, and it's right in our backyard so my mom and dad can come up all the time."

Now that the big decision has been made, the pressure if off Hammond a little.

"I'm happy now. I can put the focus back on this season," he said. "I want to enjoy my senior season at Chambersburg do what I can to help the team."

The Hammond family traveled to and from Penn State on Thursday to see the team's wrestle-offs. And, no, that wasn't just something they held in the practice area. It was held in Rec Hall, the team's home, and the place was filled with fans.

"They get more fans to a wrestle-off than most schools get to their best dual meets," Hammond said.

Garett Hammond
Garett Hammond
"It's just a tremendous atmosphere there."

Hammond said Penn State had shown an interest in him since he won the PIAA title last year. And he was able to tell head coach Cael Sanderson in person on Thursday that he'd made his decision.

"This is what I've wanted to do for a long time now," Hammond said. "I've been blessed to have this option and that I can chase my goals. I want to be able to improve every day, and I can't think of a better place to do it than in that room with all those quality wrestlers."

Last year Hammond put together a remarkable season. He was 39-4 and won District 3 and PIAA championships. For his career, the 2011-12 P.O. Wrestler of the Year is 78-8 in two years for the Trojans and 116-24 counting his freshman season at Wyoming Seminary.

While the Nittany Lions always held a special place in Hammond's heart, he gave serious attention to three other schools - Maryland, Northwestern and Drexel, where Trojan teammate Tanner Shoap is heading.

"The process is crazy," Hammond said. "It's diffcult to make your choice because there are a lot of things to consider. It's not just about the money. You're trying to decide about something that will greatly affect your next four or five years, and years to come.

"I've been stressed out about it lately. I was back and forth every week and every day about which way to go. But Penn State is a place where I can accomplish my goals and do it with people who are similar to me. The sky is the limit. When you go there you have to push yourself every day and the only thing you can do is improve."

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Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and egotwals@publicopinionnews.com.