Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “All’s well that ends well.”
For the Manheim Township wrestling program, a day that definitely started out gloomily ended pretty well.
Freshman Kaedyn Williams ended a 51-year drought for the Blue Streaks in the PIAA Class 3A State Championships when he defeated Cael Nasdeo of Williamsport for the 106-pound title, 3-0, Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Between Dan Blakinger’s 1970 state championship and Williams’ tour-de-force, in addition to the many who qualified for the state tournament in that interlude, four Blue Streaks ascended to the PIAA apex — Greg Duke, Barry Blefko, Scott Kelly, Matt Grossmann — only to be cruelly denied.
Saturday could’ve easily been a two-fer, though, as Williams’ twin brother, Kamdyn, who recently ascended to recognition as the state’s No. 1 wrestler at 113, was favored to win the title.
But you can’t win if you can’t get on the mat. Tipping the electronic scale a three-tenths of a pound over the limit, Kamdyn Williams was stricken from the bracket at 113, triggering a portrait of gloom among the Township contingent. Then Kaedyn turned those frowns upside down.
A 5-3 win over Luke Sirianni of Abington Heights in the state quarterfinals and a flip-the-script, 2-1 overtime semifinal conquest of Seneca Valley’s Tyler Chappell, whose 2-1 West Super Regional victory was the only blemish on Williams’ 27-1 record, ignited dreams of the possible.
“I always thought I was going to come out on top,” Williams shared, gold medal hanging from his neck.
In his 13 regular-season victories that didn’t end in a fall or forfeit, Williams averaged scoring 10 points a match. When the postseason got serious, that average dropped to just over two. “All those matches are going to be close,” he said. “Everybody that made it here is a really good wrestler.”
“We talked a lot about that that last couple weeks,” Streaks coach John Clark said. “I said (to him), ‘It’s all about the W’s now.’ You have to be able to dig deep, to win a 2-1 match.”
“I had to go in thinking everything counts,” Williams said. “Every move, every shot you take. You have to take advantage of all the opportunities you get.”
Which he did, taking Sirianni down to his back to blow open a tight match, suffocating Chappell’s bottom offense in the critical 30-second tiebreak, catching and clamping Nasdeo as time ran out to ice the title.
The scenario was in place for that rarest of rarities, an all-Lancaster County state final as Solanco’s Dom Flatt won his first bout, a 7-1 decision over Tony Burke of Council Rock North, setting up a match with Nasdeo in the semifinals.
Nasdeo, who fell to Flatt 6-1 at the Super Regional, had other ideas, stunning Flatt with an aggressive attack that buried Flatt in an 8-0 hole after one period of a 12-0 defeat.
“That’s not who I wrestled last week,” Flatt said. “I got beat by a kid that I beat, but I just moved past it.”
“I was really thinking it was going to be me and Flatt in the finals again,” said Williams, “which would’ve been cool. Dom’s my buddy.”
Instead of meeting for the fifth time this season, the fourth with a championship on the line, they wrestled on adjoining mats in the finals as Flatt battled back to the bronze medal match.
In a furious rematch with Chappell, who won 3-1 in the Super Regional final, Flatt came up just short, 6-5. As Williams walked back to his own corner, victorious, Flatt was there to greet him with a hug indicating a bond that superseded competition.
For Flatt, the medal he earned was the end of a journey that carried him from undersized freshman to All-State senior. “I’m very happy with my progress. I finally met my goals,” said Flatt, whose post-graduation future is fluid at the moment. Enlisting in the Armed Forces is a possibility, with attending Millersville University, down the road an option as well.
“At the beginning of the year,” Flatt shared, “I was like, ‘Maybe I won’t make it.’ My coaches pushed me, I pushed myself and I finally got it.”
Earning his fifth-place medal Saturday night, Penn Manor’s Colt Barley followed a path set down by his father, Tom, and his brother, Jonah, both of whom earned state medals: Jonah a fourth- and sixth-place, Tom a fifth.
It wasn’t easy. A first-round matchup with, and loss to, Joey Milano set Barley on the torturous journey through the wrestlebacks.
Milano would go on to win the title at 189, becoming Spring-Ford’s first state champion, while Barley defeated Brooks Gable of Dallastown, 1-0, and fell to Ethan Rossman of Bellefonte, 4-3. Barley’s journey concluded with a decisive, 5-0 victory over Bryce Molinaro of Hazleton.
“Coming out against the top-seeded kid, it wasn’t the outcome I wanted,” said the Comets senior, who’s bound for Cornell, where he will study animal science, preparing to take his place in the family dairy business. “But I just had to do what I do, and it paid off. I’m happy with how I performed. I can’t complain.”
• Correspondent Dave Byrne covers scholastic wrestling for LNP. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @dbyrneman.