HERSHEY — Around the ol’ wrestling room there used to be a saying, “He went to school on that.”
Class was in session Saturday afternoon in the Giant Center in the PIAA Class 2A 145-pound championship match.
One week after being pinned by Pequea Valley’s Gabe Miller, in the finals of the Southeast Regional championships, Notre Dame Green Pond junior Andrew Cerniglia turned the tables in a big way.
On the attack from the opening handshake, Cerniglia never relented in a make-a-statement, 14-0 major decision victory, dealing Miller his first loss of the year, and last of his high school career.
“That (loss) was burned in my mind all week,” Cerniglia shared. “I was just waiting for this match.”
In an interview with another publication, Miller was quoted as saying Cerniglia ‘gassed’.
“He said in an article that he gassed me,” said Cerniglia. “It was more I gassed myself, I let my nerves get the best of me. I just really wanted to make his statement false.
“I just knew I had to go out and wrestle hard and things would take their course.”
“It all comes out to who goes out and wrestles that day,” said Miller, who may have stoked the fire when he slapped at Cerniglia’s hand during the Parade of Champions.
“That only made me want to beat him more,” Cerniglia said.
“I didn’t even realize anything happened,” said Miller, deflecting any question of his intention. “I was focused in.
“One guy’s going to walk out with gold. We both wanted it bad and we’re going to go out and battle for it.”
When the real action began, just as in last week’s match Cerniglia scored on a single, then tilted Miller to take a 4-0 lead after a period.
Unlike last week, there was no Miller comeback.
Miller took neutral to start the second period and got in on a good shot. Cerniglia saved himself with a whizzer just as Miller was about to gain control.
That was, for all intents, the match. Cerniglia scored off his counter, tilted Miller again to take an 8-0 lead after two.
“I just tried to keep creating my positions,” Miller said, “and unfortunately he beat me out on some of them.”
Cerniglia escaped and took Miller down again in the third period, then turned him again — pushing for the fall.
Regardless of the outcome, Miller shared, “I’m just thankful for the opportunity ... to go out and wrestle in front of this crowd.
“That’s something I’ve wanted to do since before I could even tie my own wrestling shoes. To realize that was awesome. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
In a close vote, Pope John Paul II’s Ryan Vulakh edged out Cerniglia for the Robert W. Craig Outstanding Wrestler Award.
North Star’s Hunter Tremain won award for the most falls in the least time, three in 3:45.
Southern Columbia won the team title with 121 points.
In Class 3A
As he stood in for his finals match at the PIAA 3A State wrestling championships Saturday night, Manheim Central’s Will Betancourt was 60 feet from where he really wanted to be — the center circle of the championship mat.
Instead, wrestling for fifth place in the 120-pound weight class, he made the most of his opportunity, claiming his second career state medal — he was seventh at 113 last year — with a 2-1 rideout, ultimate tiebreak victory over Cameron Enriquez of Stroudsburg.
“It was a really stacked bracket,” Betancourt said. “So many kids ranked in the country, things didn’t go my way.”
Things went his way more Saturday, after a quarterfinal Friday where a friendship with his opponent, Council Rock North’s Luke Lucerne, and perhaps a bit of nerves, led to a 4-1 loss.
“I didn’t wrestle offensively,” he said, “that really affected me a lot.”
He rediscovered his offense after a Friday night talk with his coach, Billy Chamberlain and his father, Will Betancourt, Sr.
“Going back to the hotel last night they told me I’ve been wrestling offensively all season. It’s been working for me all season. Why change it at the state tournament?
“That really clicked with me. The last three matches I wrestled offensively and I came out of two of them.”
In the fifth-place match he and Enriquez traded escapes, with Betancourt having two good takedown shots stalemated by Enriquez.
With no scoring in the one-minute sudden victory period, action moved to the 30-second tiebreaks.
Enriquez rode out Betancourt in the first 30, as did Betancourt in the second.
With choice of top or bottom in the ultimate, 30-second tiebreak, Betancourt took top.
“I rode him out in the tiebreaker and I just felt confident,”Betancourt said. “I didn’t have any stall calls, and I’m really confident in my ability on top.”
Confidence that was rewarded.
Betancourt’s Saturday opened with a victory over West Chester East’s Killian Delaney, a returning state runner-up, 3-1 in sudden victory, scoring off a dump, switch-off to a single with three seconds left.
“If I would’ve wrestled like that, I would’ve been in the state finals,” he said.
That win matched him with Shane Hanson-Ashworth of Council Rock South, who he’d defeated twice this season, 1-0 and 2-1.
With a spot in the bronze medal match on the line, Hanson-Ashworth posted a 3-1 victory on a late takedown. He went on to take third with a 3-1 victory over Lucerne.
“It’s great to end the season with a win,” Baron coach Billy Chamberlain observed.
For Betancourt it was also great to rediscover his offense.
“It took me three years to finally be offensive at the state tournament,” he said.