Will Betancourt arrived, three years ago, as one of the more heralded underclassmen in the annals of L-L League wrestling.
Now, on the cusp of his senior season, Manheim Central's middleweight has prepared to mount one last summit of the Matterhorn of matdom, the PIAA state championships.
“I’ve been just chasing the best competition,” he said, speaking of his summer activities.
“I was in Puerto Rico (at the Copa Sparta). I was at a tournament called the Waterway Duals (at Oxford High School). I wrestled a couple of ranked guys in the country there.”
One of whom was Eddie Ventresca, a New Jersey State champion from Pope John XXIII, ranked No. 2 in the nation. Betancourt defeated him in the ultimate tiebreak, 2-1.
Betancourt’s success at Waterway — he went 4-0 with a pin and a major decision — earned him the Adidas High School Wrestler of the Week Award for the week of September 9.
He followed that up at the Copa Sparta, taking first at 62 kg in the Junior Division, as the LAW team (Lancaster Alliance for Wrestling) placed second overall out of 49 teams.
All that capped a whirlwind recruiting process with Lock Haven University emerging as his choice.
There he will major in sports management, with an eye on becoming an athletic director.
“It was crazy,” Betancourt said of the process. “Just a lot of schools, a lot of awesome schools, great opportunities. Lock Haven just felt like home. When I was there everyone was working hard. They were consistent. They all had the same goal as me: National Champ, All-American.
“Some of the other universities, half the team was working hard, the other half was messing around.”
After placing seventh and fifth in three trips to the state tournament, Betancourt is not messing around this year.
“Freshman year, I was like, ‘I just want to make it to states, hopefully place.’ After I didn’t place, it was like bitter in my mouth, very upsetting.”
Even more so the next two seasons as, retreating into a defensive shell, his state dreams became a nightmare with quarterfinal-round losses.
“I was a very defensive wrestler,” he admitted, “I would wrestle not to lose. Not (wrestle) to win.”
After his setback this spring, he was taken aside by his coach, Billy Chamberlain, who told him he was better than he was showing and to open up and let it fly, so to speak.
He won two of his next three to advance up the medals podium. Now he plans on the big jump to the top.
In the meantime, the three-time L-L League champion and three-time District Three champion has the opportunity to add to that total.
He would become just the fifth four-time L-L League champion, and the 14th four-time champion in district history, the first from the L-L League.
“Obviously, I always want to win,” said Betancourt, who enters the season with 109 career wins. “To be honest, I don’t really worry about that stuff. I’m just focused on being a state champ.”
In the meantime, he’s enjoying being the leader in the wrestling room for a Barons' squad that is hungry for leaders.
“It’s awesome,” Betancourt said. “To have kids pulling me aside, asking me for help. If they’re struggling, I give them advice.
“A lot of people are going to be doubting us this year. We’re a pretty young team,” he said. “But it’s going to be dangerous.”