HERSHEY – Will Betancourt is a state champion.
Not a surprise. Not unexpected. But still, his 4-2 victory over Dylan Chappell of Seneca Valley was a moment worth savoring.
Meanwhile, Penn Manor’s Nick Baker capped his career with a sixth-place medal at 182 pounds. Maximus Hale of Downingtown West took fifth with a 5-1 decision.
Cedar Crest’s T. J. Moore topped Garden Spot’s Dustin Swanson for 7th at 220.
“It’s such a blessing,” Manheim Central’s senior 120-pounder told a media scrum in the recesses of Hershey’s Giant Center Saturday night.
“Every day, I tell myself I’m going to be a state champ. I visualize it. I write it down. I do simulation matches of state finals. All those little things go a long way and I know the rest of the kids in the state aren’t doing what I’m doing.”
What Betancourt did in the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships was defeat Seneca Valley’s Dylan Chappell 4-2.
“I thought, coming in, this was his tournament to win,” Barons coach Billy Chamberlain said.
Winning state gold has been Betancourt’s dream as long as he can remember. “Ever since I was four years old, wrestling with my dad,” he said.
It became a driving force for Betancourt after his second quarterfinal loss in as many years dropped him out of championship contention last year.
“It really hurt, placing fifth and seeing those guys in the finals,” he said. “I knew it had to be me next year.”
After a scoreless first period, Chappell chose bottom for the second.
Betancourt made him pay for that decision, riding him out with a tight arm bar, looking for any opening to score.
“I don’t think anybody is as tough on top as me when I’m trying to score points,” he said.
“When you’re riding a tight waist, you’re sucking the life out of them,” Chamberlain said. “Not only are they gasping for air, they’re thinking, ‘What is going on?’ ”
On bottom for the third, Betancourt nearly scored on a Jonsey — sitting through while your opponent controls your leg — but Chappell recovered in time to avoid getting reversed, or worse.
He couldn’t stop Betancourt’s reversal on a headlock at the 1:18 mark, or the two back points Betancourt scored with it.
Key points as Chappell reversed back out 20 seconds later.
“When you see something you go for it,” Betancourt said of his rare utilization of the headlock.
“I wasn’t really thinking much. All the nerves took over and did the work.”
Speaking of nerves.
In the semifinals, 19 seconds away from a 4-3 defeat, Betancourt needed to escape the grasp of Nazareth senior Andrew Smith.
Off a restart, with two false start cautions hanging over him, he got a reversal with five seconds showing to claim a 5-4 victory.
“I honestly didn’t know I got hit with a caution the first time,” he said. “When (the referee) tells me I have two cautions I was kind of freaking out.”
In a match contested largely from neutral, and leading 3-2 after an escape to start the third period, Betancourt was stunned when Smith scored at the edge with 40 seconds to go.
Off a restart, with 28 ticks left, as the level of drama multiplied, Betancourt was flagged for flinching. Twice.
“I just told myself, ‘You don’t want it to be over like this.’ Senior year, you got to go for it. I went for the two (points) and I got it.”
Penn Manor's Nick Baker went for it against returning state champion Gerrit Nijenhuis in the semifinal at 182. Nijenhuis had an answer.
The Canon-McMillan senior took Baker down and turned him twice in the first period, the scored another takedown in the second period.
Baker worked two escapes in the third period, but Nijenhuis answered with a reversal and takedown for a 13-2 final.
In the consolation semifinal, Baker surrendered a second-period tilt, the difference in a 4-2 loss to Drew Clearie of Nazareth.
In the medals match at 182 Hale used a devastating single leg shot to pave his path to a 5-1 victory.
“He was really good at it, especially finishing,” said Baker, “which, usually, I do well at defending. His finish was optimal.”
Cedar Crest's T.J. Moore and Garden Spot's Dustin Swanson both lost by fall in the consolation quarterfinals at 220, setting up their eighth career meeting.
Nazareth’s Steven Schott took Swanson down to his back, and the fall, in 2:28.
Moore was in the mix with Chase Mielnik of Downingtown West — son of Ephrata’s 1997 state champion Pete Mielnik — when Mielnik cradled him, getting the fall at 2:40.
As one might imagine, familiarity was a factor in their final tussle — at least at this level of competition.
“It definitely helped, just knowing what he was going to do,” said Moore after prevailing 7-1 and splitting the career series at four wins apiece.
Moore allowed there were several practices this year dedicated to ‘Swanson defense.’
“He didn’t change anything. Neither did I,” said Moore. “At this point you just have to wrestle yourself out there.”
Swanson went for an upperbody throw in the second period, failing at executing.
Moore pounced and took a 5-0 lead, extending it to 7-0 in the third period as Swanson slipped off Moore on a shot.