HERSHEY — Will Betancourt stood, shook both fists at the sky in jubilation, waved, pointed and blew a kiss to his family in the stands.
He ran pell-mell to Manheim Central coach Billy Chamberlain, jumping into his arms. He hugged assistant coach Connor Sheehan, then ran back to the center circle to shake the hand of his vanquished opponent, Seneca Valley junior Dylan Chappell.
The pursuit complete. The dream fulfilled. Betancourt was a Pennsylvania state champion, the ninth Barons wrestler to accomplish the feat.
His 4-2 victory in the PIAA Class 3A tournament 120-pound finals Saturday night at Hershey’s Giant Center capped a journey that ended as it began in December 2016, with joy and a 1,000-watt smile.
“It’s such a blessing,” Betancourt said Saturday night, the mood of the impromptu media gathering in sharp contrast to similar huddles in the wake of seventh- and fifth-place finishes as a sophomore and junior.
“I dreamed of that moment ever since I was 4 years old, wrestling with my dad,” he said. “Years past I had doubts. This year I had no doubt that I was going to win a match.”
Baker meets goal
Nick Baker’s determination, fueled by going 1-2 at states in 2019, was to get to the medal round as a senior, then win the highest medal he could.
“That was my goal, to place at states,” he said, “that’s all I wanted.”
He advanced to the semifinals at 182 pounds, guaranteeing him no worse than sixth place, before a loss to eventual two-time state champion Gerrit Nijenhuis.
Saturday evening he capped his Penn Manor wrestling career, a career that saw him post 106 wins, with that sixth-place medal, dropping a 5-1 decision to Maximus Hale of Downingtown West.
“You always want more,” he said, “but it is what it is. In our wrestling room there’s a wall of all the state placers. Now my name gets to go up there.”
Losses in the consolation quarterfinals Friday afternoon ensured that Cedar Crest’s T.J. Moore and Garden Spot’s Dustin Swanson would meet for the third time this season, the eighth time of their careers, with a state seventh-place medal at 220 pounds on the line.
Moore evened the ledger at four wins apiece, winning three of the last four meetings, with a 7-1 victory.
It was the first state medal for both wrestlers.
“It feels awesome,” said Moore, who finished his career two wins short of 100. “Three years ago, when I started wrestling, I never thought I would even make it here, let alone medal.”
Being seniors, Betancourt and Moore will take their careers to the next level, Betancourt at Lock Haven University, Moore at Lehigh. Baker’s wrestling days are over for now, as he plans to enlist in the United States Navy, specializing in nuclear engineering.
Having posted a pair of wins this weekend, Swanson, a junior and veteran of the offseason tournament circuit, now has an idea of what it takes to win at Hershey.
And an idea of what it will take to climb higher on the awards stand.
Moore’s consolation quarterfinal loss came against Chase Mielnik, a senior from Downingtown West.
If the name seems familiar, Mielnik, who finished fourth, is the son of Ephrata’s 1997 state champion, Pete Mielnik.