BC State Champs
Bethlehem Catholic High School surely saved the best for last in the PIAA Class AA team tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey this afternoon.
In a comprehensive and frankly awe-inspiring display of dominance in all aspects of the sport, the Golden Hawks demolished previously-unbeaten District 3 champion Boiling Springs, 52-15.
Becahi (15-0) scored the first 42 team points, opening with a pin from sophomore Zeke Moisey at 120 and never looked back. The Hawks finished with five pins against the Bubblers (24-1).
The D-11 champion Golden Hawks won their second straight PIAA Class AA title, joining Easton and Wilson as the only D-11 teams to win multiple state team crowns (Easton has 4, Wilson 2).
Bethlehem Catholic High School needed an heroic effort to exceed the expectations placed upon it at Saturday afternoon’s PIAA Class AA Team Wrestling Championships, but the Golden Hawks soared above and beyond in their 52-15 victory over District 3 champion Boiling Springs.
Becahi systematically dismantled Boiling Springs in a well-planned and executed march.
Sophomore 120-pounder Zeke Moisey took the first steps on that journey — just what Becahi coach Jeff Karam wanted — in an effort to set the tone in front of the 1,792 in attendance at the final session of the tournament (which drew a record 7,210 for the three-day event).
Karam, who spent the night before working with assistant coach Brian Keller devising the lineup to defend Becahi’s title, could not have been wished for a better place to start.
“When I found out where we were starting (the match), I thought ‘Man, someone’s looking over us,’ “Karam said. “That’s the perfect scenario to have that.”
And Moisey did not disappoint.
“I wanted to get everybody pumped up and set the tone for the entire match,” Moisey said. “Now we’re looking for four (state titles), we just need to keep pushing the next two years.”
The first-bout pin was the first drip in the building stream the Bubblers (23-1) were unable to dam as the Hawks rushed forward.
Carrying a 5-0 lead into the second period of his 126-pound bout, senior Zane Heller fought out of Kyle Shoop’s tilt, then kept Shoop down during the final 30 seconds of the match to secure his 8-0 major decision.
Next came Randy Cruz’s pin at 132 after running up a 17-4 lead over the bout’s 4:40.
“It feels good because this is my senior year, it’s the last year to make things happen,” said a remarkably composed Randy Cruz. “Coach Karam has been my coach my whole life, and I’m just glad I got to make this a memorable year for him.”
A pair of falls by Ryan Todora (145, 4:30) and Aaron Morekin (152, 3:16) followed a hard fought 4-2 decision earned by Richy Cruz at 138.
A 9-3 decision by Nick Cortopassi advanced the score to 34-0 and set the stage for Elliot Riddick, the Golden Hawk who clinched Becahi’s first state title.
With a technical fall, Riddick would effectively conclude the match and send Bethlehem Catholic (15-0) home with the hardware.
Riddick took down Boiling Spring’s Kyle Taylor six times in the first two periods, and while his bout victory seemed assured at 12-5, a technical fall looked anything but a guarantee.
And that’s when the stream became a gusher.
His six third-period takedowns sent Riddick charging into the arms of his teammates with a 25-10 tech fall, an insurmountable 39-0 lead, and just the third AA champion to repeat, the first since Reynolds did it in 2007.
“Usually my goal out there is to pin my opponent,” Riddick said. “I know come third period that if I can’t pin him, just go to work, move my feet and score as many points as possible, so I just really picked it up.”
Though the title was secured, Karam continued to send out wrestlers (unlike several other teams over the weekend, which forfeited once victory was achieved) appreciating the stage and the opportunity for wrestlers.
A gritty 8-2 decision by Jose Ortiz at 182 was complimented by a 13-3 major decision from 220-pounder Josh Alpha.
And as if destiny, the match that began with Moisey’s pin was bookended by junior Darian Cruz’s effort.
“We couldn’t ask for any better start or ending,” Darian Cruz said. “A great performance from our team against great opponents. We sent a message that we’re not going to sleep, we’re going to finish the match as we started it.”
The 3:17 pin was made all the more impressive by a) that it was against state second-ranked 113 pounder Joe Byers and b) it came via a tilt.
“I know the guy’s really tough, but I didn’t let it stop me, I didn’t let him discourage me or get in my head, I just came out and scored a couple points right away,”Darian Cruz said. “As soon as I got that first tilt, I kept readjusting and readjusting. He kept flailing away trying to get off his back and I finally just pressed to pin.”
While winning a state title is impressive in its own right, winning a second consecutive crown, and doing so in the manner Becahi did, indicates there’s more that meets the eye going on, that what is taking place on the mat is the result of efforts unseen by fans in meet attendance.
“The difference from last year to this year,” Riddick said, “was we’ve been really working out in the summer as a team, not just a couple of individuals — it’s been a team effort.”
Randy Cruz echoed his fellow captain’s sentiment.
“We work so hard in the room. You know, a lot of people just see what’s on the surface. We’ve got kids lifting and working out throughout the summer, they didn’t have to be there, they’re there because they wanted to be there, they wanted to get better. These kids don’t need to do that, it’s summer, they’re not made to do that, that’s just how dedicated the wrestlers on this team are.”