King of the Mountain Wrestling
Bethlehem Catholic shows off its depth. Against a field that included Boyertown, Nazareth, Council Rock South and Exeter, Bethlehem Catholiccouldn’t afford too many slip-ups if the Golden Hawks wanted to defend their team title to start with. Then 220-pounder Brandon Blobe didn’t wrestle due to an injury. Becahi had a replacement for Blobe, but when 113-pound freshman Ryan Anderson was ruled out of the King of the Mountain due to weight-descent issues there was no time to replace him so the Golden Hawks wrestled with 13 athletes – and still won by 32 points over Boyertown with 11 place-winners. “I think just shows how well we wrestled, that we could win this tournament without two starters against such a tough field,” said Becahi 126-pound KoM champion Luke Karam. As the Golden Hawks’ 170-pound champion, Mikey Labriola, said, “We had lot of guys step up, big-time.” A big-time step-up in a big-time tournament … just like …
Brock Wilson’s statement weekend. Short of the champions and maybe some of the runner-ups, nobody had a better King of the Mountain than the Nazareth junior 145-pounder who took third place with a somewhat startling 10-4 back-point filled domination of Bethlehem Catholic’s two-time state medalist Stephen Maloney in the consolation final. Wilson tech-falled the No. 3 seed (Ryan Taylor of Parkersburg South, W. Va.) to open the tournament, then pinned and won a decision before a 3-2 loss to Bellefonte’s Brock Port in the semifinal that could have gone either way. Wilson then walloped No. 5 seed Owen Wherley of South Western in a consolation semifinal – avoiding the dreaded “semifinal slide” – before the Maloney win. Wilson looks improved across the board but especially on top where his technique is crisp and is married to much-improved power. Wilson might not have been in any top-5 state lists before this tournament. He will, or should be, now. And so should a Becahi standout…
Joey Gould’s back. Wilson’s only local rival for best-of-show outside the finals came from the Bucknell-bound 138-pound Bethlehem Catholic senior, who placed third in what was generally considered the toughest weight class at the King of the Mountain. Gould’s junior season was something of an injury- and illness-hobbled washout as he missed all of December and then didn’t qualify for states. He never really had that spring in his step or his funky aggressive style right all last season. He does this year. After he pinned General McLane’s state qualifier Hunter Hendricks in 4:45 in a second-round bout, Gould gave Nazareth’s returning state runner-up Sammy Sasso all he wanted in a 7-5 thriller, one of the best bouts of the tournament. In the consolations, Gould defeated Riley Palmer of CR South, ranked No. 4 by PaPower Wrestling at 138, 3-2 before a 3-0 win over Ryan Resnick of Owen J. Roberts in the third place bout. Becahi coach Jeff Karam cautioned that he doesn’t think Gould is at 100 percent yet. That’s a scary thought for future Gould foes.
Northern Lehigh’s rough team weekend. Northern Lehigh Steve Hluschak had figured to bring one of the stronger Class AA teams in the field to the King of the Mountain for the Bulldogs’ first trip to the event. But that was before a combination of injuries and illness stripped his squad of standouts such as Ryan Farber, returning state medalist Matt Schmall and Cameron Kates. And with D-11 Class AA runner-up CJ Young just back out for the team after originally not planning to wrestle and not ready to compete yet, the Bulldogs were suddenly rather short-handed for such a rugged tournament and wound up 30th as a team. Hluschak said he thought it was a good tourney for his team to attend and liked the amount of bouts his wrestlers who could compete had. And Northern Lehigh did get …
Two Bulldog medals. However, Northern Lehigh still ended up with two medals, eighth place for senior Colton Rex at 120 and sixth for junior Jason Schaffer at 220. Rex, then No. 7 seed, beat Nazareth’s Ryan O’Grady and No. 5 seed Alex Shaffer of Archbishop Wood en route to his medal. Schaffer, meanwhile, emerged on the state scene for the first time. He entered unseeded and defeated three seeded wrestlers – No. 4 Max Mason of Jersey Shore, No. 9 Max Kline of Hamburg and No. 6 Alex Moses of Burrell – en route to sixth place. Kline and Moses are foes Schaffer may see on the path to a state medal at Hershey – which he has become a serious contender for after this weekend. That alone made the trip worthwhile for the Bulldogs.
Bottom issues back? For a while on Saturday it seemed as if the old can’t-escape-from-the-bottom blues had returned to afflict D-11 wrestlers, but then the emerging trend was snapped by Bethlehem Catholic junior Luke Carty, who got out from a very tough Luke Pipa of Bishop McDevitt (D-3) in the third period to win the third-place bout 3-0 at 120, and Nazareth junior Travis Stefanik, who hit a Peterson roll off the bottom in a rideout in the 170-pound third-place bout to defeat Mifflin County’s Noah Stewart, ranked No. 3 in Class AAA by PaPowerWrestling, 11-7. Stefanik, by the way, credited Northampton graduate and current Bucknell wrestler Zach Valley with teaching him that move, in a way. “He hit me with a it a lot,” Stefanik said.
Nazareth enjoys the King of the Mountain. “I really like this tournament,” said Blue Eagle head coach Dave Crowell, who went to Lock Haven University, just down the road from the tournament site, Central Mountain High School. “There’s not as much pressure here as at other tournaments. And we’ll be a little more prepared for what lies ahead now. If we’d done to an easier tournament and gotten eased into the season, I don’t know if that prepares you as well.”
Kudos to the Mill Hall Kiwanis. They run the concessions at the King of the Mountain which include the single best food item seen all season: chicken pot pie, Amish style. You get a generous cup served piping hot for all of three bucks. A little salt and pepper and the result is a feast. Such fine food will be especially missed this upcoming weekend at The Beast of the East, which has dreadful, overpriced concessions.