Becahi’s Labriola stands alone at No. 1 after Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic win
Sure, the Bethlehem Catholic senior’s 170-pound bout with Kaleb Romero of Mechanicsburg (Ohio) was just an exhibition, but it carried just a little more to it.
“I also didn’t want to lose that (national #1) ranking,” Labriola said.
Not only did Labriola keep the top ranking he had from FLO Wrestling with a crunchingly physical 3-2 defeat of Romero in front of 6,000-plus fans at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House, he added Romero’s No. 1 ranking from Intermat to his collection.
“I was wrestling my last time in high school and I was trying to stay unbeaten this season,” said the Nebraska signee, who went 44-0 en route to his second PIAA 3A state championship two weeks ago. “It’s a great feeling to end my season with a win like this and I am really looking forward to college now.”
Saturday’s win may well have served as a college preview as Romero, who was 202-3 career and a four-time Ohio state champion, will attend Labriola’s Big Ten rival Ohio State.
And someone who knows Labriola very well thought agreed.
“That was like a college match,” said Becahi coach Jeff Karam, who sat in the corner with Pennsylvania coach Dave Crowell during Labriola’s bout. “I wanted to coach Mikey one more time, and I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. I drove five hours to get here and will get in my car now and drive five more hours, 10 hours total, but it was worth it. (Romero) was a real tough kid, a real strong kid, it was two top Division I wrestlers.”
Who wrestled like it.
“We were really working hard in those ties,” Labriola said. “I really worked hard to stay in those ties and we were really snapping each other down hard. It may not have looked like it, but it was really hard work. I knew I really had to stay on him; it was a high-energy, high-paced match.”
Labriola was the consistent aggressor, which the referee acknowledged by nailing Romero for stalling in the second period after Labriola had taken two shots to Romero’s none. He was in on a single in the first period, but couldn’t finish, and a second-period double-leg might have worked had not the action carried out of bounds even with college out of bounds rules in play.
But with the score 1-1 and time ticking away in the third period, Labriola went back to the doubl – and hit the jackpot.
“On the second one I had a little more explosiveness and I was stronger snapping him down,” Labriola said. “I am not really good at riding and I wanted to wait a little bit, until later in the match, to use it.”
Romero did escape and took his first shot with 14 seconds to go but Labriola fought it off easily to become the third Becahi wrestler in three years (Luke Karam 2016 and Andrew Dunn 2015) to win at the PWC. Becahi is the only Pennsylvania school that can make that claim.
Labriola made it clear the weekend’s events were a highlight for him.
“This is an awesome event,” he said. “I love big-time matches like this, with all the crowd here. We got to hang out with the USA guys and although it’s competitive, it was nice to be able to hang around with these guys.”
And take their No. 1 rankings.
Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic
USA 28, Pennsylvania 20
160 – Jacob Oliver, Huntingdon dec. Jake Allar, St. Michael Albertville,
170 – Michael Labriola, Bethlehem Catholic dec. Kaleb Romero,
Mechanicsburg, OH, 3-2.
182 – Louie DePrez, Hilton, NY dec. Travis Stefanik, Nazareth, 7-1.
195 – Jacob Warner, Washington Community, IL dec. Jake Woodley, North
220 – Chase Singletary, Blair Academy, NJ dec. Cole Nye, Harrisburg
Bishop McDevitt, 7-3.
285 – Trent Hillger, Lake Fenton, MI dec. Brendan Furman,
120 – Gavin Park, Brookville dec. Brandon Courtney, Desert Edge, AZ, 10-5.
126 – Austin DeSanto, Exeter Township major dec. Justin Mejia, Clovis,
132 – Vitali Arujau, Syosset, NY major dec. Brian Courtney, Athens, 12-2.
138 – Tanner Litterell, Tuttle OK pinned Max Murin, Central Cambria, 2:47.
182 – JNino Bonaccorsi, Bethel Park, md. Jacob Hart, Independence, WV 12-2
145 – Austin O’Connor, Saint Rita, IL pinned Jarod Verkleeren Hempfield,
152 – Cameron Coy, Penn-Trafford dec. Quentin Hovis, Poway, CA, 3-1.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.