For the third week in a row, national powers Nazareth and Bethlehem Catholic squared off with a title on the line. BECA had won the East Penn Conference, while Nazareth turned the tables by grabbing a District XI crown. The rubber match would take place in Hershey with a PIAA AAA state title at stake. Following a 2-1 decision by Nazareth’s Zach Kiefer in the match’s final bout, the scoreboard read 29-29 but the celebrating was starting on the Blue Eagles’ bench because Nazareth held the tiebreaker criteria with an 8-6 lead in bouts won. Kiefer was just one of several stars of the day for the Blue Eagles. Sean Pierson gutted out an overtime victory at 113, Ryan O’Grady secured bonus points in an 8-0 victory over PA state medalist Zach Glenn, and freshman Nate Stefanik scored a critical 4-2 victory at 145lbs to ignite a late Nazareth rally. After Bethlehem Catholic had surged to a 29-14 lead following pins by Luke Carty and Jarrod Papcsy, Stefanik turned the tide as Nazareth won the final four bouts to knock off the defending state champs. Nazareth, who won their first PIAA state dual title since 2007, also recorded victories by Andrew Cerniglia (106), Sammy Sasso (152), Brock Wilson (160) and Travis Stefanik (220), while Cade Wilson saved a valuable bonus point at 182 by avoiding a fall against the nation’s number one ranked wrestler at 170lbs, Mikey Labriola.
After falling to BECA in the quarterfinals, Kiski Area stormed through the consolations defeating Owen J. Roberts, Canon-McMillan and Council Rock South before capping their run with a convincing 41-21 victory over Erie Cathedral Prep for third place. Darren Miller (106), Noah Levett (126), Joe Blumer (138/145) and Vinny Romano (170/182) all went 5-0 to lead the Cavaliers. Council Rock South also had a nice showing in Hershey, defeating Canon-Mac and Cathedral Prep before falling to Nazareth and Kiski to bow out of the tournament. Zack Trampe (132/138), Cary Palmer (138/145) and Joe Doyle were undefeated for the Golden Hawks, with Doyle recording the needed fall in the final bout to secure a 30-29 victory over Canon-McMillan in the most exciting bout of the preliminary rounds. Another nail-biter occurred in the consolation semifinals, as Cathedral Prep held off North Allegheny 27-26. This back and forth match came down to the final bout, which saw Dazion Casto fighting off bonus points and a near pin in the final 10 seconds against North Allegheny star Eric Hong to secure the victory for Prep.
In AA action, Reynolds dominated the competition, sweeping four matches by an average score of 54-13 including a 54-18 victory over Northern Lebanon in the title match. Reynolds had six different wrestlers go undefeated over the weekend, led by sophomore Beau Bayless who recorded falls or technical falls in all four of his matches. The story of the small school competition, however, was the Cinderella Northern Lebanon squad. The Vikings, who had finished third at Districts to grab the last qualifying spot out of District 3, upset Brookville, Southern Columbia, and Bishop McDevitt in succession to reach the finals. Northern Lebanon’s semifinal victory over District 3 champ McDevitt was decided on criteria with the Vikings winning two bouts in sudden victory and gaining a key win by Colin Leonard over Crusader freshman Tyler Martin, 12-8, at 120lbs. Southern Columbia bounced back from their quarterfinal defeat to the Vikings with four victories in the consolations and took third place with a 33-29 defeat of defending state champion Brookville.