Hawks crown four, take regionals
Entering this weekend's Class AA Southeast Regional tournament, expectations for the Bethlehem Catholic wrestling team were admittedly high.
The Golden Hawks did, after all, capture seven gold medals in last week's 2A District 11 championships.
With the stakes high and a chance to advance to this week's PIAA Championships on the line, the team did not disappoint.
Luke Karam (113), Zeke Moisey (126), Nick Cortopassi (170) and Andrew Dunn (220) all claimed regional titles, while seven others secured spots in Hershey by finishing in the top-five.
For Karam, the second consecutive title comes on the heels of yet another district crown a week ago, no small feat for a sophomore.
"It really means a lot, being able to do exactly what I did last year," Karam said of the win. "Hopefully, I'll just be able to carry that momentum into next week."
Karam certainly impressed throughout the tournament, winning his quarterfinal match and semifinal contest by major decision and technical fall, respectively. But in the finals, Karam once again met Palisades' Jacob Wasser, whom he defeated in last week's district final. Despite breezing through his first two matches, the sophomore was able to hang on for a 2-1 decision win. The victory alone would have given him confidence, but being able to hang on for a close win meant even more.
"I just have the mindset that if I keep pushing and keep attacking, I'll be able to get it and score points," Karam said. "And just being here last year definitely calmed my nerves because I knew what to expect."
Moisey, too knew what to expect in his final.
The senior was matched up with Pius X's Dante Albanese, whom he beat in last week's district championship. But regardless of the opponent, Moisey always has a game plan. And just like last week, he executed.
"My goal was to get three takedowns in the first period and I achieved my goal," the senior said afterward. "After that, I felt like I could just keep pushing the pace and keep getting takedowns, and that's what I did the whole match."
Despite several attempts, Moisey was able to thwart Albanese's attacks and keep the Royals' senior on his heels en route to a 14-8 decision win. Knowing that he can be challenged is something Moisey enjoys.
"I feel like I wrestle better when I have nerves before a match. I feel like it gives me more energy," Moisey said. "Just having a sense of urgency helps."
Another titlist from a week ago, Dunn backed up his performance by dominating in the tournament and finishing it with a first period pin over Pine Grove's Ryan Martin for the championship. While the run of success has been sustained for the junior, he credits a setback earlier this season for getting him on the right track.
"Heading into the postseason, I was riding a winning streak," Dunn said. "But then I took a loss to Jake Gunning of Liberty. It came down to five seconds left and I couldn't' pull it out.
"I really think that loss really helped me to re-evaluate what I need to do in the practice room and what I need to do out on the mat to make sure that I win those matches. I'm just focused on scoring points and putting the guy away."
While Dunn, Moisey and Karam entered with district titles, Cortopassi came in as the runner-up after falling to North Schuylkill's Auston Hummel in last week's final. This time, the senior was on the winning end, picking up a 6-3 decision win over Hummel to claim the regional title.
"This week, I was more aggressive; more heavy-handed," Cortopassi said. "I just tried to take it to him a lot more and it worked out."
Cortopassi certainly didn't have to look far for motivation, knowing how close he came to a title just one week earlier.
"It was kind of a revenge match, I guess you could say," the senior said. "I was really hoping I got this matchup. I worked very hard during practice this week and everything worked out for me."
While it worked out for Cortopassi, Moisey, Dunn and Karam in the finals, several Golden Hawks came up just short in their championship matches.
Joey Gould (120), Mike Labriola (138), Adam Soldridge (160) and Jose Ortiz (182) all took second in their respective weight classes.
For Gould in particular, the experience of winning a district title and advancing to a regional final has been surreal.
"Just being here is incredible," the sophomore said. "Last year, I was in JV the entire season.
"But I've just been working really, really hard everyday and it's paying off."
Labriola, a district champion, faced a rematch with Palmerton's Josh Evans in the final. After pulling out a close win a week ago, the freshman came up short this time, dropping a 5-4 decision. Despite the setback, Labriola has high expectations moving forward.
"I want to place high (at states) and I want to beat him," the freshman said of Evans.
Stephen Maloney (132) and Mason Angstadt (145) each took fourth, while Jake Riegel (106) took fifth to move on to Hershey.
In addition to countless individual achievements, Bethlehem Catholic also finished first in the team standings, amassing 216 points, well ahead of second place Boiling Springs, which finished with 123.