Blair Deja Vu: Bucs Win Beast of the East Title; Cornell Recruits Shine

Blair Bucs
Blair Academy

They say that the measure of a man is the way that he responds when things are not going his way. For Blair Academy Head Coach, Jeff Buxton and his team, it is unlikely that heading into day #2 of the Beast of the East tournament, they envisioned themselves in third place in the team standings, trailing fellow perennial powerhouses, Central Dauphin (3x Pennsylvania AAA State Champions) and Wyoming Seminary. However, rather than sulk, the Bucs refocused themselves and got down to business, putting together one of the most impressive second day efforts that I have ever seen in a tournament on either the scholastic or collegiate levels…With nine quarterfinalists to start the morning session, the defending National Champions demonstrated early on that they had no intention of rolling over and playing dead, winning seven of their nine bouts….The semifinal round was much of the same as Blair qualified six wrestlers for the finals, with the lone loss being suffered by freshman heavyweight, Brooks Black, who was pinned in the second period by #1 seed and returning Beast champion, Bobby Telford of St. Mark’s…Now firmly in control of the team race, all that remained was for the Bucs to put an emphatic exclamation mark on the snowy winter’s day…Claiming five individual champions, I’d say that they did this and quite a bit more, running away from the crowd to earn their second major team title in as many weeks (won the Walsh Ironman last Saturday), thus solidifying their position atop the national rankings

Winning titles for the Bucs were 112-pound junior Evan Silver (3-0 over Tyler Pendergast of St. Mark’s), 119-pound sophomore Mark Grey (a 2-1 victor in the first rideout period over fab frosh Brandon Jeske of St. Christopher’s), 140-pound senior Chris Villalonga, 152-pound senior Jesse Shanaman (a 6-5 rideout winner over Woodward’s Matt White), and 189-pound senior Mike Evans (who defeated Super 32 Champion, Jamie Callender of Council Rock North, 5-2)….With the exception of Shanaman, who earned the top spot on podium for the first time in his career this afternoon, all of the Blair’s champions were repeat titlists…For Villalonga, the #3 recruit in the nation (Cornell bound), his 9-4 victory over Codey Combs of Sussex Central marked the third time that he has successfully earned individual glory under the roof of the Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware. Villalonga entered this year’s tournament as one of two wrestlers in contention for the rare three peat (the other being future college teammate Marshall Peppelman from Central Dauphin)…By virtue of his win in the finals, the future Big Red wrestler joined Blair teammates Silver and Evans , as well as Wyoming Seminary senior heavyweight, Mike McMullen (a 4-3 winner over Telford) as the only wrestlers to win double gold at the two most prestigious tournaments in the nation, the Ironman and the Beast….McMullan’s teammate, Simon Kitzis (130), who tallied the only takedown of the match in his 3-1 sudden victory win over Sussex Tech’s Wendell Cannon, joined the aforementioned Blair quarter as a repeat champion.

Pulling two of the biggest upsets of the finals were Cox High School’s 145-pounder Ben Dorsay and Garnet Valley’s 215-pounder, Matt Idelson….Dorsay, pitted against returning Beast Champion/3x BOE finalist, top-seeded Anthony Baldosaro (Eastern Regional; committed to the University of Iowa), secured a takedown in each of the first two periods to lead 4-1 heading into the final two minutes. A Baldosaro escape early in the third period would cut the deficit in half, but the future Hawkeye would be unable to penetrate the defense of Dorsay, falling 4-2….At 215, Idelson came into this weekend as a virtual unknown. He will leave Delaware as a household name. Unseeded when the tournament began on Friday, the Garnett Valley wrestler put together one heck of a weekend, earning his spot in the finals by upsetting the #3 seed (Blair’s Dillon Hoffman) in the opening round, scoring a 10-0 major decision over the #11 seed Paul Suhey, and then rebounding from an early 5-0 deficit to pin fellow unseeded wrestler, Robert Basile in the semifinals….Now on the big state, Idelson would put the glass slipper finish on his Cinderella story weekend, defeating top seed/top-10 ranked wrestler Nate Gaffney of Connellsville, 6-4 in the title bout.

Just escaping upset by the skin of his teeth was the previously mentioned Peppelman. Surrendering a takedown early in the match, the #4 overall recruit in the land evened the bout against a determined Nick Visicaro (Long Branch) at two apiece with an escape to begin the second period…With the match still deadlocked at 2-2 heading into the final period, the Central Dauphin senior, considered one of, if not the premier rider/tilter on the scholastic level, would need to rely on his ability from the top position. Well aware of the fact that an escape by Visicaro could very well be the difference between winning his third consecutive Beast title or tasting the defeat for the first time in a long while, Peppelman responded strongly, riding out the entire two minute span to force sudden victory…It would be here that Peppelman would put the finishing touches on what has been an amazing career at the BOE tournament, converting a high-c for the takedown to emerge with the 4-2 victory. In winning the 160-pound title, Peppelman became the third Cornell recruit to hoist the hardware, joining Villalonga and Shanaman who had won at 140 and 152 respectively.

Winning their second career Beast of the East titles, although not consecutively were 130-pound champion Nick Schenck (St. Mark’s) and 171-pound champion Kenny Courts (Central Dauphin)…For Schenk, the return to the top step of the podium was a long one. Having won the 103-pound weight class as a freshman in 2006, Shenck’s patience finally paid off as he completed the bookends with a 3-2 rideout victory over top-seeded Sam Sherlock. The loss by Sherlock marked the second straight year that the Penn State signee had advanced all the way to the finals before losing in the rideout period. Last season, he was the runner-up to Villalonga….Tied 1-1 after the sudden victory period, Schenck started the first 30 second period and bottom and quickly secured a reversal to give himself the 3-1 edge. He would hold Sherlock down the remainder of the period to place himself half a minute away from triumph. Given his opportunity on bottom, Sherlock was able to cut the lead in half with an early escape. However, his comeback effort was not meant to be as the St. Mark’s wrestler effectively fought off all attacks.

For Courts, the return to the top must have felt like a million bucks…Two years ago, while in the midst of what some were hailing as the finest freshman campaign in Keystone State history, the then 135-pound Courts had just finished demolishing the field, scoring bonus points in nearly all of his matches en route to the BOE title. Unfortunately, that would be the last time that the Central Dauphin wrestler would compete in 2007, as a knee injury sustained during the tournament would put a premature end to his season. Last season, a visibly bigger Courts was successful in making it all the way to the semifinals of the Beast of the East before losing a back and forth decision to Kyle Lang (currently a freshman at Ohio University)…With a purpose in his heart, the 2009 PA AAA state runner-up again, Courts, cruised to the finals, earning two tech falls, a pin, and 10-5 decision along the way. Meeting him on center stage was a familiar opponent, Cumberland Valley’s Tristan Warner, a wrestler that Courts had wrestled three times during the 2009 season (2-1 advantage for Courts)….In what many believe may have been the first of a possible five matches against one another this season, the top-seeded Courts extended his winning streak against Warner to three in a row, utilizing a trio of takedowns to walk away with the 6-3 decision victory.

Also winning titles this afternoon were 103-pounder Zach Bridson (Timberland) and 125-pounder Devin Carter (Christiansburg). It was Bridson, capitalizing on a pair of takedown and escapes that deprived Blair Academy of a perfect finals round, defeating Bucs’ sophomore, Max Hvolbeck 6-4 in the title match….For Carter, this weekend was all about getting himself back to the winning ways that has made him one a top-15 recruit. One week removed from losing in the Ironman finals to #1 overall recruit, Logan Stieber, Carter was in total control from the second the whistle blew, scoring early and open on his way to the 9-2 decision over Nazareth’s Zachary Horan. The victory meant that after two unsuccessful attempts in 2007 and 2008, the Virginia Tech signee would finally earn the Beast title that had eluded his grasp during his sophomore and junior seasons

McMullan was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, fighting off a Telford reversal attempt at the buzzer to preserve the victory over the future Iowa Hawkeye….The fourth member of the Cornell recruiting class competing this weekend, 189-pounder Billy George (Long Branch), finished fourth, surrendering an escape in the ultimate rideout period to Andre Petroski in the bronze medal bout…Blair Academy super-freshman, Black continued the amazing start to his high school career, finishing 3rd by injury default.  Black claimed the bronze at the Ironman as well.

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