EAST NOTTINGHAM >> On his ceiling, Patrick O’Neill has a reminder of what was.
“It says ‘March 4, you choked, you took sixth. You didn’t go to Hershey,” he said.
But the North Penn junior also gave himself a message of what could be.
“My phone background has been, ‘You will be a regional champ,’ since September,” he said.
Motivation became reality for O’Neill Saturday at Oxford Area High School, as won the 160-pound title at the PIAA Class AAA South East Regional Championships with a 6-0 decision over Strath Haven’s John Crawford.
“It feels great. Going into this season I had my eye on making states and then as the season progressed winning it was an option,” O’Neill said. “You can do whatever you put your mind to honestly.”
O’Neill’s fellow Knight Ryan Cody also took gold at 285 as did Pennridge’s Josh Stillings at 182 and Pope John Paul II’s Ryan Vulakh at 145 as the two-day tournament had most of its action compacted into one due to weather postponing the meet’s opening session Friday.
With several wrestlers hitting their five-match per day limit, the regional was completed Sunday back at Oxford to fill out the top five in each weight that earned qualification to the PIAA Championships which begins Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
North Penn’s Owen Verespy cemented his second-consecutive state berth Sunday, the senior taking fifth place at 220 with 1-0 decision over Conestoga’s Paul Pelham 1-0. Both Corey Morabito of Methacton and Harrison Andrade of Souderton just missed Hershey with losses in their fifth-place matches — Morabito falling 3-0 to Neshaminy’s Zachary Martin at 113 while at 138 Andrade dropping a 12-4 major decision to Nick Lilley of Downingtown West.
Also Sunday, William Tennent’s Yusef Aladinov placed third at 195 with his pin of Downingtown West’s Joe Shaffer at 2:51 while Pennridge’s Evan Widing came in fourth at 145 after getting pinned in 1:48 by Nick Barnhart of Avon Grove.
Saturday, Stillings was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler — his third MOW of this postseason — as the senior Drexel commit won his third consecutive regional title by pinning Boyertown’s Jacob Miller in 1:17 in the 182 final.
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 4, 2018
Stillings began the day with a 12-2 major decision over Sun Valley’s Nicholas Bailey in the quarterfinals, pinned Council Rock South’s Giani Gilch 9-5 in the semis before collecting his 12th pin this season against Miller.
“Well first I got in on a shot and they didn’t have the bout sheet so as I was finishing the shot, they stopped the match and restarted it,” Stillings said of the final. “And then I don’t really know, I took him down, I think I just sweep single and then I did like a bar stack and he fought off his back and then I ran a bar, I pinned him.”
PJP freshman Matt Vulakh joined his older brother is securing a state spot with a second-place finish at 106. Also taking silver was Souderton junior Tyler Williams at 132, Methacton’s Roman Moser at 145 and Nick Chapman of Hatboro-Horsham at 220.
Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Paolo DiSanto (285) and Methacton’s Tonee Ellis (220 finished third in their in their respective weights while the Warriors’ Kibwe McNair (132) and Michael Blakemore (160) came in fourth. Souderton’s Bruno Stolfi is headed to Hershey after getting a third-period takedown to beat Coatesville’s Alex Raimondo 4-2 in the fifth-place match at 195.
“First off I forgot about all my losses. I acted like this was just a regular match,” Stolfi said. “I was able to calm myself and calm the storm and win the match.”
Council Rock South won back-to-back team titles as the Golden Hawks tallied up a total of 141 points. Council Rock North was second at 79.5 followed by Downingtown West (72) and Spring-Ford (69.5).
Methacton’s 64 points earned the Warriors eighth, North Penn tied Boyertown for eight with 52 points with Pope John Paul II (43) finishing 10th. Pennridge (41) was 12th while Souderton (39.5) came in 14th.
Cody joined teammate O’Neill in celebrating gold with a 6-3 decision over Bensalem’s Nick Cooper in the 285 final, giving North Penn multiple regional champs for the first time since 2003 when the Knights had four finish atop the podium.
“It was great to see two guys win regional champ compared to our last regional champ was 2014 and that was only one guy,” Cody said. “So it’s great for the program, very happy. And I want to thank my coaches for helping me out, and Pat, too.”
Cody edged Cooper in sudden victory in the District 1-3A East final while Saturday’s match was decided in the third period as the NP senior broke a 2-2 tie with a takedown and two-point near fall.
“Every overtime match, it’s a close match, you got to respect the kid who you’re wrestling. So I knew he wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, no of course not,” Cody said. “But I try to wrestle to get the pin at all times, get the win at all times so that’s my style, that’s what I do.”
#WRESTLING: @NPenn_Wrestling’s @ryan_cody20 breaks a 2-2 tie in the 3rd period with a takedown & 2-point near fall in the Southeast Regional 285 final vs. Bensalem’s Nick Cooper. @KnightsLoyalty pic.twitter.com/czXLI5nEmA
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 4, 2018
Cody reached the final with a pair of 5-2 decisions, first over Ridley’s Tom Bramwell in the quarters then Lee Holbert of Strath Haven in the semis to seal his second straight PIAA qualification.
O’Neill, meanwhile, is making his first trip to Hershey. After just missing out last year with his sixth-place finish at 160, O’Neill made it to states at the same weight this time with a 7-0 decision over Matt Romanelli of Downingtown East then bested Methacton’s Michael Blakemore in the semifinals by a 3-1 decision.
“The semis is where it all came out of me. I was real excited, that’s when all the nerves, like I was going (to states),” O’Neill said. “It felt good to do that and then just being about to top it off winning the region as well cause there was no nerves. I went into that match having fun. I was already taking the ride but got a better seed for it.
Ryan Vulakh gave Pope John Paul II its first-ever regional title as he won the 145 final with a 16-0 technical fall over Methacton’s Roman Moser at 2:51. The elder Vulakh began Saturday with a 8-3 decision over Pennridge’s Widing then earned a 15-0 tech fall against West Chester Rustin’s Tyler Kalliner at 4:00 in the semifinals.
Moser won three times to reach the 145 final — a 9-1 decision over Truman’s Joseph Goldey in the first round, topped Avon Grove’s Nick Barnhart 4-2 in the quarters then beat Neshaminy’s Jackson Erb in the semis 7-5.
After reaching the 106 final with a pair of decisions, Matt Vulakh fell to CR South’s Kyle Waterman by a 10-2 major decision.
Williams, who heads to Hershey for the second time in three seasons, place second at 132 after getting pinned by Rock South’s Ben Radner in 1:20. Williams had beaten Radner 4-2 in the District 1-3A East final.
“It just wasn’t my day,” Williams said. “I went out there, props to him, he showed up to wrestle, I kind of sat back a little bit, I got a little bit nervous. But the end of the day, we’re all going to states, we’re all chasing the same goal.”
Williams began Saturday with a 15-0 tech fall win in the quarters over Jamison Eadie of West Chester East in 3:53 then picked up a 15-6 major decision over Unionville’s Caden Mareno.
Chapman reached states for a second straight year with back-to-back pins — giving him 83 on his career, a Hatboro-Horsham record — but in the 220 final ran into Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka, the only wrestler to beat him so far this season. The senior Hatter was again dealt a loss by Catka, this time by a 10-1 major decision.
“I wasn’t ready for the headbutting and stuff so I wasn’t ready for that, but out-physicaled me,” Chapman said. “I thought I got in some good shots but couldn’t finish them. But next time I’ll look for that.”
PW’s DiSanto took third at 285 with a 3-1 sudden victory over Garnet Valley’s Tommy Mahone.
For Methacton, Ellis claimed bronze at 220 with a 8-5 win over Skylar McLeod of Pottsgrove, McNair took fourth at 132 after a 4-2 loss to Mareno. Blakemore also placed fourth as West Chester Henderson’s Ray Martin won their 160 third-place match by forfeit.
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