OXFORD — If anyone can appreciate the travails of West Chester East’s drought of state qualifiers, it’s the Celenza family.
After 11 total seasons and four trips to regionals between the three Celenza boys, Ryan, Kevin and Corey, Hershey seemed so close, yet so far away.
Finally, during the Sunday morning matinee of the Class 3A Southeast Regional, Corey Celenza broke through with a 5-3 win over Lower Merion’s Christian Hodges to claim the fifth and final spot to the state tournament next week.
“There are no words,” Corey Celenza said. “I was down on myself (Saturday) and I talked to (Downingtown West’s) Doug (Zapf) before the match and he gave me so much confidence. I trusted myself and trusted my instincts.”
The night before, Andrew DiBernardo became the first Viking to qualify for states since 2007 when he reached the 170-pound finals. With a rule that wrestlers can’t compete more than five times in one day, and poor weather postponing Friday night’s action, a dozen matches needed to be wrestled Sunday morning at Oxford High.
Celenza had lost to Hodges the day before, 4-1, in the quarterfinals. Starting in the down position in a 0-0 rematch, the East junior worked a reversal and a pair of near-fall points to head to the third up, 4-0. He gave up a takedown in the third but survived to better his sixth-place finish a year ago and stamp his first trip to the Giant Center in Hershey.
“I can’t wait to get out there,” Celenza said. “I have the confidence now that I can beat good wrestlers and I think it’s gonna be a good tournament.”
Two other locals were in win-or-stay-home matches. Downingtown West’s Nick Lilley (138) used a 12-4 major decision over Souderton’s Harrison Andrade, while Conestoga’s Paul Pelham (220) fell, 1-0, to North Penn’s Owen Verespy, and finished sixth.
Lilley lost a lead to Owen J. Roberts’ Antonio Petrucelli in the semifinals, Saturday, and then was upset by West Chester Henderson’s Luke Phayre, 3-1, in the consolation semis. With his back against the wall, the senior Whippet pulled off a dominant effort to get back to states for the second straight year.
“It was very important,” said Lilley of taking fifth. “I talked to my head coach (Brad Breese) (Saturday) and he said ‘don’t let it end this way.’ That hit home because no one wants to end their senior year at regionals and not make it to the Giant Center. I’m happy I made it there and now anything can happen at that place.”
Avon Grove’s Nick Barnhart capped off a tremendous tournament with a pin over Pennridge’s Evan Widing for third place. An unorthodox wrestler who thrives in the scrambles, Barnhart scored the winning near-fall points in a flurry against West Chester Rustin’s Tyler Kaliner in the consi semis, Saturday, and then negated a 3-0 deficit against Widing with the fall.
“It means everything” Barnhart said of reaching states. “It’s been my goal since the beginning of the season. Kaliner beat me two weeks in a row, but I knew in my head he wasn’t beating me three times in a row. I put all this work in and it paid off.”
Octorara’s Seth Hoopes (120) won his 100th career bout Saturday when he beat Hodges in sudden victory in the consi semis to punch his ticket. Sunday, Hoopes faced off against Spring-Ford’s former fourth-place state medalist, Brandon Meredith, who took third with a 16-3 major decision.
“I was so happy I didn’t know what to think or do,” Hoopes said of his win over Hodges. “I was so happy, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve been wanting this my whole life, to finally have it happens, it means so much to me.”
Joe Shafer (195) finished fourth for the Whippets after losing by fall to William Tennent’s Yusuf Aladinov in the consi final. Shafer got to that point with a 2-1 win over Coatesville’s Alex Raimondo in ride out the day before.
“I was just ecstatic knowing I was going to states and knowing I beat someone I lost to earlier in the season,” Shafer said of the Raimondo bout. “I got a little revenge, but (Raimondo’s) a good guy.”
120- Meredith (Spring-Ford) maj. dec. Hoopes (Octorara), 16-3
145- Barnhart (Avon Grove) pinned Widing (Pennridge), 1:48
152- Flanagan (Council Rock South) dec. D’Arcangelo (Spring-Ford), 1-0
195- Aladinov (William Tennent) pinned Shafer (Downingtown West), 2:51
113- Martin (Neshaminy) dec. Morabito (Methacton), 3-0
120- Celenza (WC East) dec. Hodges (Lower Merion), 5-3
126- Quinn (Owen J. Roberts) dec. Jordan (Neshaminy), 4-2
132- DeFalco (Quakertown) dec. Thompson (Council Rock North), 4-2
138- Lilley (Downingtown West) maj. dec. Andrade (Souderton), 12-4
170- Korbich (Council Rock South) dec. Burns (Strath Haven), 5-3
220- Verespy (North Penn) dec. Pelham (Conestoga), 1-0
285- Holbert (Strath Haven) pinned Bramwell (Ridley), 3:45
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page