BOYERTOWN — Sometimes a win is a win.
Other times it’s anything but.
Saturday was most certainly one of those times for Ryan Hayes.
The Spring-Ford senior had his sights set on a single opponent — Owen J. Roberts’ Derek Gulotta — for the entire season … or more accurately his entire career.
You could be forgiven for finding that a little crazy, considering Hayes’ 0-8 record against the Wildcats senior.
The losing, it seems, only rallies Hayes, which makes sense from the upbeat, energetic 120-pounder.
“I don’t like losing. Losing is the worst. But any time I lose I want to come back stronger,’ he said. “Every time I lost I would come to the room and go hard.
“In the past week I got ready for him (Gulotta). I wrestled my heart out. I have to give it my all, it’s my last year.’
It culminated for Hayes on Saturday in the Pioneer Athletic Conference Wrestling Championships, his third-period takedown proving the difference as he topped Gulotta, 5-2, in the 120-pound final, earning him the Don Seeley Outstanding Wrestler award in the process while helping Spring-Ford to the team title over defending champ Boyertown.
“It was a big win for me,’ said Hayes, who medaled at the PIAA Championships last year (7th place). “When I was wrestling out there, the crowd was so excited. I had a gut feeling and thought, ‘ Wow, it’s here.”
Gulotta felt the excitement, too.
“He’s a tough kid, I give it to him,’ said Gulotta, who was gracious in defeat in the same way Hayes was in the past.
“He came after me and we got into it, I had some sick scrambles. I like scrambling, it was fun out there. It wasn’t a boring match, there was a lot of action going on.’
As a PIAA medalist in each of his first three seasons, including fourth place at 113 last season, Gulotta (24-6) has become accustomed to being the hunted.
“Every single time after freshman year, I’ve been the guy that kids have been wanting to beat because I set the standard high from my freshman year,’ he said.
It hasn’t been as easy this year after suffering a sprained ankle and hyperextension of his elbow during the Escape The Rock tournament on Jan. 18.
He’s been in action, but he hadn’t faced an opponent like Hayes (32-3).
“It’s kind of hard because I haven’t been out for a third period since Escape the Rock … I haven’t wrestled anyone tough since then and especially coming back to a match like that — I haven’t been in a brawl in a month. And right now, it’s the postseason and you’re supposed to be ready to brawl every match,’ Gulotta said.
The rivals met four times in each of the previous two seasons, in each of the PAC-10, District 1-AAA West and South East Regional finals last year. They did not meet in the regular season, Gulotta sitting out the dual on Jan. 24.
Hayes has been inspired since Shane Warfel, a close family friend and Spring-Ford graduate, died in a single-car crash on Jan. 21.
“I knew that Shane really wanted that win for me. I did it for him,’ Hayes said. “I finally took what I’ve been looking for.’
Entering districts, it’s a bit of a role reversal for the two — Hayes as champion and Gulotta as runner-up — but they still have parallel goals.
“I don’t hang my head about the loss, it’s more looking forward to going to next week and coming back strong from it,’ Gulotta said.
“This isn’t the end of the year whatsoever. I still have districts, I still have regionals and I still have states to prove my point of my senior year.’