Fresh off another sectional title, Exeter’s DeSanto locked in with DIY approach

Austin DeSanto is a real do-it-yourselfer.

Both with his schoolwork, and his body of work on the wrestling mats.

DeSanto is fashioning a memorable conclusion to his scholastic mat career, pursuing a state gold medal with the season shifting to the individual-tournament phase. The Exeter senior has helped set the tone for the program’s 50th year of existence, one highlighted by a perfect run through the Berks Conference’s Division I during the regular season and a first-place team finish in the District 3-AAA Section 1 Tournament this past weekend.

He’s also followed a different path in his academic pursuits. DeSanto is home-schooled under the supervision of his mother, who grades his work and sends it to the high school to meet his graduation requirements.

“I’ve done that my whole way through high school,” he said. “I like it much better. Most definitely. It’s more hands on … one-on-one instead of one-on-24.”

His success in that endeavor is evidenced by the fact he’s been accepted to Drexel University. DeSanto plans to major in sports administration and wrestle for the Dragons’ NCAA Division I program, which currently boasts a 12-6 overall record — 7-3 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association — prior to Sunday’s match with the University of Pennsylvania.

“I want to become a coach,” Austin said. “That’s the big thing right now.”

To that end, he’s closely observing the example set by Exeter head coach Jon Rugg and his staff. They directed the Eagles to first-place finishes at the King of the Mountain tournament at Central Mountain and Conestoga Valley’s Buckskin Classic, a 5-0 run at the school’s Exeter Duals and 4-1 finish at the Parkland Duals.

Most recently, Exeter claimed championships at both the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association (BCIAA) and District 3 Class AAA Duals. Advancing to the PIAA Class AAA Duals, the Eagles achieved a program first with their 36-26 victory over Boyertown in the first round of the competition at the Giant Center in Hershey.

“It helps a lot to see what the coaches do … their tendencies, how they get to wrestlers,” he said.

DeSanto has been setting a stellar example for his teammates during his high-school tenure on the Exeter mats.

His current 181-7 career record (46-0 in 2016-17) is highlighted by 50-win marks his sophomore and junior seasons, after winning 35 as a freshman. He became a four-time District 3-AAA Section 1 champion this past weekend with a sweep of the 126-pound weight class, marked by a 1:26 pin of Oley Valley’s Kyren Turner, a 24-6 technical fall of Wilson’s Anthony Steinmeyer and another 29-11 tech-fall of Governor Mifflin’s Kyle Seibert in the title bout.

He was one of Exeter’s five individual champions, joined by fellow seniors Tyler Harkness (152), Tyler Bagoly (170) and Oscar Daniels (285) and junior Dennis Karas (195). The Eagles also got a silver-medal showing from Jonathan Greenleaf (220), a third from Tyler Borton (160), fourths from Nolan Buck (182), Chris Matthews (120) and Ryan Watts (113) and sixths from Gage Moran (145) and Alex O’Neill (138).

That all helped Exeter finish as Section 1’s team champion, its 234 points well ahead of runner-up Mifflin’s 158. It was the Eagles’ second straight sectional title, having headed Section 4 in 2016.

DeSanto is part of a senior-laden Exeter lineup, which includes Greenleaf, Borton, Buck and Watts alongside Harkness, Bagoly and Daniels. The team’s roster lists a total of 14 grapplers from the Class of 2017.

“A lot of the seniors grew up together. It’s really cool,” he said.

DeSanto noted he came into his senior season with clear-cut plans for improvement.

“My bottom and top (wrestling) are not good,” he said. “In the summer, I was working on the bottom a lot because college kids are tough on top.

“In wrestling, you can always improve.”

The next stops in DeSanto’s post-season run will involve two more visits to the Giant Center, for the Southcentral AAA Regional Feb. 23-25 and the PIAA Class AAA Championships March 9-11.

He will be looking for a third regional title to add to those from the previous two go-rounds — he placed fifth as a freshman — and a third PIAA medal. DeSanto was fifth at 113 his sophomore year, and second at 126 as a junior.

After wrestling 132 during the regular season, DeSanto confirmed his intention to bump down to 126 for the individual-tournament run. His ultimate goal is a rematch with junior world champion Spencer Lee of Franklin Regional, who consigned DeSanto to a state silver medal last year with a second-period technical fall in the bracket’s championship bout.

Lee has three District 7 Section 1, Southwest AAA Regional and PIAA Class AAA championships through his first three years of scholastic competition.

For this post-season, DeSanto will be working to correct one issue from 2016.

“Last year, I got way too excited,” he said. “I’ll be focusing on that this time around.”

* * *

Behind its five gold medalists, Exeter claimed the team title at the District 3 Class AAA Section 1 Tournament at Governor Mifflin last Saturday.

The Eagles won with 234 overall team points. Gov. Mifflin finished second with 158, followed by Wilson (152.5), Cocalico (145) and Reading (120.5). Daniel Boone finished 10th with 58 team points.

Jesse Enck made the most of being Daniel Boone’s lone representative in the title bouts of last Saturday’s District 3-AAA sectional at Gov. Mifflin. The senior posted a 3-1 decision over Exeter’s Jonathan Greenleaf in the 220-pound weight class.

Gov. Mifflin sent three representatives into the final and had one champion. Ben Maack posted a 3:39 win by fall against Conestoga Valley’s Connor Brinton during their bout at 182 for the Mustangs’ lone first-place medal. Dante Cavalucci lost a 6-3 decision against Wilson’s Bailey Funk during their title bout at 160.

Twin Valley got runner-up finishes from CJ Morton at 113 and Mason Bennett at 120.

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