HERSHEY >> From Gauge Botero’s dominant and overwhelming top game to Adam Waters’ electrifying brilliance, Faith Christian Academy’s historic state tournament was one for the ages.
Botero (121 pounds) won the program’s first state title and about an hour later, Waters (172) followed with its second. Waters was voted Outstanding Wrestler of the Class 2A PIAA Championships, thanks to his first-period pin of Notre Dame-Green Pond’s returning state champion, Holden Garcia.
The Lions not only won the team title, but scored more than any other team has ever scored in the 2A tournament. Nine medalists for the Lions tied a 2A record, with Bethlehem Catholic, and every single one of them won their placement bout, Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
To boot, they’re all freshmen and sophomores.
“Special would be the word,” Faith coach Ben Clymer said. “I can’t imagine it ever happening again, finishing in all odd numbers. Something is ticking the right way with the kids. I’m really impressed.”
Any explanation would probably be an understatement for how dominant Faith was. Along with its two champs, Chase Hontz (139) and Cael Weidemoyer (152) took third, Kole Davidheiser (107), Mason Wagner (133) and Luke Sugalski (160) were fifth and Arment Waltenbaugh (127) and Jason Singer (189) earned seventh.
But no one did it with as much flair as Waters, who had a technical fall and three pins in the three-day tournament.
“I’m pumped,” Waters said. “It’s definitely the best way you could do it. Pinning a returning state champ in the first period, it’s an excellent accomplishment.”
Waters had defeated Garcia twice previously, but Garcia jumped out and scored the first takedown. If there were any first-time jitters on the big stage, Waters shook them off in a hurry and when he saw an opening to throw a left-handed headlock, he did not miss.
“Coach (Tom) Hontz is always telling us headlocks are a really good move,” Waters said. “When I got my overhook on the left side, I just went with it.”
Botero was dominant in completely different fashion. He didn’t give up a point until 11 seconds left in the third period of the finals. On his way there he shut out a former state champ, Branden Wentzel of Montoursville, 1-0, before overcoming Montgomery’s Brandt Harer, 5-1, in the finals.
“Last year’s semifinal match burned through my head all year, all through the summer,” said Botero, who finished third as a freshman. “It kept pushing me through all the workouts, when I didn’t want to do the workouts or wake up early to do a run. It feels good finally getting that title, being a state champ.”
Becoming the school’s first state champ was hardly on Botero’s radar when he got there.
“I never considered it, coming in,” Botero said. “Growing up, I was never the most athletic and best wrestler. Especially in middle school, I was always a little pudgy kid so it’s exciting to finally get that through all this hard work.”
Chase Hontz shook off a close loss in Friday night’s semifinals and won his final two to end his sophomore campaign on a good note.
“Once I got to the semis, my goal was to be a state-finalist,” Hontz said. “I lost, but I didn’t want to wrestle for fifth. I had to make the next best thing and show that I’m supposed to be there and that I really am top three.”
Weidemoyer had a similar sentiment, after dropping his semi against eventual champ, Conner Harer of Montgomery. The rangy freshman won his next two, scoring eight combined near-fall points.
“I would say it was a good season,” Weidemoyer said. “It’s not where I wanted to be, but I have three more years.”
That is the scariest thought for anyone hoping to contend in 2A. Not only is everyone back next year for Faith, but another star-studded class of freshmen is expected to come in.
For now, though, Faith’s sensational Saturday was the perfect exclamation point on a thrilling season.
Even Waters, the thoughtful son he is, got his father, Scott, the perfect gift.
“It’s my dad’s birthday, so the only thing I wanted to get him was that win right there,” Waters said.
That, along with this season, will be tough to top.