Seniors Coy, Verkleeren claim state wrestling titles
HERSHEY — Penn-Trafford senior Cam Coy came to the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championship with a fresh attitude.
He left Giant Center on Saturday with the same smile he had all weekend and a third PIAA title.
Coy and Hempfield senior Jarod Verkleeren captured state titles with impressive victories on a day that saw Franklin Regional senior Spencer Lee denied with fourth title with a controversial loss.
Coy knows all about controversial endings. He lost his sophomore season to Hempfield's Sam Krivus, who happens to be a good friend and future Virginia teammate, 2-1.
“I remember that match,” Coy said after his 5-2 victory Erie Cathedral Prep sophomore Carter Starocci in the 152-pound final. “People don't remember a controversial call; they remember who got their hand raised.
“I can say that I won my fourth state title (tonight). It's not the way things worked out. I just had to move on.”
Coy wasn't pleased with the way he wrestled at the WPIALs a week ago. But that changed this weekend.
“I expect to start quickly,” said Coy, who is ranked No. 2 in the country by InterMat. “It's something I expect of myself. I wish I could have finished better in the finals. Just getting your hand raised is the most important.”
Even before the Lee loss sent a shockwave through Giant Center and national wrestling community, one of the PIAA's most revered Class AAA finalists, Verkleeren, already understood nothing is a certainty in this sport.
With a 16-5 major decision over Bellefonte senior Brock Port in the finals, Verkleeren claimed his first state title and savored the sweetness of a moment that offset a sour junior campaign at Belle Vernon in which he did not compete in the individual postseason because of a setback with his weight descent plan.
“It's definitely in the back of my mind to just remember what it's like to not be able to wrestle and when I'm out there, know it's a privilege and give my full effort every time I'm out there,” Verkleeren said.
Fueled by that missed opportunity, Verkleeren mowed through most his 2016-17 opponents and established himself in the eyes of several wrestling websites as the best 145-pounder in the country. His last test, Port, held the promise of a tough match — the Bellefonte senior entered the bout with a 39-0 season record and 141-14 mark in his career, which compared favorably to Verkleeren's 134-19. Yet Verkleeren never left the result in doubt.
“I thought, you know, I was the top guy coming in, (so) it probably gave the guys that are underrated some hope that if Spencer Lee went down, a three-time world champ, then they can (pull off an upset) too,” Verkleeren said. “That was a shocker to me, but I had to brush that off and got it done.”
The WPIAL had three other champions.
North Hills freshman Sam Hillegas, 43-0, toppled Seneca Valley junior Louis Newell, 5-2, and North Allegheny senior Jake Woodley, 50-2, downed General McLane senior Ethan Laird, 3-1. Canon-McMillan senior Brendan Furman defeated Kiski Area junior Isaac Reid, 5-3, to win the heavyweight match. It was Woodley's second state title.
Shaler sophomore Ryan Sullivan fell to Downingtown West junior Doug Zapf, 5-2, at 106, and Bethel Park senior Nino Bonaccorsi fell to Nazareth senior Travis Stefanik, 4-3, at 182. Laurel Highlands junior Ian Edenfield fell to Upper Darby senior Brian Kennerly, 3-2, in overtime at 220.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib. Bill West also contributed to this story.