Derry star is aiming for another wrestling title
On Dec. 29, 2008, a 103-pound freshman from Derry stepped onto the mat at Canon-McMillan for his first-ever match at the famously tough Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament.
"I was pretty nervous," Jimmy Gulibon said. "I wasn't too good with my nerves back then."
But Gulibon pinned Parkersburg's (W.Va.) Brent Wilson in that first-round bout, won his next three matches for the tournament title and hasn't had many anxious feelings on the mat since.
With the two-day event beginning Thursday, the three-time WPIAL and PIAA champion Gulibon has a chance to join an exceptionally exclusive club. The senior 126-pounder can become just the fourth grappler to win four titles at Powerade, regarded as one of the toughest tournaments in the country.
It hasn't been long since this type of history was made. Last season, Franklin Regional's Nico Megaludis pulled off the feat — and Gulibon was rooting for his soon-to-be Penn State teammate all the way.
"It was incredible," Gulibon said. "He definitely earned it. He works so hard and puts so much into the sport."
For himself, Gulibon is slightly more reserved about going after the rare achievement.
"It'd be pretty neat to win, but I'm just going to go in and take it one match at a time, wrestle hard and come out with a win," he said. "If not, I need to work harder to get better. ... It's awesome competition, and it's a great way to prepare before the state tournament."
And the field at this year's Powerade may be as good as its ever been.
Making its first appearance at the Powerade is national powerhouse Blair Academy (N.J.). Along with finishing as the top-ranked team in the country nine times, the elite program is the winner of the past 32 national prep titles. With five champions, the New Jersey Prep School also won the title earlier this month at the Beast of the East Challenge at the University of Delaware.
Host school Canon-McMillan, last year's Powerade team champ, welcomes the challenge.
"We're honored to have them here at the Powerade," Big Macs coach Chris Mary said. "It'll be good for all programs to get the competition they're going to bring. And with (2011 PIAA team tournament champion) Central Dauphin coming back, it's going to be brutal as always."
As of last week, Blair Academy was the No. 1-ranked squad in the nation by InterMatWrestle.com and Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. Canon-McMillan is ranked No. 7 nationally by WIN and has three returning Powerade champions in Colt Shorts (103 in 2010), Connor Schram (112) and Cody Klempay (285).
"We want to beat them," said Klempay, a senior. "We want to be first, and we have the guys to do it."
Along with Gulibon and Canon-McMillan's trio, three other wrestlers will be defending Powerade titles: Walsh Jesuit's (Ohio) Nate Skonieczny (135), La Salle College's Matt Cimato (140) and Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller (152).
"Once you win Powerade or even place well in Powerade, you know you can beat anybody," Klempay said. "Teams come from all over the country to compete in such a high-caliber tournament."