Another season is in the books and what a season it was……………
While we were unable to qualify for the state duals, it did give us a few weeks to lift, train and prepare for our postseason. We gave our boys off the Monday after District Duals and spent our next week training and healing up before preparing for the stretch run of the season.
A week after state duals, we had our JV Districts and did very well there. We ended up finishing third overall in the tournament and came away with a solid number of place winners. John Pineda and Jacob Frank were both runner-ups and had great tournaments. Connor Duffy and Alex Montes finished third and put together strong performances. Ryan Brown, Kendal Flores finished fifth, and Andrew Spaziani came in 6th at 113. Overall a strong performance. East Stroudsburg South always hosts a great JV District tournament for our boys.
Despite what many people may say about the end result of our District XI Varsity tournament, our boys wrestled great. We had the best District tournament we have had in four years. Overall, we had nine place winners and advanced eight of them to regionals. Last year we only advanced four wrestlers to regionals, and the year before, we only advanced three. Casin Corallo ended his Easton High career by placing 6th at 113, Evan Fidelibus 3rd at 138, Jacob Montes 3rd at 145, Max 4th at 182, Craig Stahlecker 3rd at 195, Big John 4th at 220, and RJ Zimmerman 5th at 285. Jimmy Saylor and Darius Joyce were finalists who gave us a chance to extend our streak of District XI champions to 69 years. Both of our boys were defeated in the finals and our program’s streak was broken. While it was disappointing to see it end, streaks are made to end. Those two boys in the finals are great kids and the weight of an entire program’s history does not fall on the shoulders of two kids. In reality, this is a teachable moment to show us all how to move forward and persevere. In the 57th game, Joe DiMaggio did not get a hit and his streak ended. The next day, he picked up his bat, kept hitting, and started a new streak of sixteen games. We will keep hitting. The end of a streak does not diminish its significance. As an Easton wrestler, it belongs to all of us and will always be something we can be proud of.
Regionals continued a strong showing that we had the previous week. Despite strong showings, we lost Big John and Craig before the medal rounds. Regionals are always sad because every year senior’s careers end in that gym. Most of the time we see great kids who we like to root for come up just a hair short. With these two student-athletes we felt the same way. Both have worked so hard and improved so much, that it was sad to see them go. Despite the mixed emotions we all feel as we see a high school career come to an end, an ending does not take away from the joy it was to work with these individuals over the last four years.
Max, Darius, and RJ all reached the consolation semifinals before dropping close decisions to bring them to the 5th place bouts. Darius was an overtime ride out away from qualifying, but still finished a strong fifth place and is primed for a big year next season. The same can be said of Max who rose from a JV wrestler to a 25+ match winner in one off-season. If he improves as much as he did last year, big things can be envisioned next season. RJ finished out with a win to take 5th place. We really enjoyed RJ’s contributions this year. It was not always easy, but he came so far in a year. RJ was not on the team last year and he came out and won over 20 matches for us and got better as the season went on.
In addition to the success of our other guys, Jacob Montes got third place and finally got his opportunity to break through to Hershey. Jacob is such a pleasant young man and we were very pleased to see him finally have a post-season run he could be proud of. He had wrestled very well between districts and regionals and we were glad to see him join his friends in Hershey as a senior.
Jimmy and Evan finished second in the tournament as well. Evan ran into the outstanding Sammy Sasso in the finals and was cradled up early in the match, while Jimmy dropped a 2-1 decision to Travis Stefanik. Despite being disappointed by not repeating as regional champions, both boys were eager to put it behind them and focus on the task at hand next week in Hershey. Jimmy was at Washington St. hill running at 9 AM the next morning.
Hershey week was enjoyable. We had nice weather the week of and Mr. Powell took the boys out for a light run along the Lehigh River on the bike path. We also had light drills, and a few matches. The most important thing to do week of states is to get short quality workouts and make sure the boys are well rested.
We always leave for Hershey on Wednesday. Usually we do a short workout at the high school and then get on the road. Once we get to Hershey, we go straight to the Giant Center and have the boys do a 7 minute drill on each mat to get a sweat going and to get a feel for every mat in the arena. Darius came out with us to give us an even number for workout purposes. It is always nice to bring one of the younger guys out to experience what the competitors go through as they prepare for states.
Jimmy and Evan both started Thursday off strong with decisive falls to end their day and advance to the quarter finals. Jacob had the misfortune of drawing state champion Cameron Coy in his opening round matchup. Jacob battled him throughout the match, kept coming at him, and fought off his back, but was unable to upset Coy. Jacob then dropped his first round wrestle back to a very tough kid from Franklin Regional to end his season. Despite not placing, Jacob was able to make a strong postseason run and give himself a finish that he can truly be proud of. Whatever direction Jacob chooses to take in college, he will do very well in life. Jacob has always been a very enjoyable young man to be around and it is very hard not to laugh or smile when you are around him.
The next day Evan won his quarterfinal match by fall. It looked as if the kid he was wrestling would give him fits throughout the match, but Evan was able to throw him to his back to record the fall. Jimmy would get a rematch from last year against Jonathan Ross. Ross defeated Jimmy in the state quarters last year. Jimmy dominated the match on his feet and really took the action to Ross. Jimmy wrestled the perfect match and effectively executed his game plan to secure his second consecutive state medal and join Evan in the semi-finals the next day.
Saturday always provides an early start when you have semifinalists. Generally we are up very early and get the boys to the arena as quickly as possible for their early match. I think we were all nervous for the boys. I certainly know the boys were nervous, but they have been in so many big match situations before that they thrive in those situations. Evan won a very tense match against a tough Waynesburg kid from the WPIAL in a very strategic 5-4 decision. Evan was losing at one point in the match and used his savvy to put himself in a position to win. His opponent was very athletic and good at duck-unders. Once Evan go into his rhythm, he skillfully took away his opponents offensive openings by wrestling a highly strategic match. Jimmy drew Cole Karam (for the 37th time) and won a solid 3-1 decision. It was apparent how nothing would deny Jimmy a finals opportunity as he fought off a deep double leg late in the match and somehow did not give up any points. Upon the ending to Jimmy’s match there was a tear-jerking moment and a quiet sense of satisfaction upon how proud we were of the boys based on what it took them to reach a Pennsylvania State Wrestling Finals match and the quality of young men that all of the boys on our team are. At that moment we were proud of all the boys, their support systems, and the Easton die-hards who came out to support our boys and their teammates.
Later in the evening, Evan would draw National #2 Ranked two time state champion Luke Pletcher in the PIAA finals. Evan wrestled a very solid controlled match, which kept the match close. Despite a strong performance, Evan dropped a 3-1 decision to finish as a state runner-up. Jimmy also drew a nationally #2 ranked wrestler in the finals. Hayden Hidlay was his opponent who would be heading to North Carolina State next year. Hidlay proved to be one of the toughest kids in the gym in handing Jimmy one of his few losses this season. Jimmy would come back just three nights later in the Easton Lions All-Star Classic and pin Phillipsburg’s DJ Wissing in his patented cradle in the final bout of the evening. There could be no greater curtain call for Jimmy Saylor than pinning a P-burg kid in a cradle in his final match in 25th street gym.
Despite finishing as state runner-ups, both Evan and Jimmy wrestled outstanding tournaments and have quite a bit to be proud of. We were also very proud of Jacob for having made it to states. All three have meant so much to our program over the years.
All of our departing seniors impacted our program to an extent that far exceeds wins, losses, or championships. These are all young men of high character and integrity and it has been a privilege to work with them. These boys have set the bar high by displaying a high standard of character that the youth wrestlers of Easton can look to as true role models. Our post season was such a positive experience for everyone. Our boys have a lot to be proud of.
Thanks for the memories!!!!
Until next season……………………………