NEWARK, Del. -- It was a baker's dozen for No. 1 Blair Academy, N.J., this weekend at the Beast of the East, as they won a 13th consecutive team title and 17th in the 20 years this event has been held. The Buccaneers scored 309 team points with 12 placers, 152 points more than second placer Wyoming Seminary, Pa., who is ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Even with that level of dominance, it could have been more. Blair Academy only won two weight class titles -- No. 6 Russ Parsons at 152 pounds and No. 2 Brooks Black at 285. They had a trio of runner-up finishes, those coming from No. 3 Matthew Kolodzik at 120, No. 11 P.J. Klee at 138, and No. 6 Mason Manville at 138. Four wrestlers finished third, another pair in fourth, and one took eighth.
"Yeah (we were the dominant team), but (it could have been better)," said Blair Academy head coach Charles Danhof. "There are always things to work on, and we can get even better going forward."
Parsons made it an Ironman/Beast double with his 7-6 finals victory over Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic, N.J.). He jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two periods with a first-period takedown and second-period reversal. However, midway through the third period, Walsh hit a headlock toss and put Parsons on his back in danger of getting pinned.
"You have got to be kidding me," was the reaction of Parsons to being put on his back. "I didn't come all the way to the finals just to be pinned (especially from ahead)." He rolled his way through, got an escape, and an immediate go ahead takedown.
Walsh did get a late match escape, but couldn't muster further scoring as Parsons earned the victory. "It feels great," said Parsons about winning both the Ironman and Beast this year.
Black became the eighth wrestler in Beast of the East history to be a three-time champion, with Mark Grey last year being the only one to win four titles in this tournament. This victory was a very tight match, 2-1 in the tiebreaker over No. 7 (at 220) Aaron Bradley (Nazareth, Pa.). It also was a third Ironman/Beast double for Black.
"It feels good," said Black about the accomplishment. "However, the finals match was a bit frustrating." Bradley and Black had grown up wrestling each other, so Black said that might have been part of it as well.
Kyle Snyder (Photo/Rob Preston)Joining Black as a three-time Beast of the East champion was junior Kyle Snyder (Good Counsel, Md.), the nation's No. 1-ranked wrestler at 220 pounds. He was the seventh three-timer in tournament history, and won all of his matches by pin (three) or technical fall (two). That gave him the honor of being the wrestler who scored the most team points in the tournament with 35 in all.
The championship match was a 22-6 technical fall victory in 4:27 over Zach Chakonis (Don Bosco Prep, N.J.). Snyder had ten takedowns in the match, including a barrage of six in the second period. "It's the same story for me, just score points and have fun," said Snyder about his performance in this tournament."
Now having a third title, the thought of joining Grey as a four-timer at the Beast crept into his mind. "I guess I'm excited about it, but there's a lot of this season ahead; however, it's a great goal to have for next season."
However, it was a fellow junior from Maryland who earned the Oustanding Wrestler honor, that being No. 7 Alfred Bannister (Bishop McNamara, Md.), who tossed No. 6 Mason Manville (Blair Academy, N.J.) to his back for the pin at the 1:50 mark of the final at 138 pounds. This came after Manville had given up zero points in five matches to get to the final, including a 1-0 semifinal victory over No. 5 Tyson Dippery (Central Dauphin, Pa.).
Bannister had scored on an earlier takedown as well in the match against Manville, so he was showing the ability to get his offense going against even an elite positional and defensive wrestler. "I've got a unique style on my feet, unlike anyone else, and I have supreme confidence in that ability."
When asked about the pin in the final, and then getting Outstanding Wrestler, Bannister laughed in shock and elation. It was hard to express into words, but he said, "It's the greatest feeling ever."
No. 1 in the nation Eric Morris (182) was the lone champion for Wyoming Seminary, he beat No. 4 Brett Harner (Norristown, Pa.) 5-1 in overtime -- a rematch of a 3-1 overtime victory for Morris in the semifinal of the Ironman. It was also a repeat title for Morris in his third straight Beast finals appearance.
"It feels great, a huge accomplishment, couldn't be happier," said Morris about being a repeat Beast of the East champion. "Though it was a tough match in the final, it was good to face (Harner) again so I could execute the stuff I worked on coming off the last match (against him)."
The Blue Knights had five other wrestlers join Morris as place finishers to score 157 points in a second place effort. "We went 5-1 in the medal round, which is always a good feeling," said head coach Scott Green. "However, there are things to address going forward between lineup issues, injuries, and continuing to step up in the big spots."
Morris and Snyder were joined by three other top-ranked wrestlers to win titles this weekend: Nick Suriano (Bergen Catholic, N.J.) at 106 pounds, Nathan Tomasello (CVCA, Ohio) at 120, and Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Va.) at 126.
Suriano was untested in four of his five matches, though the final was relatively tight 4-2 victory over No. 3 Austin Assad (Brecksville, Ohio). He scored a first-period takedown and second-period reversal to really take the match out of play. "It's kind of the same, the goal is always first place," said Suriano about being a freshman in his first major in-season tournament after a litany of titles coming through youth, junior high, and even the Super 32 two months ago. "I'm always training to win, and I never quit."
It was a quarterfinal match against Tommy Aloi (Forest Park, Va.) that was Suriano's toughest. He was down 4-1 after the first period, as he was caught in a headlock toss for two-and-two, but rallied for a 9-7 win getting the last takedown right at the horn in the third period. "It was a wake-up call," said Suriano of Aloi's headlock toss, "I had wrestled him before (a 9-3 victory in the first day of the Super 32), and knew it was coming, but he still got it."
Unlike the Ironman of two weekends ago, which was all domination, the Beast of the East was a different story for Tomasello. In both the semifinal, a 6-5 victory over No. 4 Sam Krivus (Hempfield Area, Pa.), and the 8-7 win over No. 3 Kolodzik in the final he gave up the first takedown. "Though I don't want to ever be scored on, it kind of helped me to relax," said Tomasello. "I was able to then get it going on the attack."
In fact, both matches were tied at 3-3 after the first period, as Tomasello countered the early takedown against with a takedown of his own within the first two minutes. Against Kolodzik, whom he pinned in the second period of the Ironman final two weekends ago, he led 8-5 midway through the third before a penalty point and escape cut it down to 8-7. Then Kolodzik was in extremely deep on a shot, and then almost scored in short time on the resulting scramble.
"I knew I had to fight through the situation, if I gave up I would most likely lose," said Tomasello about the scramble. "Just didn't want to have all my work in the match going for naught."
After finishing runner-up each of the last two years, and getting the elusive Ironman title two weekends ago, all that was left for Dance was to pick up that Beast title. For two-plus periods against No. 3 Ryan Diehl (Trinity, Pa.), it looked like things were in cruise control with a 7-3 lead as Dance had racked up three takedowns. However, in one sequence it all changed, as Diehl got a takedown and roll through tilt to force overtime at 7-7. Dance then answered back with championship form to get the takedown in overtime for the 9-7 victory.
"I've been training harder (this year) than last year," said Dance about the difference in getting those elusive Ironman and Beast titles. "I felt really good about the first four-plus minutes, but just let a bit when Diehl capitalized, though I'm relieved to have then recovered."
The host state of Delaware was able to have a champion in back-to-back years and for the sixth time in the last seven years when No. 5 Brent Fleetwood (Smryna) won the 113-pound weight class with an 8-1 victory over No. 14 Aaron Assad (Brecksville, Ohio), but it was the semifinal and round of 16 matches were the much tighter ones.
"There was some added pressure trying to win Ďat home'," said Fleetwood, "but I'm so glad to have brought it home for Delaware and Smyrna High School (first champ in 16 years)." In terms of the finals match, "I opened up and just went after it, forgetting about the previous matches."
No. 10 Garrett Peppelman (Central Dauphin, Pa.) won the 160 weight class with a 3-2 victory over No. 6 Myles Martin (McDonogh, Md.) keyed by a takedown midway through the third period. Garrett joins older brother Marshall, now at Cornell, as a Beast of the East champion -- though Marshall won three of them.
"It was great to win in front of my whole family. Marshall and Walter (a 2007 Beast runner-up) were coaching me up the whole time," said Garrett Peppelman, whose other older brother Colton placed seventh at 170 pounds this weekend.
"I remembered my brother (Marshall) always hanging up his ornament (one of the awards given for winning a Beast title) on the family Christmas tree, and now I can hang one of my own up."
Rounding out the weight class champions were repeat weight class champions No. 4 Brandon Jeske (Cox, Va.) at 132 and No. 3 Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Va.) at 170. No. 8 (at 138) T.J. Miller (Camden Catholic, N.J.), and No. 2 Ryan Solomon (Milton, Pa.) won maiden Beast titles at 145 and 195 respectively.
Jeske became a repeat champion with the 7-2 victory over No. 11 Klee, keyed by a first-period takedown and near falls in each of the opening two periods. He also went more or less untested over the six matches this weekend. "I won the title in training before the tournament, putting in all the work beforehand," he said.
"It shows a lot of character (to repeat). The second one is harder and more difficult mentally, because (the opposition) is all after you."
Epperly was unchallenged, but for a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinal round over Joey Balboni (David Brearley, N.J.). The finals match though was total domination from start to finish in a 9-0 victory over Quentin Hiles (Brecksville, Ohio). Takedowns in the first and third augmented by near falls in the first and second got the job done for Epperly.
"It's even better than last year," was his comment about being a repeat champion. "The matches last year were much closer, but this year I feel so much better and have been working so much harder, and was prepared to do what I did this weekend."
Miller opened his Beast tournament with four pins heading into a semifinal date with defending champion Dylan Milonas (Blair Academy, N.J.), who is ranked No. 8 nationally. Though Milonas got the first takedown, it was Miller who responded back with a headlock toss by the end of the first period on the way to a 12-6 victory, which was a clear domination.
"I love this tournament, it gets me excited to come here," said Miller, who placed sixth here at 125 pounds as a freshman in his previous appearance. "I was glad to be back here."
Then, the final was kind of a tough thing for Miller, as he had to face long-time practice partner Jack Clark (McDonogh, Md.), both wrestlers being natives of the Philadelphia metro area. However, it was Miller who came home with the 4-1 victory keyed by a second-period cradle.
"It feels great," added Miller about winning the title. "It's been a long time since I won one of these big tournaments, glad to be back on the top step of that podium."
In his first Beast appearance, Solomon defeated No. 8 Raymond O'Donnell (Saucon Valley, Pa.) 3-1 keyed by a first-period takedown to get his school's first ever title in this event. "It's great to have our team be invited to this (prestigious) event, and for me to be our school's first champ in this event is just awesome."
Team Standings (Top Ten):
1. No. 1 Blair Academy, N.J. 309
2. No. 2 Wyoming Seminary, Pa. 157
3. No. 17 Massillon Perry, Ohio 144
4. No. 49 Brecksville, Ohio 142
5. No. 25 Central Dauphin, Pa. 120.5
6. No. 30 McDonogh, Md. 113.5
7. No. 41 Bergen Catholic, N.J. 109.5
8. No. 42 Christiansburg, Va. 101.5
9. No. 47 Don Bosco Prep, N.J. 100
10. Good Counsel, Md. 99
Other ranked teams: 11) No. 29 Bethlehem Catholic, Pa. 87, 19) No. 38 Colonial Forge, Va. 68
106: No. 1 Nick Suriano (Bergen Catholic, N.J.) dec. No. 3 Austin Assad (Brecksville, Ohio), 4-2
113: No. 5 Brent Fleetwood (Smyrna, Del.) dec. No. 14 Aaron Assad (Brecksville, Ohio), 8-1
120: No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (CVCA, Ohio) dec. No. 3 Matthew Kolodzik (Blair Academy, N.J.), 8-7
126: No. 1 Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Va.) dec. No. 3 Ryan Diehl (Trinity, Pa.), 9-7 SV
132: No. 4 Brandon Jeske (Cox, Va.) dec. No. 11 P.J. Klee (Blair Academy, N.J.), 7-2
138: No. 7 Alfred Bannister (Bish. McNamara, Md.) pinned No. 6 Mason Manville (Blair Academy, N.J.), 1:50
145: No. 8 (at 138) T.J. Miller (Camden Catholic, N.J.) dec. Jack Clark (McDonogh, Md.), 4-1
152: No. 6 Russ Parsons (Blair Academy, N.J.) dec. Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic, N.J.), 7-6
160: No. 10 Garrett Peppelman (Central Dauphin, Pa.) dec. No. 6 Myles Martin (McDonogh, Md.), 3-2
170: No. 3 Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Va.) maj. dec. Quentin Hiles (Brecksville, Ohio), 9-0
182: No. 1 Eric Morris (Wyoming Seminary, Pa.) dec. No. 4 Brett Harner (Norristown, Pa.), 5-1 SV
195: No. 2 Ryan Solomon (Milton, Pa.) dec. No. 8 Raymond O'Donnell (Saucon Valley, Pa.), 3-1
220: No. 1 Kyle Snyder (Good Counsel, Md.) tech. fall Zach Chakonis (Don Bosco Prep, N.J.), 22-6 (4:27)
285: No. 2 Brooks Black (Blair Academy, N.J.) dec. No. 7 (at 220) Aaron Bradley (Nazareth, Pa.), 2-1 TB