HERSHEY - He knows there is only one place to go, and that's up.
"It's good that I improved from fourth to second," said Pennridge junior Josh Stillings, who earned a silver medal at 160 pounds Saturday night at the Giant Center at the PIAA Class 3A tournament. "Next year, the only way for me to improve is to be first, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to do that."
Stillings worked his way through the bracket, winning three matches, including a 6-3 semifinal win over Penn Manor's tough Jonah Barley, to reach the final against unbeaten junior Trent Hidlay of Mifflin County, a state runner-up in 2016.
Hidlay (41-0) struck early with a slick ankle-pick takedown just 10 seconds in and increased his advantage to 5-1 with another ankle pick midway through the middle period.
From there, Stillings tried to battle back, but ultimately fell 5-3.
"What a great tournament Josh had," Pennridge coach R.P. Norley said. "He has another year to come back up here and he'll learn from this and grow. He has a really good head on his shoulders and will continue to work hard to improve."
"I'm going to try to get bigger and stronger," Stillings said. "I had a good draw and a good tournament, but I didn't reach my goal. That's going to help drive me for next year."
Teammate Matt Parker, who placed second last year, was third this time after a loss in Saturday morning's semifinals sent him to the consolations.
"This has been the hardest day of my life," said Parker, who is headed to Lehigh to wrestle. "I've worked my whole life to be a state champ and it didn't happen. This is probably the worst day of my life, but I won't let it happen again. I'm blessed to be able to wrestle, but I worked so hard to be No. 1, not No. 3."
In his match for third, Parker (a three-time state medalist) trailed Central Dauphin's Chris Wright by a point heading into the third period, but used a quick takedown to grab the lead and then rode Wright out to win 4-3 and clinch the bronze.
"That was the hardest thing I've ever done," said Parker, when asked what it was like to have to bounce back after being eliminated from gold medal contention. "I'm not about giving up. Now I just have to keep moving forward."
For North Penn senior Colin Shannon (152), reaching the podium here in Hershey had been the goal since the start of the season and he never wavered.
He also did it as he placed sixth, falling to Belle Vernon's Brock Godzin 8-5 in his consolation finale.
"I'm proud of all the hard work I put in and proud to have been a part of the North Penn team for four years," Shannon said. "I'm really sad that it's all over."
In his final match, Shannon had to battle through a nosebleed and banged-up right leg that left him limping.
"It's just the wear and tear you have and everybody goes through it," Shannon said. "There are no excuses; you just have to do all you can out there. It feels great to get a state medal. Now I have to try and accept the fact that it's over, and that will be hard to do."
On Thursday night, Central Bucks East's Collin Stevens (182) found himself losing in the third period of his consolation match and facing an early exit from the tournament.
However, Stevens was able to get a pin to stay alive and he was still standing Saturday night on the podium after placing eighth.
"It feels really good," Stevens said. "In the two years before this, I got to regionals and didn't win a match either time. I was just really happy to be here at states this year (as a senior). After the first day, I told myself I could place, and that I just had to wrestle as hard as I could."
In Class 2A, Palisades sophomore Nathan Haubert finished fourth at 145.
Haubert, the Southeast Regional runner-up, dropped a 3-1 overtime decision to Freedom Area's Kody Komara in the third-place bout.
After an exchange of escapes in the second and third periods, Komara scored the winning takedown in the one-minute overtime.
Haubert was not happy afterward and politely declined comment.
Coach Bob Schlegel said his wrestler pushed the action for five minutes, but that Komara did well defensively. Schlegel noted that the 145-pound weight class was loaded, with seven returning medalists.
"It's bittersweet," the coach said. "I think Nathan wrestled very well. He lost an overtime decision and a one-point decision against two quality kids. He had three wins in a row after losing in the quarterfinals. That shows a lot of character and how tough he is physically and mentally."
Haubert finished the season 37-4 and has a career record of 68-9.
"He did a really good job. Everybody is very proud of him, and he should be proud of himself," Schlegel said.
Last season, as a freshman, Haubert qualified for states at 126, but did not participate because of an illness.
District One had four finalists in Class 3A - Downingtown West junior Doug Zapf (106), Council Rock South senior Zack Trampe (132), Stillings and Upper Darby senior Brian Kennerly (220) - and all but Stillings took home gold medals.
The biggest roar of the night came at 126 pounds, where unbeaten Exeter senior Austin DeSanto shocked Franklin Regional's Spencer Lee 6-5 with a takedown at the buzzer in the biggest upset in state wrestling history.
Lee, a three-time junior world champion, entered the match as a three-time state champ with a 144-0 career record, only to see DeSanto (Drexel) put the only blemish on his brilliant career.
To try and put DeSanto's win in perspective, consider that Lee beat him 15-0 in last year's state final at 120. That loss was the only one for DeSanto in two seasons (he went 103-1 as a junior and senior).
DeSanto was named the Outstanding Wrestler.
The "next" Lee, undefeated North Hills (District Seven) freshman Sam Hillegas (43-0), won the 113-pound title in Class 3A over 2016 state runner-up Louis Newell of Seneca Valley 5-2. ... Reynolds won the Class 2A team title and Harrisburg's Bishop McDevitt was second. ... The Outstanding Wrestler in Class 2A was Central Cambria's Max Murin (138), who finished the season 40-0. ... Northampton sophomore Julian Chlebove (120), who beat Parker in last year's final at 113, won his second state title and outscored his four opponents 41-3 in doing so. ... Nazareth, which won the Class 3A state dual-meet title a few weeks ago, also captured the team title here while Bethlehem Catholic (which lost to Nazareth in the D-11 dual-meet finals and the state dual-meet finals) was second. ... District Seven (suburban Pittsburgh) had 11 finalists (and five champs) in Class AAA while District 11 had six (with four champs). District Three, a perennial state power, had just one in DeSanto.