HERSHEY - There are different paths to the podium. Council Rock South's Kyle Waterman and Council Rock North's Cameron Robinson took vastly different routes, even though both led to fifth-place at the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships on Saturday night.
Waterman won a 2-0 decision over Ben Monn of Cumberland Valley at 106 pounds. Later, Robinson captured a 9-2 victory over Nazareth's Nathan Stefanik at 138 pounds. Both Waterman and Robinson are just sophomores, so there are still two more years to take different paths and climb higher.
Also winning medals for a top eight finish were Council Rock South senior Ben Radner, who took seventh at 132 pounds, William Tennent senior Yusuf Aladinov (7th at 195), and Harry S. Truman junior Gunnar Fuss (8th at 126).
Waterman went to bed on Friday night knowing he was one win away from a state final, after winning his first match on Thursday then putting up another on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals.
Early Saturday morning, he found he wasn't heading to the finals, after all. He fell 4-1 to eventual state champ Alejandro Herrera of Seneca Valley in the semifinal round. About 90 minutes later, he had to regroup to wrestle in the consolation semifinals to get into the third-place match. He dropped that one, too, falling 7-3 Bethlehem Catholic's Matt Mayer.
"I didn't have the match I wanted (in the semis)," said Waterman. "It really made me bummed. But this was my last match of the year, so I gave it may all and got my fifth-place medal."
Wrestlers talk all the time about having short-term memories. Waterman's had to use his after falling in the semis.
"It's probably the hardest thing these kids will have to do in their wrestling career," said CR South coach Brad Silimperi. "At this level, when the stakes are at their greatest, it's very difficult to do. But Kyle handles himself with very good composure. He got beat that next round, but he came back and won his fifth-place match. I was really, really, really pleased with his maturity both on and off the mat."
Robinson's path began after losing in the quarterfinals. He won his opener on Thursday but was pinned in the quarters. Facing a win or go home medal-less, Robinson took out Canon-McMillan senior Tim Hritsko 9-3 in the blood round. Robinson then shut out Parkland senior Zach Ortman 5-0.
"A lot of people don't have that good of a spirit if they lose," said Robinson. "They get sad. I just try to stay positive. I knew I had a chance of getting on the podium if I just worked hard."
Though Robinson fell 7-3 to Kiski senior Noah Levett in the consolation semis, he rebounded for the win in the fifth-place bout.
Aladinov's pin of Central Dauphin's Mitchell Talbot in 2:37 was the 100th of his career. He had to win four matches at states to achieve it and did.
"I knew it was possible," said Aladinov. "I had some doubters. My friends were saying they were going to laugh at me if I finished with 99, so this was a great way to finish things off."
For Radner, seventh-place was a great way to end a career that saw him win 103 career matches. To make it onto the podium, he had to win three straight matches after dropping his opener on Thursday.
"Obviously my mindset coming in here was to stand on the top of the podium, but losing in that first one was tough," said Radner. "But we always have to keep a short term memory as a wrestler. You can't really dwell on the losses.
"I was talking to my coach before my second match after I lost, just saying how tough it is to kind of get yourself in the mindset that you still have to win. I had to win three more. ... It's kind of awesome to achieve one of my lifelong goals."
Fuss returns home with his first medal after qualifying for states the last two years only to head back to Bucks County without any hardware. Three of Fuss's losses came in overtime, including his bout for seventh.
"I wanted to get a little higher on the podium, but I have a whole other year next year," said Fuss. "I have to work on my technique and get fundamentally stronger late in matches. That's what I really need to work on."
NOTES: District One wrestlers went 2-2 in the finals, with Pennridge senior Josh Stillings (182) and Sun Valley sophomore Hunter Catka (220) winning titles. ... Downingtown West senior Doug Zapf (120), a state champ at 106 last year, and West Chester Henderson sophomore Killian Delaney (113) finished second. ... Attendance for Saturday night at Giant Center was 5,466. The three-day total, with Class AA included, was 40,579.