Three straight District titles for Betancourt

By on February 27, 2019
Manheim Central junior Will Betancourt reacts after beating Northeastern’s Cole Wilson 3-0 in the District Three Triple-A 120-pound finals last Saturday at Hersheypark Arena. It was his third District title. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Manheim Central junior Will Betancourt reacts after beating Northeastern’s Cole Wilson 3-0 in the District Three Triple-A 120-pound finals last Saturday at Hersheypark Arena. It was his third District title. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Baron junior advances to States with Cade Zeamer

Manheim Central junior Will Betancourt has pretty much owned a rivalry with Northeastern’s Cole Wilson during his career.

In 2017, when the two wrestlers faced off in the District Three Triple-A 106-pound semi-finals, Betancourt won 7-2 on his way to capturing the 106-pound title.

Then last February, the Baron grappler shut out Wilson 2-0 in the District’s 113-pound finals.

So it didn’t go unnoticed two weeks later that Wilson was fourth on the medal podium at States, three spots ahead of Betancourt’s seventh.

“That was a heartbreaker for me last year and it was hard to come back from that,” Betancourt said. “Every single day, I think about that.”

Come back, however, is exactly what he did.

And last Saturday, Betancourt captured his third straight District Three Triple-A championship and qualified once again for States thanks to a 3-0 win in the 120-pound finals at Hersheypark Arena.

His opponent?

Yep, you guessed it … Wilson.

“It means a lot to me (winning a third District title), but at the end of the day, this isn’t my ultimate goal,” said Betancourt, who improved to 36-3. “I’m just happy that all my hard work is paying off and I’m really confident going into States this year.”

Senior Cade Zeamer (37-7) will also be headed to States for the Barons, having placed fourth after suffering a tight 3-2 loss to Mechanicsburg’s Nick Tewell (30-7) in the District Three 132-pound bronze-medal match.

“I made it,” said Zeamer, who also recorded his 100th career win in the opening-round of Districts. “I wasn’t happy with my last match. I definitely felt better than I (wrestled). But it’s alright, I made States. That was my ultimate goal. It’s two more weeks and hopefully I place.”

Only the top four place-finishers in each weight advanced to States, which is set for March 7-9 at Hershey’s Giant Center. Three other Manheim Central wrestlers fell just short, as junior Conner Zeamer (29-16) took fifth at 138, while senior 182-pounder Keegan McCord (36-11) and senior heavyweight Tyler Dougherty (20-6) placed sixth.

In the team standings, Manheim Central finished sixth in the team standings with 70 points.

“The guys left it all on the mat and that’s all I ask of them,” Baron coach Billy Chamberlain said. “They kept grinding and everyone was supporting everyone. Mat-side, every kid was there and it was a great experience for the Manheim Central family.”

Betancourt didn’t require much time to advance through the first-round, flattening Conestoga Valley’s Rafael Rodriguez (19-22) in 1:00.

New Oxford’s Timothy Uhler (35-7) was next in the 120-pound quarters, and Betancourt’s first-period takedown was all he needed in a 4-0 victory.

In the semi-finals, he scored two takedowns in the first 52 seconds and went to pin Garden Spot’s Section One champ Garrett Gehr (32-9) in 1:23.

“Last season, I wrestled defensively,” Betancourt said, “and didn’t try to score as many points. This year, it’s just different. I want to win a State title and pushing the pace is going to get me there.”

Betancourt continued to push the pace against Wilson (35-2) in the finals, and after snapping a scoreless tie on an escape with 23 seconds elapsed in the second period, his takedown at the 51-second mark stretched his lead to 3-0.

“Front head to a spin-around,” Betancourt said. “I didn’t stop moving, I kept wrestling through position, and (Wilson) stopped wrestling and I executed off that and scored.”

Wilson was on bottom in the third and worked urgently for a reversal in the final 30 seconds, but couldn’t pull it off and Betancourt prevailed.

“He’s always putting the pressure on the other kid,” Chamberlain said. “He’s always grinding for points and that’s big. If you’re not giving up points, you’re not going to lose.”

“I’ve been working so hard this past year,” Betancourt remarked. “I feel very confident. I’ve just got to trust my ability to wrestle my best and see what happens at States.”

Chamberlain has had a front row seat to witness Betancourt’s drive since placing lower than Wilson at the PIAA Tournament last season.

“(Will) has seen kids that he’s beaten other places placing higher than him and he realizes that he’s right there,” the Barons’ boss said. “Two of his three losses this year are the No. 1-ranked kid in Double-A (Burrell’s Ian Oswalt) and the No. 1-ranked kid in Triple-A (Cedar Cliff’s J.J. Wilson at 126). So he’s right there. The State Tournament isn’t always about who’s the best in the State. It’s who’s the best in the State Tournament. And that’s why sometimes you’ll sometimes see some kids placing higher than the kids they’ve lost to, and you’ve just got to be able to put the right tournament together.”

Cade Zeamer is hoping to do the same.

“We’ll get back to the room on Monday and work hard,” he said. “I’m going to keep wrestling hard. I’ll be weighing in (at States) before I know it.”

His first loss at Districts was an 8-2 decision to Red Land’s Bryce Brennan (30-5), the eventual silver-medalist in the 132-pound brackets.

But Zeamer bounced back strong, overcoming a 2-0 first-period deficit against Central York junior Mason Myers (32-8) to score three back points in the middle stanza, then punch his ticket to States with a 4-2 victory.

“Cade got the job done,” Chamberlain said. “He was feeling great, comes out in the semi-finals and loses a tough match, but he didn’t let it bring him down. He had it in his mind, ‘I’m coming back, I’m going to win, I’m going to go to States.’ Our goal is just to get there. It’s great to win (Districts), but the main goal is just to get to States because it’s a brand new tournament once you’re there.”

After going 0-2 at Districts as a junior, Zeamer was a different wrestler this time around.

“Last year, I put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “This year, I’m feeling almost no pressure. I’m finally having fun with it and I’m just loving the sport right now.”

In the bronze-medal match, Zeamer’s takedown with 1:42 left in the third tied things at 2-all against Tewell, but the Wildcat senior escaped with 1:24 to go and then held on for the 3-2 victory.

“I feel like I’m better than I was when I wrestled him,” said Zeamer, who earlier defeated Waynesboro’s Laken Rouzer 7-2 in the first round and Cumberland Valley’s Cade Reichart 2-1 in the quarters. “(Tewell) is tough, he’s funky, so in neutral, I’ve got to get better moving my feet. But I feel good. I wrestled hard, I gave everything I had, so I’m not going to complain.”

Betancourt and Cade Zeamer were two of four semi-finalists for the Barons, who went a perfect 4-for-4 in Friday night’s quarterfinal-round. Conner Zeamer and Dougherty also advanced.

“We had a great day (Friday), we really did,” Chamberlain said. “That’s the beauty and the downside of a two-day tournament. You can have a bad day and come back and rectify it. You can have a great day, come back and you’ve got to try to repeat it.”

Conner Zeamer set the tone by rallying from an 8-1 deficit after the second period to catch Cumberland Valley’s Jake McKenzie (23-19) in a cradle, winning by fall in 4:37 in the first round at 138.

“Something that coach Chamberlain and coach (Justin) Barbush work on with me is just staying calm and composed,” Zeamer said. “So when I’m down like that, I always know I’m in the match and that’s exactly what happened. I kept my composure and pulled the trigger when I needed to.”

He used another cradle in a five-point first period against Daniel Boone’s JT Hogan (26-5) in the quarters, sending him to a 7-2 decision.

In the semi-finals, Waynesboro’s Matt McCann (30-10), a Section Four champ, had his hands full, but prevailed in a 4-0 decision over Zeamer.

From there, Zeamer was pinned by Dallastown’s Brooke Gable (26-20) in 3:38 in the consolation semi-finals, but he came back to deck Ephrata’s Kayde Althouse (24-6) in 1:37 for fifth place, again rallying, this time from a 2-0 deficit in the first.

“The goal of mine was to get to States and that didn’t quite happen, but I’m pretty happy with how it went,” Zeamer said. “I wrestled good, I felt like I peaked at the end of the season, so I felt good.”

Dougherty, at 285, also felt good while scoring a four-point takedown with 51 seconds left in the second period of his 5-1 first-round victory over Spring Grove’s Seth Worley (19-15).

Later, the Baron senior’s takedown with :05 left in the third clinched a 5-1 quarterfinal win over Harrisburg’s Jeffery Chisholm-Wilkerson (21-4).

That sent Dougherty to the semis, where he met a tough customer in Central York senior Michael Wolfgram (32-0), the State’s top-ranked HWT. Dougherty trailed just 6-2 after one, but Wolfgram went on to win by technical fall, 19-3 in 4:59.

“Wrestling one of the best — actually the best heavyweight in the State,” Dougherty said, “and a top-10 ranked heavyweight in the country — it’s just good experience to get competition like that to push your limits.”

Governor Mifflin’s Jordan Espinosa (35-5) pinned Dougherty in 2:09 in the consolation semi-finals. From there, Dougherty faced Chisholm-Wilkerson for the second time in two days, and the Cougar senior’s escape with :09 left in an ultimate tiebreaker was the difference in a 2-1 win.

“(Friday) night I wrestled him and it was a close match to the end, so I knew he was a good opponent,” Dougherty said. “He just beat me.”

His senior season, though, was one to remember, with L-L League and Sectional golds to his credit.

“At the beginning of the season, I lost my first match and I was thinking about quitting the team. I’m just glad I didn’t and Billy talked me out of quitting,” Dougherty said. “I’m glad I got to share this year with the team.”

At 182, McCord lost 7-4 in the first-round to Harrisburg’s Neamiah Diggs (26-4), then reeled off three straight wins in the wrestlebacks. He pinned Conrad Weiser’s Gabe Iacavone (22-15) in 23 seconds, then decked Wilson’s Josh Harkless (29-9) in 4:31 before rallying from a 5-1 deficit to beat Susquehanna Township’s Troy Ambush (22-10) by a 7-6 decision.

Penn Manor’s Nick Baker (29-6) edged McCord 4-2 in the consolation semi-finals and Dallastown’s Jarrett Feeney (30-7) won by fall in 2:15 in the fifth-place bout.

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