Will the thrill: MC freshman wins District 106-pound title

By on March 1, 2017
Manheim Central freshman Will Betancourt finishes off a fall in 1:38 over Spring Grove’s Chase Bricker in a District Three Triple-A 106-pound first-round bout last Friday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft
Manheim Central freshman Will Betancourt finishes off a fall in 1:38 over Spring Grove’s Chase Bricker in a District Three Triple-A 106-pound first-round bout last Friday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Manheim Central freshman Will Betancourt finishes off a fall in 1:38 over Spring Grove’s Chase Bricker in a District Three Triple-A 106-pound first-round bout last Friday night. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Cocalico’s Josiah Gehr had obviously done his homework.

The Eagle junior came out firing in the District Three Triple-A 106-pound finals against Manheim Central’s Will Betancourt.

He worked diligently to neutralize Betancourt’s bread-and-butter dump move.

Each time, the Baron freshman had an answer.

And in the end, Betancourt held on for a 4-2 win over Gehr to capture his first District crown at the Giant Center in Hershey last Saturday.

Both wrestlers will be back on the mats when the PIAA State Championships are held next Thursday through Saturday, March 9-11 at the Giant Center.

“It’s awesome,” said Betancourt, who improved to 33-2. “I’m very excited to see how I do at States this year, just knowing that me working hard in the room every day is paying off. I feel that if I keep working hard for one more week, I should be able to do pretty good at States.”

There’s no denying he did pretty good at Districts, capped with his two-point win over Gehr (25-4).

Early on, however, Betancourt was on the defensive against the Eagles’ star, who took a couple quick first-period single-leg shots, only to find himself in a stalemate.

Betancourt was admittedly caught off guard by the aggressiveness of Gehr in the opening minutes.

“It surprised me a lot,” he said, “because whenever I watch him wrestle, I don’t see him doing that as much. But he watched some of my matches here and he saw that I have a nice dump, I have a nice bar. So he was controlling my right side where I hit my dump, so it was kinda hard for me to transition and do other moves.”

It remained scoreless until Betancourt prevailed in a scramble with :23 remaining in the opening stanza, resulting in a 2-0 lead after one.

“I went in on a sloppy high crotch shot,” Betancourt recalled, “and he stuck my head down and he tried to circle to my right side. And then I popped my arm out and hit a dump on him and ended up scoring the two.”

The coin flip prior to the second period went to Betancourt, who deferred, and Gehr chose neutral. That decision nearly paid off when the Cocalico grappler came close to scoring a takedown at the edge of the mat with :40 elapsed.

Although Gehr didn’t get the points, he and his coaches thought the match should have been tied.

With Betancourt still leading by two heading to the third, he took the bottom position and benefited from a locked hands call against Gehr with 1:41 left, making it 3-0.

The penalty point looked big when Gehr caught Betancourt in an arm bar for two back points with 1:01 to go, cutting Betancourt’s lead to 3-2.

“(The locked hands) was pretty big,” Betancourt remarked, “but even if he would have gotten the back points and he didn’t lock the hands, I would have tried to escape more than being a defensive wrestler and trying to stall.”

Eventually, Gehr cut Betancourt loose with :18 left, hoping to get a match-tying takedown. Despite his efforts, however, it didn’t happen and the Barons’ grappler emerged victorious.

“It feels awesome,” Betancourt said. “I worked pretty hard this season and this feels pretty good to be on top.”

He also came out on top against Northeastern’s Cole Wilson by a 7-2 decision in the semi-finals.

Thanks to a takedown with :45 elapsed in the first, Wilson (28-2) actually had a 2-1 lead after one.

It’s been rare this season that Betancourt has found himself trailing, but there was no panic.

“(Will)’s very disciplined,” Manheim Central coach Troy Sunderland said, “he’s put a lot of time in, he’s wrestled a lot of tournaments and has a lot of experience as a freshman. We weren’t overly concerned, but overall, that was one of the most disciplined matches I’ve seen him wrestle.”

Starting on bottom in the second, Betancourt flurried and came out with a reversal with 1:17 left in the period, giving him a 3-2 advantage.

“There was a good scramble,” Sunderland said. “We were looking for some points earlier in that series and it didn’t happen. He was coming around, but he had his foot over the head and he couldn’t get the leg back. It was probably a good non-call at that point, so then they continued to scramble from there and he was able to come around and secure the reversal legitimately. That was big again for him to get on top and get to his bread-and-butter.”

True words, indeed.

With just :15 left in the stanza, Betancourt was able to turn Wilson for two back points, giving him a three-point advantage, 5-2, heading to the third.

Knowing that the Bobcats’ freshman was going to start the third period on bottom, the two-point near-fall provided him some breathing room.

“Absolutely,” Sunderland said. “He’s tough on top, but that was key to distance a little bit. Obviously, Wilson’s a tough kid, he’s got a lot of skills, but he’s also flexible and in some of those positions with his shoulders and legs, I’m glad we were able to get him right away after weigh-ins and things like that too. He’s a little bit bit bigger and stronger than I thought he might’ve been.”

In the final stanza, Betancourt added two back points to set the final margin of victory and punch his ticket to the championship match.

“It was a smart match, very disciplined for a freshman,” Sunderland remarked.

Earlier, Betancourt decked Spring Grove’s Chase Bricker (23-9) in 1:38 in the first-round and Shippensburg’s Jeffery Russell (24-13) in 35 seconds in the quarterfinals.

Manheim Central’s Ryan McKee (21-16) and Elliot Martin (17-9) also competed at Districts.

Both had their hands full while facing the eventual champ in their first-round match-ups.

In the 145-pound weight class, Big Spring’s Tucker Brough (39-5) pinned McKee in 1:49 on his run to the title. McKee won by forfeit in the opening-round of consolations over Red Lion’s Devyn Gurreri (20-16), but then suffered a 15-2 loss to Joseph Pecaitis (27-4), of Gettysburg.

At 195, Big Spring’s Blake Barrick (36-6) pinned Martin in 1:08. In the consolations, Martin was then eliminated with a 7-3 setback to Malik Jackson (26-13), of Reading.

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