Bald Eagle Area’s Josh Fye and Seth Koleno started the evening with their opponents draped around their necks. By the end of Saturday night, medals hung there instead.
The Eagles’ two wrestlers gutted out close wins in their final matches and returned their school to the PIAA podium for the first time in three years. Fye took fifth place while Kaleno placed seventh.
“It re-establishes that we still have kids that are capable of competing at this level,” Eagles’ coach Steve Millward said of his wrestlers’ performances.
After falling 4-2 in the fourth round of consolations to Exeter Township’s Brett Kulp, Koleno earned his turn to celebrate hours later. The 132-pounder squared off with North Penn’s Ryan Vulakh, nixing the Knight’s comeback attempt in the third.
Koleno admitted he felt the nerves mount after Vulakh tied the bout. He nixed those, too, escaping seven seconds later for the final 4-3 score.
“All I knew was I had to be defensive,” Koleno said. “Just keep my head and have confidence in myself and not let him take me down.”
In Fye’s fifth-place bout, the Eagles’ heavyweight took a long ride, earning praise from his opponent’s coach besides his own en route to the 2-0 win.
In the second period, Fye started on top of Kiski Area’s Isaac Reid and stayed there, countering Reid’s rollouts and heaving his 285-pound opponent left and right. In the third, Fye escaped from the bottom and parried a takedown attempt by rolling backward and tossing Reid overhead. Reid lumbered back to the mat’s center, wincing. A medical timeout was called.
When they resumed, Fye dominated to salt the match away. For Fye, his third and final time at states was gilded. The drought was over.
After his victory, Millward approached Fye with his hand extended. But the heavyweight had plans more befitting of the moment.
“(Millward) really hates when I get over here and give him sweaty hugs, so that was a goal,” Fye said, beaming. “I was going to jump up on him, but I think I would’ve probably tackled him.”
Fye dropped to the fifth-place match earlier in the day, losing 5-2 to Bethlehem Catholic’s Niko Camacho. He won his fourth consolation against Cathedral Prep’s Kawuan DeBoe to start the day.
For the Eagles, their two wrestlers’ performances put their school back on the podium. BEA hasn’t had a medal winner since Jake Taylor (first place, 182 pounds) and Nathan Sharkey (seventh, 220 pounds) in 2013.
“They’re thrilled,” Millward said. “It’s nice to see two happy kids leaving the arena here tonight.”