Cade Wilson spent much of his wrestling season playing the role of Mikey Labriola’s punching bag.
“I wrestled Mikey four different times this season,” said the Nazareth junior of meeting Bethlehem Catholic’s No. 1-ranked Nebraska-bound standout. “It wasn’t particularly fun.”
But now, with the District 11 3A tournament here, it’s time for Wilson to land some blows for himself.
“I think it would be cool to be a District 11 champion,” Wilson said. “But that is as far ahead as I am thinking right now.”
That’s far enough – and fair enough as Wilson seems ready to dish out some punishment.
Down to 160 pounds in a season where he had wrestled up at 182, Wilson is the No. 1 seed in the D-11 event. Wilson, now 23-10 on the season, advanced to the semifinals with a pair of pins in Friday night’s action at a well-packed Memorial Gymnasium at Liberty High School.
"I don't think being the No. 1 seed means much," Wilson said. "I just try and wrestle as hard as I can every match."
That approach looked just fine Friday.
Wilson pinned Pottsville’s Mike Zawaski in 1 minute and 50 seconds in a preliminary round bout and then decked Kyle Frack of Stroudsburg in 3:34 in a quarterfinal. Wilson will face No. 4 seed Jesse Rocco of Bangor in a semifinal; the semifinal round starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Wilson is one of eight Blue Eagles to make the semis along with freshman Andrew Cerniglia (106), sophomore Sean Pierson (113), junior Ryan O’Grady (120), senior Trevor Tarsi (126), junior Sammy Sasso (138), senior (and Cade’s brother) Brock Wilson (145) and senior Travis Stefanik (182).
With 11 wrestlers alive overall, Nazareth trails Bethlehem Catholic (7 in semis, all 14 still alive) 114-108 in the team standings heading into Saturday. Liberty is third at 100.
Nazareth seemed to sail into Memorial Gym with the wind at its back from its PIAA 3A team title, and while the Blue Eagles were not perfect Friday they looked awfully good in most spots.
“I think it helped with momentum,” Wilson said. “And now as a team we have a new goal, we want t to be the first team at Nazareth to win the team duals and the team title at individual states. That would be pretty cool.”
What has to be cool for Wilson is not to have to worry about Labriola again.
“The last time I’ll wrestle him was the team duals final,” Wilson said.
When, it will be remembered, he held Labriola to a technical fall and saved a crucial point in a match Nazareth won on criteria, 30-29.
“Remember he pinned me when we wrestled in the EPC final,” Wilson said. “I knew had to save as many points as possible if we wrestled after that, and that made me want to work harder. I just went back to the room and worked as hard as I could. I knew the state final would be close, and I tried as hard as I could to counter what I knew was coming. It would be have been nice just to get majored instead of tech-falled but I did my best.”
Wrestling Labriola has toughened Wilson, and with his drop to 160 he can rest assured there’s nothing out there posing as rugged a challenge as Labriola, who wrestles at 170 pounds.
Except maybe the weight drop to 160.
“I wasn’t sure where I’d wrestle at the start of the season and I was all the way up at 180,” he said. “I didn’t think I could get to 160 but once I started dropping weight and watching what I ate I knew getting to 160 was my best option.”
It all took a major sacrifice, though.
“I had to stop eating Tastykakes,” Wilson said. “I love Tastykakes, especially the peanut butter kandy kakes.”
Sounds like a good idea for a gift for Cade Wilson after the postseason – which, for him, may well extend for a few more weeks.
Brad Wilson may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.
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