Faith Christian’s Gauge Botero and Pennridge’s Cole Coffin have both rediscovered the meaning of trusting in themselves on the mats.
Botero, a returning state champion, has successfully battled his way back from a knee injury, while Coffin, a state qualifier last season, has found a deeper sense of satisfaction in his abilities.
Both wrestlers have played pivotal roles in their team’s advancement in the recent district and state duals.
In addition to Faith Christian claiming a district Class 2A team title, Council Rock South edged Pennridge 26-25 to capture the district Class 3A title. Quakertown finished third in the district, and the Panthers dropped a 38-23 decision to Wilson West Lawn in the pigtail round of the state duals Monday night.
Faith Christian, which won the state duals title last season in the 2A bracket, claimed this year’s district title with a 66-12 stomp of Bristol. The Lions will begin defense of their state title Thursday against Reynolds – and Botero plans to play his part.
Coming back after a meniscus surgery, Botero has an unblemished 18-0 record with 10 falls. The junior posted a 43-2 record last season and had an overall 88-9 slate over his first two seasons.
“I had my meniscus shaved and had plica taken out,” explained Botero. “It was useless tissue that connected bones that aren’t supposed to connect, and it caused a lot of pain. I feel like it was a little bump in the road. After winning the title last year, I have been motivated to win it again.”
Since then, all systems have been go for Botero.
“My season couldn’t be better since coming back,” offered Botero. “ I feel completely back and better than ever. The first couple of matches were rough because I didn’t feel as in shape as I should have been. It took a little time, but I feel very good right now.”
Faith Christian head coach Ben Clymer likes his team’s chances despite missing starters Owin Brunner and Kole Davidheiser from the lineup. The Lions routed Reynolds 55-10 in the opening round last year.
“We have been able to compete at a high level,” said Clymer. “We are super excited for team states this week. We will face a familiar Reynolds team in the first round, and that’s who we faced last year.
“Beyond that, we won’t put too much focus. We have to deal with two missing starters, but otherwise the team is healthy and excited to compete together.”
Pennridge, the defending district Class 3A dual meet champion, was edged by Council Rock South 26-25 in the final. The Rams will meet Erie Cathedral Prep in the opening round of the state duals Thursday evening in Hershey.
Coffin, a senior who has a 26-8 slate with 14 falls at 121, has been riding an emotional wave all season.
“My season is going really well,” he gushed. “I feel like everything is coming together at the right time. I’m on a high right now and am wrestling the best I ever have. For me, it is just letting go and trusting in my training. I know I can beat the best guys when I wrestle to the best of my ability.”
“Our team is finally coming together,” he added. “District duals was the first time we had our full lineup together.
“Before district duals, our biggest obstacle was our health, basically getting everyone healthy. Also it was getting our bodies right and weights down. Now all that’s done and we can go into Hershey focused on winning a team title.”
Rams head coach Brian Kuhns is confident his team can rise to the occasion.
“These days are challenging, but we are excited for the opportunity to show how hard the wrestlers have worked this season,” he stressed. “We are trying to stay focused on what we have to do, to get better and to enjoy the moment with our seniors, who have given a lot to this program.”
Council Rock South head coach Trey Balasco recognized his team’s determination and grit to inch past Pennridge. The Golden Hawks will meet Franklin Regional Thursday evening.
“The boys faced a lot of adversity throughout the day,” noted Balasco. “They handled the roller coaster of emotions and focused on the task at hand. Guys had to make sacrifices and not wrestle due to the juggling of the lineup and guys had to step up and jump in with the next man up mentality.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to the Giant Center and pursuing a team title.”
Quakertown head coach Kurt Handel’s young club has been maturing and has had its share of peaks and valleys. The Panthers will seek their eighth consecutive SOL Liberty Division title at Abington next Wednesday.
“It was about matchups against Wilson West Lawn, and they won the coin toss,” said Handel. “The kids wrestled hard, but we came up short. Our younger wrestlers have been getting better, and our veteran guys are peaking at the right time.
“We feel we’re in good shape for what’s ahead.”