Each season, Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers got closer and closer to his ultimate goal -- a PIAA title.
As a freshman in 2010, DesLauriers took sixth place in Hershey. The next season, he advanced to the semifinals before losing, and eventually got the bronze medal.
Then last year, DesLauriers made it all the way to the final before falling to Wes Phipps, 6-4.
So everything was set up for DesLauriers to join an exclusive club of PIAA champions from Burrell.
DesLauriers didn't disappoint, scoring a takedown with 12 seconds remaining in the third period to beat Muncy's Troy Hembury, 3-1, in the 182-pound PIAA Class AA final Saturday in Hershey.
"It's just a personal goal I've always had for myself, even since I was little," DesLauriers said. "I always said, 'I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this.' I finally got it senior year in my last chance. It's just really sweet."
DesLauriers couldn't hide his happiness afterward, holding his smile the entire time he was getting his picture taken atop the podium and during his interviews afterward.
"[My face] is starting to get a little sore," DesLauriers joked. "I'm thrilled though. I can't put [the smile] away."
It is the sixth PIAA title won by a Burrell wrestler, and DesLauriers is the fifth different wrestler to win one.
Joe Makara is the lone two-time winner (2002-03), while Jordan Shields (2008) and Travis McKillop (2011) each won titles in the past six years.
The other PIAA title won by a Burrell wrestler was the school's first in 1997, by Dakota's uncle, Joel DesLauriers.
Derry freshman pulls stunner, wins title
The goal for Derry's George Phillippi was just to get to Hershey.
When the season started in November, neither Phillippi nor Derry Area coach Mike Weinell thought Phillippi would be standing atop the podium with a gold medal around his neck.
But there Phillippi was on Saturday afternoon, standing taller than everyone else on the podium and smiling at the cameras as they took pictures of the PIAA place-winners in the 113-pound weight class.
"I was just happy to get here," Phillippi said.
A freshman, he beat South Fayette senior Seth Carr, 1-0, in the PIAA Class AA 113-pound championship match to win his first PIAA title.
"My assistant coach and I were talking at the beginning of the season and we're just hoping to get a trip here, let alone someone placing and winning the whole thing," Weinell said. "He was young, just a freshman. He placed fourth at [the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling tournament] last year, so we knew he was good, but didn't know how good he really was yet."
Weinell said it wasn't until Phillippi's performance at the Powerade Tournament over Christmas break when he thought this was a possibility.
Phillippi didn't place at the prestigious tournament, but went 3-2, with his two losses coming by a combined two points.
"He lost two matches by a point each time to nationally ranked kids and I think he should have beaten them both," Weinell said. "So at that point, we knew he had the potential to do something. And after those losses, he really started coming on."
Phillippi only lost one more match the rest of the season, in the semifinals of the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional Tournament on March 2 against Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick.
The key for Phillippi is his defense. In his final two matches of the state tournament, Phillippi didn't score while on his feet. But neither did his opponent, as Phillippi was able to scramble out of numerous troubling positions.
"I know I need to work on my feet -- I didn't get a takedown in the final or the semifinals," Phillippi said. "But if I can fight off the shot and it's 0-0, I feel like I'm better than anyone on top or bottom."
He showed that by winning his semifinal match against No. 1-seeded Korbin Myers, 2-1 in a tiebreaker, then riding Carr out the whole third period, his second 1-0 victory against the South Fayette senior in 14 days.
Now the expectations will rise for Phillippi to equal the feat of former Derry wrestler Jimmy Gulibon, who won four state titles from 2009-12.
But the goal for Phillippi will be the same as this year -- get to Hershey and then go from there.
"It would be awesome to do what Jimmy did, but ... I'm not saying it's not possible, but I just want to get to states every year and then work my way through one match at a time," Phillippi said.
First Published March 14, 2013 4:00 AM