In his sophomore season wrestling for Bishop McDevitt’s Crusaders, Riley Robell has already amassed an impressive résumé. A back-to-back District 3 champ at 182 last year and at 285 this year, Robell capped off the season with a silver medal in the PIAA Wrestling Championships on March 12 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Entering the 285-pound finals with an undefeated record of 28-0 that placed him as the east’s top seed after a standout performance in the Super Regional tournament, Robell turned heads in the state wrestling world with a trip to the finals.
Ultimately, he fell just short of his quest for state gold, in a 5-3 match against senior Nathan Taylor of Brookville, located in Jefferson County.
“I’d like to think that the past two seasons were very successful seasons, for sure, but I don’t like to settle,” Robell said in an interview at Bishop McDevitt. “So while I’m happy with how they’ve turned out, I’ll never say that I’m where I think I should be.”
A state qualifier in his freshman year, Robell moved up several weight classes this season. When a growth spurt put him 15 pounds over the 215 classification, he decided to keep gaining and see how far he would go.
With that change came an adjustment on the mat, and a new approach in going up against fellow heavyweight opponents.
“I had to get used to the extra weight I was carrying around when the season started. After I started to understand how I move differently now, and that I was still more agile than the other guys on the mat, I had to find the way that I was going to wrestle my matches,” Robell said. “After the initial adjustment, I would say it turned out ok.”
Considering his 28-1 record and handful of medals to back it up, his season was certainly more than ok. But Robell is already looking to make improvements for next year.
He considers his technique and his abilities from the top position as his strengths on the mat. Robell, who also plays football, has been wrestling since the age of six.
He is looking forward to continued success at Bishop McDevitt, not just for himself, but for the wrestling team, which has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. The school has had 21 individual district champions since 2013.
“It’s been great wrestling for McDevitt. Coach Mike [Nauman] makes us all one big family,” Robell said. “No matter who comes out for the team each year, everybody is treated the same. Nobody gets any more attention that anybody else. He wants us to do just as good as the best guy throughout the season.”
“I want to work on wrestling this postseason, do some freestyle and get better on my feet for hopefully gold next year,” he said.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness