After his hand was raised as the victor of the 285-pound weight class in the PIAA Class 2A State Wrestling Championships, Bishop McDevitt’s Riley Robell touched the mat one last time – driving an imaginary sledgehammer into the squared circle to signal the end of his stellar wrestling career.
The symbolic gesture also forged Robell – a state champion as a lineman on McDevitt’s football team – into the school’s athletic wall of fame, something he had set his sights on as a freshman.
“I’ve wanted to go down in the history books since the day I walked into McDevitt,” Robell told the media after his championship match at the Giant Center in Hershey on March 11. “They have a wall of fame in the hallway. I saw it as a freshman and thought, ‘I’m going to be on that wall before I leave high school,’ and that motivated me.”
Last year’s gold medalist at 285, Robell defended his title in dominating fashion, pinning his way through the brackets en route to the final match of his wrestling career in a square-off against Aiden Compton of Notre Dame-Green.
Robell had wrestled and beaten Compton in three previous matches this year, and the Crusader anticipated his opponent’s game plan, scoring five takedowns in a 15-2 victory.
“Going out as a state champ feels absolutely amazing,” said Robell, who amassed two state golds, four District 3 titles and over 100 pins in more than 130 wins over his career.
He said he took a moment to reflect on the conclusion of his wrestling career before stepping on the mat for the final time.
“States this year was definitely more enjoyable. Right before I walked out here, I was looking around, taking it all in, because I had to acknowledge the fact that I’ll never do this again. It’s sad, but at the same time, I’ve never felt better,” he told The Witness.
Robell has committed to James Madison University for football.
“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made,” he said of weighing options to play football or wrestle at the collegiate level. “At the end of the day, I just let God pick it for me, point me in the right direction. And I knew He’d guide me where I needed to go.”
Robell’s teammate and fellow senior Jakob Gilfoil wrestled to third place at 189 lbs., closing out his career with a pin in his final match to earn bronze on the podium. Gilfoil, who won both the District 3 and Southeast Region tournaments this season, has committed to wrestle at Army West Point.
In the 107-pound weight class Trinity freshman Will Detar made waves in his PIAA debut, placing third on the podium and achieving his childhood dream of wrestling at states.
“It was a really exciting experience to go out there and do what I love. This is something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little kid. I would come here just about every year to watch all the matches. To finally be able to be here and wrestle in front of everyone is just a really exciting opportunity,” Detar told The Witness after his third-place win.
Walking onto the Giant Center floor as part of the parade of champions prior to the consolation finals was both nerve-wracking and exciting, he said. “I was looking around, soaking it all in, and then I was able to go out there and approach it as another match.”
“Coming in, obviously my goal was to be a state champ, but being on the podium was a great step,” Detar said. “Just being able to be in the top three as a freshman boosts my confidence for the future and I hope to come out here next year and take the gold.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness