HERSHEY — He’s already talking about being the school’s first two-time state champion.
Considering that Colby Whitehill started working for this year’s title as he walked out with an eighth-place medal last year, don’t bet against him.
The Raiders’ junior heavyweight capped off a 39-0 season with a thrilling 5-2 victory against Mount Union junior Jake Ryan in Class 2A finals last Saturday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Ryan was a returning fourth-place finisher at 220. The pair came into the tournament as the top two ranked wrestlers in the state at heavyweight this year, with Ryan No. 1 and Whitehill No. 2.
Whitehill proved those rankings wrong though as he wrested a near flawless match in the finals. He scored a takedown with 13 seconds to go to seal his gold-medal winning performance. Ryan knew that takedown had done him in, as Whitehill pointed to the Brookville fans in the stands in the closing seconds while laying on top of Ryan.
“This was definitely my goal coming into this year. I had the mindset of winning it,” said Whitehill, who joins an exclusive club of state champs from Brookville. “I just knew I was bigger and better than everyone, and I just had to do my stuff.”
Whitehill joins Chuck Yale, the late Jason Gilligan, Jeremy Reitz, Brock Zacherl, Taylor Ortz and Gavin Park to win a state title in a Raider singlet. Park was the program’s last champ back in 2017.
“It feels good to put myself among those other guys (state champs), but I’m trying to become the first two-timer. It feels good being the state champ, but I don’t like the target that will be on my back (next year). It’s just going to have work harder in the room next year.
“(Friday) I didn’t wrestle my best and didn’t move very well on my feet, but you do whatever it takes to get on top. Today, I knew he (Ryan) would make mistakes and if I kept the match close and wrestled my match I’d be able to beat him.”
Most of the scoring in the finals was done in the second period as the pair wrestled a scoreless first.
Whitehill grabbed the lead with an escape eight seconds in, then took down the Trojan 20 seconds later for a 3-0 advantage. Ryan escaped at the midway point of the period as the Raider took a 3-1 lead into the final period.
Ryan started down in the third but struggled to get out from under the Raider, earning an escape with 1:01 remaining. The pair then battled on their feet into the final 20 seconds, with Whitehill planting Ryan on his back for a takedown with 13 seconds to go to start the Brookville celebration inside the Giant Center,
Brookville coach Dave Klepfer had high praise for his heavyweight’s performance, both in the finals and the season as a whole.
“A lot of work went into this, and he definitely earned it,” said Klepfer. “You’re talking about a kid who wrestles 10 months a year, and thinks about one thing, and that’s winning championships and winning in general.
“He’s been on some big stages leading into this at the Super 32 finals and Fargo finals. Without those performances and putting himself in those situations over the last year, you just don’t know how a kid is going to react when he gets out here (state finals).
“He’s a winner and a great student. He’s the perfect kid to coach and does all the right things and really wants to be the best at his craft.
Klepfer also didn’t shy away from Whitehill’s goal of becoming the school’s first two-time state champ.
“It’s been the internal conversions we’ve had,” he said. “He’s a pretty humble kid and doesn’t go around talking about things too much. But, he was approached by a private school in the offseason, and they offered him a scholarship and turned it down because he wanted to be Brookville’s first two-time state champion.
“I think that says a lot about his commitment to our program, and the I’m real proud of the work he’s put in and the way he represents the program.”
Whitehill, who pinned Burgettstown’s Riley Kemper in Thursday’s first round, won a pair of hard-fought decisions Friday to reach the finals.
He started the day with a 5-3 win against Meyersdale sophomore Jalen Stephens in the quarterfinals.
Whitehill opened the score with a takedown 46 seconds into the match, with Stephens escaped just past the midway point of the period to trail 2-1 after one.
The Red Raider started down in the second and needed just seven seconds to escape to tie things up at 2-2, only to see Whitehill regain the lead on a takedown with 1:29 left in the period. Stephens then escaped at the midway point of the period to make it 4-3.
Whitehill pushed his lead back to two at 5-3 with an escape seven seconds into the third period and fought off Stephens on his feet from there to earn a semifinal matchup with Southern Columbia’s Lear Quinton. Whitehill pinned the Tiger at the state duals, but things were much closer this time around.
Just like in the quarterfinals, Whitehill opened the scoring on a first-period takedown, this one coming with 35 seconds left. Quinton escaped before period’s end to make it 2-1.
Quinton chose bottom in the second and took the lead on the Raider when he notched a reversal 35 seconds in. It marked just the second time all season a Whitehill foe scored non-escape points against him.
In the opening weekend at the Greenville Duals, Union City’s Matt Long took Whitehill down to start the bout’s scoring but Whitehill pinned him before the end of the first period.
Long, who also medaled with a fifth-place finish, was also pinned by Whitehill at regionals.
And back against Quinton, Whitehill wasted little time getting out, with his escape tying things back up at 3-3 after two periods.
Whitehill started down in the third and went back up on an escape and took that 5-4 lead into the final minute. The Raider then all but sealed the victory when he took down Quinton with 46 seconds to go.
Quinton managed an escape with 11 seconds to go, but it proved too little, too late and Whitehill punched his ticket to his first ever state final.
Stephens went on to beat Quinton, 3-1, in the third place match.
Klepfer said he and Whitehill talked about the fact Whitehill didn’t feel he wrestled his best Friday.
“First off, I told him down here a win is a win,” said Klepfer. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, and it doesn’t have be pretty. And, that guys usually have one bad day down here and if you can get through that one where you’re not really wrestling your best, usually you can put together some other good days.
And, that’s what happened. But, I thought he wrestled a real fundamental and solid match in the finals.”