Ronnie Perry is placing higher at Nationals than he did in the Pennsylvania State Tournament

CLEVELAND – Not many people expected Ronnie Perry to be in the NCAA National Finals on Saturday night – well except, for a few.

“Maybe three, three or four. Me, my coaches, so that’s three. Maybe my parents, my girlfriend, a couple friends. Actually I think more than I thought maybe.”

For a guy from Solanco who only ever made it to the PIAA State Tournament once and finished in seventh – making it to the NCAA Championship finals is a really big deal.

“I’m just trying to let it settle in right now. It’s an amazing feeling, something I never thought I would feel to be honest. So kind of this year, it was definitely something that was a goal of mine. But it’s pretty crazy right now. I don’t think it’s going to get super real until tomorrow maybe. But I’m just trying to do my best to stay relaxed and stay focused and go one match at a time.”

Perry has been red hot in Cleveland tearing through the challengers at 149 pounds despite being only the 15th seed coming in. The senior will face his biggest challenge with #1 Zain Retherford of Penn State standing in his way. The difference is – Zain is expected to win and Perry is not.

“I think a couple times this year during the season I got nervous because I put that pressure on myself, and sometimes I don’t always deal with that well. Coming into it, I didn’t have anything to lose compared to the guys I was wrestling that’s actually other previous all-Americans. I don’t have anything to lose. I never did it before. So it was staying relaxed.”

He certainly didn’t look nervous as time ticked away in the semifinals against Princeton’s Matt Kolodzik down by two points. Perry gave up a takedown –  but on a restart things came together.

“I forget how I gave up the late takedown. I don’t know, I think I just — it was a feeling — because it went from me feeling like I was going to get a takedown to getting taken down, so that was kind of frustrating.”

“We went out of bounds there right next to my coaches, and they just said, one and two  — what else am I going to do at that point. I tried to get right back up and he got caught with that leg in, so that was tough.”

Bringing it to within one point Perry needed a clean shot if he planned on securing a takedown against Kolodzik.

“I just kept wrestling and stuck to my game plan the whole time, which is kind of move, stay outside. He’s a good hand fighter, and I know he’s real hard to finish on. He’s a tough kid to finish on, especially with his legs. I knew I needed to get something that was going to be clean and a quick finish, so that’s what we did.”

And just like that Ronnie Perry found himself advancing onto the biggest stage in wrestling. His opponent on Saturday is no stranger to Ronnie.

“This past summer, Lock Haven would come to our room and wrestle some freestyle with the club, the guys that were eligible through USA wrestling. So I wrestled a few times with Ronny when he came this summer. I know he’s excited, so it’ll be fun” Retherford said with a smile.

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