HERSHEY, Pa.: There was some obvious tension between Notre Dame-Green Pond’s Andrew Cerniglia and Pequea Valley’s Gabe Miller during the Parade of Champions Saturday afternoon at Hershey’s Giant Center.
The handshake was less than cordial. Of course, it’s understandable. Miller stormed back from an early deficit and pinned Cerniglia in the Regional final a week ago.
Now, the two were meeting in the PIAA Championships with a gold medal and bragging rights on the line. And Cerniglia wanted to make a statement.
It was delivered loud and clear. Cerniglia turned it on, overwhelming Miller throughout the entire six-minute affair to put an exclamation point on his 145-pound title with a 14-0 major that could have been worse.
“This is awesome, especially with Gabe getting a little iffy before the match,” Cerniglia said. “I just had to show him what was up.
“I think he thought I was going to fall over for him, but that’s not how I work. If someone beats me, I’m going to come back twice as hard and get him the next time.”
This one was over in a hurry.
Cerniglia showed that this match was going to be different with a takedown at the 20-second mark of the first period. He was a beast on top and finally turned Miller for two near-fall points a minute later.
Miller went neutral to start the second period. It was a big mistake, as Cerniglia registered another takedown 17 seconds into the frame. Soon after, Miller was forced to take injury time.
“I wanted to set the tone at the start of the match,” Cerniglia said. “Once he took injury time, that’s when I knew he was broke. I just had to keep finding ways to score points, and that’s what I ended up doing.”
Cerniglia, who entered the match ranked second in the state, added two near-fall points to close out the second period and stretch his lead to an insurmountable 8-0 lead.
Some wrestlers build a lead in the state finals and slow it down to avoid getting hit with a big move. Not Cerniglia, not in this case.
Instead, Cerniglia wanted to leave no doubt. It wasn’t just to Miller, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state, it was to the people who criticized his move from Nazareth to the Notre Dame-Green Pond wrestling program.
Cerniglia escaped to start the third and scored on another takedown. A few seconds later, the Crusaders junior went looking for the pin. He didn’t get it, but a statement was made with this gold-medal march.
“I really wanted to get the pin, mainly because of last week,” Cerniglia said. “He was like, ‘Oh, I pinned him.’ I was just trying to score points, don’t stop, and keep going.
“People were saying, ‘If you leave [Nazareth], you aren’t going to do well, because there is a history there.’ I just wanted to get rid of that stereotype and show that kids can leave, better themselves, and do well.”