HERSHEY, Pa.: Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer had a modest goal when he entered his first year of high school wrestling.
You really couldn’t blame him. It’s not easy being a freshman in this game, and adding the weight of more self-imposed expectations doesn’t make it any easier.
Then, Pitzer changed his mind. He was putting in the work and saw the gradual improvement on the mat. That led to the Vikings standout upping the personal ante and wanting more.
Pitzer reached all of his goals Saturday night at Hershey’s Giant Center. Not only did he exceed expectations, he went straight to the top in the PIAA Championships and earned state gold.
“The beginning of the season, my goal was to get top three,” Pitzer said. “Halfway through the year, I said that I didn’t want to work this hard to get third. I wanted to win.
“I, definitely, felt nervous. I get nervous before every match, regardless of who the opponent is. I don’t think I was extra nervous … I just tried to keep my composure. It hasn’t sunk yet, but it feels good, right now.”
If Pitzer was nervous, he didn’t show it. His opponent, Freedom Area’s Bryson Miller, took the 1-0 lead in the second period with an escape.
The two wrestlers went at it in neutral. Pitzer, who entered the tournament as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state, got busy and scored on a takedown with 24 seconds left in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.
“I knew he was going to try and slow me down and keep the score close,” Pitzer said. “I felt really comfortable after the takedown.
“I feel like I wrestled better at regionals than I did here. I pushed the pace more at regionals and broke him, but I had to wrestle smart.”
Nursing a one-point lead, Pitzer took bottom in this physical contest. He blasted to his feet in the first five seconds and upped his advantage to 3-1.
Bryson, who was ranked sixth in the state entering the tournament, challenged over the remaining 1:50 of the match. But, Pitzer answered at every turn and was able to hold off his opponent for the win.
“Wrestling those tough guys at tournaments throughout the year helped me,” Pitzer said. “This is incredible. All the hard work me and my teammates went through this season, it paid off.”