Guy Deleonardis, Knoch’s 1st wrestler to make states, prepares for big stage

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | 5:04 PM


In its 14 years of existence, the Knoch wrestling program never sent a wrestler to the PIAA tournament.

Until now.

When senior Guy Deleonardis (23-3) placed fourth in the 160-pound bracket at the WPIAL Class AAA championship this past weekend, he became the first Knights wrestler to qualify for the state tournament.

“It feels really good. I was kind of surprised to be the first one because our program is new, but it’s not that new,” Deleonardis said. “It’s been around for a little bit, so to be the first one, it’s an honor. It’s a really good feeling.”

For Deleonardis, his trip to Hershey this weekend has been a long time coming. As a freshman, Deleonardis produced a record of 8-9. But every year since, he has improved.

As a sophomore, he more than doubled his win total to 20. Then, as a junior, he went 24-8 and placed third in the sectional tournament but didn’t place at the WPIAL tournament. Heading into this year, Deleonardis was motivated to make it to the state tournament.

“Last year, I didn’t even make it to the second day,” he said. “So I was determined to qualify for states. I found a plan this season and just stuck to that plan, and it has really helped me.”

Between spending a considerable amount of time in the weight room, to training more with his school team and club teams — OMP Wrestling and Young Guns — along with eating right and getting enough sleep, Deleonardis started to see results early this season.

He got off to the best start of his career by winning his first 20 matches, including eight pins. He won the Hickory Invitational tournament and the Armstrong Winter Classic.

“The gap that he’s been able to close over the past four years or so is absolutely crazy,” said Knoch coach Grayson Hixon, who was a freshman on the first Knoch wrestling team in 2006-07. “He’s gone from being a fairly green wrestler to someone that’s put themselves in position to compete, and he made history by qualifying for states.”

Deleonardis entered the Section 3-AAA tournament as the No. 1 seed in the 160-pound bracket and made his way to the championship with a 54-second pin and a 13-1 major decision. He matched up with Fox Chapel’s Alex Wecht, the No. 2 seed, and lost a 3-2 nail-biter.

His season wasn’t over, though, and he bounced back in a big way at the WPIAL tournament.

He entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed and earned a pin in 5 minutes, 28 seconds in his Round of 16 match. Then he matched up with Thomas Jefferson’s Brendan Finnerty, the No. 3 seed. After two scoreless periods, Deleonardis scored four of his points in the third to earn a 4-0 decision.

“It felt unreal because it put me into the semifinals,” Deleonardis said. “Either way, I was in a good part of the bracket, because if I lost I would drop down to the blood rounds, so I still had another chance to make it to states.”

Deleonardis met Waynesburg’s Luca Augustine in the semifinals and dropped a 3-0 decision. Despite the loss, Deleonardis thought being able to compete in a tight match with one of the best wrestlers in the WPIAL will help him in Hershey.

“That’s how you get better,” Hixon said. “You have to go against guys that are either at your level or better than you because those are the only ones that push you to adapt and evolve in this sport. So it’s good for his confidence and his ability.”

On Thursday, Deleonardis will start off his state tournament with a matchup against Roman Moser (27-8), a senior from Methacton. If Deleonardis wins, he could face No. 1 seed Clayton Ulrey (34-2) from Lower Dauphin in the second round.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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