Valley News Dispatch wrestler of the year: Burrell’s AJ Corrado

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 7:14 PM


When Burrell senior AJ Corrado first started wrestling in fifth grade, he used to be mesmerized by the state wrestling brackets, often wondering if he’d ever have a chance to stand on top of the PIAA podium one day in Hershey.

“I would always look at brackets and stuff like the state championships in the 12-and-under, and I’d look up to those guys,” Corrado said. “I’d be like, ‘Wow, what does it take to do that?’ I was practicing so hard back then and in my third year, I took second in the state and I knew then that I could do it.”

Through the first three years of his high school career, Corrado came close. He placed seventh as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and made it to the state championship his junior year but came up just short as he earned a runner-up finish.

The Brown-bound grappler completed his senior season with a record of 37-0 after the team competition concluded Saturday. But earlier in the month, Corrado achieved the biggest goal of his high school career.

With the score tied 1-1 in overtime of the 160-pound PIAA championship March 12 at Hershey’s Giant Center, Corrado pancaked Midd-West senior Avery Bassett to capture the first state title of his career.

“I’ve been talking about this for my whole high school career, like that was my goal. By the end of my career I wanted to at least win one state title,” Corrado said. “It kind of feels surreal, like not in the way that I didn’t think it could happen but surreal, that it’s here, it happened, and I’m a state champion. It’s pretty exciting to think about.”

In the state tournament, Corrado pulled off a few close matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals. He earned a 2-1 decision over Benton’s Nolan Lear. Then he earned a 3-1 decision over Bailey Gimbor to punch his ticket to the PIAA finals for the second season in a row.

At that point, he hadn’t lost and he was feeling confident heading into the final. So when the time came to capture his goal, he was ready.

“I knew I was in really good shape, and I knew that I had put in so much work in the practice room and the competitions that we were able to have this year,” Corrado said. “So I went into that period and into that match confident that I was going to win. Going into overtime I felt great, and I saw that he was shooting the same shot a lot and I felt the pancake was there.”

Corrado will finish his wrestling career at Burrell as one of the best: 159 wins, two WPIAL championships, four section titles and helping the Bucs reach the final four of the team tournament this past weekend for the first time since 2014.

“He set lofty goals for himself each and every year, and that kept pushing him to get better,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “So for him to end his career with a state title, it’s a storybook ending for a storybook career. To go out and help his team finish third at individuals and third in the team tournament, he’ll go out as one of the best wrestlers to ever come through this program.”

Corrado said one of the biggest things that made him into the wrestler he is today is the Bucs’ culture.

“I bought into the Burrell program,” Corrado said. “The coaches here are great, there are so many practice partners and you really just have to buy in, work as hard as you can, follow what they say, and you’ll end up having success in your career, no matter what it is.”

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

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