HERSHEY - Some day in the future Bedford sophomore Jonathan Gabriel will look back on his experience in the 2014 PIAA Class AA Championships with pride.
On Saturday, though, pride wasn't the main emotion he was filling.
It was sadness and disappointment after he dropped a 5-0 decision to Bethlehem Catholic's returning state runner-up Luke Karam in the 113-pound finals before a large crowd at the Giant Center.
Asked how much it hurts, Gabriel, with tears welling up in his eyes, said, "Really bad. It's really painful."
It was the second time this season that Gabriel lost to Karam. In their first meeting, at the King of the Mountain, Karam rolled to an 11-0 win. Still no points for Gabriel this time, but a closer score.
"I wrestled him a lot better than I did at the beginning of the season," Gabriel said. "I wrestled tough and I couldn't pull out the win, but I feel like I wrestled good."
"I was a little bit more conservative once I got the lead," Karam said. "I didn't want to get caught in anything. I just wanted to hold on and win."
"I definitely felt Luke didn't open up," said BC coach and dad Jeff Karam, whose team breezed to the team title, "but part of that was his opponent. He wrestled a really good wrestler in the finals. That kid is very tough. He's been on a number of Luke's teams for Cadets, and he's a pretty darn tough kid."
Gabriel came out aggressive, taking shots and forcing the action, but each time he would get in on Karam's legs, the crafty BC wrestler would fight off the attempt.
"Every single time I went on a shot, he'd catch both of my arms and he'd lock them up real tight," Gabriel said. "I wasn't able to move, and I'd be really offbalance."
"He was in on his legs three or four times, and he had great shots," Bedford coach Brian Creps said. "He just couldn't get them finished, and that was the difference in the match."
Gabriel said Karam was different in the neutral position from most of the guys he's wrestled.
"In neutral, everybody else kind of backs away and they don't back away," Gabriel said. "He tries to tie up, but he doesn't tie up and use it. He kind of ties you up tight, waits for you to make a mistake and then counters it. It's very frustrating."
Karam countered a Gabriel shot and scored a takedown at the edge of the mat in the first period to take the lead.
In the second period, Karam escaped, took Gabriel down and rode him the rest of the period. They wrestled on their feet in the third period, and Karam was hit with a stall call with 40 seconds left, but Gabriel still couldn't connect.
Karam (40-2) was pinned in overtime of last year's 106-pound finals by Saegertown's Devin Brown, who won a Class AAA title for Franklin Regional Saturday night with a 7-6 win over Northampton's Dan Moran.
"As a father, it's really great," Jeff Karam said. "Ever since last year at this time, I know it's something that has weighed very heavily on his mind. We've got a nice trip home."
Up until the loss, Gabriel had been on a roll in the tournament, winning by technical fall in the quarterfinals and a pin in the semifinals.
"I would have rather won, obviously," he said, "but I feel like I wrestled really good this weekend. I'm happy with it."
It's the second straight year a Bedford wrestler has lost to somebody from Bethlehem Catholic in the finals. Last year, Ryan Easter lost to two-time champ Darian Cruz in last year's 120-pound finals. Bedford hasn't won a state title since Ron Hamilton won the 133-pound gold in 1964.
"Karam is a really good wrestler, and there's no shame in losing to him," Creps said, "but you want to get to that level. We're close to that level right now, but we're just quite not there. If we could have finished a couple of those shots, then we're there."
Gabriel finished the season with a 29-6 record, and he was already looking forward to trying to get to the top of the medals stand next season.
"Last year, I didn't even make it here, and it didn't hurt near as bad as this," Gabriel said. "But, I feel that I'm going to come back with two times the fire next year. I'll take time off until the end of the month, and then I'll start training for freestyle.
"I'm really, really excited for freestyle. I love freestyle. It's by far my favorite style. I didn't have a chance to really do much last year. I was kind of wore out, but I'm really looking forward to freestyle season."