DeSanto-Lee match was roof-rattling bout for the ages
There were two championship finals bouts in the Class 2A and Class 3A state tournaments that had the crowd buzzing well after they ended, and one rattled the roof because of the crowd reaction.
I thought nothing could beat the intensity, drama and crowd noise of the Class 2A 138-pound finals bout between Central Cambria’s OW Max Murin and Reynolds’ Cole Matthews.
Murin dug deep and escaped with 4 seconds remaining in regulation to send the bout into overtime. And then he kicked free of Matthews with 6 seconds left in the ultimate tiebreaker to capture a 2-1 heart-pounding victory.
My reaction, as well as many others’ reactions, was “Wow, what a match!”
But that got bested by the 126-pound Class 3A bout between Franklin Regional’s three-time, career unbeaten state champ Spencer Lee and Exeter Township’s 52-0 Austin DeSanto.
Theirs was a bout for the ages.
Nobody, except possibly DeSanto, saw Lee losing the final bout of his illustrious career coming, but we were all witnesses to an unbelievable ending.
DeSanto, who got tech-falled by Lee in last year’s state finals, scored three takedowns in the final period on Saturday night to win, 6-5. His last takedown came right before the final buzzer, and the nearly 7,000 fans, almost all of whom were backing DeSanto most of the bout, erupted in a deafening celebration.
I’ve been covering the state tournament for 26 years, including 13 for the Mirror, and I can’t remember hearing the crowd that loud at either the Giant Center or the Hersheypark Arena.
The only other moment that might compare to that one was when Pine-Richland’s Jeremy Lengle spladled Warrior Run’s three-time champion Jeremy Betz and pinned him in the 125-pound semifinals of the 1995 Class 2A state tournament. That left the crowd at Hersheypark Arena buzzing well after the bout.
DeSanto’s win over Lee was bigger. No three-time champ had ever lost in the finals. Plus, Lee was unbeaten for his career (144-0), had easily won his three previously titles, is a world champion, committed to wrestle with Murin at Iowa and is the focus of a recent movie by PA Power Wrestling.
I thought he was unbeatable. When he is healthy, he is a beast, and he is unbeatable. He’s right up with the best the state has produced, like Kennard-Dale’s four-time champ Chance Marsteller and Jefferson-Morgan’s four-timer Cary Kolat, both of whom went unbeaten in their careers.
Lee, though, was clearly not his old self. He wore a big brace on his right knee, and he labored in the last minute of the bout, slowly walking back to the center circle each time they went out of bounds.
We found out later that Lee was diagnosed with an ACL tear about a month ago, and he had kept it quiet since then.
Still, though, he breezed to the finals with a 57-second pin, a 15-0 technical fall and a 6-0 win over Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Anderson.
I felt good for DeSanto and bad for Lee. As we all know, though, everyone loves to back the underdog, and DeSanto, despite being 52-0, was definitely an underdog going in.
But this underdog had some bite.
Todd Irwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1