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Mitch Rupert on wrestling: Williamsport’s Roman Morrone has confidence going into Class AAA Northwest Regionals

There was no hesitation from Williamsport’s Roman Morrone. His success this year has come from the confidence he carried into the wrestling season.

The mental aspect of the sport is something the junior 152-pounder tries to work on. The confidence allows him to wrestle the way he wants. It allows him to wrestle the way which has led him to today’s Class AAA Northwest Regional tournament with a 17-1 record, and has made him one of the most valuable pieces in the 21st-ranked Millionaires.

“Wrestling has a very big mental aspect to it,” Morrone said. “A weak mindset late in the season is not good.”

It’s not as if Morrone hasn’t previously had success in his career. He was a win away from qualifying for the state tournament a year ago when he posted 32 wins for Williamsport.

But he has had success like he’s never had before even as Williamsport has competed against its toughest schedule since the renaissance of the program began under coach Brian Nasdeo. Morrone’s 17-1 record ties him for the second-most wins on the team. His 94.4% winning percentage is second-best on the team behind only undefeated Cael Nasdeo and undefeated Riley Bower.

None of this should come as a surprise, though. Morrone has been a fixture in the lineup since this group of juniors hit the varsity level two years ago. It’s a group which has lifted the Williamsport program to heights it hasn’t seen in decades. The Millionaires won the school’s first district dual meet championship last year and participated in the state tournament in Hershey.

Morrone was right in the middle of making all that happen, going 3-1 in the district a state team tournament, losing only to eventual state champion Cole Handlovic of Bethlehem Catholic. He carried those positive results into the postseason where he was runner-up in the District 4/9 tournament and fell within one win of reaching his first state tournament.

The success he had last year helped lead to the confidence he’s brought into this junior season. That’s the confidence which has led to a 17-1 campaign and the No. 2 seed in today’s regional tournament behind Erie Cathedral Prep state bronze medalist Paniro Johnson.

“I feel like where I am right now is pretty good,” Morrone said. “I’d like to make it pretty far in the postseason.”

The one loss on his record this season came on the worst day of wrestling Williamsport experienced. He was pinned by Gettysburg’s Jacob Cherry at the COVID Duals at Selinsgrove on a Saturday afternoon where the Millionaires seemed to slog their way through the tournament.

That loss was a wake-up call for Morrone. He understood in that moment he still had work to do. He understood he wasn’t quite ready for postseason wrestling. But it was also the moment in which things changed for Williamsport.

Coach Brian Nasdeo ratcheted up the intensity in practice with a tough love which seemed to put the Millionaires back on track. Morrone hasn’t lost since.

His season has included a number of impressive wins, including a 5-1 win on opening day against Cumberland Valley’s now 13th-ranked Gabriel Belga. To date, it is still the only loss on Belga’s record. Morrone also posted a 6-0 win over Brookville’s 22nd-ranked Wyatt Griffin and a 6-4 win over Southern Columbia’s 15th-ranked Garrett Garcia.

All that success came up at 160 pounds, where Morrone wrestled the entire regular season. He chose to make the drop to 152 pounds for the postseason and continued that success, posting two wins by fall to win his first district championship a week ago in the District 4/9 AAA tournament.

“I think I just wrestle stronger there. I’m more confident,” Morrone said. “I feel better and move quicker.”

With only a few weeks left in the season and Morrone getting closer and closer to his goal of reaching the state tournament, he’s trying to work on making sure he’s staying aggressive in every match. But his focus isn’t on the potential of facing Johnson in today’s 152-pound final. It’s a matchup Morrone wants to see where he really stands, but there is a key step between the start of the tournament and that match he needs to navigate.

But the confidence he’s gained over the last two seasons helps him believe he not only belongs in that match, but that he can be compete in it, too.

“I was always training hard, and once I started winning matches, I started feeling better about myself,” Morrone said. “It’s still a one-match-at-a-time type of thing, though. I can’t worry about the finals or next week. You have to worry about it one at a time.”

WRESTLER OF THE WEEK

Nate Higley, Sullivan County

(145 pounds)

It’s not as if the senior’s championship at 145 pounds was a surprise. He’s a two-time state placewinner who always seems to be at his best in the postseason. But it was how Higley became Sullivan County’s first two-time district champion which was so eye-opening last week. Higley defeated the eventual second, third and fourth-place finishers in his bracket, all with bonus points. The only other AA District 4 champion to defeat the eventual second, third and fourth-place finishers was Southern Columbia’s Mason Barvitskie at 120 pounds. Higley opened the tournament with a fall in 3 minutes, 1 second over Mifflinburg’s 16th-ranked Troy Bingaman. He then pinned Milton returning state qualifier and 13th-ranked Kyler Crawford in 2:25 in the semifinals. Higley finished the day with an 11-1 major decision over three-time state qualifier and former state placewinner Patrick Edmondson of Southern Columbia. It was as impressive a run as there was in the tournament considering the level of competition.

Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 570-326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.

MITCH RUPERT’S REGIONAL PREDICTIONS

CLASS AAA NORTHWEST REGIONAL

(Top 2 advance to Super Regional)

106: 1. Cael Nasdeo, Williamsport; 2. Casey Smith, Juniata; 3. Sam Staab, Cathedral Prep; 4. Evan Davis, Clearfield.

113: 1. Jacob Van Dee, Cathedral Prep; 2. Nic Allison, Mifflin County; 3. Aidan O’Shea, Bellefonte; 4. Luke Segraves, Williamsport.

120: 1. Logan Aikey, Bellefonte; 2. Davey Aughenbaugh, DuBois; 3. Caleb Fasick, Altoona; 4. Ian Irvin, Cathedral Prep.

126: 1. Carter Weaver, Williamsport; 2. Luke Simcox, Central Mountain; 3. Owen Woolcott, State College; 4. Philip Stark, Cathedral Prep.

132: 1. Jude Swisher, Bellefonte; 2. Pierson Manville, State College; Braden Bower, Williamsport; 4. Kaemen Smith, Cathedral Prep.

138: 1. Matt Sarbo, Altoona; 2. Chandler Ho, DuBois; 3. Taylor Weaver, Central Mountian; 4. Logan Carrick, McDowell.

145: 1. Riley Bower, Williamsport; 2. Matt Leehan, General McLane; 3. Griffin Walizer, Central Mountain; 4. Steffan Lynch, Cathedral Prep.

152: 1. Paniro Johnson, Cathedral Prep; 2. Roman Morrone, Williamsport; 3. Brady Smith, Punxsutawney; 4. Rocco Serafini, Central Mountain.

160: 1. Ethan Richner, Bellefonte; 2. Jackson Spires, General McLane; 3. Coy Bastian, Selinsgrove; 4. Kelyn Blossey, Cathedral Prep.

172: 1. Trey Kibe, Mifflin County; 2. Lance Urbas, State College; 3. Nick Crisp, St. Mary’s; 4. Magnus Lloyd, General McLane.

189: 1. Carson Manville, State College; 2. Ethan Rossman, Bellefonte; 3. Griffin Buzzell, Meadville; 4. James Laird, General McLane.

215: 1. Mark McGonigal, Clearfield; 2. Nik Miller, Central Mountain; 3. John Campbell, Cathedral Prep; 4. Ryan Aument, Selinsgrove.

285: 1. Nate Schon, Selinsgrove; 2. Oliver Billotte, Clearfield; 3, Trevor Manley, Altoona; 4. Harrison Schoen, State College.

CLASS AA NORTHEAST REGIONAL

(Top 3 advance to Super Regional)

106: 1. Branden Wentzel, Montoursville; 2. Brock Weiss, Jersey Shore; 3. Chase Burke, Benton; 4. Jace Gessner, Lewisburg.

113: 1. Gavin Bradley, Athens; 2. Jaden Pepe, Wyoming Area; 3. Bobby Gardner, South Williamsport; 4. Kaden Milheim, Warrior Run.

120: 1. Mason Barvitskie, Southern Columbia; 2. Ethan Kolb, Benton; 3. Kaden Majcher, Warrior Run; 4. Caden Finck, Montgomery.

126: 1. Gable Strickland, Benton; 2. Kole Biscoe, Southern Columbia; 3. Gabe Gramly, Mifflinburg; 4. Scott Johnson, Muncy.

132: 1. Cade Wirnsberger, Meadowbrook Christian; 2. Kaiden Wagner, Lewisburg; 3. Bryce Vollman, Muncy; 4. Mason Leshock, Line Mountain.

138: 1. Conner Harer, Montgomery; 2. Hayden Ward, Canton; 3. Ian Yoder, Southern Columbia; 4. Antonio D’Apollonio, Scranton Prep.

145: 1. Nate Higley, Sullivan County; 2. Patrick Edmondson, Southern Columbia; 3. Kyler Crawford, Milton; 4. Zach Stuart, Lake-Lehman.

152: 1. Isaac Cory, Montoursville; 2. Devon Deem, Montgomery; 3. Cooper Price, Wyoming Area; 4. Troy Johnson, Central Columbia.

160: 1. Avery Bassett, Midd-West; 2. Nolan Lear, Benton; 3. Ty Nixon, Muncy; 4. Nick Zaboski, Lake-Lehman.

172: 1. Gavin Garcia, Southern Columbia; 2. Ethan Gush, Muncy; 3. Stephen Roeder, Bloomsburg; 4. Kohen Lehman, North Penn-Liberty.

189: 1. Cael Crebs, Montoursville; 2. Wes Barnes, Southern Columbia; 3. Jacob Feese, Line Mountain; 4. Hayden Packer, Jersey Shore.

215: 1. Dylan Bennett, Montoursville; 2. Zach Poust, Benton; 3. Connor Wrobleski, Wyoming Area; 4. Damon Backes, Mount Carmel.

285: 1. Emmanuel Ulrich, Mifflinburg; 2. Caleb Burkhart, Hughesville; 3. Kade Sottolano, Williamson; 4. Logan McWilliams, Central Columbia.

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