HERSHEY, Pa. — Thousands of fans inside the Giant Center stood and applauded as the final seconds ticked down on Jimmy Gulibon's final high school wrestling match, even while he was still grappling on the mat.
It's not often that a four-time winner gets crowned at the PIAA championships.
Gulibon, the calm and collected Derry Area senior, became just the 10th wrestler to win four golds in the 75-year history of the tournament and cemented his name among the greatest grapplers to ever come out wrestling-savvy Pennsylvania.
"That was pretty cool," Gulibon said about the ovation toward the end of his match. "Yeah, I guess that was pretty cool."
Not the chatty type in front of the microphones, Gulibon makes his statements on the mat. He beat Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta 9-3 on Saturday to take the 126-pound division.
Gulibon was among 14 Class AA champions crowned in the afternoon session. The spotlight shines on the Class AAA finals on Saturday night.
But Gulibon's four-title run was the story line of the tourney. His streak started as a freshman in 2009 at 103 pounds. Crowns at 112 and 119 followed.
Two other four-time winners, John Hughes of Benton (1988-91) and Jerry Maurey of Clearfield (1947-50), were on the arena floor Saturday to welcome the newest member to their exclusive club before Gulibon made one last visit to the top of the medal stand.
"I was just thinking you deserve it, you wrestled hard the last four years," said Gulibon, who was also named the tournament's most outstanding Class AA wrestler. "Everyone is telling me I earned it, and I earned it."
So, too did Ryan Diehl, a 113-pound junior from Trinity in District 3, after an 11-5 win over Vito Pasone of Wilkes-Barre Meyers. It was the first PIAA medal for Diehl, though he has won twice already in West Virginia before transferring to the suburban Harrisburg private school this season.
Diehl still lives in West Virginia, and he makes the roughly 100-mile trip each day to get to class — though coach Chris Bentley said with a chuckle that the commute might be a little easier for him now that he doesn't have to go to wrestling practice after school.
After a season of limiting his diet and making weight, Diehl plans to splurge a little bit.
His first request? The buffet line at the Shady Maple restaurant in Lancaster County, which boasts of its "authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking."
Diehl said initially he simply wanted "to get fat," before clarifying that he wanted to eat and lift to add muscle.
"I can't wait for the food, that's the one thing I miss this year — the food," Diehl said with a smile.
Dealing with a bloodied nose for much of the match, North Star's Nick Roberts won a third career title with a 3-2 win over Zeke Moisey of Bethlehem Catholic after breaking a tie with a third-period escape.
Perhaps no wrestler had a more animated fan club in Hershey than Richland senior John Rizzo, whose 12-3 win over Lackawanna Trail's Eric Laytos earned him his third career title.Comment on this story
Leading comfortably, Rizzo was still serenaded to calls of "Here we go, Rizzo" and "Give him the business, John!" as he scored two takedowns late in the third period.
Still dripping with sweat as he waited to pick up his medal, Rizzo said his third career crown meant the most to him.
"It was crazy support today, my whole family came down and tons of friends," he said "It's unbelievable."
With three titlists Saturday including brothers Darian Cruz (103 pounds) and Randy Cruz (132), Bethlehem Catholic won the AA team title.