Bethel Park grappler secures second place at states
Nino Bonaccorsi’s heart went out to Spencer Lee. The Bethel Park grappler watched as the Franklin Regional senior’s dream of becoming a four-time, undefeated state champion ended with a 6-5 loss in the 126-pound finals on March 11 at the PIAA wrestling championships held at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“It’s hard to see any wrestler lose because you know how hard he has worked and not to accomplish his dream,” Bonaccorsi said.
Seven bouts later, Bonaccorsi, too, felt Lee’s anguish as he lost his bid to become a state champion for the second year in a row. Bonaccorsi was undefeated (39-0) heading into his final match.
“It happens,” Bonaccorsi sighed. “It stinks but that is the nature of the sport. I was happy to get to the finals.”
After scoring pins in his opening rounds of the tournament against Teegan Hahn of Greensburg-Salem and Ben Maack of Governor Mifflin, Bonaccorsi defeated Cole Urbas of State College, 7-0, to reach the finals in the 182-pound weight class. After watching Lee’s match, Bonaccorsi was fired up.
“That match got the crowd pumped up and I wanted to go right then and there,” he said.
Bonaccorsi, however, had to wait to wrestle Travis Stefanik of Nazareth. Regardless, he was ready though he was not real familiar with his opponent.
“I never wrestled him before but I knew of him because he wrestled a class lower than me before,” Bonaccorsi said, “but whether it is somebody that I have wrestled before or not, I just try to go out and win.”
In a mere six minutes, however, Bonaccorsi’s attempt failed.
After a scoreless first period, Stefanik chose bottom to start the second period and escaped. Bonaccorsi shot back and registered a takedown before Stefanik evened the match with another escape. Tied, 2-2, heading into the third period, Bonaccorsi selected bottom and quickly escaped to take the lead but with 30 seconds to go in the match, Stefanik scored the decisive takedown.
“I figured he was going to try and get in on me and he did. He got one on me,” Bonaccorsi said. “He’s a talented wrestler.”
So is Bonaccorsi. He is a two-time PIAA state runner-up.
This season, Bonaccorsi won the King of the Mountain, Powerade and Allegheny County tournaments before claiming his second straight WPIAL and Southwest Regional titles. All highlights in his career, he said.
“It’s been an incredible experience. The whole season,” he said. “But there is nothing like participating in the Parade of Champions before the PIAA finals. When they announce your name, that’s special.”
Bonaccorsi’s career at Bethel Park has been special. With 147 wins, he ranks second only to his brother, Nick, who has 158. Bonaccorsi just didn’t experience that happy ending.
“I’m still sad but I’m coming to terms with it,” Bonaccorsi said of the second straight defeat in the state finals. “We all want to win but I’ve been blest to have gotten this opportunity two years in a row. The competition in our state is so hard compared to others so it’s an honor. I’m happy. I can honestly say that I have no regrets. I did all I could. It just was not meant to be.”
NOTES: Jason Montgomery of Bethel Park and Eli Grape from Upper St. Clair placed seventh in the tournament. Montgomery defeated Cade Wilson of Nazareth, 4-2, in his 160-pound medal match while Grape decisioned Ben Fromm of Cocalico, 9-4, in his 195-pound medal bout.
After scoring a first-round upset of the top seed, Owen Verspy of North Penn, 11-2, Jake Slinger of Upper St. Clair lost his next two matches of the tournament.
Luke Stout, Mt. Lebanon’s first-ever freshman state qualifier, was eliminated in the second round of consolation matches, falling to Trevor Elfvin of Father Judge.