ATLANTIC CITY -- Holy Spirit High School wrestler Pat D'Arcy wearily leaned against the stage at Boardwalk Hall on Sunday, trying mightily to hold back tears.
The junior had just turned in a solid performance in the 113-pound final at the state individual championships but had gone up against one of the best wrestlers in the country.
Bergen Catholic sophomore Nick Suriano, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation at 113 pounds by the wrestling website InterMat.com, earned his second straight title with a 7-0 decision over D'Arcy before approximately 10,000 fans.
"I just came up short," D'Arcy said. "It's disappointing, but he's a very good wrestler. There are not too many holes in his game. All I can do is keep trying to improve and come back stronger next year."
The victory enabled Suriano to reach the halfway point of a perfect high school career. He is 83-0 with two state titles in as many appearances.
He is trying to join 2013 South Plainfield graduate Anthony Ashnault, who was inducted into the Boardwalk Hall of Fame earlier Sunday, as the only wrestlers in state history to win four state championships and go undefeated.
"It feels really good to get my hand raised again here," Suriano said. "Now I'm one more closer to four (state titles), and that's my goal. It's something I think about every day."
Suriano (44-0) entered the final as the favorite, having beaten D'Arcy (43-3) four times in previous bouts, including an 11-3 decision in the Beast of the East tournament this season.
D'Arcy, who finished third in the state last year, decided to rely on an aggressive strategy in hopes of pulling off the upset.
From the opening whistle, he attacked Suriano, charging forward and forcing him to fight off a takedown attempt. D'Arcy continued to press the action throughout the match, even when it became apparent that Suriano was going to win.
"That was my game plan," D'Arcy said. "If you want to win a state title, you have to go for it, and that's what I did. I even jumped the whistle a few times because I wanted to get a quick start."
Suriano used his strength and quickness to take a 2-0 lead on a takedown with 54 seconds left in the first period. He then prevented D'Arcy from escaping for the entire second period.
Suriano escaped to open the third and scored the decisive points when he put D'Arcy on his back for a takedown and two-point near-fall with 45 seconds remaining in regulation.
"I think the fact that we've wrestled before really helped him today," Suriano said. "I usually overwhelm guys the first time I wrestle them, but he knows all my moves. I wanted to win in a more dominating way, but props to him. He had a good strategy."
After the match, the two shook hands at center mat. Suriano posed briefly while Bergen Catholic's fans cheered.
D'Arcy got some pats on the back from Spartans coach Ralph Paolone and assistant Mtume Goodrum, who finished second in the state three times for Absegami.
D'Arcy, who is now a three-time state place-winner with a 120-11 career record, hopes to stand atop the Boardwalk Hall podium at next year's state tournament.
"I'm very proud of the way Pat wrestled today," Paolone said. "That match was a lot closer than 7-0 because he did what he wanted to do out there for most of the match.
"Losing in the final is disappointing, for sure, but Pat is starting to believe he's good enough to wrestle against the best kids in the country, and that's an important step for him."
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