Kyle Casaletto put in the extra hours in the gym and wrestling room. The Southern Regional senior did all the sweating. He overcame minor injuries and faced tough wrestler after tough wrestler all season long.
Casaletto got his hand raised in the center of the mat after winning his third District 24 and Region 8 titles. He finished in second at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament and was runner-up in the state tournament for the second straight season.
Casaletto is also The Press Wrestler of the Year.
One thing Casaletto won't do is take credit for his success.
"I would have never thought as a freshman that I would be a two-time state finalist," Casaletto said. "My coaches really got me to where I am today. They really did a good job of coaching me and without them, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish any of my goals. They got me to the level I wanted to be."
The season started with a second-place finish at the Beast in Delaware. It ended with a loss to High Point's Nick Francavilla in the 125-pound state final for a second-place finish. In between, Casaletto led the Rams to Shore Conference Tournament and South Jersey Group IV titles, as well as district and region titles. He went 39-3 this season and finishes his career with 123 wins, good for fourth best in Southern history.
He hasn't decided on where he will wrestle in college but has narrowed his choices to Hofstra, Rider, East Stroudsburg, Maryland, Binghamton and Newberry.
"I would say it was my coaches," Casaletto said. "I give it all to them. They took me in under their wing and they transformed me into a good wrestler. Without them I never would have done what I did. I really give it all to them."
Casaletto was a leader on the mat and in the room.
"Just mentally, he might be the toughest competitor that I've ever coached," Southern coach John Stout said. "He doesn't worry about the small things and the things that he can't control. He just goes out and wrestles his match and tries to control the things he can control.
"He just has that ability not to overwhelm himself with thoughts and concerns. He just goes out and wrestles and gives 100 percent every time."
Casaletto's ultimate goal was to win a state title, but he knows that not everyone can say they are a three-time state placewinner and two-time runner-up.
"My key was just staying focused and thinking of that goal," Casaletto said. "I always wanted to be a state champ and even though I fell short of it, it still gave me that motivation to work harder and push harder during practice. It really gave me that motivation."
Stout expects Casaletto's influence to carry over to next season and possibly beyond, particularly with the team's young group of lower weights.
"I've just been fortunate to know the kid and to get to know him and his family," Stout said. "The other aspect of it for me is that on a coaching level, it's great for the younger kids to be able to see him and his hard work and attitude and all the success that he had."
Team of the Year
Avenging a 30-point loss in 10 days doesn't happen often, but that's exactly what Southern Regional did in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament.
The Rams lost by 30 points to Jackson Memorial only to come back and beat the Jaguars in dramatic fashion in the SCT finals.
The Rams, No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, went on to win the South Jersey Group IV and District 24 team titles and are the Team of the Year.
Southern finished the season with a 19-4 record and sent three wrestlers to the state tournament, two of whom went on to place.
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