WEST LAWN >> Briton Shelton, Colton Dull and Sam McCollum each went into their title matches at the PIAA Class AA Southeast Regional wrestling championship with a different cross to bear.
Shelton was a defending champion.
Dull was facing an opponent he had never beaten.
And McCollum was protecting an unbeaten record.
But at the end of the evening, the three Bermudian Springs seniors were standing on the center mat, posing for the traditional champions picture for the PIAA Wrestling championships program.
That trio of Eagles, along with Biglerville's Nate Newberry (145), captured gold medals Saturday at Wilson High School in the final lead-up to the state tournament, which starts Thursday.
The YAIAA will send 13 Class AA competitors to the Giant Center in Hershey for the PIAA championships, which run through Saturday.
Eastern York's Lucas Barshinger (195) and Bermudian Springs' Brady Linebaugh (285) brought home silver medals.
Hanover's Caleb Garland (120), Eastern York's Dakota Mackley (152) and Biglerville's Nate Mentzer (220) placed fourth. The Bermudian Springs pair of Austin Clabaugh (120) and Noah Fleshman (160) as well as Littlestown's Zach MacLeod (285) placed fifth.
Littlestown's Jordan Matthews was the final local qualifier, ending up sixth at 152.
Eagles coach Dave McCollum was understandably happy for his three big guys.
"Those three seniors have been a huge part of our success over the last three years," he said. "They are great kids who love the sport and love to compete."
Shelton, who had won at 160 last season, was the most dominant of the Eagles champions, pinning Evan Daub of Northern Lebanon at the 2:29 mark. The lanky Shelton took a half nelson over the top, flipping the Vikings senior onto his back for the fall.
"I was kind of nervous (as a defending champion). Being at the top, everyone wants to beat you," said Shelton, who is 38-3 and has spent time ranked No. 1 in the state.
Dull's final opponent, Lehighton's Connor Frey, had beaten the Eagles senior twice before in this same tournament.
In each of the first two periods, it looked like Dull hit lateral drops for takedowns near the edge of the mat but the ref called out of bounds each time.
"I think the ref was a little quick to call out of bounds, but you can't leave it in the ref's hands. You can't let (a bad call) take you out of your game," said Dull, who improved to 36-1.
Tied, the bout went into tiebreaker periods where Dull recorded a two-point near fall in the first 30-second period. The four-year starter then took bottom for the second tiebreaker period and never came close to allowing any points, earning a 3-1 victory.
McCollum remained unbeaten with an 8-3 decision over Tri-Valley freshman Dan Scheib in the 220-pound final. He secured his gold medal with a big second period when he racked up a takedown and four back points to cruise to his 39th consecutive win.
The win clinched gold and his 100th career win.
"A teacher said to me this week that 100 wins is just a byproduct of taking matches one at a time. I appreciated the advice. It stuck with me all week," said McCollum, who finished third at last season's regional event.
The three-year starter for the Eagles also maintained an incredible streak where he has not been taken down from the neutral position all season long.
Linebaugh just missed making it a clean sweep for the Eagles, losing a 3-2 decision in ultimate tiebreaker to Wyomissing's Robert Dunbar. Last week, the Eagles senior had won the District 3 crown over the junior.
"Brady's really improved on his feet and winning close matches. That's what makes this one so tough," Eagles coach Dave McCollum said.
Newberry took all the suspense out of his 145-pound final early against Ryan Farber of Northern Lehigh with an 8-0 victory.
The Canners junior countered a flashy Farber takedown attempt with a takedown of his own.
After that, Newberry (35-2) went to work, registering two tilts of the District 11 champion for five total back points to finish the scoring after just one period.
All postseason long Newberry has been scoring points in bunches so there was no need to change that approach in a regional final.
"The game plan was get up as early as possible and go from there. His wrist was there so I took it," said Newberry.
Barshinger (30-1) suffered his first loss on the season when he got caught by North Schuylkill's Alek Hummel.
The Golden Knights senior was tied, 2-2, with the District 11 champ when he shot in wide and Hummel tossed him to his back, registering the fall with just 11.4 seconds remaining in the bout.