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Cronin taking care of business for Upper Darby

HAVERFORD >> For much of Wednesday night’s match against Haverford High, Upper Darby’s Colin Cronin appeared more like a coach than a wrestler. He paced matside, clapping his hands and shouting words of encouragement to his teammates. Cronin was often the most visible of the Royals’ contingent even as head coach Bob Martin yelled himself hoarse once again.

It’s not that the junior was subdued before. But he certainly wasn’t this animated.

“Now I’m a captain,” Cronin said. “I have to get these guys motivated.”

Upper Darby 138-pounder Colin Cronin lifts Haverford’s Andrew Lee off the mat Wednesday during a win by technical fall in 2:37 for Cronin. A returning PIAA Class AAA Southeast Regional champion, Cronin, a junior, helped the Royals roll to a 42-26 decision in the Central League match. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

Upper Darby 138-pounder Colin Cronin lifts Haverford’s Andrew Lee off the mat Wednesday during a win by technical fall in 2:37 for Cronin. A returning PIAA Class AAA Southeast Regional champion, Cronin, a junior, helped the Royals roll to a 42-26 decision in the Central League match. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

Of course, the 2015 PIAA Class AAA Southeastern Regional champ at 132 pounds wrestled, too. Cronin, now at 138, earned an 18-2, technical fall over the Fords’ Andrew Lee as Upper Darby cruised to a 42-26 victory.

Cronin’s win represented the Royals as whole. He controlled the bout from start to finish and focused on his technique along the way.

“I’ve been working on top a lot in the summer,” Cronin said. “I knew I could get a pin, but I was trying to get some top time.”

At that point, Cronin could be patient, comparatively speaking — his match did last just 2:37, after all. But the Royals held a 30-15 lead thanks to a fast start. Brian Kennerly (195) pinned Matt Weir in 2:28 to spot the visitors a 6-0 advantage. After Mike Romanofsky pulled the Fords even with a pin of Justin Parico, it was up to Pete Augustin to restore Upper Darby’s momentum.

“I knew my team needed a pin,” Augustin said. He delivered one in 3:40 following multiple take-downs of Mike Newman. “I was trying to take him from feet to back and get a snap on his head; get points, a tech fall or a pin.”

From there, the Royals (1-0, 1-0 Central League) put on a dominant display. By the time the match reached the 152-pound weight class, they held a 43-15 lead, well on their way to their ninth win in 10 against Haverford.

But the Fords (3-3, 0-1) did show some fight, especially at the end. They took the final three matches to provide a highlight for a team that continues the march towards contention.

Shawn Fausey has taken over the reigns this season after five years as an assistant.

“This is the closest (the Upper Darby match) has been in a few years,” Fausey said. “Yes, we have a young team. We have a lot of new guys. We also have Vince (Tavani) and David Tustin (6-0 this season). It’s a matter of continuing to focus on what we’re good at and getting better at the small things. It’s a process.”

He’ll have help in the process from Tavani who pinned Thomas Reif in a rematch of the 2015 Central League 120-pound final.

Upper Darby’s Justin O’Donnell, left, grapples with Haverford’s Antonio Azpiri in the 126-pound match Wednesday. O'Donnell scored a pin as Upper Darby topped its rival, 42-26. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

Upper Darby’s Justin O’Donnell, left, grapples with Haverford’s Antonio Azpiri in the 126-pound match Wednesday. O’Donnell scored a pin as Upper Darby topped its rival, 42-26. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

“I knew he was gonna shoot,” Tavani, who won that league title, said of Reif. “I was keeping back (control). I couldn’t get my offense going, but eventually got it done.”

Tavani, like Cronin, has embraced a leadership role to help his young team, and new coach, along.

“Me and the other three captains have to keep the discipline,” he said. “We wrestled really well as a team. We just have to come out stronger.”

As for the Royals, they have their eyes set on a 14th league title after winning lucky number 13 a season ago. And Cronin, part-time coach and full-time wrestler, has higher aspirations.

“I think we can do really good in district duals,” said Cronin. “And we want to bring more than three guys to state.”

Elsewhere in the Central League:

Penncrest 42, Strath Haven 27 >> The Lions (1-0, 1-0) started their season on the right track with a dominant road victory over the Panthers. Penncrest won every weight class from 106 to 152, a streak punctuated by David Stevens narrow, 3-2 decision over Brett Burns. The Moore brothers provided some highlights for Strath Haven.

Devon pinned Stephen Clair at 160 pounds, while David handled Steven Nolan 9-2 at 182.

Garnet Valley 43, Ridley 25 >> If the Jaguars expect to contend for the league title again, they’ll need more consistent performances from front to back. They got one Wednesday as 2015 state qualifier Matt Marion earned a 14-5 major decision over Mike Cowan to help get Garnet Valley (3-3, 1-0) back to the .500-mark for the season. The Green Raiders (0-1, 0-1) showed flashes at home. Nate Brennan’s 12-2 major decision against Shane Glackin bodes well for the senior.

Marple Newtown 69, Harriton 0 >> Six forfeits certainly helped the Tigers on the road, but they took care of business when the two teams actually wrestled. Marple (1-0, 1-0) produced seven pins, with Caleb and Joshua Van Deusen going back-to-back at 132 and 138 pounds respectively.

In a nonleague match from late Tuesday:

Chichester 67, Schuylkill Valley 9 >> Freshman Shane Gromek, who weighed in at 99 pounds, moved up to 113 to record his second fall of the season while fellow ninth-grader Josh Johnson did the same at heavyweight for the 5-1 Eagles. Chris Smarkola (138) has pinned five of six opponents this season.

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