UPPER PROVIDENCE >> There was one more bit of business to attend to Wednesday.
Before it could head out to Hershey for a weekend of wrestling action against the state’s elite Class AAA teams, Owen J. Roberts wanted to finish off an unbeaten run in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division. The Wildcats took care of that task in timely fashion, racking up a 38-23 victory over Spring-Ford to emerge as the first champions under the league’s two-division format.
The task was complicated to a degree, though, by the Rams rebounding from an initial 14-point deficit to go in front, 23-20, with four weights to contest. But Roberts (5-0 division, 18-2 overall) swept the last four weights to get the job done according to their specifications.
Now, they can go to Hershey focused on the PIAA Team Championships … which they did soon after dispatching Spring-Ford.
“I was concerned tonight,” head coach Steve DeRafelo said. “There were so many things going through their heads. I was concerned with their focus.”
But the ‘Cats made their coaches’ fears a moot point. They got two pins and bonus points in four other bouts to put a damper on Spring-Ford’s Senior Night observance.
Nick Duliakas, whose first-period fall at 195 staked OJR to an initial 20-5 lead, spoke about he and his fellow seniors qualifying for the state duals for the first time in their years with the program.
“Now we can focus on the trip to Hershey,” he said. “We’re PAC champs, but now we have to set that aside and think about wrestling other tough teams. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
The Rams gave Owen J. a good workout in prelude to the state duals. Their pins by Tyler LaRocca (220) and Brandon Meredith (113) bookended Matt Lepore’s close 4-3 decision of Alejandro Acosta at 285, and Quinn Tobin’s equally-close 6-4 verdict over David Forrest at 106.
“I thought we could win a couple matches,” SF head coach Tim Seislove said after going 2-3 in the division, but upping its overall mark at 15-5. “We finished up in the middle, where they’re strong.”
Chase Smith’s tech-fall at 182 stemmed Roberts’ early run, which featured major decisions by Dan Mancini (145) and Ryan Resnick (160) alongside three-pointers by Ricky McCutchen (152) and Jason Zollers (170).
But after the Rams took their lone lead of the night, Luke Resnick turned the lead back in OJR’s direction with a second-period pin at 120. Tyler McCutchen then edged Dirk Nugent at 126, 5-4, before Antonio Petrucelli’s tech-fall at 132 provided Roberts’ clincher.
The night’s final flourish for the Wildcats was Cole Meredith’s major decision at 138.
“I knew they would get points in the center of the lineup,” DeRafelo said. “But guys like Ricky and Tyler McCutchen took care of business.
“I got thinking tonight … we have three state-ranked teams (OJR, SF, Boyertown) in our division. There’s not too many leagues that have that many teams like that.”
DeRafelo figures that level of exposure in league duals will serve Roberts well at the state level … that, and its experience at the District 1-AAA Duals last weekend.
“The last week or two, we’ve been warming up,” he said. “I don’t know how much more we can throw at them. But they’ve responded.”
And the Hershey trip is a reward for their timely responses.
“It will be a fun experience for all the guys who might not make states,” Duliakas said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to get there, but we’re going out with a bang.”
NOTES >> Along with LaRocca, Spring-Ford recognized seniors Oscar Granese, Zach Gulgule, Michael Kavanaugh, Tim Moran and Jonathan Westlake and their parents pre-match. “We had a couple seniors wrestle tonight,” Seislove noted. “It’s sad to see the seniors wrestle their last match in the gym. … The Rams will visit Gov. Mifflin for a non-league match Saturday, then serve as hosts for the District 1-AAA West Tournament two weeks from now (Feb. 25), following the PAC-12 Championships at Boyertown Feb. 18. “We’re looking forward to that,” Seislove said. … DeRafelo on the team’s plan to truck out to Hershey Wednesday night: “I think it was in our best interests to go tonight, with the snow forecast and all.”