SHARON HILL >> Wrestling is all about leverage for Kyleigh D’Agostino.
On the verge of being pinned Saturday, the Interboro senior doubled down on her lower-body strength for just enough leverage to stop Jeremy Gannon of Chichester in the gold medal match at 113 pounds in the Del Val League championships.
That was one of several story lines in the Saturday meet where the top three finishers in each weight class advance to the District 1 Class AAA competition next week at Council Rock North.
“I just got my hips up and hoped for the best,” D’Agostino said. “That’s all I could do at that point. He was dominating. I was nervous and stuff. I was thinking if I get out of this I can start coming back. This was not expected at all. I was shocked. I was thinking, ‘I hope my hips are high enough to get at least anything.’”
Gannon was leading, 4-0, and trying to turn D’Agostino for the pin when his own shoulders touched the mat. That’s when D’Agostino bridged onto her back. All that was left was for the official to slam the mat signaling the pin, and for D’Agostino to be mobbed by teammates, family and friends.
Until Saturday, injuries and illness had wrecked the season for D’Agostino, who was 12-10 entering the Del Val championships. Gannon, defending his crown at 113, arrived with a 17-4 record. He exited wondering why he’d wrestled too recklessly.
“I was excited for today,” D’Agostino said. “It’s been a tough year and it was good to be back. This is big.”
In terms of pure emotion, there was the incredible heart shown by Rod Tate of Glen Mills Schools.
Tate wrestled for Dami Lindsey, his one-year-old brother who died earlier this season. The awful news came shortly before Tate was pinned in the first period by Noah Harvey of Chichester in a league bout at 160 pounds.
“I was thinking about this match today and thinking about my brother,” Tate said. “When it went to overtime today, I knew I had to keep going for as long as it would take.”
Tate won by fall with five seconds left in the second overtime of a bout that was 1-1 at the end of regulation.
“He tried to headlock me, I slipped it and got him in a half,” Tate said of Harvey. “I stayed after it until his shoulders were down.”
Glen Mills had three gold medalists on the day, the others being Tyler Simpson (145) and Dante Pangowish (182). Simpson was cheered on by his father, once an accomplished wrestler in Delaware, and his younger brother Kyle, another grappler.
There was Samika Kromah of Academy Park (30-4), who defeated Craig Baldwin (23-8) of Chichester, 10-4, at 126 pounds and is motivated to earn a place in the PIAA wrestling program distributed in Hershey.
“I expected myself to do this,” said Kromah, who won at 120 last year. “I can’t stop here. I can’t stop at districts or regions. I’m going all the way to the states.”
The host Knights had a big day with four gold medals,
Joshua Johnson’s pin at 285 pounds for Chichester made it a solid day for the Eagles, as Dylan Cordingly (152) and Josiah Nichols (132) also won gold medals.
“It was real competitive,” said Johnson, who felt badly for Gannon. “I understand not everyone on your team can win gold.”
Finally, there was Chris Pleasant of Academy Park, the latecomer who began wrestling as a sophomore at the urging of coach John Basile.
“I was lifting weights to get stronger and Coach asked me to try wrestling,” Pleasant said. “He never mentioned making weight. I’m happy he asked. It’s my first gold medal. When I go to the districts I get at least two matches. Last year I lost in a pigtail match.”
All in all, what fans never probably will forget about these championships is the comeback of D’Agostino, who began wrestling when she was five years old.
“My uncle, he’s my coach now, I used to go to all his wrestling matches,” D’Agostino said, referencing Bucs assistant Ed Hall. “I asked my mom if I could try it and ever since I kind of just stuck. It’s just been my thing forever. I love it.”
D’Agostino’s mother, Kelly, who is Hall’s sister, is proud of her daughter and tired of unwanted comments from total strangers. PIAA rules state that students can participate in most sports with the opposite gender if the sport isn’t offered for their gender.
“It’s normally not mothers from our area,” Kelly said. “It’s mothers of other kids that will say, like, ‘Why does she wrestle?’ I let her do what she wants to do. I’m glad that she’s open to it. Kyleigh started her own program for girls wrestling at Contender Elite Wrestling Association. It’s like an hour away. She’s a coach. She coaches a lot of girls from ages 5 to high school. It’s opened up a lot of doors for her.”