HERSHEY >> Matt Marino never has lacked for imagination.
On his most creative day, though, he couldn’t have scripted the Disney-type path he took to clinching a medal at the PIAA Class 3A state wrestling championships at the Giant Center.
Marino was in a hospital Sunday with an illness that made him sick in his first match at states and forced him to surrender a second-round match by injury default.
When the Garnet Valley 126-pound senior returned to the mats Friday, he nearly ended up in a hospital with a cracked skull after being bum-rushed and flipped over the scorer’s table, head over heels, in the consolation round.
Marino was crushing Josh Mason of Blue Mountain when his opponent basically lost it and was kicked out of the tournament with a misconduct disqualification.
Instead of injury, end of story and thanks for the memories, the youngest of the Marino wrestlers returned to action just hours later and gritted out a 5-4 win over Brett Kaliner of West Chester Rustin to clinch a medal. Talk about taking the scenic route.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Marino said while breaking into a grin. “I’ve always envisioned myself pinning my way through to the state finals. But realistically this is just so surreal. It’s all I’ve worked for since I was a little kid at BYC. The last two years I’ve been here, I’ve lost every single time in this round. It just feels amazing to finally, finally accomplish my biggest goal in wrestling.”
Three other Delco wrestlers clinched medals Friday.
Upper Darby’s Brian Kennerly guaranteed himself at least a sixth-place finish with a 19-8 win over Nathan Feyrer (Parkland) at 220 pounds that was so dominant, non-Royals fans applauded.
It was the 100th career victory for Kennerly, who is 35-0 this season, 74-6 in two years and laser-focused.
“It feels good but I know I’m not done yet,” said Kennerly, whose growing fan club celebrated by rolling out a banner of him to celebrate the century mark win club. “I still have a lot to do.”
In the championship round bracket opposite Kennerly, Joe Doyle of Council Rock South also prevailed, leaving them on a collision course for the final. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile Upper Darby’s Colin Cronin, at 138, also clinched a medal, just not the gold he had in mind.
Cronin lost a heartbreaker to Dan Moran (Northampton) in a championship round bout that went 8 minutes, 30 seconds with all of the overtimes. Cronin was beaten on the ride-out criteria as he was unable to escape the grip of Moran in 30 seconds.
Cronin rebounded with a 5-2 win over Cam Conner (Kiski Area) to earn himself at least an eighth-place medal, and possibly third place. Cronin was fourth in states last year.
It’s the first time two Upper Darby wrestlers clinched medals in the same state tournament since 1989; Joel Edwards winning the state title at 189 and Andy Helms placing sixth at 170 back then.
The fourth Delco wrestler to clinch a medal is 145-pounder Ryan Stocku of Penncrest, although his win by injury default was hotly contested by opponent Riley Palmer and the Council Rock South camp.
Lions coach Will Harmon was unsure if Stocku would compete Saturday. Harmon’s understanding was the medical staff who examined Stocku decided he couldn’t continue due to a body slam. The win by injury default at 0:31 triggered considerable grumbling, although cooler heads prevailed.
Stocku earned his way into that medal match with a 3-1 win over Tyler Seliga (Belle Vernon). The triumph made Stocku the all-time winningest Penncrest wrestler, now at 108 and counting.
The state tournament ended for 106-pounder Dayton DelViscio of Penncrest, along with Ryan Mortimer (Garnet Valley) and Hunter Catka (Sun Valley), both in the 195-pound class.
DelViscio (40-5) was beaten, 14-7, by Christian Fisher (Mifflin County) in an elimination bout.
Catka (34-8) was pinned by Colin McCracken (Waynesburg Central) in 4:14. McCracken previously pinned Mortimer.
Mortimer (36-11) lost by fall in 2:17 to Cole Forrester (Shippensburg).
All in all the crazy, crazy Friday belonged to Marino.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been thrown over the scorers’ table,” Marino said. “It didn’t help that I landed on concrete. It was pretty intense. I don’t think I’ve ever really even been, like, flipped. The table got me first. But right now it’s win or go home. That kid had nothing to lose. We’re all trying to wrestle for the same thing, a state medal.
“Just in the moment, I guess, he got carried away. He had to go big. He went a little bit too big.”
Speaking of which, there was no bigger win for Marino in his 169-match career than the decision over Kaliner. Marino thrust his arms high and let out a ‘yesssss!’ that you could probably have heard back home in Jaguars country.
Marino can now take his place at the table with Joe Marino, who was fourth in 2010, and Mike Marino, sixth in states in back-to-back seasons ending in 2014.
“You don’t want to compare Matthew to his brothers,” Jaguars coach Rocco Fantazzi said. “But just having the opportunity to coach him and coach Michael and Joseph, and for him to have the opportunity to be in this situation to win after a rough week and have a chance to continue the tradition of Garnet Valley wrestling and his family tradition, and leave here with a medal, I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him. And I’m glad to see him have one more chance to succeed.”