NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Strath Haven has had its match with Upper Darby circled on the schedule since before the season began.
Even with last year’s loss to the Royals still in their minds, the Panthers knew they had business to attend to before beginning their preparation against the defending Central League champion. Rather than look past Ridley, Strath Haven may have put together its best match of the season.
The Panthers won five of the first six matches by pin and held on for a 37-32 victory over the Green Raiders.
Dalton Zweier got things started in the 152-pound match, downing Ryan Prum at 1:09. Zweier’s technique was too much for the Green Raiders’ junior, and that win seemed to spearhead Strath Haven’s dominance in the early part of the match.
Zweier, one of the Panthers’ senior leaders, had not been involved in the opening match all season but relished his rare opportunity.
“At first, I was pretty nervous going out there,” Zweier said. “It was my first time starting off with the first match for the team. I was nervous but after that I saw guys fighting nonstop. It’s what (coach Anthony Gilliano) preaches day in and day out to get the guy off of your back and not quit.”
Following Zweier’s pin, freshman Gabe Frederico picked up a pin at 4:36 in the 170-pound match. At 182, Jon Morris’ pin at 5:18 the lead to 22-0 for the Panthers (8-8, 4-0 Central League).
Morris attributes Strath Haven’s ability to outlast the opposition to the way Gilliano prepares his team, particularly with an emphasis on stamina over focus on the weight room.
“It’s a six-minute match, so he wants us to go for the entire time and tire the other team out,” Morris said. “We run for at least half of all of our practices so we don’t get tired in the third period compared to other teams. It’s all about ‘keep going’ and pushing the pace.”
Gilliano praised his wrestlers in the upper weights for setting the tone, most notably Zweier.
“We knew that our upper weights had to get it done early and weather the storm,” Gilliano said. “We know they’re tough down low. Zweier got us started. We knew going in that it might have been a swing (bout), and getting those six points was huge for our team. As you saw, we won by five so without that pin, we’re down by one and maybe we lose. Dalton set the tone.”
Bryan Boyer finished off a string of three straight pins at 220 pounds. But as Gilliano stressed, Ridley (6-9, 1-3) mounted a comeback in the lower weight classes.
At 113, Kevin Rainey handled Sal Kauffman with a technical fall, then Marty Cowan pulled out a 10-8 victory at 120 pounds to put the Raiders at a 37-14 deficit.
Eli Rodriguez took down Strath Haven’s Joe Andraos handily in the 126-pound match, winning 12-2 to put Ridley within 19. Finally, Jake McGrath’s 17-2 win at 132 put the team within striking distance.
Ridley coach Tom Fabri knew his team could control the lower weights but had to limit the tenacity the Panthers would bring with their bigger brawlers.
“I knew coming in where we were going to score our points,” Fabri said. “We were trying to minimize damage in those other weights. Up top, guys are battling and working their tails off. I think they had a little more firepower up top than we did and I made a move there at 160 there.”
Fabri was referencing his decision to insert senior Kyle Strazdus in the 160-pound match against John Crawford. Crawford claimed a 10-2 decision in a match that could’ve changed the direction of the match but one that eventually led to the Panthers victory. Strazdus has generally wrestled at 152 but Fabri was hoping that moving his senior could change the outlook early on.
Looks of elation followed a tough win for Gilliano’s team, and now the attention officially turns to the Royals. Gilliano naturally had his gaze set on what Upper Darby, the undefeated and reigning Central League champion, will present next Wednesday.
“They’ve been tough for a long time,” Gilliano said. “They’re a really good team. Bob Martin is a great coach and great guy. We have to be prepared and hopefully it’ll be a similar night like this.”
Zweier was beaming with confidence following his victory and simplified the team’s mentality heading into the matchup with the Royals.
“Just go in 110 percent,” Zweier said. “Leave everything on the mat and not think we should have.”
Elsewhere in the Central League:
Garnet Valley 73, Harriton 3 >> The Jags had the Rams staring up at the lights all night.
Griffin Salus (195), Tommy Mahoney (285), Dillon Conlon (145), Desmon Perry (152) and Austin Filippone (160) all recorded pin fall victories.
Gavin Hollingsworth dominated the 132-pound bout with a 10-2 major decision. Ethan Cooper earned a 4-0 decision at 138.
Haverford 40, Penncrest 33 >> Donny Reimer (113) won by major decision and the Fords were also helped by big victories by Jack Delp (126), Kevin Dougherty (152), Shane McAdams (182) and Alessandro DiProspero (195).
For the Lions, Tommy Hugget got a well-earned 7-6 decision in his 120-pound match with Haverford’s Anthony Pernaci. Brendon Stocku got a fall in 42 seconds in the 138-pound bout.
In nonleague action:
Chichester 48, C.B. East 21 >> Chase Whartnaby (106) and Mason mcClure (120) were victorious by major decision for the Eagles. Jovani Perez (17) and Marquell Hudnell (152) both dominated their bouts with technical falls. and Faizan Raza squashed his heavyweight opponent in 34 seconds.
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