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Ballroom Blitz: Pottsgrove takes down Pottstown in Border Battle match at SunnyBrook Ballroom

POTTSTOWN >> It was wrestling in a different light Saturday, when Pottstown and Pottsgrove staged their annual “Battle On The Border” match inside the historic Sunnybrook Ballroom. The variations in the atmosphere and equipment — Chiavari chairs with padded seats for wrestlers and spectators instead of bleachers and folding chairs, chandeliers instead of regular lighting, silky drapes hanging from the ceiling instead of team-championship banners — all added a touch of elegance to the night’s proceedings.

“They may not want to wrestle in our gym,” Pottsgrove head coach Jeff Madden said after seeing his team win this installment of the Border Battle by a 51-18 count. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

The Pottstown and Pottsgrove wrestling teams face off in the Border Battle match Saturday night at SunnyBrook Ballroom. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The event, billed as “athletics meets art,” showcased both wrestling action between the neighboring rivals and displays by student organizations from the two schools. It culminated with the high school mat programs squaring off in a ballroom defined by the fans literally having front-row seats right up to the mat.

“Everyone seemed to have fun,” Pottstown head coach Nick Wade observed. “Having the fans being on top of the mat, all four corners covered … it was a great time.”

The Falcons enjoyed both the elegant wrestling experience, and retaining possession of the “Border Battle” trophy awarded to the winner of the match. They also maintained a share of first place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division, sharing the spot with Phoenixville (both 2-0) after dealing Pottstown (1-1 division, 3-9 overall) its first Frontier loss.

Pottsgrove’s Stephen Hennelly, right, and Pottstown’s Xavier Cushman tangle at 152 during the Border Battle match at SunnyBrook Ballroom Saturday night. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“Because we wrestled Saturday night, we had an additional practice this morning,” Madden said. “We were able to get some things in.”

Pottsgrove (11-6 overall) spotted Pottstown nine points in the first two weights, Demond Thompson with a decision in the 138-pound opener and Anthony Wiggins getting a forfeit at 145. It answered with Steven Hennelly’s pin 28 seconds before time ran out at 152, and Noah Miller’s tying 8-2 decision at 160.

The Trojans got their last lead of the night at 170, with Emmanuel Toussaint notching a 3-1 decision on the strength of a takedown five seconds before time ran out. But the Falcons won eight of the final nine weights — including 27 unanswered points in the five bouts between 182 and 106 — to move into position for a match-clinching pin from Charles Sithens at 120.

Pottsgrove’s Noah Miller, left, collects back points on Pottstown’s Zach Griffin at 160 during the Border Battle match at SunnyBrook Ballroom Saturday night. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“We have 17 or 18 guys, so we’re lucky to fill the weight classes,” Madden said. “We have people who are willing to say they’ll go down, not up.”

Pottsgrove benefited from Pottstown forfeiting three weights: 182 and 195, where it put Zach Van Horn and Avery Shivak out for the raised-arms, and 106, where Tony Lindgren was unchallenged. That more than equalized its own vacancy at 145, Hennelly moving up to face Xavier Cushman.

“Our lineup is the lineup. It’s what we put out,” Madden said. “We made a few adjustments, with Steven going up to 52.”

Pottstown’s Nathaniel Parson. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The gaps in his lineup notwithstanding, Wade was cheered by the performances of several of his competitors. In addition to Thompson — the Trojans’ Outstanding Wrestler selection for the match — and Toussaint, Matthew Deppen broke up Pottsgrove’s late surge by scoring a second-period fall at 113 to close out the Trojans’ scoring.

The finale at 132 proved an appropriate capper to a match known over the years for being hotly contested. Pottstown’s Nathanael Parson rallied in the second period of his bout with Chase Banyai to reverse a 4-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead going into the third. But Banyai was awarded a penalty point to make it 6-6 at the end of regulation, then squeezed a takedown in before the end of the first overtime to come away with an 8-6 decision.

A Pottstown wrestler, foreground, and Pottstown fans celebrate as Emmanuel Toissant scores the winning takedown in the last seconds at 170 pounds during the Border Battle at SunnyBrook Ballroom Saturday night. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“That was some match,” Madden agreed. “That kid (Parson) can ride.”

Isaac Hanna, named Pottsgrove’s Outstanding Wrestler on the basis of his 5-4 decision at 285, relished the experience of wrestling at Sunnybrook.

“It’s pretty nice,” he said. “I was nervous at first. I waited for him (Tom Doyle) to shoot, and in the last five seconds, I saw a chance and took it.”

Pottsgrove’s Chase Banyai, top, scrambles for the winning takedown on Pottstown’s Nate Parsons in overtime of their bout at 132 Saturday at SunnyBrook Ballroom in Pottstown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Also notable in the Falcons’ late run was Skylar McLeod, whose second-period drop at 220 upped his team’s lead to 27-12. Josh Cerrito added a final pin at 126, getting the slap at the 4:39 mark.

NOTES >> Kudos for the night’s festivities were accorded Chuck Gulati (Sunnybrook) and Jerry Williams (Schuylkill Valley Sporting Goods), principals in the orchestration of event. “Chuck and Jerry put on quite a show,” Wade said. “I hope they’ll have us back.” … Pottsgrove will look to continue its roll in the Frontier Division when it visits Upper Perkiomen Wednesday. Pottstown, in turn, will host Phoenixville that night. “In our lineup,” Wade said, “82 and 95 are in flux with injuries, eligibility and weight issues.  We’ll have to roll with what we have.”

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