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Owen J. Roberts digs out of 26-point hole, drops Boyertown, 39-34

BOYERTOWN >> No worries.

Not on Owen J. Roberts’ part Wednesday. Not even when it fell into a 26-point hole at the start of its match with Boyertown, much less when it went into the final bout trailing by a mere 34-33.

The Wildcats validated their unshakeable confidence by pulling out a 39-34 victory in a match with impact on first place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division. They mirrored Boyertown’s 6-of-7 winning run in the first half of the card with a similar performance from 126 to 170 … capped ultimately by Jason Zollers’ first-period fall in the decisive finale.

“This was one where you knew how it was going to go before the match started,” OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said after seeing his team (7-0 PAC, 11-2 overall) answer a previous 38-34 loss to the Bears (6-1, 10-3) in the season-opening Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals. “You just had to see it through.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Connor Quinn raises his arms toward his teammates in celebration after pinning at 126 pounds against Boyertown Wednesday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Owen J. Roberts’ strength in the lower to upper middleweights was marked by five pins and Cole Meredith’s one-point decision at 145. It proved an effective counter to Boyertown scoring five falls and Zak Reck’s two-point decision at 220.

One critical difference were the teams’ comparative results in the bouts they won in the midst of the two runs. Owen J. got a pin from David Forrest at 113 to break into the Bears’ opening sprint while Evan Mortimer’s run-breaker at 160 was a narrow 3-2 decision.

“We knew their (Roberts) lineup, and we know they’re resurgent,” Boyertown head coach Dave Jones said.

On a night when Boyertown honored its senior grapplers and their parents, two of its 12th-graders were pivotal in the Bears’ initial surge.

Elijah Jones followed Jacob Miller’s match-opening pin at 182 with a 28-second drop at 195. Reck followed with a 3-1 verdict fueled by a first-period takedown.

The Bears’ roll continued with Jacob Sonder’s first-period pin at 285, and Julien Maldonado following with a clock-beating technical fall at 106. That 26-0 advantage, however, compared to a 30-point lead Boyertown built through those weights at the Bealer Duals … and it went a long way toward deciding the match’s final outcome.

“They have hammers at the top,” DeRafelo noted, “and Maldonado at 106. You had to see where it started.

“(Tommy) Dempsey and Josh (Jackson) saved us points by not getting pinned. It’s kind of fun sometimes when a team wins by not giving up pins.”

Boyertown’s Julien Maldanado grimaces as he tries to pin Owen J. Roberts’ Joshua Jackson at 106 pounds Wednesday. Maldanado won via technical fall. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

After David Forrest put Owen J. on the scoreboard with his fall, Chase Stehman answered with a technnical fall at 120. It was then the ‘Cats worked their comeback magic.

Connor Quinn, Tyler McCutchen and Antonio Petrucelli followed with falls between 126 and 138, cutting the Bears’ advantage to 31-24. Meredith used a third-period takedown to get ahead of Brett Breidor at 145, and Daniel Mancini staked OJR to a 33-31 lead with his second-period drop at 152.

“We have a whole lot of guys who feed off each other,” DeRafelo said. “This has been a tight group all year long. They pick up when things let down.”

With Mortimer giving the Bears the lead back at 34-33, the final result came down to Zollers. He delivered with a pin three seconds before the end of the first period, giving OJR a victory over Boyertown in their divisional pairing a second straight year.

“We’re pretty solid in the middle,” Zollers said. “We weren’t concerned with them getting up early.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Jason Zollers closes in on a pin of Boyertown’s Jimmy Sinclair at 170 in the decisive match Wednesday night. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

For both teams, the match will be an effective warmup to their foray into this year’s District 1 Duals tournament, which gets started Thursday. Both will be at West Chester Rustin to open up: The sixth-seeded Wildcats against Quakertown, the fourth-seeded Bears facing Great Valley.

“There a few things we can improve on,” DeRafelo said. “But I’m happy. The guys are getting better every week. Our goal is to be as good as we can in February.”

Boyertown has a tough bar to raise in the Duals. It was second to Council Rock South last year, after being the Class AAA champ the previous three go-rounds.

“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Jones said. “Two weeks ago we walked in here knowing we would see what we’re made of, with the duals and matches against Perkiomen Valley and Spring-Ford coming up.”

NOTES >> Along with Jones and Reck, Boyertown’s other seniors honored in the pre-match ceremony were Ethan Himes and David King. … Zollers on Owen J’s stature going into the district duals: “We feel we’ve got a little momentum going. We’re going to take it one at a time, wrestle smart.” … By virtue of Spring-Ford’s 58-12 win over Perkiomen Valley, Roberts shares the Liberty lead with it while Boyertown is alone in third place.

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