LIMERICK >> The grimace on his face was the first indication that Penncrest’s Brendon Stocku was hurting Saturday. The second was the large bag of ice wrapped around his left knee.
The gold medal he held in his hands, though, made the pain a little more bearable.
Stocku and Garnet Valley 285-pounder Tommy Mahoney were the only Delaware County wrestlers to come away with individual titles in the District 1 Class 3A Central championships at Spring-Ford High School. They weren’t, though, the only local Central wrestlers advancing to the Southeast Regional at Oxford High School.
In all, 23 wrestlers from the Central League are moving on. The top five wrestlers from each weight class earned a berth in the regional.
Garnet Valley’s Griffin Hollingsworth (106), Lower Merion’s Christian Hodges (120) and James Lledo (152), and Brett Burns (170) and Lee Holbert (285) from Strath Haven all finished second. Taking third were Ridley’s Davis Huth (138) and Tom Bramwell (285) and Upper Darby’s Dezhan Peterson (182).
Fourth-place medals went to Meraj Khan of Upper Darby (120), Roberto Lesser from Harriton (132), John Crawford from Strath Haven (160), Radnor’s Jack Horvath (182) and Paul Pelham of Conestoga (220). Placing fifth were David Bagirov of Springfield (126), Garnet Valley’s Gavin Hollingsworth (132), Brian West (182) and Griffin Salus (195), Jahmair Rider of Radnor (145), Kyle Strazdus from Ridley (152), Upper Darby’s Jake Johnson (160) and Armen Dervishian from Marple Newtown (170).
Stocku was in obvious discomfort as he watched the rest of the tournament from the sideline, the result of a twisted left knee he suffered in the first period of his 138-pound championship match with Antonio Petrucelli of Owen J. Roberts. Stocku, however, did not let the injury prevent him from rallying for a 9-6 victory.
“I just wanted to win,” Stocku said. “I wanted to win more than he did. I put so much hard work and time in that I knew I had to finish him in the third period, keep going at him. I just kept pushing the pace.”
Stocku (34-1) stayed on the offensive in the final period and it paid off with his third win of the day.
“It feels great to win and it’s nice to know that I’ll be going to regionals,” Stocku said.
Mahoney used a similar tactic to beat Holbert on an ultimate tiebreaker in overtime, 3-2, to earn his title. The two were knotted at 1-1 at the end of regulation and Mahoney almost let it slip away when a move he tried in overtime allowed Holbert to get an escape point for a 2-1 lead. Mahoney bounced back and scored the next two points for the victory.
“In overtime, I just slipped,” Mahoney said. “After I fell I knew I had to get up and go back at him. You can’t give up.“
He did and won his second straight one-point win over Holbert. Mahoney defeated Holbert, 2-1, last week to win the Central League title.
“It’s always a battle between us,” Mahoney said. “He’s strong, I’m strong, so we go at it. It’s been that way for three years now.”
The Hollingsworth brothers, Gavin and Griffin, has been going at it for just as long. It was only fitting that both advanced to the regional.
Griffin, a freshman, dropped a 6-1 decision to Matt Vulakh of Pope John Paul II in the 106-pound final after winning his first two matches by fall and decision.
“Going to the regionals is something that I’ve been dreaming about for five years and to be able to do that is just amazing,” Griffin said. “I’m not disappointed with how I wrestled. I could have taken a few more shots in my last match. I could have attacked him, I just wasn’t able to get to him, but I’m glad I qualified for the regional. That was the No. 1 goal.”
His big brother was happy, too, after he pulled out an 8-2 triumph over Dirk Nugent of host Spring-Ford to keep his season alive.
“The key is to stay on the attack and score points,” Gavin said. “That’s what the coaches preach and that’s what I did. I just went out there, wrestled hard and scored points.”
Bagirov, Rider, Strazdus, Johnson, Dervishian, West and Salus were in the same win-or-go-home situation as Gavin Hollingsworth. All had to come out victorious or their respective seasons were over. Five of those showdowns were between Central League foes.
Bagirov defeated Conestoga’s Ezra Tol, 6-2, to keep his season alive. Rider knocked off Springfield’s Tyler Forges, 8-2, to advance. Strazdus pinned Kevin Kerwood of Upper Darby in 1:53 to move on. Dervishian topped Garnet Valley’s Dave Maiers, 3-0 and Salus knocked off Scott Jean from Conestoga, 3-1, to advance.
“Sure, you feel pressure knowing that you have to win, but you can’t let that bother you,” Rider said. “You have to go out there and leave it all on the mat. My coach (Matt Torresani) told me to go out there and wrestle hard and whatever happens, he’s proud of me. That took a lot of the pressure off and helped me to be more relaxed out there.”
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