BRYN ATHYN — Dan Park had been waiting for the moment where his Lower Moreland wrestling team came together.
Saturday, he finally got it. Lower Moreland was locked in all day as it went 5-0 to win the Lion Duals hosted by the Academy of the New Church.
The field included ANC, Lower Moreland, Upper Dublin, Cheltenham, Bishop McDevitt, Abington, William Penn Charter and Northeast High. Abington took second, its only loss coming to Lower Moreland in the final.
Park’s team has been competing well, but he wanted to see that little bit extra out of the Lions.
“We wrestled pretty well but after today it’s the first time I felt like we really started coming together as a team,’ Park said. “We’ve been talking a lot about that the last few weeks in practice. I didn’t feel like my guys were really in sync with one another but today they really stepped up and really came together.’
It was also a landmark day for Lower Moreland senior Jimmy McGuigan. The 113-pounder tied the school record with 106 wins thanks to a 5-0 day.
McGuigan was humble in the accomplishment, saying his goal was to get to 100 wins, the universal benchmark for an outstanding high school career. He also has aspirations of the state podium, so his focus isn’t on the record books right now.
“I’m pretty excited about it,’ McGuigan said. “My goal was to get 100 and keep the ball rolling. If I broke the record along the way, that was a great thing to have happen. But my set goal is to get on the state podium my senior year. I’ve made it to regionals three times and all three times I got knocked out.’
Galloping Ghosts coach John Gillespie felt his team had a good day despite having a few holes in the lineup. While it required a bit of tinkering in each match, the Ghosts competed well in their five duals, winning the Red Pool 3-0 with victories over Upper Dublin, ANC and McDevitt.
Prior to the final, the Ghosts matched up with Penn Charter.
“I was surprised by Penn Charter, they wrestled really good,’ Gillespie said. “The kids they brought were real tough, well-coached, well-disciplined and I thought they wrestled really well. Their coach is a good guy and a really good sportsman. We tried to set up some matches and get some backline guys in.’
Like most teams this time of year, Abington has a few guys nursing inuries or needing a break.
Abington’s 195-pounder, Keshon Guiellmo went 5-0 and Gillespie also noted Austin Hain (126) and Austin Inverson (152). Cole Sexton also had a nice day coming off a long injury break.
Upper Dublin went 2-3 and left coach Dave Jones wanting a little bit more. Junior 132-pounder Colin Devlin went undefeated and remains at a single loss all season.
Jones also noted 220-pounder Henry Winebrake and lightweight Kinkaid Thomas. But some strategy didn’t pan out against Penn Charter for third place and the Cardinals didn’t seem up to par in their coach’s eyes.
“All in all it was a very disappointing day for us and I’m not real happy about it,’ Jones said. “They’re going to get a wake-up call for sure. They’re not wrestling real well and there’s no reason this should’ve happened.’
Lower Moreland topped Abington 49-20 with the Ghosts having to forfeit three classes. The bouts that were contested were well-wrestled with five ending in pins, the Lions claiming four.
Park credited Blair Sykes at 195 for his performance. While Sykes did fall to Guiellmo 9-3 in their bout, he went toe-to-toe with a high-level wrestler.
The eight teams in the pools come from different leagues and divisions, despite most being relatively close to each other. With the schools not meeting in league season, the tournament is a good way to unite the local wrestling scene.
“We like this tournament specifically because it’s all local,’ Park said. “It’s an opportunity because we get to wrestle teams that are our neighbors we would not ordinarily get to see. It’s a nice mix because they’re all from different leagues.’
Lower Moreland hosts its own invitational next weekend, then travels to CB East’s invitational duals the week after, so the Lions will continue to pick up quality opposition as it builds to the postseason. The Lions have had plenty of recent success in districts, winning the past four Class AA team tournaments. But postseason success requires a team to be operating as a whole, something that Saturday’s showing was a positive step toward.
“We feel really good about how we performed today,’ Park said. “Last weekend we were at the Avon Grove tournament and we made it to the finals a bit haphazardly. We didn’t dominate and we didn’t wrestle nearly as well as I thought we could have. We lost in the finals and I didn’t feel like the team had gelled, it was very fragmented.’
McGuigan, who is a captain along with John Chung and Dimitri Bourlako, felt something different Saturday.
“There was a lot more enthusiasm within the team,’ McGuigan said. “It’s kind of been slow getting into the season but our team really came together and there was a lot of great leadership from my co-captains, they really got everyone fired up. We came together today.’
McGuigan’s record-tying win came on a pin against Abington, but the senior’s focus was all on the team score going into the bout. Knowing a pin would put the Lions over 42 points, the “magic number’ in a dual, that’s where his mind was at.
The senior has a good chance of putting a firm hold on the school record if he continues on his 13-1 pace, but he is taking things one bout at a time and all-in on a state tournament appearance. Eventually, he’ll take the time to appreciate what he’s done on the mat, but for now, it’s about using what’s gotten him here to push him on further.
“You’ve got to have it set in your heart and it’s got to be a mental thing,’ McGuigan said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was in first grade and ever since then, I’ve been working and training hard toward it.’
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