RIDLEY TWP. >> Upper Darby’s Jake Johnson did not need a reminder of what was expected of him in Saturday’s Central League wrestling championships at Ridley High School. The junior had been reminded of the game plan every day in practice.
“We were told to go out and try to win,” Johnson said. “If you can’t win, just don’t get put on your back or give up a major decision. If you lose and only give up three points, we still win.”
The Royals had to win the team title to clinch their third straight league crown so every point mattered. And Johnson was one of the many wrestlers head coach Bob Martin was counting on to keep the championship steak alive.
Johnson came through, and so did Marcus Mojica, Karl Kamanousa, Meraj Khan, Nazmul Islam, Dezhan Peterson, Ishmael Tarawallie and Folly Amouzougan, to help the Royals top Garnet Valley by 6.5 points for the team title.
Chris Cronin, Max Livingston, Brian Kennerly and Thomas Reif did their part, too, but that was to be expected. They’re Upper Darby’s big guys and they’ve come through all season.
Cronin won the 138-pound championship for the second year in a row and became Upper Darby’s career wins leader in the process with 134 victories. It also was Cronin’s third straight league title.
“It was really exciting to break the record in front of a large crowd, but records are meant to be broken,” Cronin said. “I just hope another (Drexel Hill) Raider is the one who comes up and takes it from me.”
Liviningston beat Strath Haven’s Devon Moore, 3-0, to capture the 152-pound crown for the second year in a row.
Kennerly’s pin of Ridley’s Leo Cassidy in the 220-pound championship match may secured the league title for the Royals. The win also left Kennerly (28-0) and 106-pound champ Dayton DelViscio (33-0) as the only undefeated wrestlers left in Delaware County
Reif finished fifth at 132 pounds, but Jackson and Mojica are among the reasons the Royals will take 12 wrestlers to next weekend’s District 1 Class 3A West tournament at Spring-Ford High School. The top six finishers in each weight class moved on to the second weekend of the post-season.
While Upper Darby came away with the team title, Garnet Valley senior Dave Wood was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament for his victory in the 160-pound division. Wood, who was not seeded, pinned top-seeded Ryan Stocku of Penncrest in 1 minute, 56 seconds, to claim the title.
Wood went 4-0 in the tournament with two wins by fall and two via major decision. The only person happier than him was his father, Ridley football coach Dave Wood, who was working the tournament.
It’s probably the first time in Central League history the Ridley football coach openly cheered for an athlete from another school.
“I just got more and more confident as the tournament went on,” the younger Wood said. “I beat two guys who were seeded ahead of me early in the tournament and that made me more confident going into the final than I was at the beginning of the day.”
Upper Darby’s confidence received a major boost with its victory over Garnet Valley on criteria in the regular-season finale.
“We were underdogs in that match,” Jackson said. “Once we won that match we knew we could win this tournament.”
Khan set the tone early with a third-place finish at 106. The first shocker came at 113, where Mojica, the No. 3 seed, won a 12-4 major decision over top-seeded Trevor Beresford in the final.
“I’ve been working hard with my uncle, Dennis Mejias, running hills and doing extra practices,” Mojica said. “All that hard work paid off.”
Johnson found out Wednesday that he was going to wrestle in the championships so he was unseeded in the 160-pound bracket. He made it to the final where he dropped a 3-1 decision to David Stevens of Penncrest.
“We all put in so much work that I didn’t want to let anyone down,” Johnson said. “This was a team win. Everyone had to do their part.”
Kamanousa was second at 170 pounds. Islam (120) and Peterson (182) both finished fourth. Tarawallie (145) and Amouzougan (285) earned sixth-place medals.
“I’ve learned over the years to never underestimate the heart of an Upper Darby wrestler,” Martin said. We’re going to fight so you better be ready to fight back and that’s what these kids did today, they fought, every one of them. This truly was a team championship.”
Several of DelViscio’s teammates tried to get the freshman from Penncrest to smile as he stood on the medals platform after winning the 106-pound title to no avail. DelViscio was still all business after he pinned Lower Merion’s Christian Hodges in 4:50 to win his first league title and stay undefeated (33-0).
“They do that all the time, at every tournament,” DelViscio said.
DelViscio credits his work ethic and his workouts with his practice partner, Nick Martini, who was third at 120 pounds, for the phenomenal success he has had in the first year on the high school level.
“I’ve wrestled older kids all the time,” DelViscio said. “I want to wrestle older kids. If they’re a senior, I want to beat him.”
Garnet Valley has 11 players qualify for the district tournament including champions Matt Marino (126) and Ryan Mortimer (195). It was Marino’s third straight league title and the three wins he picked up tied him with his brother, Joe, for third place with 127 career victories.
Penncrest also had three champions, DelViscio, Stevens and Brendon Stocku (132). Other individual champions were Springfield’s David Bagirov (120), Haverford High’s Alex Mong (170), Jack Horvath of Radnor (182) and Marple Newtown’s Anthony Goodman (285).
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