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Upper Darby’s streak still going after tough test from Conestoga

UPPER DARBY >> Sabbir Ahmed did not bat an eye when he saw Nabaa Alazawee report to the scorer’s table for the 106-pound match in Upper Darby’s 41-33 victory over Conestoga Wednesday night.

This was not the first time the sophomore from Upper Darby had to wrestle a female. He was pinned by Alanna Barberio in Upper Darby’s one-point win over Hatboro-Horsham last weekend at the Abington Duals.

Nor did it matter that the 91-pound Ahmed gave away roughly 12 pounds to Alazawee.

“I approach every match the same, whether it’s a guy or a girl,” Ahmed said. “I’m out there to win.”

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Upper Darby’s Justin Parico,right, pins Conestoga’s Kyle Bookwalter in the 285 weight class Tuesday evening at Upper Darby.

Trailing by four points at the time, and the way the match turned out, Upper Darby needed every victory to extend its Central League winning streak to 29 matches.

“I knew I had to win,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed did win. He pinned Alazawee in three minutes, six seconds for his second victory of the season. That was just the first in a series of key pins that allowed the Royals to keep their league winning streak intact.

After Conestoga took a 33-29 lead on back-to-back pins by Ezra Toll and Fred Mucklow at 132 and 138 pounds respectively, senior Justin O’Donnell and Kevin Kerwood responded with consecutive pins for Upper Darby (5-2 overall, 2-0 Central League) to prevent the upset.

O’Donnell decked Liam Matson in 1:04 at 145 pounds to put the Royals in front. Kerwood pinned Nick Arbes in 3:13 at 152 to seal the victory.

“Justin’s going to come through for us all the time,” Upper Darby coach Bob Martin said. “That’s just the way he is. I tell the kids all the time that you determine your friends who are willing to walk down an alley with you. Your true friends don’t walk out. Well, Justin’s walking in front of me down that alley. If I had 14 Justin O’Donnells, we may not win every match, but you knew you were in a war every match.”

The Royals were in a battle with the Pioneers (1-1 league and overall) from the start. Conestoga had the lead several times and led by as many as 10-points early, 18-8.

“Conestoga’s tough,” Martin said. “They’re young and they’re scrappy, but we’re young, too. We lost six or seven seniors, three who won 120 matches between them.”

Martin was referring to Brian Kennerly, the 2017 Daily Times Wrestler of the Year, as well Colin Cronin and Max Livingston, who also earned

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Upper Darby’s Jake Johnson,top, wrestles Conestoga’s Tom Hayes in the 160 weight class Tuesday evening at Upper Darby. Johnson won in a pin.

All-Delco honors last year. However, he does have O’Donnell and senior Jake Johnson (160) back, along with Kerwood and sophomores Meraj Khan (113) and Nazmul Islam (120) to ease some of the pain of those losses to graduation.

And like Ahmed, O’Donnell knew what he had to do when he stepped on the mat.

“I had to win, anything to get points on the board,” O’Donnell.

He wasn’t just looking to win. He went out there to put the Royals in front.

“Coach always tells us that anytime we can get a pin, don’t take the extra time, put them on their back as soon as possible,” O’Donnell said. “In a six-minute match, anything can happen.”

Kerwood stepped up, too.

“He’s a competitor,” Martin said. “He’s going to give you everything he has.”

That’s all Conestoga wanted out of Alazawee. Rather than forfeit the 106-pound match and give away six points, the Pioneer coaching staff decided to send her out there to make Ahmed earn the victory. And she did. Despite being nervous, she made Ahmed work for the pin.

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Upper Darby’s Sabbir Ahmed competes with Conestoga’s Nabaa Alazawee in the 106 weight class Tuesday evening at Upper Darby. Ahmed won in a pin.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t win, but I’m glad I got to experience it,” Alazawee said. “It was pretty cool. I just hope to get better at it.”

Alazawee may have lost, but there was a bright side. Her older brother Ahmed is home on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps and got to see his younger sister make her varsity debut.

“I’m so proud of her,” Ahmed Alazawee said. “I know she went out there and did her best. I’m so happy that she got to go out there and wrestle and I’m happy I got to see it.”

Martin was happy, too. Sabbir Ahmed was in a bit of a slump going into the match. He had lost his last four bouts, all by pin.

“This is going to help his confidence,” Martin said. “He wrestled well. He went out and did some things and got to see that those things work. That’s only going to help him become a better wrestler.”

Top photo: Upper Darby’s Sabbir Ahmed pins Conestoga’s Nabaa Alazawee in their 106-pound bout Tuesday evening at Upper Darby.

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