HERSHEY — Before his match even began, Spring-Ford freshman Joey Milano found himself down 1-0.
The referees awarded a point to Cedar Cliff for a knee brace that wasn’t wrapped, but that was about all that could slow down Milano or the second half of the Rams’ lineup.
It turned out to be just a blip as the Rams rattled off five wins in the final six bouts to pull away from Cedar Cliff, 39-29, in the first round of the PIAA Duals at the Giant Center in Hershey Thursday night.
Milano needed just 74 seconds to pin Elijah Ikeda, propelling the Rams to a quarterfinal matchup with Seneca Valley, Friday at 2 pm.
“I just had to forget about it,” Milano said of the brace. “We felt we were stronger the second half of our lineup. (Cedar Cliff) is tough from 106-138, but we got a couple wins between there and some kids did a good job not giving up bonus points.”
Ben D’Arcangelo started the run for the Rams with a second-period pin at 152. Following Milano, Michael Gradwell (170 pounds) held on for a 7-5 decision to push the lead to four.
Spring-Ford forfeited to Donovan Ball at 182, going back down two points, but the remaining matchups were exactly what Rams’ coach Tim Seislove wanted.
“Winning the coin toss was huge because they have a hammer at 182,” Seislove said. “We were able to get Chase Smith away from him. We knew we had to keep it close with the guys in the middle. Dirk Nugent had a big win at 132 and Zach Needles did a nice job only giving up a decision.”
Smith (195) put the Rams up for good with a first-period fall and Tyler LaRocca (220) sent Spring-Ford to the quarters with a pin midway through the second.
“I love the pressure,” LaRocca said. “When it comes down to me a spark lights under my butt to go out and get the job done. I’m not wrestling for Tyler, I’m wrestling for everyone involved with Spring-Ford wrestling.”
The tournament is now double elimination and the Rams need one win on Friday to secure a spot in Saturday’s action.
“It means everything for us,” LaRocca said of the win. “We’ve worked really hard this season. We have a group of guys in the gym at 6 am, lifting weights and working hard. We earned this. We’ve beat everyone in the PAC and have overcome a lot of things so this means the world to us.”
Spring-Ford led early when Ed Calloway (285) worked a 3-2 decision. Cedar Cliff won five of the next seven, scoring eight bonus points in the process.
Nugent (132) scored two takedowns in the third to secure a 7-6 win, and Needles used a takedown late in the third to limit the damage against Marcuss Vassar to an 11-4 decision to keep the Rams in it.
“It’s a really good win for the kids,” Seislove said. “As a team we wrestled really well. Some of the kids were asked to sacrifice and move up and they got the job done.”
The focus shifts now to Seneca Valley, District 7’s third-place team, who dismantled District 12 champ, Archbishop Wood, 58-9.
The Raiders boast a two-time state runner-up, Louis Newell, who could see Spring-Ford’s former state medalist, Brandon Meredith, at 120 pounds.
“I haven’t even looked at Seneca Valley yet,” Seislove said. “We’ll go back to the hotel, get something to eat and start thinking about them. All I know is they’re a pretty darn good team, but we’re just honored to be in the state quarterfinals.
The Rams were the lone District 1 team to win Thursday night, with Council Rock South falling to Canon McMillan, 36-24, and Downingtown West going down to Bethlehem Catholic, 46-12.
Spring-Ford 39, Cedar Cliff 29
285- Calloway (SF) dec. Shires, 3-2 (3-0)
106- Lewis (CC) pinned Reynolds, 5:35 (3-6)
113- Bogardus (CC) pinned Tobin, 2:52 (3-12)
120- Meredith (SF) pinned Arndt, 3:50 (9-12)
126- Wilson (CC) maj. dec. McGill, 12-2 (9-16)
132- Nugent (SF) dec. Prestil, 7-6 (12-16)
138- Cassidy (CC) maj. dec. Chapman, 17-5 (12-20)
145- Vassar (CC) dec. Needles, 11-4 (12-23)
152- D’Arcangelo (SF) pinned Hatok, 3:17 (18-23)
160- Milano (SF) pinned Ikeda, 1:14 (24-23)
170- Gradwell (SF) dec. Auman, 7-5 (27-23)
182- Ball (CC) won by forfeit (27-29)
195- Smith (SF) pinned Nelson, 1:19 (33-29)
220- LaRocca (SF) pinned Torres, 2:59 (39-29)
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