SHARON HILL >> As he looked on while other Del Val League championship matches took place Saturday, Josiah Nichols was able to recall the moment he knew what it would take to repeat as the 132-pound league champion. It was both the low point of his season but also the biggest motivator for the Chichester junior wrestler.
The Eagles took on Downingtown West, the defending Ches-Mont League National Division and District 1 AAA Central champs, in December. Nichols went up against the Whippets’ Nick Lilley, who claimed the 3A Central title at 132 last season. In a battle of champions, Lilley was too much, pinning Nichols in 1:25. That was the moment Nichols knew what it was going to take to get to that next level as a wrestler.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Nichols said of that bout against Lilley. “I knew he was better than me and he beat me. I was able to learn from that. I’ve watched my match over and over again and I’ve studied him. Hopefully, I see him again.”
On Saturday, Nichols used what he learned from that bout and put his full arsenal of moves on display as he won a second straight Del Val League title at 132 pounds, pinning Interboro’s Jerry Curran in 5:14. Nichols was besting Curran, 11-1 in the match prior to his pin due to the understanding he had of his opponent’s style. Nichols had seen Curran wrestle twice earlier this season.
“I knew what he was capable of already,” Nichols said. “My (mindset) was to not let him think he was going to beat me and get into his head early on. After that, I just wrestled.”
Nichols was among the eight Eagles to win individual league titles, and among the 11 Chichester wrestlers who will be moving on to the District 1 Class 3A West championships at Interboro. The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the district tournament.
Chase Whartnaby (106), Jovani Perez (152), Harrison Guy (160) and Faizan Raza (285) all won by fall. Marquell Hudnell scored a major decision to take the title at 145 pounds, while D.J. McMaster (138) and Noah Harvey (170) both won by decision. Mason McClure (120) and Matt Richardson (195) finished second, while Chris Mattero (182) took third to move on.
Interboro finished with four individual champions. Oxvaldo Carbajal (113) claimed his second straight league title. Aiden McDevitt (126), Anthony Zizza (182) and Mike Moore (195) also won league titles.
Dan Dumas of Penn Wood claimed his second straight league championship when he pinned Interboro’s Shalom Thomas to win the 220-pound title. Academy Park’s Isiah Field took the crown at 120 pounds. In all, 11 of the 14 individual titles were decided by fall.
For Nichols, it was his second straight league title. He won the 132-pound crown as a sophomore last year.
“He’s become extremely aggressive this year, especially in his neutral position (which includes) lots of head clubs and fast (movement),” Chichester coach Jim Belettti said. “His neutral position has improved a lot this year and that’s what we worked on from last year. He’s been doing that really well.”
One of Beletti’s focal points for not only Nichols but his entire Chichester team was not challenge themselves with better competition throughout the year. He set up bouts with West Chester Rustin and West to give his group an opportunity to measure up against some of the better teams in the area.
“We’re trying to get a few more heavy hitters in our program to match our guys up with somebody better,” Beletti said. “This is the level you need to be at so we’re using some of those schools as a model for our guys. They’re accepting it. When we told them we were going to go up against Downingtown West, they were like, ‘That’s cool! It gives me a chance as a wrestler someone who is a higher caliber and let me see what I can do.’”
For Nichols, who came into the day’s event with a 18-9 overall record, wins against Curran and Glen Mills’ Jymein Chandler on Saturday were attributed to his strength.
“I’m usually stronger than most of the guys and usually if you’re stronger you can get into their head early and make them think that they can’t beat you,” Nichols said. “Once you’ve got them to think they can’t beat you, they’ll give up.”
Strength is an area Beletti has worked on with the rest of his team but Nichols is definitely someone they can use as an example when strength and technique come together.
“He’s really worked on both,” Beletti said. “Last year, we didn’t think he had a whole lot of over-the-top moves. He did OK, but he’s really improved, like that last move over there I don’t know where he got that one from. He’s really gotten his repertoire up.”
Next up for Nichols is the District 1 3A West Tournament, an event where he lost both of his matches a year ago and finished in 10th place. Making it to districts is nice for Nichols but he has his sights set on going farther this time around.
“I made it my goal this year to get into regionals,” Nichols said. “Hopefully, I can finish that this year.”
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