ROYERSFORD >> Daniel Mancini had perhaps one of his best days ever on a wrestling mat Saturday.
And his good day set the tone for a great day by the Owen J. Roberts team at the District 1 Class AAA Central Tournament.
Mancini’s memorable day started with him claiming the 100th win of his scholastic career in the 152-pound bracket’s semifinal round. From there, the Owen J. Roberts junior won his first district championship after two previous runner-up showings; and his efforts were key to the Wildcats finishing as team champions after placing second to host Spring-Ford at last weekend’s Pioneer Athletic Conference Championships.
“It kind of comes along with putting in the work to do as well as I can,” Mancini said after becoming the program’s 16th individual to amass triple-digit victories. “The wins will come along.”
Mancini made himself a strong candidate for Outstanding Wrestler honors — a distinction ultimately awarded to Methacton 132-pound champion Kibwe McNair — by scoring two pins and a technical fall on the day. His gold medal match saw Mancini rack up a 24-8 point spread on Lower Merion’s James Lledo by the 4:45 mark, making him the second of OJR’s four individual champions on the day.
In his semifinal against Norristown’s Nick Semon, Mancini built a 4-2 lead in the first period. Escaping from a bottom start in the second period, he went the catch-and-release route against the Eagles’ junior before getting him in a cradle and scoring the fall in 2:59.
“Just keep scoring points, and the wins will take care of themselves,” he said of his strategy for the bout. “I definitely feel I’m competing the best I ever have. I’m taking advantage of every practice I get to.”
Connor Quinn got Owen J. moving toward the team championship by topping Pottsgrove’s Chase Banyai at 126, 4-1. Ricky McCutchen offered an encore to Mancini’s title run by handling Methacton’s Michael Blakemore 6-3, and Jason Zollers continued the run with a 12-4 major of Strath Haven’s Brett Burns.
Factor in Antonio Petrucelli’s runner-up showing at 138, and fourth-place finishes by David Forrest (113) and Cole Meredith (145), and it added up to the ‘Cats scoring 121 team points. Boyertown, with three champions – Jacob Miller (182), Elijah Jones (195), Zak Reck (220) – among its seven medalists, was second with 110.5 points, and Methacton third with 105.
“We knew we had to wrestle our best,” Zollers said after receiving his gold medal. “That’s what we did today, put a lot of effort in. We’re all putting in the work, and it’s showing.”
Advancing all but two of its nine district qualifiers to next weekend’s South East AAA Regional tourney was another bonus for OJR.
“I was happy to get five into the finals, and have four champs,” head coach Steve DeRafelo said. “The kids put in the work.
“I thought everyone wrestled well. They battled and competed.”
Quinn is having a memorable postseason of his own. In his first year at the school, following a freshman year at Malvern Prep, he currently boasts a 32-6 record and PAC championship.
“I felt at home at OJR,” he said of the decision to transfer from Malvern, where he went 42-10 for its mat program and was a national-prep tournament qualifier. “I loved Malvern, but I felt I belonged at OJR.
“It (gold medal) is a good feeling. One of my goals at Owen J. is to make a name for myself.”
Zollers (33-5) made his own big step up from his previous fifth- and fourth-place district outings. He scored two majors after Haverford’s Shane McAdams defaulted due to injury in the opening round.
“I knew he (Burns) was tough, but I knew I had my motor to fall back on. I did what I had to do.
“I push the pace in the practice room. That’s where it grows.”
McNair (32-2) validated his OW selection by pinning his way through the 132 bracket’s semifinal and championship rounds. It came in complement to his run at PACs, where the Warrior sophomore pinned all three of his opponents.
“It’s something to work for,” he said. “We go super hard at practice, and that makes me stronger mentally.”
After losing a one-point decision to Chase Smith at PACs, Jacob Miller returned the favor in their district rematch. The Boyertown junior answered Smith’s 4-3 verdict with a 3-2 decision, giving Miller his first district medal of any kind.
“It feels good,” he said. “I knew I could take him down and win, plus there was the motivation to get back for last week.
“I went with my underhooks. I kept faith in them, and I guess it worked. It puts me in a good spot for next week.”
Miller kicked off a gold-medal parade for the Bears that continued with Jones (195) repeating as a district champion with a major decision of Pope John Paul II’s Jack Files, and Reck (220) edging Methacton’s Tonee Ellis, 3-2, in a rematch of their PAC final.
Jared Kuhns also went the rematch road, facing Methacton’s Corey Morabito in a second straight 113-pound final. Kuhns (26-1) came away with a 5-3 decision but admitted to not being at his best.
“It was rough,” Kuhns said. “I kind of crashed in the semis. I didn’t have the energy. Sometimes, I struggle when I wrestle a kid a second time.”
The next goal on Kuhns’ agenda will be a better finish at regionals, and a consequent berth in the state tournament at Hershey in two weeks. The Indian senior missed out on appearing at the Giant Center last year when he finished sixth, the regional advancing the top five from each weight class.
Brothers Matt and Ryan Vulakh, who made history by becoming Pope John Paul II’s first two PAC champions, added to their legacy with district gold. Matt (25-4) decisioned Garnet Valley’s Gavin Hollingsworth, 6-1, at 106 while Ryan (24-4) completed his sweep at 145 with a second-period technical fall of Methacton’s Roman Moser.
Brandon Meredith brought the hometown Rams their lone title at 120. The senior (38-1) recorded a 16-4 major decision on Lower Merion’s Christian Hodges for his first-ever district championship.
NOTES >> Prior to the finals, PAC coaches Tim Seislove and Steve Adam were accorded Coaches of the Year honors. Seislove directed Spring-Ford to the PAC’s Liberty Division regular-season championship, and Adam did the same for Upper Perkiomen in the Frontier Division. … The South East AAA Regional returns to Oxford for two days of action Friday and Saturday. … McNair sported a green-and-white wool cap as part of his wrestling attire. “It’s part of my personality, and it looks nice,” he said in explanation of the fashion accessory. … Among the throng of Boyertown wrestling alumni present for the district finals was 2016 state champion Jordan Wood, who is continuing his academic and athletic pursuits at Lehigh University.
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