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Lourido swings Rustin past Oxford for American Div. crown

WESTTOWN >> Late last week, West Chester Rustin’s Gabe Lourido was introduced to using double hooks from the top position.

Wednesday, while trailing 7-3, Lourido dipped into his short-term memory executed the move to perfection by pinning Oxford’s Landon Meredith at 138 pounds.

The nine-point swing was the propellant in a down-to-the-wire, 34-32 win by Rustin over the visiting Hornets.

The victory clinched Rustin’s sixth straight Ches-Mont American Division crown, with a dual against Great Valley Thursday remaining, and the Golden Knights have now won 35 consecutive divisional dual meets.

Rustin’s Gabe Lourido nears his pin over Landon Meredith of Oxford. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“That’s the greatest dual meet of my life,” Lourido said. “Everyone brought it for six minutes.”

The contest began at 132, where Charlie Baldesari got Rustin (4-0 division, 11-5 overall) a 4-0 lead with a major decision.

Lourido, who was pinned by Meredith at the Ches-Mont Championships in December, set the tone with the huge momentum shift.

“Gabe is a quiet leader,” Rustin coach Brad Harkins said. “He’s dependable, hard-working and does everything you want a kid to do as part of the program. He’s going to give you max effort, and he stepped up and that was a huge boost for us and put us in great position.”

The Golden Knights were without Collin Hurley (160), so they forfeited at 145 to Brandon Sheffield to bump Alex Pratzner to 152. Pratzner came through with a technical fall.

Oxford (4-1, 13-4) took its first lead with pins by Cristian Mercardo (160 pounds) and Will Johnson (170). But, as has been an issue all season, the Hornets were forced to forfeit at 182 and 195, putting Rustin back up by nine.

Oxford’s Cristian Mercard (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“Our kids fought hard,” Oxford coach Scott Gold said. “We had one match go the wrong way. The pin at 138 really swung the whole night.”

The Walsh brothers did their job for Rustin at the bottom of the lineup, with Owen Walsh (220) winning by decision and Gabe Walsh (285) holding Sam Blevins to a decision.

With Oxford favored four of the last five bouts, including Blevins, it was all about losing small for Rustin.

Rustin’s Owen Walsh (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“Our guys know the value of each individual match in a dual meet in order to win as a team,” Harkins said. “I thought our guys fought their tails off and the Oxford kids did, as well, and that’s what made it such a great meet.”

Oxford’s Cannon Hershey dominated at 106, but Thomas Casey was able to save a point by losing by technical fall instead of a pin. Two bouts later, Rustin’s Nate Johnson denied Kevin Quin the takedown he needed for a major the final 45 seconds.

In between, Jimmy King (113) earned a major for the Knights, and the dual came down to the final bout between Oxford’s Cooper Johnson and Rustin’s Josh Viarengo with five points separating the teams.

Rustin’s Jimmy King (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Cooper Johnson (126) won his third straight match against Viarengo, but was held to a decision to preserve Rustin’s win.

“It feels great,” Lourido said. “Every single match, we brought it. Even the kids who weren’t supposed to win, they only lost by a little.”

All season the Knights have been without one of its top wrestlers, Tyler Kaliner, who was hurt during football season, and Hurley’s absence Wednesday made the climb steeper. But once again, it’s Rustin on top of the American Division.

“It shows you that it’s a team effort,” Harkins said. “A lot of people view wrestling as an individual sport, but we don’t. We count on every kid, regardless of who they are, to fill in and it showed their dedication and determination.”

Oxford is on the rise, despite the setback. With a promising postseason approaching and another class of talented middle schoolers on the way, the Hornets don’t plan on going anywhere fast.

“We’re still building on it,” Gold said. “We know what we can do.”

Oxford’s Will Johnson (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

West Chester Rustin 34, Oxford 32

132- Baldesari (WCR) maj. dec. Houghton, 11-2 (4-0)

138- Lourido (WCR) pinned Meredith, 4:29 (10-0)

145- Sheffield (OX) won by forfeit (10-6)

152- Pratzner (WCR) tech. fall Pantalone, 5:49 (15-6)

160- Mercado (OX) pinned Griffith, 1:49 (15-12)

170- W. Johnson (OX) pinned Hatzipavlides, 3:49 (15-18)

182- Crowe (WCR) won by forfeit (21-18)

195- Jones (WCR) won by forfeit (27-18)

220- O. Walsh (WCR) dec. Rodriguez, 7-2 (30-18)

285- Blevins (OX) dec. G. Walsh, 5-3 (30-21)

106- Hershey (OX) tech. fall Casey, 5:03 (30-26)

113- King (WCR) maj. dec. Smith, 11-0 (34-26)

120- Quin (OX) dec. Johnson, 12-5 (34-29)

126- C. Johnson (OX) dec. Viarengo, 6-1 (34-32)

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