Sizzling Conestoga knocks off Marple Newtown

TREDDYFRIN — As Conestoga coach Steve Harner explains it, his team starts each dual meet down 12 points.

Knowing he has to forfeit two weights at some point, Harner constantly implores his wrestlers to push for bonus points or a fall.

With a team with just one senior on the roster, injured at that, Harner’s Pioneers appear a good year away from competing for the Central League crown. But along the way, that sense of urgency Harner instills likely helps the young squad’s maturation.

Tuesday, in front of a home crowd, Conestoga won nine of 12 contested matches to beat Marple Newtown, 40-27, for its fifth-straight league win.

“Every time we wrestle we’re down 12 points to start,’ Harner said. “We challenge the kids to get some falls. Every week the last couple years it’s been this way, but fortunately someone steps to the plate.’

Conestoga (5-1 league, 5-1 overall) won the battle in the neutral position, taking the Tigers (2-5, 7-9) down 25 times to just nine by Marple.

The biggest win of the night came at 220 pounds, where Stoga’s Ethan Pentz knocked off Eric Trainor, who was ranked No. 5 in District 1, 6-1.

“That 220 was big for us,’ Harner said. “I knew if we could stay close in (the upper weights) we’d be OK, and we actually won that one. (Ethan) never put himself out of position to win it.’

Marple was without its best wrestler, Jason Rinaldi (113 pounds), who was relegated to the second row of chairs with a pair of crutches.

That left just Pat Callaghan (132) in the Tigers’ lineup with potent firepower. He pinned in the first period, but the Pioneers controlled much of the meet.

Kevin Zhao (138) and Dan Iredale (145) earned pins for Stoga for their 13th and 14th wins on the season, respectively. Impressive freshman Eric Hutchinson (113) worked a first-period fall for the Pioneers, as well.

“This match we were looking for a lot of pins,’ Zhao said. “We worked on taking them down from their feet to their back, and coach Harner was hoping many of us could get pins if we started on our feet.’

Mike Sklar (126) engineered a technical fall, and Mike Tarrant (120) and Andrew Wilner (170) managed major decisions for Stoga.

With Logan Kerin, a state qualifier last winter, graduated, the young team has divvied up leadership responsibilities.

“Last year there was a single leader and single star,’ Zhao said. “This year there’s multiple kids sharing the position of successful leaders on the team.’

Dan Wade (152), Matt Prestipino (160) and Pentz were the three winners by decision for the Pioneers.

With 10 juniors on the roster, Conestoga is hoping to make up ground against Garnet Valley and Upper Darby, who both graduate some star power this spring.

“We’re right at the time where we’re gonna be at our prime,’ said Iredale, a sophmore. “We have a lot of juniors like Kevin (Zhao) and Mike (Sklar) and Scott (Christy), and it’s gonna be time to really step up and go for a league championship.’

For now, Conestoga will have winnable meets through the end of January, before facing Garnet and Penncrest in what could be key league contests the last week of the season.

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