Garnet Valley earns historic states berth

UPPER DUBLIN — Coming in to the this weekend’s District One Duals action, Downingtown East had made a living finding ways to win by outworking its opponents.

Saturday, in the Class AAA consolation semifinals, the No. 2 Cougars were given a taste of their own medicine by No. 4 Garnet Valley.

The Jaguars won four of the six one-point decisions in a nip-and-tuck contest and beat East, 33-25, at Upper Dublin High.

The loss eliminated the Cougars (27-2), denying them a return trip to the state tournament, while Garnet Valley (19-3) will be District One’s fourth representative after the Jags fell to No. 5 Council Rock South, 26-22, in the consolation final.

Garnet Valley will travel to Whitehall High Monday night to face the District 11 runnerup, Parkland.

Garnet Valley is the first team from Delco to ever reach the PIAA duals, and the balanced approach the Jaguars used against the Cougars showed why.

“I think these kids had two or three years in to prepare, wrestling a very difficult schedule,’ Garnet Valley coach Rocco Fantazzi said. “They’re experienced, and they’re battle-tested. They’ve been though different competitions in the state of Pennsylvania before, been through hard matches. They’re able to come together as a team, support one another on and off mat. They know their jobs and what needs to do to have success. They’ve bought in to what it needs to get to this next level.’

The loss left Downingtown East understandably disappointed.

“We would have liked to do better as the second-seed and really legitimize that seed,’ East coach Joe Horvath said. “We have some injury issues and some fatigue issues and we knew it was gonna be tough regardless of our seed. I felt like we got some tough matches before the postseason so we can’t leave completely disappointed.’

Garnet Valley took the lead off the start when Sean Lyons (152 pounds) used a penalty point against James Meyer for too many cautions and an escape to win, 2-1. Mark Morey (170) escaped in the third for a 3-2 win, Nick Puliti (106) scored a takedown in the third for a 3-2 win and Gary Pizzuto (138) notched the deciding takedown in the third for a 4-3 win.

Three of the last four matches — including wins by Downingtown East’s Wade Cummings at 126 and Jared Leonetti at 132 — were decisions by one point each. Garnet Valley’s Pat Rowe sealed the match with an 8-5 win over Matt Fischer at 145 pounds.

Four of the top-five ranked 126-pounders in District One were competing in the tournament this weekend, and not much was done to distinguish the clear favorite.

Cummings (No. 3 at 126) registered a big win, knocking off Garnet Valley’s Mike Marino (No. 5), a returning sixth-place state medalist, 3-2. Marino, who Friday became the winningest wrestler in Garnet Valley history, beat Council Rock South’s Danny Martoccio (No. 4) twice in two days, but Martoccio topped Pennridge’s Ben Ross (No. 1) in overtime, Saturday.

“It’s good to get a big win like that to prepare for the postseason,’ said Cummings, who moved to 33-0 this season, giving him 75 career wins. “It also makes me work harder to get ready for the postseason and not overlook anybody.’

A Marino win is usually an automatic for Garnet Valley, but given Cummings’ reputation and the hard-fought match they engaged in Saturday, the Jags were prepared to step up if he didn’t get the win.

“We’re a strong enough team that if someone like Michael had a tough match or an off day, we have other guys to pick him up,’ Fantazzi sad. “… Yes, he’s one of the guys that we usually pencil in to get a W, but we knew that he would get one of the better kids in the district and it would be tough, but we have the guys who can pick up the pieces. And that’s probably what got us to that level.’

The Jaguars couldn’t avenge Friday’s loss to Council Rock South in the third-place match, though this one was a bit less controversial than the 28-27 edge the Golden Hawks compiled in the semifinals thanks to a matches won tiebreaker.

Morey and John Dambro, the latter by major decision, earned wins to stake the Jags to an early lead, and Connor Walsh’s win at 285 tied things up. Marino rallied to score his win over Martoccio, 2-1, and the Jaguars surged ahead with wins by Pizzuto and Rowe by comfortable margins.

But Lucas Martoccio scored the only pin of the match at 152 pounds, downing Matt Mortimer in 1:12 to ice the win for CR South.

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