HAVERFORD — If there had been reserved seating for Saturday’s Central League wrestling championships at Haverford High, Rocco Fantazzi’s spot in the corner of the center mat would’ve been worth its weight in gold.
Eight times the Garnet Valley coach was up close and personal to see his athletes compete for a title, and four times the Jaguars obliged — with Nick Puliti (106 pounds), Michael Marino (120), Gary Pizzuto (132) and John Dambro (170) finishing atop the podium.
Matt Marino (113), Ben Tuohey (126), Sean Lyons (145) and J.C. Zweier (220) weren’t too shabby either, each finishing runnerup and contributing mightily to Garnet Valley finishing atop the team scoring with 207.5 points, with Penncrest second at 183.5 and Springfield and Conestoga tied for a distant third with 112.
The team title “is a nice way to cap off the end of our Central League season,” Fantazzi said. “We’re in the individual part of the season, so we tell them their first job is to do what they have to do to win and advance to the next week. Once they’ve got that secured, their job is to get bonus points if they can. Everybody who went out there tried to take it a step further to get that major decision or that fall and those extra points added up to the team win.”
There was plenty of praise to go around for the Delaware County contingent, headed by Marple Newtown senior Pat Callaghan who improved on last season’s runnerup finish to capture the 126-pound championship and earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
A case could also be made for Tom Meyers to take the top individual honor as the Radnor junior ran his season record to 29-0 and added to his runnerup finish as a freshman by outlasting a dynamic effort by Haverford’s Wyatt Martin (25-5) to win the 160-pound title.
“Wrestling all six minutes in the semifinal (a 4-1 decision over Upper Darby’s Charlie Livingston) and then having to wrestle all six in the final without taking a break was a tough way to end a very long day,” Meyers said. “Now I’ve got to put this behind me and go on to districts.”
The top six finishers in each weight class earned a berth in Saturday’s District One-West Class AAA Tournament at Spring-Ford and there were plenty of athletes and coaches already looking ahead to the new challenge.
Upper Darby senior Austin Petril (31-1) stated his case for MOW with his third league championship courtesy of a 2-1 overtime decision over Garnet Valley’s Matt Marino at 113 pounds that had the gym rocking early. But rather than revel in his accomplishment, Petril seemed more pained by his twin brother Anthony’s loss at 106, in which the Jags’ Puliti seized the lead with eight seconds to go in the match for a 6-5 decision.
“I’m upset, I feel as if I lost that match with him,” Austin Petril said. “But we feed off each other and tomorrow we’ll wake up and I’ll see the determination and motivation from that loss and it’ll make us both hungrier and train harder for next week.”
Another set of senior twins shared a light moment when asked about their efforts and prospects for next week.
“I taught him everything he knows, so it makes us both look good when he wins,” said Springfield’s Luke Charamella, who took third at 120 and then rooted his brother Dennis to the 138-pound title.
“It feels great to win,” Dennis Charamella said, “but when I watch (Luke’s) matches I feel just as nervous as him.’
With All-Delco Upper Darby junior Joshua Yeboah-Gyasi sidelined by a knee iinjury, the 195-pound bracket was turned upside down until Penncrest’s Austin Jacque outlasted Radnor’s Markos Katrakazis for an 8-4 victory.
That performance, as well as sophomore Liam Frank’s repeat as the 182-pound champ — with a 3-2 win over Ridley’s Lawrence Alkins in a rematch of last season’s final — left Lions coach Greg Jacobs glowing.
“We brought 14 guys and the goal was to get all 14 to next week,” Jacobs said. “We came pretty close with 13, which is by far the most Penncrest has ever qualified for the district tournament. With three champs (Ryan Dougherty won at 152) and 10 others earning berths, I’m very proud of the guys.”
The heavyweight class had just six entries, but Strath Haven junior Justin Fremont still put on quite a show in securing his second consecutive league championship by pinning Radnor big man James Hong in overtime. The match ended a very long day at 9:06 p.m., seemingly an eon after the 7:30 a.m. weigh-ins.
“It was a very long day, but it felt good to be able to push through and win it,” Fremont said.
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