SHARON HILL — When Interboro freshman Kyleigh D’Agostino was 3 years old, she would frequent her Uncle Ed Hall’s high school wrestling matches. She became enamored with the sport.
“She told her dad and me she wanted to wrestle,” recalled Hall, now a first-year Bucs assistant coach. “We thought it was a joke. Then we found out she was really good.”
D’Agostino began her career in earnest at the age of 4. Saturday, the wrestling veteran made history, becoming the first female in Delaware County to reach the District One Class AAA meet. D’Agostino accomplished the feat by virtue of a second-place finish in the 106-pound division.
“It’s exciting,” she said of her historic day. “I’ve wanted this since I was younger.”
Hall is just happy she has the chance. During her middle school career, D’Agostino’s matches were few and far between. The boys simply didn’t want to wrestle a girl — and a good girl at that.
“A lot of kids would forfeit to her,” Hall said. “No one wants to lose to a girl.”
Now in high school, coaches and wrestlers have little choice in the matter. In her first season on the varsity squad, D’Agostino has posted a respectable 14-17 mark with eight falls. That record becomes more impressive when considering the adjustments D’Agostino has had to make over the season. She wrestles exclusively against females during the summer season. As a result, the transition to wrestling high school boys hasn’t been easy. When D’Agostino was younger, she could out-muscle opponents. That, according to her uncle, is no longer the case.
“She has to beat people with her quickness and technique,” Hall said. “She doesn’t have the strength that some of these kids have.”
Interboro head coach Dan Tobin has been impressed with his wrestler’s improvement.
“She’s my first girl,” Tobin said. “I brought her uncle on to help ease into it. But she’s good. She knows how to wrestle and the kids are good with her. She’s only going to get better.”
D’Agostino, even as a freshman, is already drawing attention for her success. She was recently asked to submit an application to join Team USA’s women’s wrestling team for the Pan-Am games. While D’Agostino is still waiting for a reply, Tobin called the gesture “an achievement in itself, a great honor.”
The Pan-Am games can wait, though. D’Agostino insists she’s focused solely on the District One AAA meet.”I want to put in a good fight, wrestle as hard as I can,” she said.
The first female in county history to get as far as districts now hopes her performance will overshadow her gender.”I like being known as Kyleigh who’s really good at the 106 spot,” D’Agostino said. “I don’t want to be known as the ‘girl wrestler.’ I want the boys to know what I am.’
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Penn Wood’s Karon Lucas-Tillery won his 100th career match Saturday, besting Glen Mills’ Howard Watkins in the 195-pound finals. Lucas-Tillery is 24-2 on the season and is the top-ranked 195-pound wrestler in the district.lll
Interboro will send nine wrestlers to the District One Class AAA meet. Stalwarts Joey Gonzales (138), Eric Thomas (132), and Mike Walsh (126) headline a strong Bucs squad. Each won his division handily.
One Buc who qualified but will likely not wrestle next week is senior Eric Owens. Owens was less than a minute into his championship match at 220 when Glen Mills junior Elijah Pacley locked up, then fell on his leg. Owens, who won by disqualification, screamed in pain for several moments before limping off the mat. Pacley, to his credit, apologized profusely. It was a great showing of sportsmanship but an unfortunate injury for one of the county’s top wrestlers.
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Chichester had a strong day as well. The Smarkola brothers, Chris at 113 and Tommy at 120, each cruised to the championship. They will be joined in districts by 10 Eagles teammates. Eddie Sykes provided the highlight of the afternoon — other than team-wide bleached hair — with an upset victory over Penn Wood’s Kelvin Awo in the 145 championship.
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Israel Crane and Johnathan Jordan were the lone Glen Mills wrestlers to win their respective divisions. Crane, a senior, pinned Chi’s Brian Baldwin 1:54 into the championship match to grab the 182 division. Jordan took down Chi’s Andrew Galazeski to emerge from the 285 class.
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Academy Park top dog Samson Akporotu provided the Knights’ lone highlight. In winning two matches he improved to 28-7 on the season and will wrestle in districts. Akporotu will be joined by running mates Terry Murdocq (138), Mohamad Kaba (126) and Ramses Montez (106) all of whom captured third place, and Samika Kromah, who finished runner-up in the 120 weight class.