Off the mat, Joey Gonzales is polite and articulate.
But when he reaches the center circle, manners are forgotten and the Interboro senior tends to try maneuvers that even he can’t describe.
“I have a real unorthodox style, I don’t usually use real moves,’ Gonzales said with a laugh. “It’s taken four years and my coaches are just learning how to coach me.’
Meaning no disrespect to head coach Dan Tobin or the rest of the Bucs staff, Gonzales acknowledged that he has been given the freedom to be himself — and that individuality has produced a 126-31 career record, including a 29-5 mark this season and his second consecutive Del Val League title.
“Coach Tobin has always had trust in me,’ said Gonzales, who also thanked “real technical’ teammates Mike Wasch and Eric Thomas and fellow training partner Jeff Finley for allowing him to try new things in practice.
You can bet Gonzales and his buddies will be busy working on new and unconventional tactics heading into Saturday’s District 1 Class AAA East tournament at Hatboro-Horsham, where he will open the 138-pound bracket against Council Rock South sophomore Dylan Schwartz (26-12).
Four of Gonzales’s five losses this season have come against ranked District 1 wrestlers at 132, 138 and 145 pounds, which has his coach wondering what the team captain needs to do to get some recognition.
“The kid has nearly 100 pins and has been pinned only four times in his career, and yet nobody talks about him,’ Tobin said. “He’s a leader in the room and on the mat. I couldn’t ask him to do any more for this team and especially his younger teammates.’
Having finished fourth at districts last season after failing to place the previous two years, Gonzales is confident that his ascension isn’t over.
“How I wrestled (at Del Val champs) leads me to believe I’ll do well this weekend,’ Gonzales said. “The coaches do a pretty good job prepping us and everyone in the room pushes me. The fact that I’m a senior gave me the realization that any match could be my last. That’s provided all the motivation I need.’
Along with Gonzales, Interboro had eight other athletes earn bids to the AAA East districts.
Wasch (126), Thomas (132), Steven Phillips (170) and Eric Owens (220) also won Del Val gold, while freshman Kyleigh D’Agostino (106) became the first girl from Delaware County to qualify for districts and will be joined by teammates Jay Bryan (120), Jason Miksit (152) and Stephen Falance (195).
Four days after getting trounced by the Bucs, 55-20, in the Del Val team title clincher, Chichester bounced back in spectacular fashion in the league championships by having all 13 of its entries qualify for districts.
The incredibly young Eagles saw freshmen Craig Baldwin (106), Chris Smarkola (113) and Tommy Smarkola (120) finish atop the podium along with sophomore Eddie Sykes (145) and senior Chris Roman (152).
Karon Lucas-Tillery, the 195-pound champ, leads Penn Wood’s seven-wrestler contingent, while Glen Mills also qualified seven, led by champs Israel Crane (182) and Johnathan Jordan (285). Samson Akporotu took the 160-pound Del Val crown for Academy Park, which has four freshmen among its six district qualifiers.’¢’¢’¢
Delaware County will be well represented at the District 1 Class AAA West tournament Saturday at Spring-Ford, with Central League champion Garnet Valley (11) and runner-up Penncrest (13) combining to claim 24 berths.
Nick Puliti (106), Michael Marino (120), Gary Pizzuto (132) and John Dambro (170) captured district titles for the Jaguars, while Ryan Dougherty (152), Liam Frank (182) and Austin Jacque (195) finished atop the podium for the Lions.
Upper Darby and Ridley will have eight wrestlers each at Spring-Ford, Springfield and Radnor gained seven spots apiece, Strath Haven has six entries and Marple Newtown placed four.’¢’¢’¢
Sun Valley celebrated a pair of individual titles by Alex Elliott (138) and Steve Okoorian (152) while placing ninth in the team standings in Saturday’s Ches-Mont League championships.
Sean Donohue (126), Christian Bateman (132) and Jimmy Pro (170) joined Elliott and Okoorian as Vanguards who qualified for the District 1 Class AAA Central tournament Saturday at Oxford.’¢’¢’¢
Haverford School’s L.J. Barlow, the 2011-12 Daily Times Wrestler of the Year, continued his stellar season over the weekend when the 195-pound junior improved to 34-3 by capturing his second consecutive title at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tournament at Mercersburg Academy.
Wyoming Seminary defended its team title while the Fords finished sixth with 124 points and qualified seven wrestlers for the Prep Nationals this Friday and Saturday at Lehigh University, including Dan Grobman (106), Freddy Corradetti (120), Jack Gola (126), Chris Kober (145), Rich Souders (152) and Chauncey Simmons (285).
Episcopal Academy took eighth with 76 points, paced by Julio del Peon’s third-place finish at 126. Four other Churchmen earned berths to the Prep Nationals, with del Peon joined by Connor Howlin (138), A.J. Cutrufello (170), Cody Russell (182) and Dallas Taylor (285).’¢’¢’¢
Bonner-Prendergast senior Joe DePhillipo improved to 31-0 and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler by winning the 152-pound title Saturday in the Catholic League championships.
The Friars were ninth in team scoring but did see sophomore Tom Becker (195) join DePhillipo in qualifying for Saturday’s District 12 Class AAA tournament at La Salle High.
Cardinal O’Hara, which was seventh, had seniors Mike Maloney (120), Tyler Oliver (126) and Anthony Tamberella (285) qualify for districts along with sophomore Gaetano Simonelli (220) and junior Mike Lewis (138).
Coach Ted Kavanagh’s Archbishop Carroll squad will compete in the District 1/12 Class AA tournament Saturday at Springfield Montco.’¢’¢’¢
Scott Pendell’s quest to become the first wrestler from Delaware County Christian School to qualify for the state tournament continues with a busy week that begins Wednesday, when the senior heavyweight attempts to defend his Bicentennial League title at New Hope-Solebury. Pendell, 22-3, then will look to improve on last season’s third-place finish in Saturday’s District 1/12 Class AA tournament at Springfield Montco.
The Knights’ other contender to medal is freshman Jake Gutowski (170).