Marino earns state bid the hard way

POTTSTOWN — Mike Marino emerged from his third place match visibly spent. His face was swollen around the eyes. He wore a bandage on his knee. His movements were slow and measured. But a bronze medal hung from his neck — the reward for traversing the punishing road that leads to Hershey and the state championship.

“Ideally, you get to the finals and you have three or four hours off,’ Marino said. “When you lose, you have to wrestle back.’

His day started just after ten in the morning with a semifinal match against undefeated Downingtown East wrestler Wade Cummings. Cummings eked out a 5-3 decision, which sent Marino on his grueling path.

At noon, the Garnet Valley senior was on the mat again. He needed three extra periods to outlast Henderson’s Kyle Medrow.”Going into OT wasn’t what I was expecting,’ Marino said. “I wasn’t too fazed. I worked with him in the past. I was pretty confident.’

Marino won the tiebreaker in the sixth round to move on to the third place match.

“In (the regular) season, when you end up in consolations you sometimes have matches 15 minutes apart,’ Marino explained. “The only way to prepare is to practice for that.’In the third place match, Marino found himself in overtime again. He was beaten physically and nearly beaten on the scoreboard as he trailed Council Rock South’s Zack Trampe 3-2.”I was pretty tired,’ Marino recalled. “Do I call an injury timeout? Do I need it? Is it worth it? Does it help him more than it helps me?'”I wasn’t ready to go out. That motivated me,’ he said. “I had to work through it.’

In front of a packed crowd, on a long day, the emotions of the moment could have crippled Marino.”I kind of felt the pressure before the match. You can’t really be out there thinking about it. You’re running on adrenaline.’He rallied. Marino tied the match at 3, sending it to a sudden death, with the winner going to states. The conclusion was as controversial as it was thrilling.

“I got a shot in and I tried turning the corner real quick. There was a little scramble,’ Marino said, describing his state clinching move. “I got in between his legs. Most kids when you get that give up two points. He defended it really well.’

The official held high two fingers. Marino raised both arms in celebration. Trampe pleaded with the officials. South’s coach Brad Silimperi was irate. No matter. Marino’s trip to Hershey was booked.As it turned out, the Jaguar was the only Delco wrestler to come out of the consolation bracket. Marple Newtown’s Patrick Callaghan won three matches in a span of three hours but couldn’t win a fourth. He lost a 3-1 decision to Council Rock South’s Dan Martoccio in the third place match of the 126 pound division. At 152, Ryan Dougherty fell in the third place match. Steve Phillips of Interboro called his three-win performance this weekend “very good’ but he too couldn’t climb that final hurdle at 170. Ridley’s Lawrence Alkins met the same fate at 182.All of this makes Marino’s run that much more memorable.

Joining him in Hershey will be his teammate and best friend John Dambro, who dominated the 170-pound division. Wrestling is a sport that doesn’t lend itself to easy, yet Dambro cruised to the regional title. He claimed an 8-0 major decision victory over Downingtown West’s Gabe Hale.”I feel a lot more confident this year,’ said Dambro who qualifies for the state meet for the second consecutive season. “Last year I got third. That was a great feeling but this is even better. My main goal is to medal at state.’ His muted celebration suggested as much.

Penn Wood’s Karon Lucas-Tillery will complete the Delco trio heading to Hershey. The senior improved his record to 29-3 on the season and 105-28 for his career by virtue of a second place finish at 195.

Like Dambro and now Marino, Lucas-Tillery knows the two paths to Hershey are not created equal.”Last year I had to win four straight matches to get to state,’ the soft-spoken Patriot said. “You have nerves. You’re so worried about losing. You try wrestling smart. You have to be less aggressive.’

As Saturday closed, he stood grinning with his silver medal around his neck and a Hershey’s chocolate bar in his hand. The two roads might be different, but the reward is just as sweet.

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