Pin sends Garnet Valley’s Dambro into quarterfinals

HERSHEY — Moments after qualifying for Friday’s PIAA State Class AAA wrestling quarterfinals, John Dambro joked that he’s in favor of anything that will get him out of school early.

So Garnet Valley’s 170-pounder was definitely on board when Jaguars coach Rocco Fantazzi announced that he would be bringing Dambro and his teammate/best friend Michael Marino to the Giant Center the day before the tournament got underway in this cavernous arena.

“I thought it would be good to get them back into this environment,’ Fantazzi said of Wednesday’s trip up the turnpike.

“We had a short week after a very tough weekend (at regionals), with more weather to deal with,” the coach continued. “The guys were tired and sore and there wasn’t much to be done with their conditioning, training or technique, so I thought it was more important to get them back to the arena, let them roll around on the mats and just let them breathe it all in.”

Dambro was thankful for the opportunity to settle himself.

“Getting up here (early), getting to run around on the mats and getting used to the atmosphere helped a lot,’ Dambro said following his 5-minute, 39-second opening-round pin of Central Mountain junior Gavin Caprio.

Friday’s quarterfinal round starts at 1:30 p.m., with Dambro going up against Big Spring senior Cody Seibert.

Marino and Penn Wood’s Karon Lucas-Tillery, who lost their first-round matches, battled back to win in the consolation bracket and will continue to wrestle back Friday, starting at 3:15 p.m.

The good news is that all three All-Delcos are a win away from medaling.

Marino was the first of the three local athletes to take the mat Thursday, and neither Wednesday night’s sneak peek nor his experience in last year’s state tourney could have prepared him for what happened in his 120-pound bout with Shippensburg freshman Chandler Olson.

The Jaguars’ senior came out aggressive but couldn’t gain the upper hand, as the pair battled head to head through a scoreless first period. Marino picked up the first point on an escape 31 seconds into the second period, fell behind when he was taken down with :13 left in the stanza and then evened the score with :21 to go in the third.

Both wrestlers tumbled out of bounds as regulation time expired and the scoreboard showing 3-3, but then the two officials huddled and awarded Olson (31-4) an escape at the buzzer — leaving Marino the task of overcoming a controversial 4-3 loss and a consolation match later in the evening against Mount Lebanon senior Kevin Kinyua.

“That was really rough because it already eliminated any chance at being a state champion,” Marino said in disbelief. “The important thing with those matches is you have to know how to bounce back, and come back aggressively.”

Fantazzi was equally incredulous as he struggled to grasp what had transpired.

“The ref checked with the mat judge and he called it loss of control as they fell out of bounds,’ the coach said. “I don’t understand the call myself, and at this level of the state tournament I don’t know how you can make a call like that. There wasn’t much time for us to plead our case and you’re not going to change their minds anyway.’

Marino is the winningest wrestler in Garnet Valley history with a 145-31 record, and is still on track to become the program’s first to medal twice at states thanks to a 15-2 major decision over Kinyua.

“After the loss I went off on my own to clear my mind a little bit and calm myself,’ Marino explained. “I think I wrestled (the consolation) with a little more heart just knowing that it could be (my) last match ever.’

Both Lucas-Tillery and Penn Wood coach Dan Madonna were upset after the Southeast Region 195-pound runner-up lost his opening match, 5-4, to Shippensburg senior Dylan Herb — and it had nothing to do with the officiating.

Lucas-Tillery took a 4-2 lead into the third period, saw Herb pull even in the final minute and then go ahead for the first time with :19 left.

That is why Lucas-Tillery wrestled angry in taking his consolation opener, 4-2, over Mifflin County senior Tim Pearce.

“I learned that I have to wrestle all three periods,” Lucas-Tillery said. “You can’t just have one or two good periods, you have to go hard for all three. I’m still mad that I lost that first one because I put myself in a tough position.”

Madonna was glad to hear his Del Val champ learned a lesson, even at this late stage of his high school career.

“It’s good to know that he realizes he’s got to wrestle all three periods,” Madonna said. “I hope to see him wrestle another nine, no, 12 more strong periods here.”

Marino and Lucas-Tillery will learn of their second-round consolation opponents after Friday’s quarterfinals, while Dambro already knows that he will be going up against Seibert, the South Central Region runner-up and District 3 champion.

“Getting the pin felt great. I kind of think with everybody I face I have the potential to pin them just because of the way that I wrestle,” Dambro said. “I’m always looking for more than just the win or a major decision. And I think if I wrestle the way I know I can, I should definitely finish on the podium.”

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