Marino, Dambro bringing back medals to Garnet Valley

HERSHEY — The drama played out for the Delaware County contingent on the cramped and chaotic floor of the Giant Center Friday, as the PIAA State Class AAA wrestling championships neared their conclusion.

Two athletes produced historic performances while the other ended his noteworthy career with numbing finality.

Michael Marino won his wrestle back to ensure that he will be the first in Garnet Valley program history to medal twice at states, while teammate John Dambro’s victory in the consolation bracket guaranteed that the Jaguars will have two state medalists in the same year for the first time.

On the flip side, Penn Wood’s Karon Lucas-Tillery bowed out of the tournament with a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss that left both the senior and his coach too emotional to speak right after the match.

Marino, already the Jags’ all-time winningest wrestler with a 146-31 career record, continued his recovery from Thursday’s stunning and controversial first-round loss by winning his second consolation match in two days.

Thanks to the vocal guidance of assistant John Conte, who successfully argued that Marino earned an additional two points in the second period and thus evened the score 6-6, Marino went on to defeat Spring Grove senior Zack Clingan, 12-6.

Marino acknowledged that Conte’s efforts following the second-period flurry enabled him to gain confidence and that becoming Garnet Valley’s first two-time medalist gave him “a good feeling.” But the senior also was emphatic that this trip end Saturday even better than last year’s sixth-place finish.

“It’s a little bit of a relief, knowing that I have at least medaled, but I’m not satisfied,” Marino said. “When I lost the chance to win the title, my main goal became to place higher than sixth.”

Marino also added to his family legacy of performing well at states, which includes brother Joseph Marino, who finished fourth at 140 in 2010.

Jaguars coach Rocco Fantazzi pointed out that Marino had been down this road before, battling back from early tournament setbacks last year at states and even last week at the Southeast Region.

“Michael is a wrestler who gets better as the day goes on,” Fantazzi said. “Wrestle backs build a lot of heart, a lot of character and a lot of determination. It’s a good trait to have, knowing that you’re physically tough and mentally strong to not give up when your back’s against the wall.”

After opening with an impressive third-period pin Thursday, Dambro had to show some of that same fortitude in bouncing back from a 6-1 loss to Big Spring senior Cody Seibert in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals. Dambro did just that in a second-round consolation as he out-muscled Calvin O’Farrell, running out to a 9-0 lead over the senior from Chambersburg before settling for a 10-6 victory.

By advancing, Dambro became Garnet Valley’s fifth state medalist, joining the Marino brothers, Pat O’˜Brien (second at 125 in 2011) and Matt Idelson (fifth at 215 in 2011).

Saturday’s third-round consolations will pit Marino against Belle Vernon Area’s Brendan Hasson while Dambro will hook up with Connor Martinez of Dallas.

Lucas-Tillery was a win away from becoming the first wrestler under the Penn Wood banner to bring home a state medal. According to information provided by the PIAA, Calvin Engle (second at 127 in 1946), Paul Troiano (second at 138 in 1948) and Werner Seel (185-pound champion in 1949) medaled for Lansdowne, and Steve Paxson (138-pound champ in 1966) did the same for Lansdowne-Aldan.

But Lucas-Tillery wasn’t thinking about history when he went up against Boyertown’s Jordan Wertz in the second round of the 195-pound consolation bracket. The pair had met last Saturday in the Southeast Region final, with Wertz taking the gold with a 5-1 win.

Friday’s rematch was even on all counts through two periods, with neither wrestler able to gain the upper hand or get onto the scoreboard. Wertz finally broke through for the only point he would need 34 seconds into the third, and then held on to nip Lucas-Tillery, 1-0.

The Patriot senior crumpled to the floor after the final buzzer, pulled off his headgear and flung it hard across the mat, narrowly missing a bystander as it crashed into the arena’s hockey boards. Even as Wertz bent down to shake his hand, Lucas-Tillery was inconsolable, finally rising to his feet to summarily congratulate the Boyertown wrestler and his coaches before sprinting off the arena floor and out through a tunnel without comment.

Afterward, Penn Wood coach Dan Madonna was asked of the importance Lucas-Tillery’s role had been since transferring from Upper Darby and delivering three sectional championships, a district title, a regional runner-up and a pair of state tournament appearances as well as a 106-30 career record.

“He’s done a lot of good for us. … It’s tough,” Madonna said as tears welled in his eyes and he suddenly spun, kicked a section of the stands and walked up the tunnel.

After composing himself, Madonna returned to praise the senior.

“Karon brought recognition to our program, which hasn’t been there for a long time,” the coach said. “Now when we go places, people have heard of Penn Wood wrestling, they’ve heard his name and they know who he is. It’s even brought a positive energy to the school, with teachers always asking me about him.

“We’ve got kids coming out (for the team) who want to wrestle just so they can have some of the success they’ve seen him enjoy.”

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