Green Raiders reward new coach with first win

NETHER PROVIDENCE — Ridley High School wrestling entered the 2014-15 season with a void 50-plus years in the making. For the first time since the Eisenhower administration, Green Raiders head man Carl Schnellenbach, the winningest coach in Pennsylvania wrestling history, was far from the mat. Schnellenbach, 80, retired at the close of last season.

The coach charged with following in the footsteps of the legend only knew the basics about Ridley. But that was enough to sway him to the job.

“I had offers from other schools,’ said new head coach Tony Fabri, an assistant at West Chester Rustin since 2006. “I wanted to go in a new direction, try it out. Ridley always had tough, gritty kids. I knew the work ethic here.’

The Green Raiders displayed that toughness in a 36-34 win at Strath Haven Thursday night.

Fabri relied on faces old and new to outlast the Panthers.

“This was a nice little win,’ he said. “(Sean) Scandal, at 113 — we pulled him out of the hallway and he came up with a fall for us.’

The freshman Scandal pinned Jimmy Mallon 2:13 into his match to even the score at 6-6 after the Green Raiders forfeited the opening bout. While the neophyte got things started for the visitors, Ridley’s most experienced wrestler helped clinch the victory. Senior Lawrence Alkins pinned Zach Newlon just 52 seconds into the first period to spot the Green Raiders a 30-22 lead with three weights remaining. The win pushed Alkins’ unbeaten start to the campaign to 6-0.

“Larry’s capable of beating anybody,’ Fabri said. “He’s strong, he works hard. He can do anything on the mat.’

Alkins fell short of his goal of reaching the state meet in each of the last two seasons. He reached the regional tournament as a sophomore and again as a junior where a three-point loss in the third place match cost him a trip to Hershey. Now, in his words, he wants to taste that chocolate bar.

“I have a lot more motivation,’ explained Alkins, who wrestled at 182 on Thursday. “I’m going for runs, doing push-ups, and working beyond practice.’

It’s paid off. Alkins never gave Newlon a chance.

“I went out strong,’ Alkins said of his match. “I knew we needed a pin, so I went out fast.’

Sebastian Volpe followed with a pin of his own to seal the win. He was down 4-1 to Lee Holpert prior to the fall.

“They were very similar wrestlers,’ Fabri said of the match at 195. “Sebastian saw their guy make a mistake, and he capitalized.’

Strath Haven (2-4, 1-1 Central League) nearly scored a win of historic proportions. The Panthers have never beaten Ridley.

When junior David Moore dropped Tyler Phillips at 152, he thought the hosts had a chance. The ref’s hand smacked the mat as the buzzer sounded in the third period and Strath Haven led 22-18.

“I’ve never been in a match that ended like that,’ said Moore. “I just looked up and saw that I had a 5-0 lead. I could’ve simply taken that win, but I thought about never beating Ridley. I tried to get a major decision and ended up getting the pin.’

And still, the Pathers came up empty. Moore insisted that his group, loaded with ninth-graders, has room to grow.

“We’ll see freshmen mature. We always need them to step up,’ said Moore, whose brother Devon, a sophomore, lost to Chris Dunn at 145. “You need to come to practice on time. You need to come to the morning lift. They’re starting to get it. That’s when the opportunity comes.’

Alkins sees the same for Ridley (1-1 overall and in the Central League).

“It’s a team effort. We’ve been practicing more than we ever have. The coaches push us and motivate us,’ he said. “You will see a different Ridley (at the end of the season).’

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