Upper Darby heavyweights finish the job

Upper Darby — Upper Darby senior Josh Yeboah-Gyasi replied with a sly grin when asked about the wrestlers who surround him at the heavy end of the Royals’ lineup. He offered a response that defied his soft-spoken nature and status as his team’s silent leader.

“I consider us death row,’ Yeboah-Gyasi said of the string of Royals from 182 to 285 pounds. “I like to think we put the nail in the coffin.’

Wednesday night against Haverford High, death row lived up to its name. Brian Kennerly earned a 9-7 decision over Matt Bloxton at 182 pounds. Madhat Fares followed with a major decision, 16-5 victory against Ibrahim Ammar at 195. From there, Yeboah-Gyasi and Pete Augustin provided the proverbial nail. The former pinned Justin Fornwalt in 33 seconds. The latter needed just 10 to drop Michael Newman and give Upper Darby a 49-10, home Central League win.

“I love when we start at 106,’ said Yeboah-Gyasi. “Even if we’re behind, we know we can come back. And tonight, we can finish them. That’s what we love.’

Despite the lopsided score, and the manner in which it ended, this was far from a blowout. The Fords’ effort suggested the famed Haverford-Upper Darby rivalry may be making its way back to the mat. Royals head coach Bob Martin said as much as his wrestlers cleared the gym.

“I told (Haverford coach Pat Crater) that the final was not indicative of the match,’ said Martin, who’s been at the helm of Upper Darby since 1980. “Haverford’s gotten better. They weren’t just going to fall down for us.’

Crater, in his first season with the Fords after guiding Marple Newtown, was a natural fit to restore his school’s program. He works at Haverford High. He lives three blocks from the campus.

“The kids are buying in. We’re working to establish a new tradition,’ Crater said. “I see (the wrestlers) in the hallway at school. It’s been a positive experience so far.’

Holdover assistants Shawn Fausey and Matt Wells have aided in the transition. The result has been a vibrancy in the Fords that had produced an 8-1 mark entering Wednesday’s meet. The loss did little to dim the mood.

“You have to find success in other ways,’ he said. “There were small things — even something as simple as a wrestler running back to the middle of the mat, or a guy going for the first takedown. You love to see that.’

Junior David Tustin turned in Haverford’s highlight of the night. Against Pat Kane, who was 10-3, Tustin delivered a 3-2, sudden-death victory in the 160-pound weight class.

And yet it’s clear the Royals still hold the upper hand in the decades-old struggle.

“Our goal is to beat Upper Darby every year,’ Crater said. “It’s been a while. We’ll want to do it next year.’

The Royals are in the midst of transition as well. Few wrestlers remain from the 2013 team that won the school’s 12th Central League crown. Against Haverford (8-2, 1-1 Central League), Martin’s lineup featured four seniors, four juniors, and six underclassmen.

“We’re young,’ the coach said, his voice hoarse. “But they’re coming into their own. You can see the talent. They just have to learn to scheme better.’

Martin singled out Augustin’s “great spear double’ takedown of Newman as a sign of things to come.

“We have to get more consistent,’ said Martin. “You can see it coming.’

Yeboah-Gyasi, a captain, is confident Upper Darby (6-2, 3-0) can get there.

“At this school, we’re always going to be conditioned,’ he said. “We’ll always work hard. And our goal is the same: Win the Central League.’

He’d love to put the nail in that coffin, too.

Elsewhere in the Central League:

Springfield 38, Marple Newtown 34: Chris Sciarrino started a key run with a 34-second fall at 152, and Dan Boyer (160) and Joe Sciarrino (182) sandwiched technical falls around a 39-second pin by Dwayne Snipes at 170, allowing the Cougars to hold on for the win. Nolan Rufo (113), Calen van Deusen (126) and Lavante Godwin (220) pinned for the Tigers.

Penncrest 49, Ridley 24: The Lions prevailed in all but one of the final seven weights, with Matthew Young’s major decision igniting a spree that also included pins by Joe Pyfer (195) and Chris Alyanakian (220). The Green Raiders’ Mike Cowan (120) and Christian Dunn (138) traded falls with Penncrest’s Josh Speece (126) and Ryan Stocku (132) to keep it tight early.

Garnet Valley 62, Harriton 0: Dave Wood (120), Matt Marino (126) and Matt Mortimer (138) each recorded first-period pins, Ryan Rushton (195) recorded a fall in 4:30 and Nick Puliti won by technical fall at 132 to highlight the rout by the host Jaguars.

Strath Haven 69, Lower Merion 3: The Panthers claimed five of the six weights that were contested, including pins by Tommy Zeigler (113) and Mike Dougherty (160) along with decisions by John Coppick (120), Noah Frantz (126) and Brett Burns (138).

In the Del Val League:

Penn Wood 38, Glen Mills 28: Ryan Jackson pulled off a first-period pin at 132 pounds and Abraham Charles closed out the match with a technical fall at 138, capping the Patriots’ come-from-behind victory in the league opener for both teams. The Bulls’ highlights included William Young’s major decision at 152 and Sequorri Smith’s fall at 195.

Chichester 34, Academy Park 27: John Barlow raised his record to 14-1 with a pin at heavyweight, Chris Smarkola ran his mark to 12-5 with a decision at 126 and Tommy Smarkola improved to 13-4 by winning 5-3 at 132, but the Eagles (5-2) ultimately needed a pin by Noah Harvey (138) and a major decision from Eddie Sykes at 152 to clinch it. The Knights jumped on top out of the gate thanks to Malik Caulder’s 5-4 decision at 170.

In the Ches-Mont League:

Sun Valley 53, Octorara 13: Alex Elliott (160) and Steve Okoorian (170) scored pins in 1:08 and 1:28, respectively, in the middle of the match as the Vanguards rolled. Mark Gibson (220) and Nick Garvey (285) also won by fall.

In the Bicentennial League:

Delco Christian 42, Phil-Mont Christian 12: Jake Gutowski won by pin in 1:37 in the only contested match for the Knights.

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