Barlow, Fords stay in casual groove

NEWTOWN SQUARE — There was a casualness to L.J. Barlow’s match-day routine Friday at Episcopal Academy. While his teammates at the Haverford School stripped down to their uniforms as their bouts approached, Barlow lingered in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. He left his ear buds in, blaring Riff Raff, Taylor Swift and Owl City instead of the locker room anthems that stir the blood.

“I don’t know,’ Barlow said of his soundtrack following the Fords’ 73-6 win over the Churchmen. “I don’t listen to music to pump me up. I listen to what I like.’

The odd selection (no musical disrespect intended) did the trick. Barlow shut off the music, lost the shorts and shirt, and promptly pinned Jonavin Freeman in 27 seconds. He shook Freeman’s hand, the referee’s too, and finally EA coach Damon Kuzemka’s hand. Then it was back to the Riff Raff.

Beneath Barlow’s easygoing nature, however, lies a competitive fire that still burns just as intensely as ever, even on nights when the Fords (19-4, 4-0 Inter-Ac) can cruise to a victory.

“Hey, they’re still our rival,’ Barlow said of the lopsided match. “Everyone wrestled really well. We kind of wanted to show them what we’re about.’

But it’s a personal goal that continues to drive him. Barlow has won almost everything there is to win while at Haverford School. He crossed the 100-victory threshold midway through his junior campaign. Twice he’s been named the Daily Times Wrestler of the Year, the first time as a freshman, the second coming a season ago. A National Prep School Championship, though, is missing from his trophy mantle.

Barlow, who placed second last year, plans on filling that vacancy in 2015.

“I think it’s likely,’ the Harvard-bound senior boasted.

The confidence comes at a time when Barlow is back to his old ways after a sluggish start. He finished fifth at the vaunted Beast in the East tournament but did not place in the Iron Man.

“His goals are set at the beginning of the season: win the major tournaments,’ said Fords head coach Bruce Kennett. “He didn’t wrestle as well as he wanted to (at the Beast in the East and Iron Man).’

Barlow attributed his shortcomings to the pressure of expectations.

“It got to me a little bit,’ he said of the early struggles. “Anything besides a win could be considered a failure.’

That mentality has quickly changed.

“He’s totally focused on the National Prep School tournament,’ said Kennett.

“I want to go out with a bang,’ added Barlow.

In the meantime, he’s happy to stay a part of a team he calls the best he’s seen in his four years.

“Sometimes one or two easier days are good,’ Barlow said. “I like to see my guys having fun.’

One such guy is Rich Souders, a sophomore at 182 who earned a 16-7 major decision over 100-win EA wrestler A.J. Cutrufello.

“These kids are really as good a group as I’ve ever had. They’ve done some remarkable things,’ gushed Kennett, speaking on the quality of character as much as the quality of wrestler. “You get older guys looking out for younger guys. It’s been a joy.’

Barlow acknowledged the challenge of stepping into a leadership role.

“It’s difficult,’ he said. “You’ve got to make some time for yourself.’

That doesn’t mean he hasn’t embraced his status.

“We’ve got a good group of younger guys,’ Barlow said. “I just hope they sort of follow in my footsteps. Take the path I did.’

The soundtrack for that path is set. The finish line isn’t.

In District 12 Class AA:

Archbishop Carroll 54, Academy at Palumbo 17: The Patriots quickly showed the Griffins who’s the boss in the District 12 Class AA championship match.

Carroll won the first six matches by pin to jump out to a 30-0 lead and never looked back. Tommy Scott kicked off the pin parade with a 25-second fall at 160 pounds. That was the first of five matches that took less than a minute. Dan Finley (182), Shuao Chen (195), Nick Poulos (126) and Nick Forman (138) also needed less than 60 seconds to win their respective weight classes by fall.

Jake Poulos (170), Emmet Lynch (220) and Steve Caltabiano (152) also won by pin to send the Patriots in the PIAA Class AA team tournament against the District 11 champion next Thursday.

In the Central League:

Penncrest 54, Radnor 20: The host Lions won the eight of the first nine matches to win going away. Penncrest won three by fall, one via a major decision and five by forfeit. Kent Chance (220), Ty D’Ortone (106), Christian Gallagher (113) and Zach Groses (138) all won by fall to stake Penncrest to a 42-6 lead.

Kyle Wadell (145), Tom Meyers (170) and Zak Taylor (182) led the way as Radnor won three of the final five bouts.

In nonleague action:

Academy Park 51, Martin Luther King 19: The Knights racked up seven wins by fall to cruise past the Cougars.

Samika Kromah got things started with a pin at 120 pounds to even the score at 6. From there it was all AP. Mohamad Kaba (132), Shemar Hannibal (145), Elijah Gilmore (152), Dylan Wallace (195), Daniel Kemp (285) and Mohammed Abdulleh (106) followed with pins to help the Knights (12-12) reach the .500 mark.

C.J. Faustino (126) and Zuri Thompson (182) were the other winners for Academy Park.

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