Cooley closes match, title for Boyertown in District 1-AAA tournament

FORT WASHINGTON — It can’t be said J.T. Cooley can’t master new concepts quickly.

Cooley faced a unique situation (for him) Saturday afternoon: Wrestling the final bout of the District 1 Class AAA Duals championship match at Upper Dublin, with his Boyertown squad holding a tenuous 28-26 lead on Council Rock South.

A second straight District 1 duals title, and straight shot to Hershey for the state duals tournament later this week, depended on Cooley rising to an occasion with which he admittedly had little background.

“I’m more experienced at starting matches,’ he said afterward.

He can now add “closer’ to his mat resume. Cooley’s first period pin in the 132-pound finale clinched a 34-28 win for the Bears, making the Boyertown sophomore the program’s latest inspiring performer.

“He got to be the hero,’ Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca said following the medal and trophy presentations. “It’s a great thing, the match and title coming down to it.’

Cooley (19-6) made quick work of South’s Robbie Fasciacco, needing just 50 seconds to get the slap that signalled the Boyertown crowd’s latest celebration of a championship finish. He used a single-leg takedown to drop Fasciacco, then applied an arm bar and half-nelson to finish the job.

“I’m glad I had the opportunity,’ he said. “I was confident going in.’

Calmness was something Ventresca wasn’t able to experience until the match was over. He watched the Hawks erase his team’s initial 10-point lead into a five-point edge of their own, then get within two points of Boyertown (18-0) twice over the final four bouts, keeping the final result an uncertainty.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I could feel it coming through my chest,’ he said. “We came in knowing how tough South is. They’re very well-coached. It took every ounce of what we had.’

One rallying point for the Bears came when Reuben Maldonado was forced to default his 170-pound bout with Joe Doyle 31 seconds in, the result of a chest injury. That sparked Boyertown’s rally from a 15-10 deficit, a 15-point run over four weights turning out a 25-15 lead that wasn’t headed the rest of the way.

Jordan Wood headlined the run with his 12-second pin of Brandon Kohn at 220, in his third action of the season. Around Wood’s drop, Boyertown got decisions from Will Scholl (182), Gregg Harvey (195) — a nail-biting 8-7 verdict on South’s Ben Kenis — and Tommy Killloran’s equally-unnerving 4-2 decision of Thaison Nguyen at 285.

“Everyone came together,’ Wood said. “It was a 14-person effort. We all battled.’

Cooley didn’t want for advice on how to deal with the match-determining finale, set up by the Hawks getting decisions at 106, 113 and 126 around Garrett Mauger’s 6-2 win over South’s Troy Nation at 120.

“They were telling me to stay calm, that I could do it,’ he recalled. “I wanted to hold up for them. I didn’t want to let them down.’

“I told him to have fun and wrestle like he normally does,’ Wood said. “That’s easier said than done.’

Boyertown’s fast start owed itself to the efforts of Chris Berry and Hunter Vogels. Berry pinned Joe Little at 4:48 in the 138-pound opener, and Vogels followed with a 9-1 major decision of Shane Flanagan.

The Hawks answered with a pin and decision at the next two weights, cutting the Bears’ lead to 10-9 prior to the injury default at 170.

“That was the big turning point,’ Wood said. “The match was full of ups and downs.’

While the other three 1-AAA state qualifiers — Spring-Ford among them — will have to wrestle Monday in order to get to Hershey, Boyertown gets to bypass that stage and book its trip to the Giant Center. It’s a distinction for which the Bears hold high regard.

“It’s very nice to do that,’ Ventresca said. “The kids showed heart. That’s something you can’t coach.’

“It never gets old,’ Wood said of the Hershey experience, which will be the fourth for him in his scholastic career.

And the wrestler who insured that itinerary for his team?

“Getting to go right to Hershey is even better,’ Cooley said.

NOTES — Harvey’s win at 195, coming one day after he reached the 100-win mark for his career, started on a down note as Kenis used a pair of first-period takedowns to get an initial 4-1 lead. But he pulled even in the second, then got two takedowns of his own in the third to nullify Kenis’ three escapes. … Six of the bouts were decided by point margins of four or less. Boyertown had a 4-2 edge in those pairings.

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