Chichester sticks together on way to four titles

Sharon Hill — The Chichester wrestling team is enjoying one of its finest seasons in the school’s history. The Eagles won the Del Val League title outright for the first time since 1998, while sporting an 18-4 overall record.

That run continued Saturday at Academy Park as four Chi wrestlers added individual league championships to the growing trophy case. But to measure the Eagles’ success in wins and losses alone would miss the point. It’s been a tremendous year for the 2015 champions. It’s also been a trying one. During the season, head coach Jim Beletti’s father passed away.

“It was a little tough to focus,’ said Beletti. “From my family being around dealing with the loss to us winning the Del Val — there were mixed emotions. It was tough.

“But I have three great coaches. They can do stuff without me there.’

He has great young wrestlers as well. A free Saturday is a rare thing for a wrestling team, especially one that challenges itself with tough out-of-league opponents. So when Beletti saw his Eagles walk into his father’s funeral on a Saturday they had off, he was shocked.

“That I never expected,’ he said. “It just shows you the character of these kids.’

“We’re just a family,’ said senior Dan Sullivan, who took the 182-pound title over Interboro’s Joe Koke. “We’ve always stuck together. When we started going through harder times, we got much closer.’

This isn’t just an inspirational story, though — Chichester is very good. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Eagles have gone 35-8. Beletti attributes the dominance to a youth program that was introduced eight years ago. Now a varsity team that was once lacking in numbers and experience has both in spades.

The Smarkola twins, Chris (126) and Tommy (132), are two products of the youth system that won their weight classes Saturday. The sophomores battle it out in practice to prepare for matches.

“It gets a little heated sometimes,’ said Chris.

That intensity paid off in the form of two gold medals. Beletti believes the two, along with fellow sophomore Craig Baldwin, who finished second at 120, could reach heights few at Chichester have ever seen.

“All three of those guys have a chance to get 100 victories,’ he said.

That’s a conjecture for a different day. His Eagles have shifted their focus to the district meet. No Chi wrestler has reached the regional tournament since 2011.

“Hopefully it works out,’ Beletti said. “They’re going to have to win a tough match along the way.’

They’ve won some tough ones, on and off the mat, already.

While Chichester was continuing to build its burgeoning program, Interboro’s Kyleigh D’Agostino was making history of her own … again. Last year, she became the first female in Delaware County to earn a berth in the district meet. She did herself one better Saturday.

D’Agostino bested Academy Park’s Ramses Montez, 11-9 in overtime at the 106-pound championship. The Bucs sophomore, however, needed assistance to even make it through regulation. A cramp in her calf forced D’Agostino to the mat in the third period.

“It’s the first time I ever pulled injury time,’ she said with a hint of pride. At 9-9 in the second extra frame, D’Agostino was finally able to break the deadlock. She took Montez down to earn a crucial two points as the seconds ticked off the clock.

“It’s exciting,’ she said. “I just wanted to make history again.’

D’Agostino had tears in her eyes as she celebrated her win. She wasn’t alone in that regard.

Interboro teammate Eric Thomas (138) fed off D’Agostino’s triumph on his way to a third straight Del Val title.

“It definitely pumped me up,’ he said. “I’m really happy for her.’

Thomas, now 29-2 this season, battled through a somewhat frustrating day, at least by his standards. He was taken down in his semifinal bout by Chichester’s Noah Harvey before pinning the Eagle in the second period. In the final against Penn Wood’s Abraham Charles, Thomas eked out a 5-3 decision after trailing, 2-1.

Charles will head to the district meet along with five of his Patriots teammates, including Nazir Withers (160) and Dan Allen (170) who both won their weight classes.

Allen, a senior, failed to place in the Del Val a season ago, but has risen in stature along with Penn Wood. He credited graduate Karon Lucas-Tillery, a 2014 state participant, with much of the team’s success.

“We all look up to Karon,’ Allen said. “We want to leave a legacy like him. He believed in us. He’s like a brother to me.’

The self-coined “Pin Twins’ of Allen and Withers will get a chance to leave their own mark starting next week.

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