Upper Darby wins math test on mats with Garnet Valley, inches closer to Central League crown

CONCORD >> Ridley resident Ken Dawes was hoping to get a well-contested out in the final match of his 40-year career as a wrestling official.

Little did Dawes know he was in for a night he and everyone in the packed gym at Garnet Valley will never forget.

Upper Darby and Garnet Valley battled to a 29-all draw, yet the Royals came out the victor on Criteria I, which is most near-fall points.

That’s tie-breaker No. 9 for those who don’t want to do the math.

Upper Darby (13-3 overall, 8-0 league) won that battle, 12-2, to move a step closer to winning its third straight outright Central League title. The Jaguars (19-6, 7-1) can still claim a share of the league title with a victory in the Central League championships Feb. 18 at Ridley High School.

“I’ve never been involved in anything like this,” Dawes said. “I’ve never had a match go to Criteria I.”

Neither has Upper Darby coach Bob Martin or GV head man Rocco Fantazzi.

“We lost last year in District Duals on criteria, but we didn’t have to go that far down the list,” Martin said.

“We lost to a team from Wisconsin down in Disneyland, but that only went to Criteria 4 or 5,” Fantazzi said.

Dawes had to get out the rule book to see who won the match after Garnet Valley’s Salvatore Pizzuto beat Upper Darby’s Thomas Reif, 10-2, at 138 pounds to tie the match. That match had its own drama.

Garnet Valley (19-6 overall, 7-1 Central League) needed a major decision to tie and a tech fall or a fall to win its first league title since 2014.

Pizzuto got a reversal with eight seconds left to go up 10-2, but Reif appeared to get a reversal just before the final buzzer sounded to made it a regular three-point decision, which would have given the Royals the title.

“I definitely got the reversal,” Reif said.

Pizzuto also thought Reif got the points the Royals (13-3, 8-0) needed to win without going to the rulebook to figure out which team won the title.

“I would have given him the point if I was the referee,” Pizzuto said. “He wrestled hard to the end. He earned it.”

Dawes though, had to be sure. And without the benefit of instant replay, like in college, he had to rely on timekeeper Craig Thomas to see if Reif’s final move came before or after the final horn sounded.

“The timekeeper said it came after the horn,” Dawes said. “I don’t know because I can’t see the clock. I’m looking at the wrestlers.”

With that, Dawes went to his wrestling manual to decide a winner. Dawes and Bob Jesson, the official scorekeeper, went down the tie-breaking criteria one by one until a winner was decided. The teams were tied in criterias A through H. It took I to determine a winner.

“That was an unbelievable match,” Jesson said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Upper Darby received huge wins from some of its youngest wrestlers: Freshmen Meraj Khan and Dezhan Peterson and sophomore Marcus Mojica. Khan moved up a weight class and scored a huge 5-3 victory at 113 pounds. Mojica was a 3-0 winner at 120 and Peterson scored a 7-3 triumph at 195.

Senior Joe Hopkins gave UD a 29-19 lead with a 14-4 decision over Ethan Cook at 132.

The Jags, though, weren’t done. All-Delco Matt Marino pinned Joe Gormley in 1:18 to set the stage for Pizzuto and Reif.

Reif knew exactly what he had to do.

“Anything under a major decision and we win,” Reif said.

Reif thought he did that with his final move. And while some say video evidence shows otherwise, the official ruling was that Reif did not get his reversal in time and officials had to go to the rulebook to see which team was in the driver’s seat for the Central League title.

“It stinks for us that we had to lose, but you could not ask for a better ending,” Fantazzi said. “The place was packed. All the fans were into it and it was a great match. It’s the way the sport is supposed to be.”

In other Central League matches:

Marple Newtown 54, Strath Haven 20 >> Cameron Leone (120), Zach Elfernani (132), Nolan Rufo (138) and Stephen Bradley (170) all won by fall to help the Tigers down the Panthers. John Crawford won by technical fall in the 145-pound bout and Bryan Boyer registered a pin at 182 for Strath Haven.

Penncrest 47, Springfield 20 >> Dayton DelViscio earned a dominant 17-0 technical fall at 106 to jumpstart the Lions’ rout of the Cougars. David Stevens (160), Mike Wilson (182), Brendon Stocku (132) and Trevor Beresford (106) all notched pins.

Dave Bagirov (120), Dwayne Snipes (195) and Mina Sharobeem (285) each picked up a win by fall for the Cougars.

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