Garnet Valley wrestlers stage hit in Upper Darby

UPPER DARBY >> The Central League’s top wrestlers took center stage Wednesday night. Upper Darby and Garnet Valley met at the UD’s Performance Arts Center with identical records — 12-7 overall, 6-0 in the league — to once again decide who would have the inside track to the league title. Championship matches deserve championship settings.

“For the last three or four years, it seems like it comes down to us and Garnet Valley,” Royals coach Bob Martin said. “And we thought, you know, we’d try something different, come into the auditorium and make it an event.”

It was the Jaguars who shined brightest in the spotlight. They defeated Upper Darby, 42-30, their first victory over the Royals since 2014. In so doing, the Jaguars seize the top spot in the Central with one dual meet and the league championships left.

“We know when we wrestle Upper Darby, it’s going to be a big match,” Garnet Valley senior Tommy Mahoney said. “So we’re used to it. We’re used to a big crowd. We like to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it.”

With fans sitting on a rather steep incline on three sides of the mat and lighting that illuminated the center at the expense of the surroundings, the wrestlers could have been forgiven if they felt that there was nothing but noise around them. It was loud, and early on, most of the shouts were coming from the Jaguars’ bench.

Kevin Puliti (120) and Luis Lozada (126) delivered back-to-back pins to start the match. Matt Flicker, who came in with six wins on the season entering the night, followed with a 4-2 decision over Joe Brabant at 132.

“We came out hot,” said Mahoney. “We were all pumped up, and it paid off in the end.”

The 15-0 advantage proved crucial. The Royals’ strength comes in the middle weight classes, which is where they rallied. Joe Gormley’s 2-1 decision over Ethan Hooper and Kevin Kerwood’s pin of Desmon Perry narrowed the deficit to 15-9. That set up Justin O’Donnell at 152 to even things. He frustrated Dillon Conlon for a period and a half before decking him at the 3:24 mark. The auditorium erupted. It didn’t faze the visitors, though.

“We’re resilient,” Garnet Valley coach Rocco Fantazzi said, “because we took our lumps early on. It’s easy to pack it in and say our season’s over. But we came in here with a purpose.”

The match turned for good at 220, when the score stood 24-24. Upper Darby’s Justin Parico picked up five quick points on a take-down and near-fall. But Coltin Deery, just a freshman, showed meddle. He slipped out of the position and put Parico on his back. At 1:56, he pinned him. Mahoney, with adrenaline flowing, needed just 40 seconds to nab all six team points in his bout.

“I always know that if (Deery) makes a mistake, he’s always going to work off his back and get a win,” Mahoney said. “It pumped me up when he came back and got that pin.”

Frankie Reagan, at 106, added another pin to clinch the result for the Jags (13-7, 7-0).

“It means a lot,” said Mahoney, who called the evening a “special” one. “Last year, we were favored to win the Central League title with those seniors and we couldn’t do it. We made a pact to do it this year.”

There’s still a sliver of hope for the hosts. The Royals (12-8, 6-1) wrestle Haverford and then could overtake Garnet Valley, assuming the Jaguars beat

Ridley, by taking the team title in the Central League Championships.

“We have to go in the backdoor,” Martin said.

In other words, it’s not quite curtains for Upper Darby.

Elsewhere in the Central League:

Strath Haven 51, Marple Newtown 30 >> For the Panthers, John Crawford (160) won by major decision, while Simon Bolinger won by technical fall. Sal Kauffman (113), Joe Andraos (132), Vinnie Griffin (152), Jon Morris (170), Brett Burns (182) and Matt Natale (220) all secured pin fall victories.

The bell tolled for Haven’s Alex Hemmingway, who fell to Anass Elfernani in the 120-pound match. Jimmy Nania (138) and Stephen Bradley (195) also won by fall for the Tigers.

Penncrest 57, Springfield 18 >> Pins by Sam Rose at 160 pounds, Brendon Stocku at 138 and Jeremy Moore at 113 plus a spate of late forfeits guided Penncrest to the win.

Dave Bagirov claimed a win by fall for Springfield at 126 pounds, and Steven Boyer (120) and Tyler Forbes (145) notched decisions.

In the Del Val League:

Penn Wood 39, Glen Mills 37 >> A pin by Joshua Jackson over Jordan Artley at 5:49 in the heavyweight bout proved to be the difference for the Patriots (6-14). Dan Dumas (220) and Paul Harris (182) were victorious via pin, as well.

Andre Settle recorded a major decision in the 126-pound match for the Bulls. Xzavier Morgan (152) won by fall.

Chichester 64, Academy Park 12 >> Chase Whartnaby (106) earned a fall in 21 seconds for the Eagles, who had the Knights staring at the lights all night.

Mason McClue (120), Jeffrey Smarkola (132), Josiah Nichols (138), Marquell Hudnell (152), Harrison Guy (160) and Noah Harvey (182) all won by pin.

Abe Tounkara was victorious by fall for the Knights at 220.

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