By Tom Utescher
On the day after the Martin Luther King Day, the Germantown Friends School Tigers hosted the wresting team from the Philadelphia high school named for the great civil rights leader.
Neither team had an entry at the 112, 152, 189 and 215 lb. weight classes, and King forfeited to GFS at 119, 125, and 160 lbs. In addition to picking up 18 team points in this fashion, the host Tigers won six of the seven weight classes where wrestling actually occurred, and defeated the Cougars 51-6. Both teams had been 0-5 in dual meets coming into last Tuesday’s contest at Germantown’s Smith Gymnasium.
Prior to this season, Martin Luther King had not fielded a wrestling team for 10 years. The man who revived the program and now coaches the Cougars is MLK history teacher Dominic Castelli, a 1993 graduate of Chestnut Hill Academy.
In the past, lack of funding had quashed his attempts to revive the franchise, but recently he was able to obtain the financial backing of Beat the Streets, an organization dedicated to developing and supporting wrestling programs in urban middle schools and high schools. It was founded in New York and has spread to Philadelphia and other major cities in the U.S.
Before the grappling action got underway last Tuesday, GFS bid a ceremonial farewell to the three seniors on the team, Jim Hall, of Chestnut Hill, Nathaniel Rabin, of Mount Airy, and Tony Clark, of Andorra.
Rabin is a three-time champion at the annual Chestnut Hill Academy Invitational, and was named the outstanding wrestler overall at the 2010 tourney. He was also the silver medalist at the Valley Forge Military Academy tournament. Rabin qualifies for the 125 lb. class, but bumps up to 130 lbs. for certain matches, such as last week’s meeting with King.
So far this season, the Tigers’ Hall has won tournament championships at Chestnut Hill and at Church Farm School, and has captured bronze medals at the Valley Forge and Germantown Academy invitationals. He is the only one of the three GFS seniors who is firmly committed to continuing his wrestling career in college, and NYU and Wesleyan are among the schools on his short list.
Like his classmates, Clark has not yet reached a final decision in the college selection process. He doesn’t quite have the extensive experience of Hall and Rabin, but he frequently provides points for the Tigers at the upper end of the scale. One of his best tourney performances this winter was a bronze-medal showing at Church Farm.
In the final home match for the GFS upperclassmen, it was actually a freshman, Elliot Wattenbarger, who led off the meet in the 103 lb. class. Scoring takedowns and back points, he rolled up a 10-1 lead over the first two periods, and the count reached 14-1 in the third before he pinned the Cougars’ Tyrone Cook with 49 seconds remaining in the bout.
After that there was a mutual abdication at 112 lbs., then King forfeited the next two classes to give GFS an 18-0 lead in the meet score. Wrestling “up” at 130, the Tigers’ Rabin went up 9-0 in the opening period, then a takedown and two back points increased his advantage over visitor Kerby Adolphe to 13-0 early in the second stanza. Two more back points gave Rabin a 15-0 technical fall, ending the contest with 1:03 to go in the period and tacking on five team points for Germantown.
The Cougars broke up the shutout with a victory at 135 lbs., where Stanley Jean-Louis took a 7-1 advantage out of the opening period, then pinned GFS junior Luke Furokawa with 57 seconds left in round two. That made it 23-6, but the hosts recouped four points with a major decision by junior Nick Davis at 140 lbs. He only had a 3-2 edge following the first period, but after that four takedowns helped him engineer a 15-4 victory over the Cougars’ Wikensly Adolphe.
At 145, King appeared on the verge of winning a second individual match, with Kervins Bejin riding an 11-2 lead early in the second frame. The scales quickly tipped in the Tigers’ favor as sophomore Hilyard Nichols scored a reversal and parlayed it into a pin with 1:11 still to go in the same round. Neither squad sent out a man at 152 lbs., and a forfeit by the Cougars at 160 spread the meet score to 39-6.
It took Hall just 59 seconds to raise the tally to 45-6, thanks to his pin against Mike Joseph at 171 lbs. Both teams forfeited in the 189 and 215 lb. weight classes. An elbow injury has sidelined GFS sophomore Khari Goosby at 285 lbs., so Clark moved up from his usual 215 to tackle King heavyweight Taivon Hudsan. Clark quickly executed a takedown, but he had trouble turning over Hudsan to score back points. He finally flipped his rival and secured a pin with just two seconds remaining in the opening round.