by Tom Utescher
With neither visiting Penn Charter nor host Springside Chestnut Hill Academy able to fill all 14 weight classes, the two teams juggled forfeits and made adjustments in their line-ups during last Wednesday’s wrestling meet, which was the Inter-Ac League opener for both squads.
With just five matches remaining the visiting Quakers led 30-20 in the meet score, but two wins and two wins by forfeit propelled the SCH Blue Devils to a 44-34 victory.
“It’s great to start off the league with a ‘W’,” said longtime SCH coach Charlie Neely. “We lost close meets with Penn Charter the last couple years, so it was good to come out on top.”
The forfeits were a wash, with each side giving up three bouts (18 points) to the opposition. In contests actually decided on the mat, SCH got pins from junior George Kunkel (145 lbs.), freshman Jackson Bistrong (120), and sophomores Jordan Wang (113) and Ben Rubin (195). PC’s pins came from junior Eric Berger (152) and senior Steve Miller (160).
“They got falls where they needed them to pick up important points,” Quakers coach Jason Markey said of the Blue Devils. “We both made some bumps to try and capitalize on the forfeits. Charlie stayed away from my hammers, I got away from his, and it just came down to the middle men. Charlie and his guys did a good job preparing for the meet.”
Springside Chestnut Hill improved to 3-4 overall in dual meets, while PC went to 3-1.
The starting weight last Wednesday was 138 lbs. SCH sophomore Anthony Liddy, a varsity wrestling rookie, gave up two penalty points for locking hands, but a pair of takedowns and some back points helped him capture an 8-3 decision over Charter junior Taylor Jobes. The hosts went ahead 9-0 in the meet thanks to Kunkel, who quickly took down fellow junior Stanton Young and pinned him with eight seconds left in the opening period.
Berger’s pin at 152 got the Quakers on the board. He scored an early takedown against Matt Klauder, then the Blue Devil senior almost made good on a stand-up escape attempt. Berger rode him to the mat again and got the pin with 23 ticks to go in the first round.
PC went ahead in the team tally with Miller’s pin, which came with 18 seconds left in the 160 lb. bout. Miller led junior Mike Moriarty, another first-year grappler for SCH, 2-1 after the first period and 4-1 following the second stanza. Afterwards, an emotional Moriarty threw aside his headgear when he was off the mat, but it still caught the eye of the official and a penalty point on the Devils set the meet score at 12-8. The visitors’ advantage went to 18-8 with SCH’s forfeit at 170 lbs. to Quakers senior Josh Ford.
The Blue Devils’ Rubin made weight at 182 lbs. to wrestle against PC senior Joey Woodruff, but Neely, the SCH coach, elected to forfeit that match to the Quakers. Bumping Rubin up to 195 lbs., he lined him up against Charter freshman Jelani Buie. That, in turn, moved Blue Devils freshman Desmond Johnson up to 220, where PC was planning to forfeit.
“Last season Ben [Rubin] wrestled against Woodruff and was pinned,” related Neely. “I think it would be a different match this year because Ben is bigger and stronger, but we decided to play it safe and bumped up Ben and Desmond. It worked out; we got six points out of each spot.”
The home team’s forfeit at 182 put Charter up 24-8, but SCH got six points back when Rubin pinned Buie with half-a-minute left in the second round of the 195 lb. tilt. Although the points picked up by the unopposed Johnson at 220 lbs. brought SCH close to the Quakers in the meet score, 20-24, the gap grew to 10 once more as the Blue Devils forfeited to PC’s senior heavyweight, Tyler Mercer.
SCH bounced back within four points once more as freshman Brandon Boyer accepted the visitors’ forfeit at 106 lbs.
“It’s nice that we have two 106-pounders this year,” Neely noted. “It gives us the option of having Jordan [Wang] wrestle there, or bumping him up to 113.”
Wang, a veteran wrestler, matted visiting freshman Norman Williams in 23 seconds, moving the Devils ahead 32-30 in the meet. Early in the 120 lb. contest, PC junior Jared Ominsky came close to taking Bistrong down onto his back, but Bistrong avoided the pitfall just before both wrestlers flopped to the mat outside the ring. After the initial round ended at 0-0, Bistrong started on top in the second segment, parlaying that advantage into a pin with 28 seconds to go.
In effect, this sealed the victory for SCH. Now leading 38-30, the Devils were due to have freshman Peter Pillar pick up a PC forfeit at 132 lbs. in the final weight class. That would spread the score to 44-30, so there was no way that the Quakers could close the gap in the 126 lb. match. There, Charter junior Etienne Dumas rolled up a 9-1 major decision over SCH sophomore Evan Wilson, making the final reckoning 44-34.
The coaches of both teams will continue to have to be inventive, since both are bound to give up some forfeit points in most meets.
“I might be able to fill the 132 lb. spot,” Markey remarked, “but we’re still going to have holes simply due to the number of kids in the program. We’ve just got to get back in the room and fix some of the mistakes.”