by Tom Utescher
After opening their wrestling season with a dramatic 40-39 victory over Academy of the New Church, the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Blue Devils defeated another Friends Schools League foe in a dual meet last Wednesday afternoon. This time, host SCH had the victory in the bag with three weight matches still on the agenda, caging the Cougars of George School, 54-21.
Four of the five pins recorded by the winners came at the 160 lb. weight class and above. The Devils also won two bouts by decision and acquired 18 meet points through three George School forfeits. SCH gave back almost as many forfeit points, offering up a dozen with two no-shows, and the other points for the Cougars came through one pin and one decision.
Longtime SCH coach Charlie Neely is no longer heading the program, and his intended replacement had to pass up the position due to a business conflict. Stepping in as skipper is the school’s head football coach, Rick Knox, a former wrestler for the old Chestnut Hill Academy who graduated in 1992. Patrick Hitschler, scion of the well-known Penn Charter wrestling family, had already been coaching and substitute teaching at the school, so he became an assistant coach along with Ed Dingley, a former standout at Springfield High School.
In a quirk of fate, the random-start procedure designated the starting weight as 106 lbs. last Wednesday, so there was an old-school progression from the lightest to the heaviest wrestlers. In the past, SCH has often had to cough up forfeit points at the low end of the scale. Now things were different, with George School forfeiting to Blue Devils freshman Jordan Bell at 106 lbs. and to eighth-grader Luke Purcell at 113.
A week earlier, it had been Purcell who had accepted a forfeit at the end of the ANC meet, clinching the win for Springside Chestnut Hill. Unfortunately, his older brother Jake, a junior veteran, suffered a dislocated elbow during an early practice session, and it’s not known yet when he’ll be able to return.
After the initial 12-point boost for the Blue Devils, Wednesday’s meet score tightened to 12-6 with an SCH forfeit to the Cougars’ Cameron Vakilli at 120 lbs., but the hosts then won a close decision at 126 and were never in danger of losing their lead after that.
SCH freshman Tom Leichner and visitor Johan Ganguli matched one another almost point-for-point through two periods, with Leichner taking a 6-5 edge into the third. Starting on top but unable to break down Leichner to score, George’s Gangula intentionally allowed his rival to escape with half-a-minute remaining. He now had to score a takedown to avoid a loss, but he didn’t get one, and the home team took a 7-5 decision.
The 132 lb. bout was over much more quickly, as a ninth-grader for the home team, Kyle Williams, quickly took down George’s Clarence Rogers and pinned him with 47 seconds left in the opening round.
The Devils then went up 24-6 in the team tally thanks to 138 lb. Jackson Bistrong, one of three seniors on the relatively youthful SCH roster. Visitor Spike Lu scored an early takedown, but Bistrong tied the match with a reversal later in the first period.
Off a standing start in the second segment, a takedown and two near-fall points sent Bistrong into the final round with a 6-2 lead. Starting out in the neutral position once more, the coveted takedown was secured by Bistrong. Lu reversed with a little over 30 seconds to go, but couldn’t score again, and the SCH senior received a favorable 8-4 verdict.
The Cougars’ Lincoln Sokolski scored a takedown in each of the first two periods in the 145 lb. bout, and enjoyed a 4-0 advantage when the third round began with the wrestlers in a neutral stance. After a spell of fruitless circling, SCH freshman Matt Greenberg almost completed a takedown with 20 seconds to go, but the wrestlers hit the mat just outside the circle. Sokolski maintained his 4-0 lead and the meet tally changed to 24-9.
The Cougars then saw their team score climb into double digits when Johvany Plasime collected an SCH forfeit in the 152 lb. class, making it 24-15 overall. The host team recouped the six points at 160, where senior Paul Boehringer took a 2-1 edge out of the first round, began the second in the superior position, and quickly pinned visitor Jeremy Haug.
George School answered with a pin at 170 lbs., but would score no more meet points that day. After the Cougars’ Mehdi Bennani rolled up five points with a takedown and a near-fall, SCH sophomore Grant Dalsemer got on the board with an escape. Bennani promptly engineered another takedown and this time got a pin with 19 seconds to go in the opening stanza.
SCH sophomore Michael Spirito, who had performed well as a freshman last season, made short work of the Cougars’ Jermaine Doris, leveling him and completing a pin with one minute and 20 seconds elapsed. As it turned out, this individual win at 182 lbs. clinched the meet victory for the Blue Devils. The actual score was 36-21 with three matches to go, but with George School indicating it intended to forfeit one of those contests, the host team essentially had a 42-21 advantage. Even if they pulled the maximum of 12 points out of the other two matches, the Cougars would end up with no more than 33 points on the day.
It never even got that close, as SCH swept up all of the 18 points left on the table. Ninth-grader Sean Edling came through for the Blue Devils at 195 lbs., pinning Hoang Nguyen with 17 seconds left in round one. At 225 lbs., George School wanted no parts of SCH senior Desmond Johnson, an outstanding fifth-year varsity wrestler who will continue his career at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Cougars’ forfeit here spread the overall score to 48-21, and Springside Chestnut Hill would pocket the last six points with a pin at 285 lbs. After George School’s Vincent Liu recorded a takedown and SCH freshman Sean McCann escaped, the first period ended at 2-1. The heavyweights were on their feet for the beginning of the second round, and McCann turned a takedown directly into a pin with 57 seconds elapsed.
In the past, the Blue Devils have lost meets against George School and other rivals largely because they left so many weight classes empty. If SCH can fill most of those gaps this year, they may be able to reverse the outcome of a number of close dual meets from previous seasons.