In a 285 lb. match-up, Penn Charter sophomore Bill Costello (left) engages with his counterpart from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, freshman Sean McCann. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In a 285 lb. match-up, Penn Charter sophomore Bill Costello (left) engages with his counterpart from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, freshman Sean McCann. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The recent uptick in the popularity of wrestling at a pair of area schools was evident at late-season Inter-Ac League meet last Friday afternoon. Fans from host Penn Charter and visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy were crammed into every inch of free space in the Quakers’ wrestling room as the Charter grapplers battled the Blue Devils for fifth place in the final league standings.

The crowd wasn’t disappointed, as the contest came down to the final bout on the mat, with junior James Frye’s 8-4 decision at 132 lbs. giving PC a 29-27 edge in the team score. After that, an SCH forfeit at the final weight class (138 lbs.) locked in the official score at 35-27.

“Both teams have a lot of inexperienced guys, and we knew that there would be a lot of close matches,” noted first-year PC head coach Peter Shaifer, a former wrestler at Penn Charter and a former coach at the old Chestnut Hill Academy.

Coming in, each team was 0-4 in Inter-Ac dual meets, and each had its closest league contest against Episcopal Academy.

“I made a mistake there,” Shaifer said. “I should’ve bumped somebody up [to a higher weight class] and we should’ve won that meet. After that, we won a tournament over at Delco Christian and Episcopal finished fourth, so that showed we’d made some progress.”

The action opened with the 145 lb. match last Friday, and junior Adam Cohen got Shaifer’s squad off to a good start with a first-period pin of Blue Devil freshman Matt Greenberg. The Quakers’ sophomore 152, Chris Johnson, built up a 10-3 lead over two periods against visiting 10th-grader Grant Dalsemer, and in the third round Johnson ended the match early by acquiring a lead large enough for a technical fall.

This added five points to the team tally, and in the third match on the program, the 160 lb. bout, Charter pushed its lead to 14-0. Quakers senior David Smith had bumped up to wrestle in that spot, and a takedown late in the third round gave him a 3-2 decision over SCH sophomore Parker Popky.

Springside Chestnut Hill got on the scoreboard when another 10th-grader, 170-pound Michael Spirito, pinned fellow soph David Groshens in the middle of the first period. Charter senior Jelani Buie rolled up a 9-1 lead in points during the first period of the 182 lb. encounter, and then he pinned Blue Devils freshman Sean Edling in the second round.

Senior Desmond Johnson, SCH’s most decorated wrestler, wins most of his matches by pin, but in last Friday’s 195 lb. bout Quakers sophomore Harold Anderson avoided that fate, although he lost a 3-1 decision as Johnson recorded an escape and a takedown.

“Johnson pinned him before when they wrestled,” Shaifer said of his 10th-grader, “so that was a nice result for us there.”

Still, SCH picked up three meet points, and the visitors snagged another three at 220 lbs., where a first-period takedown helped senior Syaire Madden eke out a 3-2 victory against another 12th-grader, PC’s Ricky Peterson. The 285’s then took the mat, and a takedown in the opening round gave Quakers sophomore Bill Costello a 2-0 lead that lasted through the second period. Beginning on the bottom for the third frame, Costello escaped quickly, and held the resulting lead until the buzzer to record a 3-0 win over a Blue Devil freshman, Sean McCann.

As the meet cycled around to the light end of the scale, the scoreboard swung in the visitors’ direction. At 106 lbs., the Blue Devils’ Jordan Bell engineered a first-period pin of fellow freshman Archie Filshill, and a Penn Charter forfeit at 113 to senior Brandon Boyer moved SCH ahead in the team tally, 24-23.

PC went back in front thanks to sophomore 120 Gene Naumousky, who gradually built a 3-0 lead over eighth-grader Luke Purcell, and then fended off a late takedown attempt by the young Devil. At 126 lbs., the visitors took the lead one last time thanks to freshman Kyle Williams.

After a 0-0 opening round, Williams started on the bottom for the second period, and a reversal gave him a 2-0 lead entering the third period. PC ninth-grader Alex Koenig took several promising takedown shots, but the attempts ended with the two youngsters outside of the circle.

Williams’ win made it 27-26, but the Blue Devils had made clear their intention to forfeit the final weight class to one of Charter’s top talents, sophomore 138 David Giorno. That meant that SCH would need a pin at 132 lbs. in order to win the meet with a final score of 33-32.

This looked like it might happen in the second period soon after PC’s Frye scored the first point of the match with an escape at the start of the middle round. His takedown attempt then backfired as SCH senior Jackson Bistrong acquired a headlock and wound up scoring a takedown and a two-point near-fall.

Frye reversed near the end of the period, and was only down one point, 3-4, for the start of the third. Off a neutral start, the Charter junior secured a takedown with 55 seconds remaining, and then he tacked on three near fall points to come away with an 8-4 win.

Coach Shaifer said that his efforts to revitalize his school’s wrestling program will extend far beyond the regular high school season in the winter. He’s establishing the Mongoose Wrestling Club at Penn Charter to benefit grapplers at the school and in the broader community.

“Some guys from Penn are going to be involved, and the coach from Bucknell has already committed to coming in and doing a clinic,” the PC skipper announced. “We’re going to be doing a lot of wrestling here.”