SCHA sophomore Ben Rubin (top) is about to close out the 195 lb. match last Wednesday with a pin of George School’s Tom Erskine. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Although it was only the first outing of the season and each school had vacancies in a few weight classes, last Wednesday’s wrestling meet between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and visiting George School proved to be an exciting set-to that wasn’t decided until late in the afternoon. The host Blue Devils owned a 30-28 edge with two matches to go, but the Cougars captured both bouts for a 40-30 victory.

After the graduation of 171 lb. Dan Gallagher and 152-pounders Matt Rubin and Connor Small from last year’s squad, the Devils have only two seniors on the roster this year. One of them, heavyweight Tyler Hightower (who will likely be playing football for Trinity College next year), was injured for last week’s opener, leaving 160 lb. Matt Klauder as the only representative of the Class of 2012.

Hightower and junior middleweight George Kunkel are the SCHA team captains this season.

SCHA and George School, along with almost every other high school team, are adjusting to a new set of official weight classes that features significant changes from the previous format. The only designations that fans will be familiar with are the 145, 152, 160, and 285 lb. divisions. The new lightweight specification is now 106 lbs. instead of the former 103, and the other new cut-off levels are 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 170, 182, 195, and 220 lbs.

Under the new National Federation of State High School Associations rules, the total number of categories, 14, hasn’t changed.

Last week’s debut at SCHA began with the 138 lb. match, in which Blue Devils’ sophomore Anthony Liddy suffered a first-period pin at the hands of George School’s Peter Verner. The visitors went up 12-0 in the team score as the hosts forfeited at 145 lbs.

Co-captain Kunkel collected the first meet points for Springside Chestnut Hill, rolling up an 8-0 lead before ending the 152 lb. contest with a pin 25 seconds before the conclusion of the first period. At 160, the Cougars’ Tom Lodge had a 5-4 edge at the end of the first frame, then he began to pull away on the scoreboard from SCHA’s Klauder. Lodge’s 16-7 major decision put the Bucks County bunch up 16-6 in the meet.

That score remained on the board as neither team could produce a 171 lb. grappler, then the tally tightened to 16-12 when tenth-grader Andrew Reid pinned George School’s 182-pounder in just 26 seconds. The Devils then took the lead for the first time in the meet, thanks to sophomore Ben Rubin’s pin in the middle of the first period of the 195 lb. match.

Next, came the hosts’ Desmond Johnson, who was already a varsity regular as an eighth-grader last winter. He gave the Blue Devils their largest lead, 24-16, with a 36-second pin at 220 lbs. George School got the six meet points right back courtesy of SCHA’s forfeit at 285 (due to Hightower’s injury), and the visitors then regained the lead (28-24) in the 106 lb. match, where Cameron Varili quickly matted Devils freshman Brandon Boyer.

The hosts forged ahead one last time after junior Jordan Wang took the mat at 113 lbs., quickly scoring a takedown and then securing a pin 44 seconds into the affair. George School’s 120 lb. Aidan Greer pinned SCHA freshman Jackson Bistrong late in the first period, and the resulting 34-30 score held up as both schools forfeited at 126, leaving only the 132 lb. bout on the docket.

The fourth Blue Devil freshman to perform, Rayan Bousso, fell victim to a takedown by the Cougars’ Luke Stackhouse, who nailed down a pin later in the opening round and sealed the meet victory for George School.

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