by Tom Utescher
Last Tuesday afternoon host Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recorded four pins and a technical fall in its final dual meet of the season, but the Blue Devils gave away 30 points in forfeits and suffered a close loss to visiting Martin Luther King High School, 39-35.

In his final home match, SCH senior Matt Klauder (left) confronts Hassan Bolger, the 152-pounder for the Martin Luther King Cougars. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

SCH forfeited in five weight classes while King only lost one match in this fashion. It’s been a familiar scenario for the short-staffed Devils, who closed out the regular season with a record of 5-12 and were 1-4 within the Inter-Ac League.

Martin Luther King has undergone a wrestling renaissance under head coach Dominic Castelli, a former wrestler at the old Chestnut Hill Academy who graduated in 1993. King had not fielded a wrestling squad for 10 years before Castelli, a teacher at the school, revived the program last winter.

This year, the Cougars’ roster has almost doubled, and they’ve gone 9-4 overall while finishing second in Division B of the Philadelphia Public League with a mark of 6-2.

Before Tuesday’s meet, Springside Chestnut Hill honored the lone senior on its roster, 152-pounder Matt Klauder. Klauder, who began to appear in varsity meets as an eighth-grader, will attend North Carolina’s Elon University.

The starting weight for the event was near the upper end of the weight scale, and the Cougars quickly acquired a 12-0 lead in the team score as SCH forfeited to King’s James David at 220 lbs. and to Kenneth Allen at 285.

The Blue Devils got six points back right away, since the visitors had no one to oppose SCH’s Brandon Boyer at 106 lbs. Actual wrestling took place at 113 lbs., where Jordan Wang recorded a 51-second pin against MLK’s Isaiah Gregory, leveling the meet score at 12-12.

After Jackson Bistrong of the home team took an early lead at 120 lbs., a reversal brought the Cougars’ Tyrone Wharton back within two points at 4-2. However, an escape, takedown, and back points gave Bistrong a commanding 10-2 advantage by the end of the first period. He kept on scoring in the second round until he reached the 15-point margin for a technical fall (at 17-2) with 49 seconds left in the period.

The resulting 17-12 lead for the Blue Devils disappeared when visitor Derrick Sutton picked up six points from an SCH forfeit in the 126 lb. class. The 18-17 team tally remained unchanged as neither team sent a 132 lb. entry onto the mat.

The 138 lb. bout was still close after the first period, with the Devils’ Anthony Liddy trailing Andreas Lacroix of MLK, 5-3. Lacroix kept pulling ahead with takedowns and some back points, and was up 14-4 when he nailed a pin with 22 seconds remaining in the match. SCH’s George Kunkel reduced King’s lead in the meet to one point, 24-23, when he pinned rival Nicko Bryant 46 seconds into the 145 lb. contest.

After each of the 152-pounders came close to scoring a takedown during the opening minute, MLK’s Hassan Bolger eventually completed the move, and tacked on three back points, as well. The Blue Devils’ Klauder rang up a reversal late in the opening period, and was down 5-2 entering the second round. The score was still the same when the third period began with the wrestlers in the neutral (standing) starting position, and another takedown by Bolger netted him a 7-2 decision.

The Cougars now led 27-23, and their lead grew rapidly after that as Springside Chestnut Hill was unable to offer an opponent to either Amani-Isaiah Gordon at 160 lbs. or Travis Wood at 170.

With only two matches left on the docket, the visitors now had an insurmountable 39-23 lead in the meet score. SCH made it close with a pair of pins, though. At 182 lbs. Desmond Johnson matted Raphael Nembhard of the Cougars late in the first period, then SCH 195 Ben Rubin built up a 7-0 lead over Derick Morton before pinning him with 44 seconds to go in the second round.

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