SCH senior co-captain George Kunkel (top) tries to turn George School’s Peter Ryan in last Wednesday’s season opener. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In last Wednesday’s wrestling season opener at the George School, visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy won the majority of the individual matches, but still lost the meet to the host Cougars, 42-36.

The Blue Devils were beginning the new season by following a frustrating pattern manifested during the winter campaign of 2011-2012, when SCH lost a number of close meets simply by giving up too many points through forfeits.

In last week’s encounter all of the bouts actually contested on the mat were decided by pins, with the Devils collecting five of them, for 30 team points, while George garnered 24 points through four falls. Neither team had a heavyweight, and Springside Chestnut Hill was also unable to field a lightweight, or light middleweights in the 132 and 138 lb. classes.

George School coughed up six points due to a vacancy at 113 lbs., but the home team still had a net gain of a dozen points through forfeits, good enough for a six-point victory overall.

Springside Chestnut Hill suffered significant losses from its 2011-2012 roster, with three grapplers graduating and three younger varsity athletes electing not to come out for the squad this year. However, SCH added several new wrestlers to the team just in the last few weeks before the start of this season, so if the Devils can attract a few more bodies they could plug some of the holes in their line-up.

Wednesday’s action got underway with the 152 lb. match, where SCH junior Anthony Liddy, also a soccer standout for the school, needed just 38 seconds to secure a pin over Harrison Young. The Cougars answered with a 59-second fall at 160 lbs., with Georg Lichtenberg defeating Blue Devils freshman Kevin O’Donnell. This leveled the meet tally at 6-6, and the score would be tied four more times before the home team went ahead for good.

Another visiting ninth-grader, Nick Franz, also met his fate by fall, with GS 170-pounder Jermaine Doris ending their bout in 39 ticks. In the first match to extend past the opening period, SCH junior Ben Rubin built up a 4-0 lead over the Cougars’ 182 lb. entry, Damon McCasker. Starting on the bottom in the second round, Rubin quickly reversed and pinned his opponent with 18 seconds elapsed.

At 195 lbs. SCH sent out Jeff Mikalonis-Lieberman, a junior but a new varsity wrestler. He was the stronger man on the mat, but George School’s Youssef Eman seemed a little more experienced, and after trailing 5-8 early in the second period, Eman reversed and picked up a pin with 1:11 still remaining in the round.

At 220, Blue Devils sophomore Desmond Johnson not only has strength, but also experience, since he began to compete at the varsity level as an eighth-grader. The Cougars’ Charles Xisheng held him off for awhile, but Johnson eventually notched a pin with nine seconds to go in the opening frame. This tied the meet score at 18-18, and that figure stayed on the board as neither team was able to produce a wrestler in the 285 lb. class.

The visitors forfeited to George School’s Cameron Vakili at 106 lbs., then the Cougars returned the favor at 113, handing over six points to the Devils’ Jordan Wang, one of just two seniors on the SCH roster. The host team had bumped Zaid Walter up from 113 to 120 lbs., but the Cougars lost six points just the same, as Blue Devils sophomore Jackson Bistrong rang up a pin in that match with 29 seconds left in round one.

This gave the visitors their first lead in the team score, 30-24, but it was soon back to even thanks to a 23-second pin in the 126 lb. class, where the Cougars’ Aidan Greer matted SCH freshman Jordan Johnson.

With forfeits to the home team’s Tom Lubeck (132 lbs.) and Spike Lu (138 lbs.), the Devils went down by a dozen points, and with just one bout to go, they could no longer catch the Cougars. The other senior on the SCH squad, George Kunkel, made it close, taking a 6-0 lead over Peter Ryan in the first period, and then scoring a reversal before pinning Ryan 35 seconds into the second round.

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