The wrestling team captains for Springside Chestnut Hill this season are (from left) Simon Kioko, Marco Goldberg and Luke Purcell. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In front of a large home crowd, the wrestling team tri-captains for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy led by example in last Thursday’s season opener against the Academy of the New Church.

The Blue Devils trailed the visiting Lions, 39-24, in the non-league dual meet with three matches remaining. The three wrestlers still on deck for SCH were the team leaders, seniors Simon Kioko and Luke Purcell and junior Marco Goldberg, and each of them pinned his rival to lift the locals to a 42-39 victory. For Purcell, it was the 100th win of his varsity career at Springside Chestnut Hill.

Last spring SCH graduated another 100-win wrestler, middleweight Kyle Williams, along with four other multi-year starters. The 2017-18 Blue Devils set a single-season school record with 18 dual meet victories, and the team finished fourth at the Pa. Independent Schools tournament.

This season, Ed Dingley is back for his fourth year as Springside Chestnut Hill’s head coach, and assistant Luke Bernetich returns for his third go-round. One of the school’s former mat standouts is helping out as well, 2007 Chestnut Hill Academy grad Joe Aversa.

The Blue Devils’ opponent last Thursday, Academy of the New Church, has won the Friends Schools League championship in two of the last three seasons. The random-start procedure settled upon 145 lbs. as the beginning weight for the meet.

Here, the Lions’ Jordan Wilson built up a comfortable lead in points before eventually pinning SCH senior Kieron Cook. The hosts then descended into an 0-12 hole in the meet score by forfeiting in the 152 lb. class.

However, it was soon back to even at 12-all as the next two Blue Devils registered pins. At 160 lbs., sophomore Tyler “Headlock” Guzik twisted his rival onto his back just 37 seconds into their bout, and at 170, SCH freshman R.J. Moore matted his man with 43 seconds still remaining in the first period.

Sophomore T.J. Spirito, whose brother Michael wrestled for SCH and graduated in 2017, made it three pins in a row to move the home team ahead on the scoreboard for the first time, 18-12. Leading 15-8 going into the third round of the 182 lb. bout, Spirito began on top and then turned and finished his opponent half-a-minute into the period.

Luke Neverosky wrestled for Springside Chestnut Hill as a freshman last year, but this winter he’s playing basketball. The family is still represented in the ring, though, with brother Will, a junior, signing on for the 2018-19 campaign. Competing at 195 lbs., he was tied 2-2 at the end of the first round with visitor Sean McCurdy, but McCurdy pulled ahead in the second period and went on to take an 11-5 decision.

ANC then moved ahead in the team scoring, 21-18, with a pin at 220 lbs. over an SCH freshman, Mac Levin. The same fate befell Blue Devils sophomore Brandon Cornner at 285 lbs. With freshman lightweight Jack Sanderson injured, Springside Chestnut Hill had to forfeit the 106 lb. contest and fell behind 33-18 in the meet.

There were also no-shows in the next two weight classes, and the Lions’ margin remained at 15 points, now 39-24. New Church had no one to send out at 113 lbs. against freshman Aden Goldberg, Marco’s younger brother. For SCH, an unexpected vacancy had opened up at 120 lbs., and the Devils had to forfeit that class.

There were now just three matches remaining, and to make up a 15-point shortfall, each of the SCH tri-captains knew he couldn’t settle for a garden-variety decision.

Quickly scoring takedowns against their rivals, Kioko (126 lbs.) pinned in 55 seconds and Purcell (132) notched his 100th victory in just 49 ticks of the clock. The Blue Devils were now back within three-points of their guests, 36-39.

Marco Goldberg’s match at 138 lbs. was a little more involved, adding to the drama of the situation. A takedown and near fall against ANC’s George Boulajeris carried the SCH junior into the second period with a 5-0 advantage.

Starting on the bottom for round two, he recorded an escape and a takedown in the initial 24 seconds. He now had an 8-0 lead, a margin that would give him a major decision and provide his team with the four points needed for a narrow victory.

Not wanting to just squeak by, Goldberg scored three points on a near fall, allowed an escape, and then executed another takedown to go up 13-1. He finished out the match with a pin with 12.5 seconds remaining in the second period, capping an inspiring come-from-behind triumph for the Blue Devils.