|Photo by Nate Heckenberger/Downingtown East's T. J. Nelson takes down Owen J. Roberts' Dominick Petrucelli on his way to a 7-3 decision at 132 pounds.|
By NATE HECKENBERGER
FORT WASHINGTON -- Though it’s a quick trip up Route 100 to get to Owen J. Roberts High for Downingtown East, the Cougars discovered they’re not too far away from the Wildcats as a team, either.
The Wildcats, who entered the District 1 Duals tournament at Upper Dublin the reigning champs, are a grizzled group of wrestlers who’ve been tested by an ultra-challenging tournament schedule and the best league currently in District 1.
East, on the other hand, came in as the underdog after somewhat sneaking up on people having never advanced farther than the second round of the duals in prior years.
Saturday, in the District 1 finals, East and OJR each won seven bouts apiece, but the Wildcats had a little extra horsepower, earning six more bonus points to give them a 30-24 victory, for their second consecutive district title.
The Cougars will face District 10 champ, Erie McDowell, in the first round of the PIAA duals Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey. Owen J. gets District 2 champ, Delaware Valley at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
"I’m very pleased with the overall effort," East coach Joe Horvath said. "Our guys battled, regardless of whether they won or lost."
The contest opened right in the Wildcats’ (17-0) wheelhouse. Seven of its nine bonus points came in OJR’s first five wins, as Colby Frank (126 pounds) and Kyle Shronk (160) earned pins and Demetri D’Orsaneo (138) registered a major decision.
T. J. Nelson (132) gave East (27-3) its lone win in the first six bouts, a 7-2 decision over Dominick Petrucelli, as OJR ran out to a 22-3 lead.
"I feel like we wrestled pretty hard, but we could always wrestle a little harder and push ourselves a little more," East senior Matt Bartolotta said.
The Cougars went on a run of their own, winning four of the next five, but could only muster decisions each bout. Christian Jarani (170), Jason Gibson (182), Bartolotta (220) and Sean Snodgrass (285) helped cut OJR’s lead to 11 with three to go.
The six-point loss may be a tad deceiving, however, as the Wildcats decided to hold returning state medalist Derek Gulotta (113) out as a precautionary measure after getting a little banged up the night before. Things also could have gone a different direction at 285 as OJR’s Brad Trego cradled up Snodgrass and had him tilted before Snodgrass called for injury time and only two points were awarded to Trego. Snodgrass scored four of the last five from that point on.
"There were some approach mistakes I made," Horvath said. "And the approach by some guys wasn’t correct, and I accept that responsibility for that because I didn’t teach some of the right approaches."
At 106, Aston White locked it up for the Wildcats with an 11-0 major over Jude McDowell. Wade Cummings (113) earned a 56-second pin, as the mega-matchup with Gulotta didn’t happen, and Jared Leonetti (120) earned a decision in the finale for the Cougars.
"(East) has a lot of depth and it’s hard to find weak spots," OJR coach Steve DeRafelo said. "They have solid kids at every weight class, and they are a lot like us, it’s kind of funny."
Prior to 2011, no Class AAA team from Chester County had reached the state duals until the Wildcats cleared that hurdle. Two years later, East is the first 3A team from the Ches-Mont to head to Hershey after competing in an all-Chester County final.
"I couldn’t be more impressed that it came down to two school districts in Chester County, in neighboring districts," Horvath said. "That there’s that much commitment three or four miles apart, I find that very impressive."
"We work with them in the offseason and have gone to camp with them," DeRafelo said. "They’re similar to us in that they put in the time and pay the price and that’s why they’re where they are."
The challenges only get bigger from here for the Cougars. They will head to West Chester Henderson Wednesday in hopes of wrapping up their second straight division title, before trying to navigate a bracket chock full of wrestling powerhouses.
"We’re excited for the challenge and we look forward to next Thursday," Bartolotta said.
Owen J. Roberts 30, Downingtown East 24
126- Frank (OJR) pinned Carosiello, 1:00 (6-0)
132- Nelson (DTE) dec. Petrucelli, 7-3 (6-3)
138- D’Orsaneo (OJR) maj. dec. Fischer, 15-2 (10-3)
145- Fratantoni (OJR) dec. Sager, 7-2 (13-3)
152- Moser (OJR) dec. Wait, 3-1 (16-3)
160- Shronk (OJR) pinned Meyer, :41 (22-3)
170- Jarani (DTE) dec. Rogers, 2-0 (22-6)
182- Gibson (DTE) dec. Boaman, 15-10 (22-9)
195- Bolig (OJR) maj. dec. Pleines, 10-2 (26-9)
220- Bartolotta (DTE) dec. DeAngelo, 9-5 (26-12)
285- Snodgrass (DTE) dec. Trego, 8-5 (26-15)
106- White (OJR) maj. dec. McDowell, 11-0 (30-15)
113- Cummings (DTE) pinned Dunleavy, :56 (30-21)
120- Leonetti (DTE) dec. Pupo, 7-2 (30-24)