POTTSTOWN >> Looking past the final score, Wednesday's match was a big one for both Pottstown and Owen J. Roberts.
The annual meeting of the longtime neighboring rivals was again staged to determine possession of the Wrestlers' Pride trophy for another year. Selected grapplers from both teams received Outstanding Wrestler plaques, and the districts' middle school programs competed on mats adjacent to their high-school counterparts before the spirited audience.
The night was also touted as the schools' Takedown Cancer event, conducted this year in memory of 1987 Pottstown graduate Adam Gibbs. A large number of fans, and the Owen J. wrestling contingent, were seen decked out in pink T-shirts in recognition of the initiative.
Alongside all that activity, Roberts went on to post a 56-19 victory in the teams' first meeting as non-divisional Pioneer Athletic Conference members. It continued a month-long roll that's seen the Wildcats (6-1 overall) complement their dual-match showing with a pair of Top 10 team finishes in high-level tournaments at Central Mountain and Conestoga Valley.
"We had a couple good tournaments already," OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said while waiting to claim the team trophy for a 10th straight year. "They gave us an idea where we're at."
Owen J. got off to a blistering fast start, pins and a pair of forfeits staking it to a 36-point lead through the first six weights. Pottstown (0-3) got on the board at 152 with Anthony Wiggins' major decision, but Roberts got the match clincher with Ryan Resnick's technical fall at 160 before Jason Zollers followed with a first-period pin at 170.
The Trojans, whose last action was the Gov. Mifflin Holiday Tournament over the holiday break, made a modest three-bout run with pins by Isaiah Mayes (182) and Aubrey King (220) sandwiched around Dimitri Douglas' comeback 4-1 decision at 195. But Alejandro Acosta's decision at 285 and David Forrest's pin at 106 closed out the night in fine fashion for the 'Cats.
"We've cleaned up a few things," DeRafelo said. "We still have some things to work on. The schedule has been tough on us."
Ryan Resnick's "catch and release" approach to his bout got him the tech-fall at 2:47, after racking up a 26-10 lead. It also earned the OJR senior his team's OW award.
"That's the way he wrestles, to keep going for points," DeRafelo noted. "It's working for him."
Mayes's 3:11 pin made him Pottstown's OW. It's continuing a high-performance senior season, coming in the wake of a first-ever individual championship at Gov. Mifflin.
"I haven't reached my peak yet," Mayes said. "There's a lot more to come."
Along with his prowess on the canvas, Mayes has also been thrust into a leadership role for the underclassman-heavy Pottstown program. It's a role into which he's still growing.
"I was a leader in football," he said, "but wrestling is pretty new. I try to motivate the team by telling them about my past experiences. I only won four matches as a freshman, then 19 as a sophomore and 33 as a junior."
After one month in his current role, Pottstown head coach Brad Clark sees his team continuing to improve in spite of its early trials.
"We've had progress ... slow, but it's coming," the Trojans' first-year boss said. "We've been showing techniques to the guys they haven't seen before. They're making a lot of progress, but at the same time they have to learn by experience."
Among Owen J's six pins were drops by Luke Resnick (120), Tyler McCutchen (126), Antonio Petrucelli (132) and Dan Mancini (145). McCutchen, needing just 21 seconds to get the slap, had the fastest of the night's combined eight falls.
In the only bout it won by decision, Owen J. got an 8-2 decision from Alejandro Acosta at 285.
"Zollers was good at 170," DeRafelo noted, "and McCutchen did a good job."
On the Pottstown side, Wiggins used his own "catch and release" approach to rack up a 19-5 major. And at 195, Douglas came on strong in the third period of a 4-1 decision over Dylan Smith, erasing a one-point deficit by getting a late reversal after being awarded two penalty points.
"Our 152-pounder (Wiggins) is starting to buy into our philosophy," Clark said. "He's coming around. He sees the progress in himself.
"He's showing a lot of the heart we've instilled in him," Clark said of Douglas. "He loves the sport of wrestling, and it shows. He kept at a high pace and pulled out a tight one tonight."
NOTES >> Eric Shanahan (113) and Zach Englehardt (138) were the recipient of Pottstown forfeits. ... The Trojans' next action will be in the Octorara Duals Saturday. OJR will be off until Tuesday (Jan. 10), when it visits Souderton for a non-league match.