The Owen J. Roberts wrestling team has had one big match after another over the last two weeks. And there will be more to come after a home 46-21 PIAA Class 3A preliminary round win Monday night over Archbishop Wood.
The Wildcats (17-2) got wins from their big-name wrestlers and strong performances from those lesser known to defeat the District 12 runner-up Vikings (13-8) and advance to the Giant Center in Hershey.
OJR will face District 11 champ Nazareth in a first-round match Thursday at 6 p.m.
"I was a little bit concerned," said Wildcats coach Stephen DeRafelo. "We really got up Saturday and wrestled some big matches. We had a lot of emotions on Saturday. We've beaten Boyertown and Methacton twice. How many times can these guys keep bringing it?"
Roberts trailed 15-12 after five matches, but won the next seven to clinch the win. The first was a 5-3 decision at 120 by junior Aidan Renn, who was wrestling only his second varsity match of the season.
"I've been behind Luke Resnick all year," said Renn, who began Saturday's must-win match against Methacton with an 8-7 decision. "We have some flexibility in the lineup. I haven't really been able to get in this year. I wanted to make the most of the matches.
"We won the coin toss and it created an opportunity for us. We could bump up Luke. Coach trusted that Luke could win and I could beat my kid, too. Coach trusted me."
Resnick followed with a technical fall, Antonio Petrucelli and Cole Meredith won decisions and Dan Mancini and Rickey McCutchen won by falls to clinch the match at 39-15 with three bouts to go.
"They knew what it was all about," said DeRafelo, whose team finished third in the District 1 Tournament over the weekend. "We set ourselves up a little bit on Saturday (a win over Downingtown West that avoided a trip to Central Dauphin). That's a tough road heading out to District 3.
"They're in it for the long haul. Rickey McCutchen stuck one of their better kids. Cole Meredith keeps bringing it. Look at 106, probably their best kid. He (OJR's Jacob Dunleavy) keeps it to four points (a major decision)."
Renn credited the team's extra work for the success.
"We come in at 6:30 in the morning," he said. "I think that's what gave us the edge. I think we were more aggressive and more conditioned. Those morning runs they're not easy. But it makes it all worthwhile."
Despite their successes, the Wildcats would have been disappointed if they could not have made the team's first trip to Hershey since 2013.
"It would have felt like a letdown," said Renn. "That's really what it's been all about all year."
"It would have put a big damper on a lot of things," said DeRafelo.
Before heading to Hershey, Roberts will visit Spring-Ford Wednesday in a match that will decide whether it wins the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division championship outright or share it with Boyertown.
"Wednesday, we've got to come back and do the same thing," DeRafelo said.