ROYERSFORD - The Owen J. Roberts wrestling team had one important piece of business to take care of before heading to Hershey for the continuation of the PIAA Class 3A team tournament. That was to wrap up the Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division championship at Spring-Ford Wednesday night, which was accomplished with a 38-23 win.
The Wildcats (5-0, 18-2) fell behind by three points with four bouts to go. But Luke Resnick put them back on top with a pin at 120 pounds, Tyler McCutchen kept them in the lead with a hard-fought 5-4 decision and Antonio Petrucelli clinched the match with a technical fall.
"I have to admit, I was concerned about tonight," said Roberts coach Stephen DeRafelo, who planned to take his team back to OJR briefly and then leave for Hershey in order to beat the predicted snow. "We had a lot of things in our heads the weather and the state duals. I was concerned we were looking past these guys. They can wrestle."
Then Spring-Ford (2-3, 15-5) won four in a row, including a pin by Brandon Meredith for a 23-20 edge. But OJR came back for the win to finish a game ahead of three-time defending PAC champion Boyertown.
"Rickey McCutchen stepped up and wrestled well," said DeRafelo. "Tyler McCutchen had a nice win for us. Those were two that could have gone either way."
All of that was a good warm-up for tonight's first-round state match at 6 against perennial powerhouse Nazareth (12-1).
"You look at the last week or two, it's all been a pretty good warm-up," DeRafelo said with a laugh. "With Boyertown and Methacton, there's three state-ranked teams in that (the Liberty) division. And Spring-Ford is close."
OJR is making its first state team appearance since 2013, so nobody on the current squad has been in this position.
"There's 25 kids on the team who would never get to step on the mat (in the Giant Center) and have the announcer announce their name," DeRafelo said.
"We're all very happy we made states," said heavyweight Alex Acosta, one of four seniors in the lineup, along with Griffin Gerber, Luke Resnick and Ryan Resnick. "For some kids, it might be their last year. I'm happy my senior year, we get the experience to get up there."
The Wildcats will be up against an opponent that defeated defending state champion Bethlehem Catholic in the District 11 final Saturday while the Wildcats were finishing third in District 1. The Blue Eagles had Monday off, while OJR downed Archbishop Wood in a state preliminary round match.
"They just knocked off the fifth-ranked team in the nation," said DeRafelo. "We scrimmage them every year. We know what they're all about. Our guys are working hard. They'll go up there and represent the PAC. They desere to be there."