First PIAA duals experience a heavy dose of reality for Garnet Valley wrestling

by Nate Heckenberger, Delaware County Daily Times

Posted on February 7, 2020

Article originally appeared here:

HERSHEY - Garnet Valley did a laudable job playing the role of David in the District 1 Class 3A Duals last weekend.

Thursday, in the first round of the PIAA Duals, the Jaguars realized any giants they thought they slayed were not quite Goliath.

No, the modern-day wrestling version of Goliath wears blue and white singlets with the name Nazareth printed across them.

It was a tall task, and Garnet Valley fell hard, 69-3, to the No. 1 team in the state, but being the first team from Delaware County to compete at the Giant Center in Hershey, was the silver lining in a tournament that can only get less daunting from here.

"We wanted to come in and compete and fight," Garnet Valley coach Rocco Fantazzi said. "Going against (Nazareth) means everything else we face will be easier. Hopefully we go in with a little different mindset and different attitude and get back to what got us here."

Five Blue Eagles are returning state medalists, and it was clear, early, that the Jaguars were in for a long night. Two of Garnet's top wrestlers, Matt Ricci (113 pounds) and Kevin Puliti (120) lost by major decisions in the first two bouts, and Griffin Hollingsworth (126) trailed 6-2 going into the third period.

Hollingsworth rallied, using a takedown and two sets of near-fall points to give the Jags their only winner, 9-6.

"It was pretty big," Hollingsworth said. "It shows us we can have a little confidence and we can scrap with anyone out here. We battle every day and that's the way we have to wrestle."

Hollingsworth is a two-time regional qualifier, and he's hoping the third time is the charm for him to reach Hershey for the individual tournament, as a junior.

"That's kind of part two of us being here," Fantazzi said. "We get to see some of the guys who will be at the state tournament and what it looks like to wrestle some of these guys. Hopefully we can come back and close the gap the next time. It's huge for guys like Griff and other guys who are trying to be at this level."

Despite the one-sided score, Fantazzi believes it was just the kind of debut his team needed on this stage.

"Coming to this arena for the first time, it's a little different environment and awe to it," Fantazzi said. "It was nice to get that shock factor out of the way. We're trying to compete the best we can, and hopefully (Friday) we can see the team that got us here and try to pick up a win against State College."

The Little Lions were on the wrong side of a 34-29 dual against Seneca Valley. Garnet Valley will face the District 6 champs in the first round of consolations at 10 a.m., Friday. The winner advances to the second round consolations at 6 p.m.

The loser is eliminated, and the Jags hope to stave that off as long as possible.

"It means a lot, being here," Hollingsworth said. "We put all this work in and we deserve to be here. We're really excited, too. We have to go in and battle and we can't give up big points. We're not satisfied with (the loss to Nazareth). We're happy to be here, but we have work to do."

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