UPPER PROVIDENCE >> The first surge set an unexpected tone Wednesday.
The second one, bigger in scope and impact, effectively washed away the bad feelings Spring-Ford experienced at the start of its match with Owen J. Roberts. It left the Rams, who started out in a double-digit deficit, on the more solid footing of a 41-26 victory in their marquee Pioneer Athletic Conference match.
After being handled through the first six weight classes to trail 26-3, Spring-Ford swept the final seven to prevail in the latest confrontation between the neighboring Liberty Division rivals. Projections for a close, hard-fought match were supported only on the second count, the first obliterated by the Wildcats and then the rally-minded Rams.
"For a decade, this is the one we circled on the calendar," OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said. "It's a great bout, one way or the other. Our kids know each other. "I thought it would be a good duel."
Starting out with three pins, Owen J. Roberts (1-1 PAC, 3-1 overall) put Spring-Ford (3-0, 5-0) on its heels in bolting to a 26-3 lead. The pins, coupled with a technical fall and one-point decision, ended up being the sum total of the Wildcats' scoring, the Rams countering with four pins, a technical fall, a forfeit and a regular decision in their sweep between 138 and 215.
Ryan Lepore, who kicked off the home team's second-half charge, recalled the impact the sluggish start had on his teammates.
"We felt the tension of the lost matches," the SF junior, who got the slap at 4:37, said. "But we knew we had to get the job done, and get the win."
After Anthony Attilio logged a 7-3 decision of OJR's Jack Dalton, Zach Needles and Jack McGill followed with first-period drops at 152 and 160, respectively. The pins - Needles had the match's fastest, getting the slap 45 seconds in - cut OJR's early point spread to a pair (26-24), and the lead was erased when Owen J. forfeited 172 to Aaron Judge.
The match clincher was provided by Xavier Cushman, whose pin one minute in at 189, gave Spring-Ford a 36-26 lead. The capper came from Joey Milano, whose first match action of the winter resulted in a second-period (17-2) tech-fall at 2:47.
"They (OJR) have a lot of good, young kids," SF head coach Tim Seislove noted. "We felt we could beat them up top. There were a lot of good, close matches."
Richard Nathan got Owen J. started with a second-period pin at 285. Brady Quinn continued the early roll with a pin at 106, and Dysen Neil kept it going with another second-period fall at 113.
Sam Gautreau upped Roberts' lead to 21 points through 120, the freshman scoring an escape from a third-period down-position start for his 1-0 win over Dominic Ortlip.
"He's got his stuff," DeRafelo said of Karkoska, who had to deal with illness and injuries during his previous high-school seasons, "and he's building on it."
Milano, coming off a second straight fourth-place finish at the PIAA Class AAA Individual Tournament in 2020, had been cleared for action that afternoon. He built up a 12-1 lead in the first period.
"Joey was excited," Seislove said of his senior, who recently committed to wrestle at North Carolina State after graduation. "He's been working to get himself in shape."
Both teams are focused on getting tuned up after having the first part of their week's schedules interrupted by three days of snowy weather. Spring-Ford will be at Methacton Thursday and Pottstown Saturday, and Owen J. faces a similar grind at Pottstown Thursday before hosting Boyertown Saturday.
"We need to get back in the room," DeRafelo said. "We'll have only one practice this week."
"There are things we need to fix in practice," Lepore added. "We didn't have any practice Monday or Tuesday, but we had to make weight for the match being on Tuesday."
NOTES >> Both teams showed off their depth by staging more than a half-hour's worth of junior-varsity bouts. ... Needles moved one step closer to becoming the Spring-Ford mat program's latest 100-bout winner. The Ram senior, 5-0 on the season, stands at 84 victories.