UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Pennsylvania's switched-around wrestling season - the team duals tournament following the individual post-season, instead of the other way around - is as unusual as it is different this winter.
For Gus Carfagno and Ryan Lepore, it's been a welcome change. It affords the Spring-Ford middleweights a chance to finish the 2021 season with state-level medals. Carfagno and Lepore found themselves in the stands instead of on the mats, not selected for the pandemic-impacted individual tournaments while seven of their teammates were part of the District 1-AAA North Tournament field.
But as part of the Rams' team-level juggernaut, they helped put their program into the PIAA Class 3A Duals final four competition Wednesday with a 37-17 win over Delaware Valley in the bracket's quarterfinal round.
The scorebook will show Zach Needles, with a major decision at 152, and Jack McGill's 64-second pin at 160 staked Spring-Ford (13-0) to a match-clinching 31-18 lead with just the 172-pound weight class left to contest. But Carfagno and Lepore were key to a three-bout turnaround from 126 to 138 ... a surge that took the Rams from a 15-9 deficit to a 21-15 lead in a match that saw the District 2 champion Warriors (9-1) stay close in the early going.
"It was unordinary at the start," Lepore said of the 2021 campaign, "but it's a good end to the season for the team, to get a state medal."
"It was a huge loss not being able to wrestle any tournaments," Carfagno added. "Now we show what we can do to win a state medal."
Trailing 15-9 after successive losing decisions at 113 and 120, the Rams got on track with Quinn Smith rolling up a 10-3 decision of Connor Crescimanno at 126. Carfagno (9-4) pulled Spring-Ford even with a gritty 6-5 decision of Ryder Machado, and Lepore staked the locals to a 21-15 lead - their biggest of the match thus far - with an overtime pin of C.J. Walton.
"Gus and Ryan were disappointed they couldn't wrestle (individual states)," head coach Tim Seislove noted. "This is a great opportunity ... a bonus they got."
Lepore (9-4) forced the overtime issue by scoring three points in the third period for a 3-3 tie. In the one-minute first OT, he took Walton down and laid the Warrior sophomore out with a body press for a slap coming with 2/10 of a second left.
"I thought I had a takedown on the edge in the third period," Lepore recalled. "In overtime, I just kept attacking."
"Ryan kept his composure at the end," Seislove added.
Carfagno staged his own come-from-behind scenario one weight earlier. Trailing Machado 2-0 after one period, he posted an escape and takedown in the second.
The margin of victory held up, as both wrestlers went 3-3 in the third.
"This has been a most memorable season," he said. "Repeating as District 1 champions, being in the top four at state team duals ... it's crazy."
The capper came from Xavier Cushman, who racked up a 4:13 drop on Sebastian Adler in the 172-pound finale. The only break in Spring-Ford's ending roll came at 145, where Del-Val's Dan Privatt rallied for an 11-8 decision.
The Rams' early points came from Joey Milano, a Class AAA state champion at 189 - the first in school history - getting a 46-second drop of Aiden Black at 215, and Cole Smith blanking Landon Machado, 3-0, at 106.
Spring-Ford's Class of 2021 is no stranger to the PIAA Team Duals, having qualified for each of the last four years. But the Rams got only as far as third-round consolations each time, making this year's performance all the more notable.
"It's been most memorable," Seislove said. "The team's done a lot of things it never accomplished before. It's a tribute to this senior group."
"It's been very memorable," Lepore agreed. "Joey a state champion, Jack second."
"It's a great way to end," Carfagno added.
The Rams will face Central Dauphin (District 3 champion) in the one 4 p.m. semifinal, Waynesburg Central (7-1) and Williamsport (4-1) in the other. Championship and third-place matches will be staged at 6 p.m.
NOTES >> In the team's post-match huddle, Seislove laid out the plan for team personnel who want to go to Cumberland Valley Saturday. It's a safe bet there will be a large number of takers. "Everyone's excited. They want to go," he said. ... Del-Val's two state medalists, Jason Henderson and Zach Jacaruso, provided the Warriors a good portion of their early points. Henderson, seventh at 215, scored a match-fastest 29-second pin at 285, and Jacaruso (second at 113) had an 8-1 decision at 113. ... In a unique circumstance at 152, Needles and Preston Machado both got stopped for blood cleanup at the same time. ... The PIAA Class AA Team Duals will also hold their semis and finals at Cumberland Valley, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Qualifiers will be Boiling Springs (3-1), Southern Columbia (4-1), Burrell (7-1) and Reynolds (10-1).