Owen J. Roberts Wildcats Wrestling District 1
Pioneer Athletic Conference

OJR defeats SF for the first time in over 10 years

by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor

Posted on January 22, 2009

BUCKTOWN - The week didn't start out well at all for Owen J. Roberts, or for head coach Steve DeRafelo.

The Wildcats' application to compete in the 24-team District 1-Class AAA Duals Tournament was rejected, which DeRafelo had to explain prior to Monday's practice. Then, around two o'clock Wednesday morning, DeRafelo had to deal with a death in his family.

But did the Wildcats ever get a measure of revenge Wednesday night, so much so even DeRafelo managed to smile despite the loss of his older brother.

That will happen when you get the best of Spring-Ford on a wrestling mat.

The Wildcats used a late flurry to post a 34-22 win over the visiting Rams, who are not only the No. 10 seed in tonight's opening round of the district duals, but a team OJR hadn't gotten the best of in well over 10 years.

"I think we were all a little upset about the (district duals) decision," DeRafelo said. "We had a discussion with the kids about it. I guess the coaches around the district didn't think we were material for the tournament.

"I know our coaches were upset about it, and a lot of our kids were upset about it. We have talent. It's just this is the first time all season we've been healthy."

The Wildcats looked fit as a fiddle against the Rams ... in their wins as well as their losses.

The hosts forced Spring-Ford play catch-up all night, and it wasn't until Matt Stipa's 7-0 shutout at 145 pounds and Andrew Cooper's 14-4 major at 152 that the Pioneer Athletic Conference's defending co-champions had a lead (19-15).

But it soon disappeared. OJR's unsung Jordan Stierly pinned at 160, Nick Fuschino pinned at 171, Sam Funk used a last-second takedown for a decision at 189, and Scott Syrek sealed it with an 11-1 major at 215.

"I never go into a match nervous, but I knew we needed a win," said Stierly, who had wrestled most of his career in the shadow of older brother and state medalist Jeremy Stierly. "I just saw (the headlock) and hit it. I always want the big points, but I don't usually get them.

"I knew we needed to get going, but I also knew we had a strong lineup behind me. Still, someone had to start it up. We all got fired up then."

And singed Spring-Ford (4-2, 8-3 overall) in the process.

"Owen J. showed up to wrestle tonight and we didn't," said Rams head coach Tim Seislove. "When they put a full lineup together, which they did tonight for the first time this season, they're a very good team.

"We knew we had to get some bonus points and we knew we had to win some close bouts. Well, we didn't get the bonus points like we needed, and we sure didn't win those close ones."

Owen J. Roberts (2-2, 3-6) did.

Yes, Jonathan Dempsey pinned in the 103-pound opener, and Andrew Kinney followed with a workmanlike 6-0 decision at 112. But the Wildcats only other two wins before that late knockout punch -- a 3-2 overtime decision by Mike Lenge at 130 and a 6-4 decision at 140 by Dan Mongold -- were so pivotal.

"When we didn't get the toss I felt that was it, that we were in trouble," DeRafelo said. "But every kid we had out here found a way to help us out. Every kid kept fighting, kept hanging on."

Spring-Ford stayed in contention early on thanks to major decisions by Tom Boring, Ricky Gorrell and Tim Miller at 119, 125 and 135. But after Stipa and Cooper got the Rams even and then a lead, the Rams wouldn't get a hand raised again until Justin Franiak took a 5-0 decision in the heavyweight finale.

"We knew this would be close," Stierly said. "Coach also told us that he's never beaten Spring-Ford (in his six years at OJR). So everyone had to work hard. We got the points where we needed them."


Spring-Ford will try to regroup for tonight's District 1-AAA Duals opener against Garnet Valley at Upper Perkiomen High School. ... DeRafelo's older brother, Pat, was 55 years old. He died of complications following surgery with his entire family at his side.

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