KENNETT SQUARE -- It couldn't quite claim the top prize at the Kennett Invitational tournament Saturday.
But the Owen J. Roberts wrestling team came away with enough mementos to make the latest foray out of its dual-match regimen a satisfactory one. The Wildcats had three individual champions (Jeremy Stierly at 125, Rob Hoffman at 160, Tony Fuschino at 171) and four other medalists among the nine they qualified for the final round of the 10-school tournament.
That factored in the 193 team points OJR scored -- two short of Avon Grove, which saw four of its medal-round qualifiers pin their opponents while the 'Cats had no falls in the finals. But the runner-up showing was in keeping the estimate head coach Steve DeRafelo had of his team's prospects.
"Looking at the matchups, I knew it was going to be tough," he said of expanding on the one-point lead OJR took into the medal round. "But we've been finishing among the top schools in our tournaments this year, and today was another one."
Stierly, who scored Roberts' first gold in a 13-2 major decision of Unionville's Ian Crampton, noted the coaching staff didn't put any undue emphasis on team honors. The focus was more on getting the job done at the individual level, which Stierly did in putting Crampton into two near-fall situations en route to an eight-point lead in the first period.
"He (DeRafelo) told us not to think about the points, that it was a tournament and to do whatever we have to do to win," Stierly said. "He mentioned it a bit, but told us to do what we had to do to get the six points."
Stierly padded his lead with reversals in the second and third periods, spotting Crampton a reversal in the third before finishing up with an escape. His win came on the heels of pins in the earlier rounds against Coatesville's Will Martinez (54 seconds) and Kennett's Andrew Jackson (1:58), both scored off "pump handle" and half-nelson combinations.
"In the first period, I came out strong," he said. "After that, I settled in and tried to not make any mistakes."
Hoffman capped his gold-medal pursuit with a 12-2 major of Kennett's Carlise Bonds. He effectively controlled the bout from start to finish, building a 10-0 lead through two periods and yielding Bonds his lone points on a reversal due to his overextension of a top ride in the third.
"We work on keeping constant pressure in practice every day," Hoffman said. "He (Bonds) was real strong. I tried a bar on him, but I couldn't do that."
Fuschino's victory over Conestoga's Anthony Cosenza in the 171-pound final started out as a scoreless duel through two periods. But after Cosenza released Fuschino from his bottom start in the third, Fuschino responded with a takedown and near-fall to maintain the momentum he held in the early going.
Adding to Owen J's medal hunt were the second-place finishes of Rodney Francis (135), Joey Faust (189) and heavyweight Bill Minahan. Francis was pinned in the second period of his bout with AG's Jose Lora, Faust dropped a 15-4 major decision to Brandywine's Mike Miller, and the unseeded Minahan came up short of Coatesville's Ben Welton, 2-0.
Minahan's showing was particularly noteworthy by the fact he was unseeded in his bracket. He pinned Unionville fourth seed Pete Schilthuis in the first round, then posted an 11-8 decision on Penncrest top seed Brandt Waples to qualify for the gold-medal chase.
"For him, it was a pretty good performance," DeRafelo said of Minahan, whose match against the much-taller Welton was decided by a second-period reversal.
Completing OJR's medal tally was Andy Strubilla, who scored a bronze medal at 119 with a 5-2 decision of Brandywine's Sam Hagerty. It saw two other wrestlers, Phil Rupert (140) and Jesse Tipton (215) finish fourth in their respective classes.
Penncrest's Chuck Mulloy was named the tourney's Outstanding Wrestler. Seeded second in the 112-lb. bracket, Mulloy pinned his way to a weight-class title, his fastest a 1:23 drop of A.I. duPont top seed Brad Funk in the championship match.