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PIAA Wrestling: Delco’s three girls make history, Curtis Nelson unseats top seed on opening day

The historical references aren’t aging well for Reese Dewar and Jessica Ayala of Garnet Valley, along with Jameson Strickland of Sun Valley.

After becoming the first female wrestlers from Delaware County to qualify for the PIAA wrestling tournament, their encore Thursday was becoming the first to win matches at states. This is the first season that the PIAA has sanctioned girls wrestling after a yearslong effort to get programs to buy in, with girls formerly relegated to a separate championship run outside the PIAA’s purview.

Strickland crushed it at 148 pounds with a win by fall over fellow freshman Brooke Long of Wyoming Valley West in 3:23 at the Giant Center in Hershey. Strickland built up a commanding lead before turning Long.

Ayala at 142 pounds was losing, 8-4, before rallying to pin Anastasia Manchester of Butler in 4:57. Ayala cut the gap to 8-6 when she turned Manchester just before they went out of bounds. After a brief stoppage to address Manchester’s leg, Ayala pinned her.

Then there is Dewar, who looked unusually poised during her first match. Dewar processed instruction from coach Chris Tate and frequently looked at the clock to see the big picture in her victory. And of course, she has a story to tell her family for years to come, for she was the first of the first to hit the mat and thus the first Delco girl to win a match at states.

Not bad for the 106-pound freshman.

“It’s really a big accomplishment, definitely,” Dewar said. “I just feel like what I’ve been working towards all season is showing.”

It was a big day for Delco wrestlers.

No action from the county’s finest was more dramatic than at 114 pounds, where Jayden Lee of Radnor beat Remy Trach of Nazareth, 5-4, in a tiebreaker. Lee led 3-0 entering the final frame. He gave up a point, then surrendered a controversial late takedown and exchanged points with Trach in overtime until digging deep to come out on top.

In another 114-pound match, Curtis Nelson of Ridley scored a spectacular victory over No. 1 seed Kaedyn Williams of Manheim Township, who had been 34-0. When Williams tried to take Nelson down, the Ridley wrestler rested his back on his opponent, raised up on his arms and legs and pinned Williams in 3:16. The match was scoreless before the pin.

Nelson leaped into the air after a pin you couldn’t appreciate without the instant replays. He delivered that performance not long after defeating Caiden Harbert of West Allegheny by technical fall, 15-0, at 1:30 in his opener.

Sun Valley’s Brecken Strickland, Jameson’s older brother, was beaten, 11-4, by Kase Chopp of Butler at 133 pounds in the first round.

At 139 pounds Hunter Delaney of Sun Valley recorded a 5-2 decision over Jake Mitchell of Cumberland Valley in his first match but struggled against top seed Jack Campbell of Nazareth, who recorded a 9-0 major decision. He’s still alive in the consolations.

Garnet Valley sophomore Paxton Hunt, who lost a heartbreaker in regionals, was a late qualifier as the alternate when the fifth seed at 160 pounds was injured. Hunt was beaten, 9-2, by third-seeded Christian Burd of Hershey in the first round. Hunt later was decisioned, 11-2, by Deakon Schaeffer of Mifflin County.

At 172 pounds, Brandon Carr of Sun Valley secured a 3-1 decision over Plum’s Jack Tongel in his first bout but surrendered a 7-0 decision to No. 1 seed Jack Campbell of Nazareth. Carr will wrestle in the consolations Friday after losing to Vaughn Spencer of Pine Richland, who prevailed by technical fall, 16-1, 5:33.

At 189 pounds, Southeast Region champion Michael Spielman of Strath Haven ground out a 3-0 win over J.J. Plaza of Hempfield and heads into the quarterfinals against sophomore Cooper Roscosky of Kiski Area.

But back to Delaware County’s young ladies of wrestling.

For Dewar, rooming with Ayala in Hershey was a distinct advantage. The teammates discussed the journey in a way only they can truly relate to, even separated by three years. The conversation was cathartic, inspirational and helped them hit the mat running.

“We definitely talked about putting everything we’ve got out there today,” Dewar said. “It’s everything we’ve worked for this season. But we also in our wrestling room have a saying: Hold the rope. Basically, be who you would want on the other side of the rope to hold you up. I think today I was definitely more nervous with the bigger crowd with more attention and eyes on me. But the whole season, especially wrestling boys, I’ve been really putting in the work to be able to come here and show everyone what I’ve been doing all season.

“And I kind of deserve this spot. Showing everybody that I do deserve to be here was also a really big accomplishment of mine.”

Tate couldn’t be prouder of the duo and the history they’re making.

“I keep telling the girls, keep reminding them that they’re the first ever, which is pretty cool,” Tate said. “That’s pretty neat.”

Jameson Strickland was downright dominant at 148, racking up 18 points before sealing her match with a pin.

“She did everything she needed to do,” coach Tom Ellis said. “Held positions. Kind of set the pace.”

All things considered it was a “phenomenal” first day for the Vanguards, according to Ellis, after Sun Valley won three of its first four matches. Friday, with the blood round, should make the tournament a lot more interesting.

Source: Berkshire mont

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