BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — The Anthony J. Spina gymnasium was packed Thursday night, and the student section of St. Augustine Prep and the rest of the fans created an electric atmosphere.
The Hermits, ranked No. 6 in The Press of Elite 11, hosted No. 4 Delsea Regional in a thrilling non-conference wrestling encounter that resulted in one of the biggest wins of the season for St. Augustine – a 31-28 victory.
The Hermits improved to 10-4. The Crusaders fell to 14-4.
While there were plenty of competitive fights that had the spirited crowd roaring, the most deafening came after Tristan McLeer’s comeback victory at 150 pounds.
“The Tristan fight was the match of the night, I would say, for us,” St. Augustine coach Bill Ward said. “It was a huge win for us. He kept digging and he got it in the end.
Delsea’s Austin Boos led 2-0 after a first-half withdrawal. McLeer got a breakout point in the second to make it 2-1. McLeer and Boos continued to fight hard in the third, preventing each other from getting more points – even though every move was close.
People also read…
It’s until the last minute.
“Sport is about never giving up,” McLeer said. “I never gave up. … I left everything there.
With 55 seconds left, McLeer pulled away to earn a breakout point to tie the fight at 2-2. The second was then able to take control of Boos and get two runs on a takedown with 23 seconds remaining.
McLeer raised his fist as the cheers rained down.
“It was crazy,” he said with a smile. “After (last) Friday (losing a close encounter to top-ranked Kingsway Reginal) we didn’t get the result we wanted. But we came back hungry.
At 144, Richie Grungo won by technical fall (17-1, 4 minutes, 39 seconds) to give the Hermits a 17-13 lead. McLeer’s decision extended the lead to 21-13. At 157, Jake Slotnick earned a major 11-3 decision to make it 25-13.
Dennis Virelli pinned his opponent in 2:59 at 165, giving the Hermits a 31-13 lead – and that proved hugely important.
“We knew we had to win (144, 150 and 157) and then we had to win (my fight),” said Virelli, 16, of Williamstown, Gloucester County. “I just went out there and won.
“It’s great (to win the competition). We knew we could win and we thought we were going to win. And we came here and won.
Delsea has won the last four fights, including a pin from Jared Schoppe at 175. He qualified for the individual state tournament last season and won two spots (a top eight).
In the heavyweight bout, Brady Small of St. Augustine couldn’t allow a pin as the score was 31-25. If the game ended in a tie, Delsea would have had the tiebreaker.
Small lost a 2-0 decision, but he did his job.
“A big team effort,” Ward said. “We had some big wins there by some of our unsung heroes, basically. We fought well. Nice team effort throughout.
The Crusaders have eight wrestlers who competed in regionals last season. They won a section title for 10 consecutive seasons.
Last season, the Hermits advanced seven wrestlers in the region and six to the state tournament. St. Augustine placed three in the States – Grungo, Kaden Naame and Alex Marshall.
On Thursday, Naame won a 5-1 113 decision to give the Hermits a 7-0 lead. At 126, D’Amani Almodovar pinned his opponent, extending the lead to 23-10.
“It’s awesome,” said McLeer
St. Augustine will face Paul VI in the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals on Monday.
“We have to figure out the things we need to work on from this game, but we should be ready for the playoffs,” Virelli said.
Contact Patrick Mulranen: 609-272-7217