Wrestling: Del Val Championships Rewind

Penn Wood All-Delco Karon Lucas-Tillery, seen here as a sophomore, claimed the 195-pound title at the Del Val Championships with ease. TIMES STAFF/ROBERT J. GURECKI

Penn Wood All-Delco Karon Lucas-Tillery, seen here as a sophomore, claimed the 195-pound title at the Del Val Championships with ease.
TIMES STAFF/ROBERT J. GURECKI

He can’t sneak up on anyone anymore.

Not after what he did as a sophomore and what he’s been doing as a junior.

Penn Wood’s Karon Lucas-Tillery was a revelation a year ago, his first season in a Patriots singlet after transferring from Upper Darby. After going 14-11 as a freshman 189-pounder, Lucas-Tillery exploded onto the scene with a 27-9 season that ended after a 2-2 tournament at the Southeast Regional.

Because of that, Lucas-Tillery’s been getting everyone’s best shot, but it doesn’t seem to really faze him. Saturday, he upped his record to 28-1 on the season with a pair of wins, including a 9-0 whitewashing of Interboro’s Eric Owens, to claim the inaugural Del Val League Championship title at 195 pounds. The lone loss of the season? A 3-1 decision at the hands of Springside Chestnut Hill’s Desmond Johnson, who bowed out to reigning Daily Times Wrestler of the Year L.J. Barlow this weekend in the final of the Independent Schools State Tournament.

So yeah, not too shabby. But Lucas-Tillery admitted that even though some things change, others stay the same.

“It’s kind of the same as last year,” the All-Delco said. “I’m trying to see something new. I ain’t trying to see the same thing.”

He showed and saw some different things against Owens. The Bucs junior wrestled for most of the season at 220 pounds before cutting down to 195 for the postseason. Owens was doing pretty well for himself, too, considering he was the Daily Times‘ No. 1-rated 220-pounder, and was fresh off of an impressive 10-4 win over Academy Park standout Nick D’Agostino. No problem for Lucas-Tillery, though.

The Patriot used his superb strength and athleticism to overcome Owens’ size advantage and limited Owens’ offense by always staying one step ahead of him. It’s all part of the maturation process for Lucas-Tillery, who seems to be blossoming technically to go along with his natural gifts. Lucas-Tillery scored a couple of early points and never looked back en route to picking up Outstanding Wrestler honors for the tournament.

“Those were real big,” Lucas-Tillery said. “At first, I watched his match against (D’Agostino) and I saw he was trying to do a lateral drop. …Then I fake shot, he moved back, then I grabbed his arm and tried to hit a dump, then I just switched it over. Then after that, he kept trying to shoot at me and I kept sprawling.”

That technique will serve him well as he continues his quest to make it to Hershey. Last year, he lost by fall to Conestoga’s Grant Garbutt when he got caught 30 seconds into the match. That loss in wrestlebacks ended his season, but Lucas-Tillery admitted that it’s helped him a lot over the course of the offseason.

“It makes me work way harder,” he said. “I’ve got a goal this year. I was real disappointed. I don’t like losing. That’s one thing I don’t like doing: Losing.”

That’s pretty clear with how he’s done this year.

Interboro’s not going anywhere

The Bucs won the league championship this year and short of a major upset, they’ll be heavy favorites to do it again next year. Sonny Armstrong is rounding into shape again and All-Delco Matt Gould is still undefeated. They lead a stellar junior class, but coach Dan Tobin has to be loving his freshman class. Eric Thomas is 34-3 with 22 of those wins coming by fall, two of which came in his path to claiming the 120-pound title. Jason Bryan only needed one match to take home the 113-pound title, but he won in style with a first-period pin. Mike Wasch, a 28-win rookie who’s spent most of his time at 106 pounds, rocketed up to 132 pounds and lost in the championship by fall to Academy Park’s Alex Eskridge. There were more than a few people surprised at Wasch’s jump and he’ll have a tough time adapting to much stronger opponents, but he’s good enough to pick up a few more wins.

Scariest part about Interboro? There’s not a single senior on the roster.

Chichester’s strength soars

How about that Chichester team? Last year, the Eagles struggled immensely. Coach Jim Beletti didn’t have all the horses as he’d have liked. But this time around, Chichester’s much better. The Eagles swept from 138 to 152 pounds and also got a championship at 220 pounds from Roger BurkeBrett Wilson (138) and Nick Mattero (152) had championship decisions that sandwiched a title pin from Chris Roman (145). So what’s the secret?

“We lifted a lot in the offseason,” Beletti said. “We weren’t really doing that much last year, but this year, everyone’s strength is up. They’re so much stronger.”

League Championships over Sectionals? Please.

All right, I know the PIAA is always trying to make more money   make things more competitive for everyone. But can anyone really say that a league tournament is better than sectional tournaments? Especially in the Del Val’s case. Some, like Gould, only got to wrestle one match, which is just a disservice all around.

“I like sections better,” Gould said. “I get to wrestle more matches.”

Isn’t that the point of this? To get more matches for wrestlers and to really determine who gets to move on to the next round? Gould would have been the favorite to handle business regardless of how many others were in his bracket, but that’s not the point. Get these kids some matches. The sectional/district/regional/state format was working just fine. What’s the point of this? There’s really not a convincing argument in favor of league championships.

– MATT CHANDIK

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