By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
WYNDMOOR – Overconfidence has proven to be costly to many teams of every sport. What appears to be a certain victory somehow morphs into a heartbreaking loss.
La Salle College High School’s wrestling team talked about that before taking on visiting North Catholic in the Catholic League championship last week. Despite playing against the defending champions, and despite having already defeated the Falcons handily (41-23) during the regular season, the Explorers were taking nothing for granted against a program that has won 13 league titles during its illustrious history.
“It would have been surprising if we didn’t win, but we weren’t thinking that way,” said La Salle 125-pounder Ryan Ginsburg, who earlier this season snared his 100th career inspanidual win. “North Catholic has a lot of pride, and we knew they would give us everything they had.”
Although the Falcons, coming off impressive playoff wins over Archbishop Wood and Monsignor Bonner, fought with gusto, La Salle’s strength and experience proved to be too much to overcome as the Explorers roared to a convincing 41-18 triumph and their second league title in three years.
Shane Springer’s pin at 140 pounds set the stage. Following two decisions by North Catholic’s Shane Rand (145) and Matt Dugan (152), La Salle’s Sean Fisher notched a decision at 160.
But after North’s Kevin Mallon won by decision at 171, La Salle took over. Victories by Ryan Corkery (189), Steve Jones (215), Kyle DiGiacobbe (285), Casey Kent (103), Mike McCall (112), Matt Cimato (119) and Ginsburg (125) eliminated any suspense. Following an injury forfeit win by North’s Nick Cancielliere, La Salle’s Joey Mazzi capped off the title with a 3-2 decision at 135.
Mazzi’s victory was particularly sweet because he had missed most of the season after dealing with the ramifications of Wolfe Parkinson Syndrome, a disease that causes heart arrhythmia.
Although he was told that he would regain his health following laser surgery, it took some time for the sophomore standout to regain the same form that led to a highly successful freshman campaign highlighted by a Catholic League inspanidual crown and excellent performance at state Preps (third place) and National Preps (fourth place).
“It was disappointing (to miss most of this season) but there was nothing I could do about it except work that much harder,” said Mazzi. “It was great to be a part of a championship team. That would have been very difficult if I had not been able to come back in time to help out.”
In the PIAA District 12 championship a few days later, it would have taken a lot more than overconfidence to prevent the Explorers from automatically qualifying for the state tournament that began Tuesday night against District 1’s Boyertown.
Against Public League champ Northeast High, the Explorers completely dominated. En route to a 74-0 shutout and improving its overall team record to 20-1, La Salle notched pins by Casey Kent (112), Matt Cimato (119), Ryan Ginsburg (125), Matt Pyrih (130), Jack Carmody (135), Shane Springer (145), Ryan Corkery (189) and Steve Jones (215).
“Competing in states is something very special,” said Mazzi. “It’s a credit to the entire program how far we have come.”
It won’t be easy, as a close look at the bracket suggests that the Explorers were dealt a rather ridiculous schedule in states. In addition to facing the runner-up from the notoriously difficult District 1, the Explorers would then have to defeat a team coming off a bye and then another squad coming off a double-bye.
Perhaps the schedule makers have something against the Catholic League?
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.