North falls in last-ever match to defending champ
By John Knebels, Sports Columnist
Since it was announced back in September that North Catholic High School would be closing its doors at the end of the school year, sentimentalists have been rooting for the Falcons’ athletic teams to punctuate their sterling reputation with appropriate aplomb.
On Feb. 3, North’s gymnasium, affectionately dubbed “The Pit” for its claustrophobic confines, was filled to the brim with boisterous Falcons fans hopeful that their wrestling program could fly into the sunset with its 14th Catholic League championship in 18 seasons.
Certainly aware of the situation and compassionate gentlemen in their own right, La Salle College High School’s grapplers needed to put quixotic notions aside and tend to business.
Unfortunately for romanticists, the Explorers did just that. Their decisive 36-22 victory propelled La Salle to its second straight Catholic League title and third in the last four years.
“I think everyone felt bad when they heard that North (and Cardinal Dougherty High School) was closing,” said La Salle senior Nick Mathis. “I can’t even imagine how hard that must be, especially for the underclassmen.”
Mathis enjoyed the distinction of supplying the clinching points for his teammates. At 130 pounds, Mathis pinned his opponent Tadd Myers in five minutes, 18 seconds, and thus mathematically eliminated North Catholic from having any change of a dramatic comeback.
Mathis was well aware of his opportunity before the decisive match. “That’s a great situation to be in,” said Mathis. “I was very focused. North is a good team, and we didn’t want to let up.”
Along with Mathis, La Salle triumphed behind sophomore Shane Springer’s pin at 152 pounds and decisions by junior Joe Mazzi (145), senior C.J. Burns (171), freshman P.J. Steinmetz (189), sophomore Bryan Pflanz (112), sophomore Casey Kent (125) and sophomore Matt Cimato (135).
In defeat, North garnered inspanidual wins by sophomore A.J. Vizcorrando (215), junior Jeremy Reith (285), sophomore Anthony Sliwek (103) and senior Eric Stankiewicz (119). North’s Anthony White (140) and La Salle’s Nick Burns (160) notched victories via forfeit.
North Catholic coach Jim Savage appreciated the spirited turnout.
“It’s been like that all year,” said Savage. “They’ve been behind us from the beginning. It would have been great to have won, but we did the best we could.”
The Explorers entered the match following a dominant performance in the Catholic League semifinals. Their 71-7 victory over Archbishop Wood was highlighted by Springer’s 50th career win in only two years of competition.
But notching a pin in the Catholic League finals meant much more to the budding star.
“There have been so many great wrestlers to come through La Salle,” said Springer. “The program has had a lot of success and we just want to keep it going.
“We don’t think a lot about our inspanidual success. Every time we win, the team wins. That’s the way we look at it.”
Hard to argue such a successful philosophy. Sentimentality notwithstanding.
At press time, La Salle was set to wrestle George Washington High School in the District 12 championship.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.