Friday’s Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association rivalry showdown between the Marauders and St. Francis in Athol Springs marked the fourteenth straight season in which the outcome of the dual would decide the league’s dual meet champion.
‘Joe’s senior heavyweight Caleb Lesswing had the final say on Friday night as to where the title will reside for the next twelve months.
With the dual meet tied at 39-39 and the individual bout wins tied for each squad at seven apiece, Lesswing earned a first period pin to lift the Marauders over the Red Raiders, 45-39, to claim the league title for St. Joe’s, the team’s first since the 2016-2017 season.
“When the dual was tied going into the last match, we knew we were in a good spot,” said St. Joe’s head coach Brad Devlin. “Caleb just went out and did what we expected him to do.”
Lesswing (25-4) has been one of the stars in Marauders’ lineup all season and became the program’s second ever place winner at the rugged Eastern States Classic on January 11th, taking 7th place at 285-pounds. Caleb is also a returning Msgr. Martin All-Catholic champion and a CHSAA finalist.
In front of a highly engaged, packed-gym crowd at St. Francis High School, St. Joe’s took the early lead with a pin courtesy of Luke Vantresca at 99-pounds. However, the Raiders would respond with five straight wins by way of one forfeit accepted by Nick Siler, a decision win by Tyler Wilkinson, and pins by Abe Kassem, Bryce Roberts, and Liam Edwards for a 27-6 St. Francis lead after six weights.
Jackson Alagna would slow down the St. Francis momentum with an enormous 9-4 decision win over a strong Red Raiders opponent at 138 followed by a huge Mark Westner pin at 145.
“Jackson’s and Mark’s wins were huge for us,” said Devlin on his middleweight’s crucial victories. “They really stepped up when we needed them tonight.”
A Shane Roberts pin at 152 extended the Red Raiders’ lead to 33-15. However, the strength of the Marauders’ lineup was just on the horizon with six matches left in the dual.
Two of Msgr. Martin’s top athletes in Ben Parish and Ronnie Jones would earn back to back pins at 160 and 170-pounds, respectively. St. Francis’s Kimal Clark interrupted the ‘Joe’s run with a pin at 182, but an Aidan Wright pin at 195 and forfeit accepted by Joe Juncewicz at 220 tied the match at 39-each, setting up a chance for Lesswing to seal the league-clinching win at 285 in dramatic fashion. Overall, the Marauders won eight matches to the Raiders’ seven and earned six pins to the host’s five.
St. Joe’s finishes the season a perfect 4-0 in Msgr. Martin duals and will look to match their league dual championship with a Msgr. Martin All-Catholic Tournament team title on Sunday, February 9th at Canisius High School.
“It was really cool to win the league, but now our goal is to win All-Catholics and the individual titles,” said Devlin after the match. “The goal now is at least three Catholic school champions and a bunch of place finishers in two weeks when we take on our down state rivals at the CHSAA Championships.”
Devlin, a 2005 St. Joe’s graduate, wrestled in this event four times and now has a coaching victory to match in his first season as head coach of the Marauders.
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