BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - A rough start to its first match against Romeo could have completely soured the night for the De La Salle Collegiate wrestling team Thursday.
But despite falling behind 15-0 - and subsequently dropping the match 35-20 - the Pilots bounced back in a big way, knocking off Brother Rice, 39-33, in their second match of the night - on the Warriors' home mat.
"I think maybe getting those first-match jitters out of the way - since we have so much inexperience with it being the first high school match for a lot of the guys - was good," coach Dennis Parks said. "I think our kids stepped up (against Brother Rice). We matched up a lot better with them. I really like what I saw in this match."
Like it did against Romeo, De La Salle fell behind early, 18-0. But it didn't take long for the Pilots to answer. Freshman Javon Williams built an early lead and eventually wore out his opponent, pinning Alexander Gedwill at the 1:56 mark of the first period at 152 pounds. It stopped the bleeding for his team and, in fact, rejuvenated the Pilots.
Two matches later, it was junior Brett Stanley picking up six points for his team at 171. Controlling the match throughout, he turned Rice's Lucas Campbell early in the third before getting the pin. Junior Kenneth Ryder followed that up with a 9-3 win over Zack Brown and freshman Gjon Nikollaj led 6-2 before his opponent, Andre Cade, injured his shoulder, forcing him to default. That tied the match, 21-21.
Junior Clayton Beleshi, wrestling up a weight class, pinned the Warriors' Dontez Fuller in the first period to give his team a 27-21 lead.
"You've got to give it up to Nikollaj. That was a big match," Parks said. "I think he would have won it anyway. But then backing that up, for Clayton, who's just over 200 pounds, to go out there against a guy pushing 260 and to get a pin, that was huge. I have a lot of confidence in Clay, that's why we bumped him up to heavyweight. He's really strong."
Knowing his team needed a win at that particular moment, Beleshi knew he needed to step up.
"It was a big (bump) for me because I weigh 211, but I felt good, I felt like I had control," said Beleshi, who also won his first match of the night against Romeo. "I didn't want to let the momentum go (for us). I had to keep it going."
It definitely worked. After both teams double voided at 103 pounds, freshman Nathan O'Donnell pinned Rice's Charlie Nelson in 2:31 to extend the Pilots' lead to 12 points. Freshman Lucas Pasternak then won by void at 119 to put the match away.
"Nate is a first-year wrestler and he just came after it," said Parks, whose team improved to 1-0 in the Catholic League Central division. "I was kind of surprised. He kind of struggled in his first match (against Romeo) but he came out here and took it to him."
For the night, Beleshi, Stanley, Ryder and Nikollaj all won both of their matches. Sophomore Dominic Ragona picked up a win for the Pilots against Romeo.
De La Salle (1-1 overall, 1-0 CHSL Central) will be back on the mats Saturday at the Tom Costello Memorial Tournament at Warren Lincoln. The action is set to start at 9 a.m.
DE LA SALLE 39, BROTHER RICE 33
(started at 135 pounds)
135: Brennan Parent (BR) p. Brady Bennie 0:55; 140: Ryan Ciacci (BR) won by void; 145: Charlie Nelson (BR) p. Fischer Schluessler 0:13; 152: Javon Williams (DLS) p. Alexander Gedwill 1:56; 160: Ohannes Sarkisian (BR) dec. Dominic Ragona 7-4; 171: Brett Stanley (DLS) p. Lucas Campbell 4:39; 189: Kenny Ryder (DLS) dec. Zack Brown 10-3; 215: Gjon Nikollaj (DLS) inj. def. Andre Cade; 285: Clayton Beleshi (DLS) p. Dontez Fuller 1:09; 103: Brother Rice won by void; 112: Nathan O'Donnell (DLS) p. Charlie Nelson 2:31; 119: Lucas Pasternak (DLS) won by void; 125: Joseph McKay (BR) p. Mason Collins 1:04; 130: Matt Kolesky (BR) won by void
ROMEO 45, DE LA SALLE 30
(started at 135 pounds)
135: Connor Kohl (RO) dec. Brady Bennie 2-1; 140: Kayden Munn (RO) won by void; 145: Alex Angelo (RO) dec. Fischer Schluessler 6-4; 152: Carson Kohl (RO) dec. Javon Williams 4-1; 160: Dominic Ragona (DLS) p. Ian Antonelli 1:56; 171: Brett Stanley (DLS) p. Ross Lambert 0:52; 189: Kenny Ryder (DLS) won by void; 215: Clayton Beleshi (DLS) p. Mikey Lukowski 1:27; 285: Gjon Nikollaj (DLS) p. Clark Nowicki 0:23; 103: Drake Garrisi (RO) won by void; 112: Michael Merritt (RO) p. Nathan O'Donnell 1:19; 119: Lance Garrisi (RO) p. Mason Collins 0:33; 125: Rylan Watson (RO) won by void; 130: Luke Pakan (RO) won by void