ROYERSFORD — Delaware County sent 71 athletes to Saturday's Class AAA District One-West tournament, but not long after the competition began that number melted quicker than the massive piles of snow ringing the Spring-Ford High parking lot.
Twenty-three were gone by the end of the first round and another 26 had been relegated to the consolation bracket by the finish of the quarterfinal round.
As sobering as those numbers are, the area was represented in nine title bouts and wound up collecting four titles, with Garnet Valley teammates Michael Marino (120 pounds) and John Dambro (170) finishing atop the podium along with Pat Callaghan (126) of Marple Newtown and Penncrest's Liam Frank (182).
In all, the Central League teams from the area had 15 wrestlers finish among the top three — good enough to qualify for next weekend's Class AAA Southeast Regional at Pottstown.
Perhaps the best way to approach the anxiety-ridden event was explained by Frank, who had the unenviable task of facing Ridley's Lawrence Alkins for the third time this season and the fourth time over the last two postseasons.
"Right now it's just about having fun, wrestling hard and wrestling smart,' the sophomore said. "Whatever happens, happens."
Last season, Frank bested Alkins for the Central League title and then took their rematch in the regionals a couple weeks later. This season, Frank again swept their regular-season and league title matches before completing the treble Saturday night with a 7-3 decision.
So what was different this time?
"I tried to keep him moving," Frank said. "Once I stand still, he gets a hold of me and is so strong that it's hard for me to break out and do my own moves. I had to keep active and keep the pace high."
Alkins is headed to regionals along with Ridley teammate Donte McCarthy, who fell to Garnet Valley's Michael Marino, 7-3, in the 120 final.
"I lost to (Marino) last week in the Central League champs, so I figured I'm in the finals and I'm going out there to wrestle hard. I had nothing to lose. I'm hoping to make it to states, but I want to focus on what's in front of me and work with a great teammate like Lawrence (Alkins)," McCarthy said.
Callaghan admitted he was a little sluggish when the day began, but the Marple Newtown senior picked up his intensity as the competition wore on, culminating with a 9-5 win over Boyertown's Lucas Miller in the 126-pound final.
"I hadn't been checking the brackets, I was just worrying about myself," Callaghan said. "I'm glad that I got through to regionals, I think it's good for the program, for the underclassmen on our team to see guys from our school at that level. Hopefully they see they can get there too."
Garnet Valley finished third in team scoring with 78 points, behind only Boyertown (158.5) and Spring-Ford (94), thanks to the championships by Marino and Dambro and third-place finishes by Ben Tuohey (126) and Sean Lyons (145).
Even though Dambro took his third sectional title the previous week, the senior didn't feel that he performed all that well.
"This week I came back and wrestled much better, I felt that I was in conrol for the majority of the match,' Dambro said after edging Boyertown's Cody Richmond, 3-0.
"The best feeling is getting close wins like that."
Coach Rocco Fantazzi certainly appreciated Dambro's accomplishment as well as the efforts of the other Jaguars that made the trip.
"We always come in with expectations, we try to set the bar high because we want the kids to push themselves," Fantazzi said. "All of our guys wrestled really well, a couple just fell a little short (of qualifying for regionals). Guys like Ben Tuohey and Sean Lyons had to dig deep and get the win."
Radnor qualified a pair for regionals, with Zak Taylor taking third at 170 and Tom Meyers boosting his season record to 31-0 before falling, 11-4, to Boyertown's Gregg Harvey in the 160 final.
At 106 pounds, Strath Haven has senior captain Nate Frantz keep his season alive by finishing runner-up and Upper Darby's Anthony Petril clawed his way through the consolation bracket to take third.
Springfield's Dennis Charamella reach the final at 138, where the senior lost a hard-fought 5-1 decision.
Along with Frank, Penncrest was represented in three finals — with Ryan Dougherty (152) and Austin Jacque (195) each finishing second.
"I told them coming in that this is what we trained for and that they belong here," Lions coach Greg Jacobs said. "I'm definitely proud of Austin, Liam and 'Doc.' A lot of times our guys think it's a fluke when they do well, and it's not. They need to have confidence in their training and I think they're starting to believe they can wrestle with these guys.
"The PAC-10 is tough, but some of our guys are pretty tough, too."