HERSHEY — Talk about beginner's luck ...
Spring-Ford's current crop of wrestlers came into the Giant Center Thursday with no past experience in competing there. Previous forays into the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships never saw the Rams get to Hershey, stopped in the preliminary round so many times.
But that changed in a big way. Their first visit is already a memorable one for the Rams, after dispatching Father Judge by a 42-24 count in the second Class AAA session.
Brendan Zimmie and Nick Perri administered key falls in the last two bouts, extending the tenuous 30-24 lead Spring-Ford held with two weights left. That made for a happy group of Ram wrestlers, particularly in light of the fact they led the entire way against the District 12 champion Crusaders.
"We wrestled with a bit of nerves,' Spring-Ford head coach Tim Seislove admitted. "It's nice to get a win, but if we want to stick around a while, we need to wrestle better."
That challenge will be pressed Friday when the locals face Nazareth. The District 11 champion Blue Eagles (13-3) advanced past District 9 top seed St. Mary's to get the 2 p.m. quarterfinal-round booking with the Rams, whose Hershey ticket was punched in Tuesday's 39-19 win over Exeter.
"We did a good job wrestling tonight," Perri said. "If everyone wrestles their best, we'll do well."
Zimmie's 61-second pin of Kyle Palinkas at 182 was the high point of his recent insertion into the Rams lineup. It proved the match-clincher, giving his team a 36-24 lead with only one weight to contest.
"It was nice to get the jitters out," he said. "Nice to step out on the mat."
Perri's fall on Tom Bayer, coming at the 1:14 mark of the 195-pound finale, provided an emphatic punctuation to the Spring-Ford effort, which stepped up after Judge narrowed its lead to 23-18 through 145.
"It was a stressful match," he recalled. "I thought we got off to a good start, they came at us, but we took it back."
Spring-Ford's fast start was falls in its first two bouts. Mason Romano decked Jim Galasso in 2:07 at 220, and Joshua Boyer needed just 21 seconds to get the slap on Albert McGrath at 285.
After the Crusaders got on the board with a decision at 106, Ryan Hayes put the Rams back on track with a technical fall on Charles Wallace. Hayes racked up a 20-5 lead with 19 seconds remaining at 113.
Judge followed with a pair of decisions at 120 and 126 before Nick Beauchamp scored a 1:04 pin at 132 for a 23-9 Spring-Ford lead.
Follow Jeff Stover on Twitter at @MercuryXStover.