FORT WASHINGTON >> The expected, and highly anticipated, rematch came to fruition Friday.
This time, however, Spring-Ford was able to write a different - and happier - finish to its previous go-around with Owen J. Roberts little more than a week ago.
Where the Wildcats took the first go-round 34-28, the Rams responded to that setback by scoring a 31-23 victory in their semifinal-round match from the District 1-AAA Duals. With the win, Spring-Ford put itself into another rematch - this one with Council Rock South, the pairing from the 2018 district duals' title clash - and in the field for the PIAA Class AAA Duals' Hershey competition.
A lot of motivation, to be sure. But the Rams in particular, and Alex Johns specifically, were equal to the task.
"That's been our goal all season," Johns said after clinching the rematch with an 11-0 major decision of Jacob Dunleavy in the 132-pound finale. "We wanted revenge on them, and we knew we could beat them."
Rock South put itself in position for a district duals title defense by dispatching Boyertown, 55-9, in the other semifinal. The Bears will square off against Garnet Valley, and the Wildcats with Neshaminy, in bids to be among the four district teams qualifying for states.
"It was an emotional match," Spring-Ford head coach Tim Seislove said. "It was a great night of wrestling for the kids."
After the 'Cats built a 14-3 lead through the first five weights, Spring-Ford responded with Chase Smith's major decision at 170, OJR's forfeit of 182 to Joey Milano and Louis Carbajal's narrow 3-2 victory over Tommy Dempsey at 220. Owen J. got the lead back briefly with Dylan Bauer's pin at 285, but Dominic Ortlip's technical fall at 106 and Shane Reynolds' 9-7 decision at 113 put the Rams back in front.
Holding a tenuous 24-23 lead at that point, the Rams padded it with Quinn Tobin pulling out a 6-3 decision at 126. That left it up either for Johns to make the lead hold up, or for Dunleavy to win a second match of the night for Roberts.
Bout and match to Johns.
"I was nervous coming in," he said. "But I wrestled him a couple times. They were close.
"The coaches told me to stay off my back and work for the win. It was a lot of fun."
It was the second time during the night Owen J. had a close match at the end. Against Garnet Valley, it clinched the 37-30 victory with Dunleavy's second-period pin.
"We had a tough, hard battle," OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said. "Spring-Ford did, too. We were fortunate to come out with the win."
In their first one, the Wildcats built a 27-3 lead only to see the Jaguars even the score at 27-27 with three weights left to contest. Joshua Jackson got them a 31-27 lead with a major decision at 113, but GV closed the gap with a one-point decision by Griffin Hollingsworth at 120.
Dunleavy's clinching pin came after Garnet's Christopher Wood took a five-point lead in the early going.
"You can't win all the time," DeRafelo said. "Now we'll see what the guys have. I think they can do it."
Spring-Ford's night started with a 50-20 roll of Downingtown West. Jack McGill (138), Jason Lepore (160) and Milano (182) racked up early pins around technical falls by Zach Needles (145) and Dirk Nugent (152) to get the Rams rolling toward their rematch with OJR.
"We go a long way back with Owen J," Seislove noted. "They're a great team. We did stuff with them during the spring and summer."
"We wrestled only a couple weights against them at Escape the Rock," Boyertown head coach Dave Jones said, "but we knew we were up against it.
"I just tell the kids I'm proud of them, and they're well-prepared to wrestle. I don't judge success off wins and losses. I have them wrestle their best."
NOTES >> Saturday's duals mat action will also include competition in Class AA. Bishop McDevitt and Lower Moreland will face off at 1 p.m. to see who takes on top seed Faith Christian, which received a first-round bye, in the title match. ... Boyertown wrestlers continued the tradition of coloring hair for district duals. This year they went with a straight-blond look.