Pennsbury freshman outdoes dad, wins sectional

Pennsbury wrestler Luke Kowal could hear the voices of his youth echoing from the bleachers as he battled William Tennent's Boris Sokhiev for the 145-pound sectional championship.

"Kick those legs! Hips in!" one coach yelled.

"Stand up! Up, up, up!" yelled another.

With about 15 supporters, including coaches from his 10 years of wrestling and his parents and grandparents, offering encouragement and instruction, sixth seed Kowal earned first place Saturday at Neshaminy with a 10-6 decision.

He was the only freshman and the only wrestler seeded outside of the top three to win one of the 14 weight classes at the District 1 Class AAA Section 1 tournament, in which the top four wrestlers in each class advanced to districts.

"If I get up off the mat, I'll look to them," Kowal said of his cheering section. "I hear them yelling, and it helps me through matches."

Luke's father, Kevin, a professional photographer, crouched in front of the friends and family to snap pictures of his son's victory. It was a night of nostalgia for the elder Kowal. As a 138-pound freshman at Neshaminy 33 years ago, he placed second at sectionals.

Saturday, at one of the final six Class AAA sectionals in history - they will be replaced by league tournaments beginning next season - Kevin Kowal patted his son on the back and told him, "You beat your pops."

Surrounding Kevin, too, were the faces of his past. Watching the match from Sokhiev's corner? William Tennent coach Joe Rigous, who had coached Kevin in high school. Handing Luke his gold medal on the other side of Fred Gerst Gymnasium? Former Neshaminy wrestler John Reich, PIAA champion in 1978 and '79 and the senior leader of the Redskins in Kevin Kowal's freshman season.

"Just like it's yesterday," Kevin said as he rattled off the list of former Neshaminy wrestlers in attendance. "That's the sweetest thing about this sport."

Kowal and Reich's names are etched into the "boys' wrestling" plaque in the gym's hallway, part of a wooden display labeled "Neshaminy All Sports Hall of Fame."

Beside Reich and Kowal on the plaque is Harry J. Wilson, whose son Harry lost to Pennsbury senior Josh DiSanto in the 126-pound final.

When Luke Kowal joined DiSanto as the school's two sectional champions, an overjoyed DiSanto rushed over from the bleachers, grabbed Luke by the hips and lofted him into the air, another sign that Luke's victory was about more than just himself.

"There's so many people here that just growing up in the sport of wrestling have stayed together," Kevin Kowal said. "It was nice for everybody involved with [Luke] as a youngster up to now."

Luke Kowal's win allowed him to check off his two goals for 2011-12: compile at least .500 record (14-14) and advance out of sectionals.

The son gave the father all the credit.

"My dad basically got me to where I am today," Luke Kowal said.

Championship Finals

Team scoring: Council Rock South 156, Council Rock North 147.5, Pennsbury 143, Neshaminy 115, William Tennent 111.5, Upper Moreland 100, Abington 82, Bensalem 79, Truman 32, Cheltenham 8.

106: Dan Martoccio, C.R. South, dec. Mike Pritchard, Bensalem, 9-2. 113: Billy Rappo, C.R. South, tech. Jason Bing, Pennsbury, 17-2. 120: Tommy Stokes, Bensalem, dec. Zach Lyall, Upper Moreland, 8-3. 126: Josh DiSanto, Pennsbury, dec. Harry Wilson, Neshaminy, 10-2. 132: John Dutrow, C.R. North, dec. Mackie Moore, C.R. South, 9-0. 138: Ryan O'Connor, Neshaminy, dec. Tyler Kelly, C.R. North, 5-1. 145: Luke Kowal, Pennsbury, dec. Boris Sokhiev, W. Tennent, 10-6. 152: Shane Hughes, Bensalem, dec. Bob Barone, W. Tennent, 11-5. 160: Paul Scott, Upper Moreland, dec. T.J. Magdelinskas, Neshaminy, 6-4. 170: Kody Lupfer, Neshaminy, dec. Rich Strain, W. Tennent, 5-1. 182: Ernest Tessein, Pennsbury, dec. Brandon Scheitrum, Abington, 13-6. 195: P.J. Steinmetz, C.R. South, tech. Marc Isaac, W. Tennent, 15-0. 220: Tyler Callender, C.R. North, dec. Tim Riley, C.R. South, 5-2. 285: Tom Trampe, C.R. South, dec. Andrew Vanbuskirk, W. Tennent, 3-1 (OT).

Third-Place Consolations

106: Sam Rudolph, Neshaminy, dec. Mike Jeronis, C.R. North, 3-0. 113: Micah Haynes, C.R. North, dec. Dominic Stabilito, Neshaminy, 12-0. 120: Anthony DeImidio, Pennsbury, pin Tim Ambacher, C.R. North, 1:58. 126: Kevin Flack, W. Tennent, dec. Mike Molz, Abington, 1-0. 132: Joe Simcox, Neshaminy, dec. Mike McCaughey, Abington, 6-4. 138: Anthony Dill, Upper Moreland, dec. Matt Maine, Pennsbury, 11-1. 145: Shawn Cornillot, Abington, dec. Aldan Ely, C.R. North, 3-2. 152: Alden Shea, Abington, dec. David Mills, Pennsbury, 4-2. 160: Eddie Mauceri, C.R. North, dec. Tom Shaaltiel, C.R. South, 1-0. 170: Artem Imnadze, Upper Moreland, pin Matt O'Neill, C.R. North, 2:49. 182: Brendon Poff, C.R. North, dec. Steve Kaschak, C.R. South, 3-1. 195: Mike O'Brien, Pennsbury, dec. Alex Tran, Bensalem, 3-0. 220: Sebastian Medina, Upper Moreland, pin Jake Goodman, Truman, 1:46. 285: Angel Carlo, Abington, dec. Shawn Seiberlich, Truman, 2-1.

 


Contact staff writer Brian Kotloff at bkotloff@phillynews.com.