Spalding wins in tough field
Two-day tournament included The Post’s top four teams
In Spalding’s final match at the Battlefield Duals on Saturday, K.K. Smith wanted to set the tone.
Wrestling at 215 pounds in the second bout of the Cavaliers’ dual against Connellsville (Pa.), Smith knew a strong start would get his team rolling in a dual that would clinch the team championship.
“You got to make a statement right out of the gate,” Smith said. “I just didn’t hold back.”
Smith’s attacking mentality paid off, as he pinned his opponent in 1 minute 30 seconds to earn the second of Spalding’s five pins in a 45-21 win.
Spalding, ranked No. 2, finished 7-0 in the two-day, 12-team event at Colonial Forge High School. It was the only squad to finish undefeated in a tournament that featured the top four teams in The Post’s Top 10.
Third-ranked Robinson finished second, Connellsville finished third and top-ranked Colonial Forge came in fourth after total team points separated those three teams, which all finished 5-2.
“ There were some very good teams here,” Spalding Coach Mike Laidley said. “Our last four matches were against tough teams and could have gone either way. We were lucky we had some kids step up and win big matches.”
In the first bout of the final dual against Connellsville, Zach Abey wrestled up at 189 and earned a pin in the second round before Smith made it two pins in a row.
Heavyweight Malik Johnson scored a late takedown to win his match by a 4-1 decision in triple overtime, then 103-pounder Michael Still won by pin in 1:08 and Vince Perez won a 3-2 decision at 112 to build Spalding a 24-0 lead.
The fast start removed most of the championship suspense, as Spalding’s win allowed it to avoid falling into a potentially complicated multi-team tie.
“We had a lot of greatmatches out there,” Still said. “I just knew we had to get some pins to keep scoring and get some points.”
To earn the chance to clinch the tournament championship in the final round of duals, Spalding outlasted Colonial Forge, 27-21, in an evenly matched dual in the first round of the finals.
The first 12 individual bouts of that dual were won by decision before Spalding 145-pounder Charlie Lynch earned a firstround pin to clinch the match.
Smith wrestled down to 189 in that dual and took down Colonial Forge junior David Reck in overtime to earn a 7-5 decision in a match between two of the area’s best wrestlers.
“ There weren’t any easy matches,” Smith said. “We just had to wrestle hard all weekend.”
In other notable duals, Colonial Forge beat Robinson, 30-25, in a heated final-round match that was halted briefly in the middle after a dispute over a wrestler’s eligibility in a higher weight class.
In the tournament’s preliminary rounds, Robinson beat fourth-ranked Westfield, 31-30; Spalding beat Westfield, 38-22; and Spalding beat Robinson, 35-31.
“ There weren’t a lot of easy bouts,” Colonial Forge Coach Bill Swink said. “Events like these are what you need to do to get ready for the end of the season.”
Spalding 140-pounder Will Switzer, right, helps his team to the championship of the Battlefield Duals.