With one thunderous pound of the mat, the official ruling over Friday night’s Colonial Conference Liberty Division showdown between West Deptford and Haddonfield sent the Eagles wrestlers and fans into a frenzy.
With that sound came West Deptford’s first win over Haddonfield in over a decade and first Liberty Division title since 1978.
Yes, it was a great night to be an Eagle.
“There’s nobody who believed that this team would go 15-0 and win the division after losing what we lost last year,” said head coach John Craig. “It’s really special what this group has been able to do. I’m so proud of these guys, and I just can’t say enough about them.”
The match hung in the balance until the final bout, when junior standout Rory Bonner took the mat to face Haddonfield’s Vince DelDuca. With the Eagles leading 30-28 Bonner needed just a decision to secure the win, but instead capped the match with a second-period pin at three minutes, 38
“Before the match I wasn’t nervous, but they started gaining points in some matches that I didn’t think they would,” Bonner said of the score tightening up before his match. “Once my match came, I just knew I had to get the team a win.”
The large contingent of students in the crowd cheered on Bonner and he delivered with the type of performance West Deptford fans have come to expect.
“When you hear the cheering it just makes you want to win 10 times more,” Bonner said.
While Bonner delivered the drama, there were plenty of accolades to go around. The Eagles trailed 12-0 after two matches, but as they have done in their last two matches, rallied back. Gerald Owens started the comeback with a decision and Griffin Bonner followed with a tech fall to bring the Eagles within 12-8.
Tyler Kaminski earned a 7-2 decision to close the gap even further and Evan Zuzulock gave the Eagles the lead for good with a pin at 120.
West Deptford led 17-15 when Christian Terinoni turned a 3-0 lead in the third period into a pin that delivered a huge six points. Scott Dennis added a decision and Dan Gibson all but clinched it with a 14-5 major decision at 152 that gave the Eagles a 30-19 lead with just three matches remaining.
“We all did our part when we had to,” said Gibson. “When people had to save points, they did. When people had to win, they did.”
Gibson’s match was delayed for close to five minutes due to blood from his opponent. Though Gibson said he wasn’t a fan of the long stoppage, he kept his head and finished the match with a flurry of takedowns in the third period.
“I had wrestled for three minutes and had five minutes of injury time, so I felt like I didn’t even have a match yet,” said Gibson. “I felt fresh and I just kept going to my strength, which is the double-leg takedown.”
Gibson, a senior, stepped away from the sport for a couple of years after wrestling as a freshman. He couldn’t be happier over his decision to return.
“I’m so glad I came back, because this is a great team,” Gibson said. “We had some struggles early where we weren’t wrestling as good as we could have, but we picked it up. I couldn’t have picked a better program.”
With the division now in hand, the Eagles (15-0) can turn their focus to taking on other talented programs, including Egg Harbor Township and Paulsboro over the next two weeks. With the way the team has continued to prove doubters wrong, it would be foolish to pick against them in any match going forward.
“This is our first win against (Haddonfield) in a decade, and my hat's off to them,” Craig said. “That’s one monkey we got off our backs, and hopefully we will get a couple of more off.”