Boys’ wrestling team wins first Central League title in 14 years

Junior+Liam+Walker+wrestles+his+opponent+at+the+Central+League+Tournament.+Next+year%2C+they+hope+to+become+the+outright+Central+League+Champions.

Junior Liam Walker wrestles his opponent at the Central League Tournament. Next year, they hope to become the outright Central League Champions.

By Hiba Samdani, Staff Reporter

Blocking out excited whispers around him, senior and wrestling team captain Matt Hamilton confidently takes his place on the mat at Ridley High School and narrows his focus to one goal: winning. The referee blows the whistle, and both boys launch themselves at each other, each trying to push the other to the floor. Pinning his opponent to the ground, Hamilton finds his chance and takes the 195-pound bracket victory, contributing additional points to Conestoga’s extensive lead. Hamilton’s victory is part of a greater one: for the first time in 14 years, the Conestoga boys’ wrestling team won the Central League Championship on Feb. 9.

Since the beginning of the season, wrestling coach and Class of 2001 alumnus Tom Elicker set the goal high: win the Central League Championship. Before the final match, Hamilton gave the boys a pep talk as they warmed up in the locker room.

“This (was) our one day,” Hamilton said. “I told them to go all out. Our coach really wanted this, and I knew that if they wrestled their best, we could win this thing.” 

Junior Liam Walker wrestles his opponent at the Central League Tournament. Next year, they hope to become the outright Central League Champions.

Hamilton says the team’s success is partly due to the time they spent together. The boys decided that engaging in activities together would improve their effort in practice and performance on the mat. In the off-season, they ran together or lifted weights with each other in the wrestling room. Seeing their teammates perform well on the mat motivated the wrestlers to push themselves even further.

“I think we got inspiration from others. You see everyone else working hard, and you don’t want to be that person that doesn’t,” Hamiton said.

During the tournament, 12 out of the 13 boys on the team placed in the top six of their weight class. Hamilton placed first in his weight class and moved on to wrestle in the state tournament. Although he lost both of his matches there, Hamilton values the experience he gained at Hershey Stadium.

“Losing always stinks. But if I am going to lose, the state championship is not a bad place to do it,” Hamilton said. 

Senior Matt Hamilton and senior Matt Palomo kneel among the winners of the Central League Tournament. Hamilton moved on to wrestle at the state championship at Hershey stadium. The team hopes to become the outright champions next season.

Although the boys won the Central League Championship, they are not the absolute winners of the league. Wrestling is designed so that the title is given to the team with the most points. Two points are given for every meet or match the team wins, and three are given to the winner of the Central League Tournament. During the season, the wrestling team only lost one game to Garnet Valley. Although most people would have seen the loss as a setback, Hamilton saw the silver lining. 

“We lost, and we were like, ‘Shoot.’ It would have been nice to win, but now we have to win in the Central League Tournament. This gave us motivation to go ahead and to do better in the championship,” Hamilton said.

Because the team lost one match, it shares the title of Central League winner with two undefeated teams: Strath Haven and Garnet Valley. Although Elicker is happy with the title, he hopes the team can win it outright next year rather than sharing it.

“And (winning outright) is the goal, but it’s still a great thing for the kids to look up at the banner and see their year,” said Elicker. “The whole year is about perseverance and adapting to change. Because we had a confident mindset coming in, we came out and accomplished the goal.”


Hiba Samdani can be reached at [email protected].