Stevens among five from S.J. in mat finals

Camden heavyweight Andrew Stevens
Camden heavyweight Andrew Stevens
Posted: March 10, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY - As he sat in his coach's car, waiting to head back to Boardwalk Hall, Camden's Andrew Stevens mentally prepared himself for his state-tournament wrestling bout, thinking it was at least an hour away.

Then one of his teammates called. The 220-pound matches were happening. Stevens, a heavyweight, was up next.

What is usually a 10-minute trip from his coach's home turned into a mad dash. Hedley Thame dropped off Stevens outside the arena, and the senior sprinted in to make his match. He needed to hurry, because his injury time was being run off, and if it expired, he would be disqualified.

With less than two minutes remaining, Stevens ran onto the mat, eliciting one of the loudest cheers of the session. Another one came after Stevens scored a takedown in overtime to win, 3-1, in the semifinals of the NJSIAA tournament Saturday.

Stevens was one of three local wrestlers to continue an unbeaten season Saturday and one of five who reached the state finals.

He will face Robbinsville's Tyler Gildner, whom Stevens defeated for the Region 7 championship, in the 285-pound final.

"I thought he was going to meet me in the finals anyway," Stevens said. "I thought about it. I said, 'He's a real good wrestler, so I've got to meet him in the finals.' So I already predicted it in my head."

Despite needing to rush to the match, once they got on their way, everything worked out for Stevens.

"All the lights were green, so it was like a blessing from the sky," Stevens said. "Everything's all good."

Undefeated Delsea senior Bryan Dobzanski won by pin in 2 minutes, 33 seconds and will look to take the 220-pound state title for the second straight year. His finals opponent, Don Bosco junior Zack Chakonis, lost to Dobzanski in the final a year ago.

Dobzanski has committed to play baseball at Louisville, so his wrestling career will end with the finals match.

"I'm ready to sleep. I'll tell you that," Dobzanski said. "I'm just excited to get there tomorrow. One more match left in my life to make it all count."

Another unbeaten wrestler, St. Augustine Prep senior Jack Clark, was victorious in his match, 15-5. In the final, Clark will face senior Gary Dinmore of Hunterdon Central.

Clark said he has gained confidence throughout the tournament as he has gotten into a groove.

"It's amazing," Clark said. "It means everything. All season, I've been working to come here, get to this point."

Patrick D'Arcy, a junior from Holy Spirit, won his semifinal, 3-2, to set up a 113-pound final match against Bergen Catholic's Nick Suriano.

Paulsboro junior Ronnie Gentile triumphed, 3-2, in the semifinals and will face undefeated Gavin Murray from Cranford in the 138-pound final.

Two previously unbeaten seniors, John VanBrill of Clearview and Christian Stackhouse of Riverside, fell in their quarterfinal matches.


ecross@philly.com

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