There weren’t a lot of close matches between the wrestling teams from Wilmington Friends and Sanford on Wednesday.
Until Eric Cecil and Travis Aerenson squared off.
Cecil, a senior tri-captain for Sanford, and Aerenson, a junior from Friends, sweated and strained for more than 5½ minutes in the 182-pound match, with neither scoring a point.
The crowd inside the Sanford Sports Center grew louder as the seconds ticked away. Suddenly, in the final five seconds, Aerenson earned two back points. But Cecil scored two for a reversal, then added three for a near fall to win a 5-2 decision.
It turned out to be the difference, as Sanford dominated the lower weights, then held on for a 39-38 victory in a tense Independent Conference meet.
“Right before the match, my coach mentioned the movie ‘Win Win,’ and how someone’s holding your head under water and you just have to get out,” Cecil said. “When I was being put in a cradle in the last 10 seconds, it was like my head going under water. I just had to get out.
“I kicked my leg over, got up and won the match.”
Sweat was still dripping down Aerenson’s face 10 minutes after the match. He had given everything.
“I thought I had him. I just didn’t have him tight enough,” Aerenson said. “He was able to basically roll out of it just right at the last second.
“I just tried to hold on. I saw the clock had like four or five seconds on it. I just couldn’t hold it.”
Sanford screamed out to a 30-0 lead, getting a forfeit victory from Matt Rosenthal at 106 and pins from Andy Brooks (113), Luke McDonough (120), Brendan Lamey (126) and Chase Rapine (132).
But that is where both teams knew the match was going to turn.
“It’s a numbers game, and we don’t have a football team here. So it’s hard to get the upper weights,” Sanford coach Cory Frederick said. “But we have some hammers down low.”
The Quakers got pins from Will Beardell (138) and Jacob Gagliano (160) and major decisions from Jesse Miller (145) and Connor Armstrong (152) to pull within 30-20.
Erik Lundberg scored a pin for Sanford at 170, and Cecil – normally a 170-pounder – bumped up to 182 to edge Aerenson and give the Warriors an insurmountable lead. Friends’ Ian Furman (195) and Bill Gordon (220) won by forfeit, and freshman Matt Denney won by pin at 285 for the Quakers.
“I don’t really think I made the difference. My whole team made the difference, getting bonus points, getting pins,” Cecil said. “If I wasn’t the second-to-last match, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Everything just came together.”
Friends coach Gregg Miller was expecting to win by forfeit at 182, but Sanford juggled its lineup and managed to fill some holes in the upper weights.
“Those are the tough ones,” Miller said of Aerenson’s loss. “But Travis wrestled his heart out. He wasn’t expecting to wrestle. Last minute, he got thrown into it and he wrestled his heart out. Things just fell the wrong way for him today.”
Overall, both teams had some bright spots as they build toward the postseason. Sanford was eliminated in the opening round of the DIAA Division II Dual Meet Tournament last season, while Friends reached the semifinals before falling to Polytech.
“All in all, I’m really pleased with the way everybody wrestled today,” Miller said. “Everybody had a job to do. They knew what their role was, and they did that.”