Despite not being able to practice in the days leading up to the match, sophomore Nick Marchesano triumphed in one of the biggest matches in the school’s history.
In a perfect world, Nick Marchesano wouldn’t have been there.
And he certainly wouldn’t have been wrestling.
But since he did, it was a perfect result.
Marchesano is a sophomore 106-pound wrestler at Archbishop Ryan High School, and because he had come down with a sickness on Saturday, he spent most of Sunday and Monday drinking fluids and getting better. In fact, he didn’t even leave his bed, so practicing for the Raiders in the biggest match in school history was pretty much out of the question.
“I just slept a lot, did whatever I could to get better,” Marchesano said. “I didn’t know if I could wrestle, but I came to school today because I wanted to be here. I didn’t want it to come down to me, though.”
It did, and while it was in a losing effort, Marchesano made sure the Raiders would live to see another day.
Marchesano lost to St. Joe’s Prep’s Dante Juliano by decision, but by not getting pinned, he helped Ryan get past the Hawks 36–33 to advance to the Catholic League championship against Archbishop Wood on Tuesday. Wood got to the finals by knocking off defending champion Father Judge 40–31 in the other semifinal.
For Ryan, advancing to the PCL title match is huge considering a few years ago, the school didn’t have a wrestling program. Now, the Raiders are getting a chance to grapple for the crown.
“If you would have told me we would be here in four years, I’m not sure I would have believed you,” said Ryan coach Jon Swift, who got victories from Shawn Marchesano (Nick’s brother), Jonathan Swift (the coach’s son), Elvy DeCoo, Nick Metzger, Vincent Dwyer, Brett Tetlow and Sean Craven. “The biggest thing was getting these guys to buy in, and they did. They gave us everything they had, and that’s why we’re here.”
He was also proud of Marchesano for coming up huge despite the illness. The night started off at 113, so Marchesano wrestled in the final bout of the night.
“I was really hoping he wouldn’t have to wrestle, but it came down to his match,” Swift said. “First, if we don’t get a pin at heavyweight, we aren’t in this position, but then it came down to Nick, and if he gets pinned there, they win by criteria. He had to do what he did. I looked at him and he said, ‘I’m ready.’ And he was. He did great.”
Nick’s wrestling career started when he was in grade school. His dad, who had never wrestled, started watching college wrestling online, and showed it to his sons. They liked what they saw, so they started working out with a youth program in Neshaminy.
“I love it, it’s very hard, and we work really hard as a team, but it’s worth it, especially on a night like tonight,” Marchesano said. “Last year, we made the playoffs but lost to St. Joe’s Prep, so that makes it even better beating them.
“I didn’t really go out there not to get pinned, I went out to wrestle and try to win. But when it was over, I knew I lost, but still, the main thing is we’re going to the championship.”
This has been a year of firsts for Ryan. Earlier in the year, it defeated Judge, which is traditionally one of the best teams in the Catholic League. Now the Raiders advanced to the championship for the first time.
The only thing left is for them to win a title, and that’s something they’re gunning for.
“I knew we were going to have a good year when we beat Judge because they’re the best out there,” Marchesno said. “I think we all knew that when we beat them, we could beat anyone.”
Marchesano credits his entire team for helping him improve, but obviously one of his top workout partners is his brother Shawn, who has about 20 pounds on him.
“We wrestled our whole lives against each other,” Marchesano said. “I do think it made me tougher because he was always bigger. He’s a great wrestler, too. He had a great match tonight.”
Toughness has a lot to do with why the Raiders are still standing.
Since the program is still in its beginning stages, many of the wrestlers are still trying to perfect their craft. But when it comes to heart, they have all they need, according to the coach.
“The league is great this year, anyone can beat anyone,” Swift said. “Coming into tonight, I did the lineup 20 times. Every time I did it, I either had us losing by six or winning by 12, or something in that range.
“The league is tough, and we might not be the most gifted wrestlers, but I’ll take these kids anytime because they’re so tough.”
Marchesano hopes wrestling season continues for as long as it can.
Both Wood and Ryan are guaranteed a spot in the District 12 duals, which takes place on Thursday, Feb. 1. Representing the Public League will be finalists Northeast and Central.
And once wrestling is over, Marchesano will turn his attention to his other sport, soccer.
“I like them both, but wrestling is much harder,” said Marchesano, who plays for his uncle Ryan Haney on the Ryan soccer team. “I think both sports make me better for the other one. You have to be in shape to do both.”
Now he’s just hoping his Catholic League season ends with a plaque.
“I think we all know we can do it,” Marchesno said. “We have to keep working hard and getting better. I think we kind of came out of nowhere for a lot of teams, so we’re getting more respect now. It would be great to show everyone we can win the championship.”