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Lockport finishes off Ken West to take NFL wrestling title

Vincent Eberhart has a flare for the dramatic.

Eberhart scored a pin fall win over Dan Millitello in the final match of the night as Lockport posted a heart-stopping 40-36 win over the Blue Devils at the Kenmore West Athletic Complex on Jan.23.

It marked the first Niagara Frontier League title for the Lions since 1997 — the year Eberhart was born.

“It was awesome,” Eberhart said. “It’s just good that our team accomplished what we wanted to. We haven’t had this (title) in a long time. I’m just happy for the whole team.”

Lions coach Joe Scappaletti reminded Eberhart before his match of the confidence that he had in his wrestler getting it done at a big time.

“One of the things I said to our kids on the bench is you don’t need to get overly rambunctious,” Scappaletti said. “He feels pressure already. You don’t need to be up and hollering and screaming. Just let him go out and wrestle his match. And he did exactly that and came through when we needed him.”

Claiming the title in their final league dual, the Lions (6-1) will be recognized as co-champions with Lewiston-Porter (6-1) who earned a 51-32 win over Niagara Falls.

Interestingly enough, the Lions only defeat was to Lew-Port. And Lew-Port’s lone loss was to Kenmore West on Jan.18.

So Lockport knew they had its work cut out for them. A quality team, the Blue Devils came within an eye lash of ending the Lions title dreams.

Lockport opened strong, as Scappaletti anticipated, with pin fall wins by Brad Feeney (138), Kirk Feeney (145) and Jose Pagan (152) to take an 18-0 lead.

Seth Anderson also picked up a victory at 170 as the Lions took four of the first five matches. Ken-West first victory was Mark Stucke’s majority over Josh Steinman.

But with the Lions seemingly in charge at 21-3, the Blue Devils clawed their way back into the match as Shane Currey and Deonte Walker scored wins.

Three straight wins by Anthony Argentieri (106), Christian Bauman (113) and a pin by Ron Duguay at 120 lifted Ken-West to a 36-31 lead going into the final two matches.

Anthony Orefice was able to grind out a 6-1 decision over a scrappy Paul Bavisotto, trimming the score to 36-34.

With the NFL banner hanging in the balance at the 132 pound slot, Eberhart calmly strode to the mat and earned a pin at the 3:10 mark.

“We were really focused,” Eberhart said. “We had a plan and we stuck to it the whole time. We weren’t going to let it go.”

Marshall Taylor (220) and Dontay Gill (99) also scored wins for Lockport on this historic night.

Leaving nothing to chance, Scappaletti’s lineup shuffling worked well. He not only strategically placed three JV call-ups in specific match-ups against some of Ken-West’s best grapplers in an effort to free up some of his top guns for more advantageous match-ups.

Knowing they would need two of the final three matches to win it all, Scappaletti made sure Orefice would go at 126 and Eberhart would take the final bout.

JV-callups Mike Daskavitz (182), Brian Rolon (106) and Miguel Parega (120), all of whom took on arguably the top three Blue Devils in Currey, Argentieri and Duguay, respectively.

Scappaletti gave a tip of the cap to his three youngsters for taking one for the team.

“They all got pinned but they accepted their role to allow for other people to step up in positions where we had a better opportunity to win,” Scappaletti said. “The gameplan was executed by our kids to perfection.”

After losing a heartbreaking 33-32 OT decision to Lew-Port on Jan.16, the Lions thought their NFL title dreams had gone up in smoke. Scappaletti said the way they rebounded with a win over Grand Island and West and beat the defending league champion Blue Devils showed tremendous heart and character.

“We were really kind of down after the Lew-Port loss, myself included,” Scappaletti said. “I think that Friday night we bounced back against Grand Island and got our work done. We were given a gift with the Lew-Port loss (to Ken-West) and our kids took full advantage of it.”

“And I told them a second chance is great but it’s only as good as what you make out of it,” he added. “I think that our kids from Saturday morning’s practice (moving) forward we were completely focused on the task at hand which was Ken-West and we knew it was going to be like this. We knew it was going to be eight bouts one way, seven the other. We knew it was going to come down to some of those swing matches, bonus points, pins, major decisions. Everybody went out and did their job tonight even if they got beat.”

On this night, even if they didn’t get their hand raised in victory, every Lion walked off the mat a champ.

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