BOYERTOWN >> The Dave Jones era got off to a solid start Saturday.
The Bears' first-year head coach got a big contribution from a family member in that regard, younger brother Elijah Jones. And Jacob Miller had just as big a part in the proceedings.
Boyertown scored a third-place finish in the 10-school Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals tournament it hosts as a lid-lifter to the scholastic wrestling season. It made a 4-1 run in the tourney, capped by a narrow 38-34 victory over Owen J. Roberts in the third-place match.
The championship pairing saw Bethlehem Catholic win 38-25. The fifth-place match went to Gov. Mifflin over Garnet Valley 42-23, Dallas topped Interboro for seventh place 47-24 and Truman handled Unionville for ninth place, 56-18.
In the title tilt, Rock North was headed by pins from Kyle Hauserman (106) and Cameron Robinson (152). Shane Thompson added a major decision at 138, and Nick Nucero's decision at 160 pulled the Indians to within four points (29-25) before Kevin Hennessey's decision at 170 clinched the win for Liberty.
While Boyertown has been accustomed to competing for the championship at their home tournament, the rookie boss liked what he saw.
"I'm very happy with how we wrestled," Jones said. "We know full well we're young. We have many guys who didn't get out in a varsity match until today. "I just wanted them to go out and wrestle their best."
A 40-30 loss to Council Rock North, the duals' eventual runner-up, was the lone blemish in the Bears' 2017-18 season debut. It came on the heels of a dominating start, respective 74-3 and 66-12 wins over Interboro and Unionville.
More importantly was how Boyertown reacted after the loss. It qualified for the third-place match by edging Gov. Mifflin 42-38, then outlasted OJR after it had opened a 24-point lead at the start with four straight pins.
It may not have been the size of the champions' trophies Boyertown claimed in the past four Duals, but Jones was more than happy to receive it. In his mind, it represented how his wrestlers responded to his leadership since his assumption of the post from Pete Ventresca, who stepped down this past spring after 12 seasons.
"I just wanted to see us wrestle well," he said. "Brett (Breidor), wrestling the way he did, Evan Mortimer, Miller ... it was exciting to see the kids step up."
Elijah Jones picked up from where he left off at the PIAA Championships in March. The Lehigh University-bound upperweight swept through his five bouts, pinning three opponents in a combined 93 seconds and receiving forfeits in the other two.
"It's what I try to do," Jones, a fifth-place state medalist his junior year, said of his drive toward pinning opponents. "I try my best to score as many points as I can. I try to push the pace, and get pins if they're there."
"He's another leader and captain," the elder Jones added. "(Jones and Miller), they help the other kids stay focused."
Jones' 25-second drop at 195 against Roberts got Boyertown rolling toward its big early lead. Then after OJR (3-2) pulled even at 34-all by taking seven of the next nine weights, Miller slammed the door on the Wildcats' comeback bid with a 12-1 major decision at 182.
"The way they coach us is to never stop scoring," Miller said at the conclusion of a 4-1 day highlighted by one pin and two majors. "We try to put on a lot of points for the team."
"I'm very impressed with him," Dave said of Miller. "He's stepped up as a leader in the wrestling room. I hope to see him grow through the season."
Owen J., which faced Boyertown in the Bealer Duals' championship match twice during the Bears' four-year run, started its comeback run on the heels of Boyertown's other pins from Zak Reck (220), Jacob Sonder (285) and Julien Maldonado (106). Falls from David Forrest (113), Tyler McCutchen (132), Connor Leister (138) and Daniel Mancini (160) meshed with Connor Quinn's major decision at 126 and regular verdicts by Cole Meredith (152) and Jason Zollers (170) to give the rally considerable life as OJR came back from 24-0 down to level it 34-34.
Ironically, it was a scenario Steve DeRafelo sought for his Wildcat grapplers ... for reasons other than their lead-reducing display.
"The guys showed how much work we have ahead of us," Roberts' head coach said. "We can't get into that situation against good teams we'll be facing.
"I don't think we worked as hard as we need to," he added. "Boyertown reminded us of the kind of work we have to do to get better."
Owen J. matched Boyertown's duals start by rolling over Dallas 62-9 and Garnet Valley 52-21. Its bid to return to the championship match, however, was thwarted by a 43-20 loss to champion Bethlehem Liberty, but it got back on track by rolling Harry S Truman 57-24.
Cole Meredith and Daniel Mancini both went 5-0 on the day for OJR while Antonio Petrucelli was 4-1.
"We have some really inexperienced guys," DeRafelo noted. "For a couple, this was their first day of wrestling. They did great jobs, showing the guts to go out and wrestle."
Along with Jones, Zak Reck and Chase Stehman were 5-0 in the Duals. Miller and Breidor followed with 4-1 marks.
For his part, Coach Jones sees the process on a solid foundation toward continuing improvement.
"I told them this is a Chapter One test, not the final exam," he said.
NOTES >> Liberty's Sebastian Mateo was named the Duals' Outstanding Wrestler. Mateo's sweep at 120 was headed by a technical fall and major decision. ... Boyertown racked up 22 pins on the day, including six apiece in its opening matches with Interboro and Unionville. Breidor and Maldonado matched Jones' fall production with three of their own. ... Boyertown's next action will be at Central Mountain's "King of the Mountain" Tournament next weekend. Owen J. will visit Pottstown Wednesday in a crossover match between the neighboring Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals.