Heartbreak, triumph a guarantee at PIAA Championships
|Upper Perkiomen's Wolfgang McStravick |
made his third appearance at the PIAA Championships.
(Mercury File Photo/Photo/Tom Kelly III)
Then again, it would be much like the book written about nearly every league in Pennsylvania.
And, unfortunately, very much like the story or stories surely to be written about the PAC-10’s nine qualifiers competing on this week’s stage here at the Giant Center.
The current cast of characters in the PAC-10’s 27th annual series features Boyertown’s Eddie Kriczky and Jordan Wood; Methacton’s Tracey Green; Owen J. Roberts’ Derek Gulotta, Colby Frank and Gordon Bolig; Perkiomen Valley’s Nick Giangiulio; Spring-Ford’s Tyler McGuigan; and Upper Perkiomen’s Wolfgang McStravick.
Some of that crew may only make cameo appearances – lose twice today, head home and, like so many before them, not get much more than a line or two in the history book. Others may be around for all three days with win after win, by how much and how often no one knows for sure, but will nonetheless add a substantial storyline to the newest chapter, or become a principal part of it at the very least.
A few factors determine who leaves and who sticks around, though. Among them are a little luck of the draw, or who is wrestling who in the early going; who’s hot and who’s not; and, most important, who can step on a mat – in arguably the roughest, toughest high school wrestling tournament in all of America – with the confidence and determination to win.
“If you’re not ready to wrestle here you lose,” former Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Schleicher said the day before his prized 103-pound freshman Brad Rozanski became the PAC-10’s first of two state qualifiers – the other being Phoenixville senior heavyweight Todd Van Horn – back in 1987.
Ready is one thing, armed and ready is indeed another, because for three days in early March, as it’s been in all of the previous 75 state championships, there are absolutely no gimmes here.
And respect is fleeting, so very hard to earn without win after win after win. Especially without at least one medal in hand.
McStravick can attest to that, perhaps better than any of the other eight PAC-10 qualifiers. This is his third trip to the season-ending spectacle and he owns just one win thus far. McStravick’s a senior now, but despite being a three-time qualifier with a gaudy 46-6 record and 152 career wins, he’s ranked 16th – the bottom – among those in his 132-pound weight class. And this afternoon he opens against a returning state medalist.
Gulotta and Bolig are back for the second time.
The 113-pound Gulotta, who a year ago joined a very short list of area freshman to win a state medal, is only ranked eighth. That’s because he happens to be part of a weight class that includes seven returning medalists (with a combined 11 medals), three of whom are nationally ranked. And he’ll open against a returning state qualifier today.
The 182-pound Bolig, who sandwiched a win in between losses to the eventual state champion and seventh-place finisher a year ago, is 45-5 with 125 career wins and only ranked seventh. Not bad, perhaps, but he starts his final appearance here against a two-time regional champion and state medalist.
Frank, Kriczky, Giangiulio, McGuigan, Wood and Green – despite all their years of wrestling and previous achievements – will learn rather quickly how nothing comes easy here, as McStravick, Gulotta and Bolig did before them, as McStravick, Gulotta and Bolig probably already told them.
The proof is in their brackets.
At 126, Frank (27-4) has an opponent with 116 career wins, and Kriczky (38-10) – who worked as hard and as impressively as anyone to survive this overloaded weight class at the Southeast Regional – debuts against a once-beaten freshman who surrendered just one measly point in winning four bouts and a regional title last weekend.
At 152, Giangiulio (36-3) gets a senior with 117 career wins. At 170, McGuigan (35-7) has to deal with an unbeaten regional champion and three-time state qualifier. At 220, Wood (43-1) – who has had to deal with the hype that’s already touting him as one of District 1’s all-time freshman greats – gets a returning state qualifier with 101 career wins. And at 285, Green (35-3) meets up with a seasoned senior with 102 career wins.
And all that is just for openers.
The reward for winning that first match is a spot in the even more pressurized quarterfinals, where another win would reserve a step somewhere on the medal stand on Saturday night. The consolation for losing that opener is a spot in the wrestlebacks, where the bottom line is win-or-go-home.
There may not be a more coveted medal in all of Pennsylvania high school sports than those presented every year here at the PIAA Wrestling Championships.
And there may not be a more intriguing read, year after year, than the next chapter on the history of Pioneer Athletic Conference wrestling at the PIAA Championships.
Rozanski’s debut as the PAC-10 first state qualifier to step on the mat in Hershey ended in a 12-1 loss to Nazareth’s eventual state champion Brad Silemperi – the head coach at Council Rock South. Rozanski didn’t qualify for states as a sophomore, but came back to take third as a junior and first as a senior. … Van Horn, now an administrator at Pottsgrove High School who helps out with the Falcons’ wrestling program, went 0-2. … Future PAC-10 members Boyertown and Methacton were also represented in 1987 by Jason Bonney and Eric Moser, respectively. ... This year’s nine qualifiers gives the PAC-10 an overall total of 217, with Upper Perkiomen (58), Boyertown (36), Spring-Ford (33) and Owen J. Roberts (26) alone accounting for 71 percent of the count. … Upper Perkiomen (25), Boyertown (13) and Spring-Ford (11) are the only programs with double-digit state medalists.