Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pushing his boundaries

Nick Shattuck tried, tried oh so hard, to hide the pain. There was no hobbling up and down the court, no call for any breaks, not even the slightest cringe.
But Shattuck knew, his teammates knew, and head coach Kevin Small knew he just wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent.
And 50 percent may have been pushing it.
The Ursinus senior, who set the tone for the Bears’ offense all season - setting school and Centennial Conference scoring records along the way - was almost a non-factor in Friday night’s NCAA Division III Final Four semifinal against Amherst.
But only a non-factor on the stat sheet.
That’s where Shattuck simply could not hide the fact he wasn’t himself. The numbers - 3 of 16 from the field for only 10 points, only three rebounds and seven, count em’, seven turnovers - were very uncharacteristic Shattuck numbers.
The 6-foot-5 guard went into the postseason with a badly bruised heal. Before he recovered from that painful injury, he turned an ankle. Then, just as that was beginning to feel better, he turned the other ankle.
Rest and rehabilitation couldn’t get him back to 100 percent. Neither could workouts in the pool.
And stepping into the national spotlight on two bad wheels?
“I thought I was OK with the one bad ankle, but after (hurting the other) last week, it’s been pretty tough,” Shattuck said following Friday’s 84-58 loss to Amherst. “I wasn’t able to work out with the team that much either, so I was feeling a little winded in the beginning of the game.”
A 53 percent shooter from the field this season, Shattuck’s versatility was limited. Even though he had three blocks to go with those three rebounds - three below his norm - his explosiveness on the offensive end just wasn’t there.
There was simply no first step.
“And a big part of my game is that first step,” Shattuck said. “I beat guys on that first step, so not having it hurt.”
But not once did Shattuck offer an excuse — or even think about sitting down this weekend.
“Not playing never once crossed my mind,” he said. “This is a once in a life opportunity. I wanted to be here, and I wanted to help my teammates. (The injuries) hurt, but I felt I had to be out there.”
Small sure won’t forget the effort.
“I can’t say enough about Nick,” Small said. “His courage, his conviction — the kid played on two severely injured ankles. He’s been the heart and soul of this team.”

Ursinus junior guard Eric Burnett’s uncle, Dr. Carl Burnett, used to have a practice in Roanoke, just a few blocks from the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, where Burnett and the Bears are staying.
Originally from Delaware County, Dr. Burnett was also once affiliated with Stowe Family Practice.

Ursinus junior guard John Noonan’s uncle, Kevin McClatchy, played the final game of his collegiate career at the Salem Civic Center back in 1985. McClatchy was a member of the Washington & Lee College team, which is north of here, off I-81.
McClatchy, who became an actor and appeared such soap operas as Another World, Guiding Light and General Hospital as well as the television series NCIS, now resides in Ohio. He drove here Friday to watch Noonan and the Bears take on Amherst.

Ursinus may have had the largest following of anyone for Friday’s semifinals. A bus of students and fans arrived here a few hours before the 5 p.m. tip-off. A line of cars full of students pulled into the Hotel Roanoke shortly before noon.
Among those making the trip south was Boyertown High School graduate Mike Ziemak, a member of Ursinus’ baseball team.
“We were rained out Thursday and our game (today) was pushed back, so a lot of us wanted to get down here to support the (basketball) team,” Ziemak said.
Ziemak had an outstanding career at Boyertown and was a four-year starter in the infield for the American Legion Bears who played in the 2004 World Series in Corvallis, Ore.
Teaming up with Ziemak in a pregame pep rally were Ursinus field hockey standouts Kate Sutherland (Perkiomen Valley), Jen Moore (Phoenixville) and Nikki Thren (Upper Perkiomen) and football starter Shea Wisler (Upper Perkiomen). Also making the trip was Upper Perkiomen senior Dane Kress, who had an outstanding season at defensive end for the Tribe.

Washington, which is located within a mile of the St. Louis Cardinals’ ballpark, has the only starting lineup with players from five different states.
The Bears opened Friday night’s semifinal with Ross Kelley of Portland, Ore.; Tyler Nading of Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Division III Player of the Year Troy Ruths of Sugar Land, Tex.; Aaron Thompson of Elida, Ohio; and Carmeron Smith of Noblesville, Ind.
Amherst’s starting lineup features two players from California and one each from New York, Michigan and New Jersey.
Hope has four players from its home state of Michigan, while the fifth is from Burr Ridge, Ill.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Little City That Could

None of the local folk have any idea who came up with the phrase, but “The Little City That Could” sure fits their easy-to-miss town that sits a short drive off I-81, in the foothills of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains and just down the road from Roanoke, Va.
The NCAA sure knows what can get done here in Salem, and done well — and there’s never any trouble finding it anymore.
At least not since 1993, when the first NCAA Division III Football Championships — the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl — was held at Salem Stadium, and has remained here since.
The town has flicked on its spotlight for a number of other national championships, too.
So Ursinus would like nothing more than to come up with a pair of wins today and Saturday in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championships and be crowned the 50th champion in the “The Little City That Could.”
Since that inaugural Stagg Bowl, the town has hosted 49 NCAA championships in baseball, basketball, lacrosse, softball, and volleyball. And that number is second only to Omaha, Neb., home of the NCAA Division I Baseball World Series.
“In two years, we plan on catching Omaha,” said John Saunders, assistant director of facilities at the Salem Civic Center.
Saunders spoke with pride as he explained how the NCAA has returned time and time again. The football championships hold the lead, with 15 of them played out here. Right behind is softball (14) and men’s basketball (12), with baseball (five), volleyball (two), and women’s lacrosse, which debuted here last spring.
No one knew exactly how many AAU championships — mostly basketball and volleyball — have been held here. But one thing is for sure. All the games and the national exposure they bring with them has injected millions and millions of dollars into this town’s economy.
Carey Harveycutter, the director of civic facilities who steps up as tournament director when the NCAA moves in for one of its national championships, estimated the annual impact of the events to be between $3 million and $5 million.

Ursinus head coach Kevin Small is 38 years old, in his eighth season guiding the Bears and already the program’s winningest coach with 145 career victories.
But those numbers pale in comparision to his three rivals here this weekend.
Hope’s Glenn Van Wieren is in his 31st season and has 617 career wins.
Amherst’s David Hixson, who Small will attempt to match wits with tonight, is in his 31st season as well and owns 574 career wins.
And Washington’s Mark Edwards is in his 26th season and has 498 career wins.
Van Wieren was fifth all-time in Division III when the season began. The leader was Franklin & Marshall’s Glenn Robinson, who in 36 years leading up to this season was 718-271.

Ursinus’ only other trip to the Final Four was to Rock Island, Ill., 27 years ago.
The Bears opened postseason play in the Mid-Atlantic Regional at Franklin & Marshall, defeating the hosts, Diplomats (69-58) and William Patterson (66-64). The two victories advanced them to the national quarterfinals in East Orange, N.J., where they edged Upsala (71-69) to earn a spot in the Final Four.
After falling to eventual national champion Potsdam State, N.Y., (63-61) in the semifinals, the Bears bounced back to defeat Otterbein (82-79) for third place.

Washington’s Troy Ruths was presented the Jostens Trophy on Thursday morning during a special ceremony honoring him as the Division III Player of the Year.
The Salem Rotary Club hosted the event and made the presentation — and Ruths likely needed some help getting his prize back to the hotel.
The Jostens Trophy is 2 feet high, featuring an 8-inch basketball in the center made of Czech crystal on a solid cherry wood base, and weighs 64 pounds.

Amherst comes into tonight’s opener ranked No. 1, a spot it’s held the past four weeks. The Lord Jeffs opened the season at No. 2 but moved on top for two weeks before slipping as low as No. 4.
Washington was actually the preseason No. 1 but held that spot for just one week after the season began and is now No. 7.
Hope comes in at No. 3, while Ursinus — which didn’t even appear in the national rankings until debuting at No. 21 four weeks ago — comes in at No. 17.

Even though Amherst, Hope and Washington were here for last year’s shootout, only Amherst point guard Andrew Olson returns from the All-Tournament Team. Olson, who at 5-10 will be the shortest starter on the court tonight, happened to be the MVP of last year’s Final Four, too.

One of Hope’s fans strolling around the Civic Center on Thursday was wearing a T-shirt with Midland Legion printed on the front. He said he was a former player in the Midland American Legion baseball program and had played in Bear Stadium in Boyertown during his final summer with the team.

Ursinus, as well as the other three teams in today’s Final Four lineup, are all staying at the Hotel Roanoke and Convention Center, a 15-minute drive from the Civic Center.
The hotel, as grand in appearance as any in America, was built in 1882 and has endured bankruptcy, the Great Depression, a major fire and a number of different owners. One interesting aspect of its history, though, is that a $1,050,000 renovation in 1938 made it the first hotel in the nation to offer its guests air conditioning.

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One Small wonder

Kevin Small passed on having the spotlight all to himself Tuesday night.
Instead of dressing up in a coat and tie and attending the Philadelphia Area Small College Coaches Association’s annual dinner at the University of the Sciences – where he was to receive the Sam Cozen Coach of the Year award – Small stepped into his sweats and retreated to Helfferich Hall to run his Ursinus basketball team through one more two-hour practice.
“Of all the honors, well, this one matters the most because it comes from my friends in the (coaching) profession, my colleagues,” Small said. “It carries a very special meaning to me.”
“We have some work to do here, though,” Small added, pointing toward the nearby Ursinus gym.
Tuesday evening’s practice was the Bears’ last one at home. They’ll get together for another workout soon after arriving at the Salem Civic Center in Salem Va., to prepare for the NCAA Division III semifinal showdown against defending champion Amherst, Mass.
“We can’t wait to get down, work on some things, and get ready for Amherst,” Small said.
Small was excited.
But no more than he was for the season’s first practice back in October. And no more than he was for his very first practice at Ursinus eight years ago.
An assistant for nine years – three seasons each at Haverford (1991-94), Ursinus (1994-97) and Swarthmore (1997-99) – Small was finally a head coach … and just a flip or two of the desk calendar past his 30th birthday.
Ursinus never saw anyone bring as much energy and enthusiasm into its basketball program as Small did, never had anyone as committed to the game and the young men who played it as Small was.
It became evident that first season.
And it’s been oh so evident this season.
“We had the youngest staff in the (Centennial Conference) when we first came here,” Small said. “I wasn’t awestruck, but I knew what I was up against, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Small was referring, of course, to conference coaching legends like Glenn Robinson of Franklin & Marshall, Bill Nelson of Johns Hopkins, Dave Madera of Muhlenberg, and George Petrie of Gettysburg – who he got the best of four times this winter.
“Those guys aren’t just good coaches, they are some of the pillars of Division III basketball,” Small said.
Perhaps, but it didn’t take Small long before he was matching wits – and wins – with the hierarchy.
That first season (2000-01), the Bears won the Centennial Conference’s Eastern Division title and advanced to the playoffs for the first time … and they haven’t missed the playoffs in any season since.
During the remarkable run, two of Small’s teams have posted unbeaten CC seasons. And as good as any may have been, none have rivaled this year’s team, which has strung together a school-record 23 straight wins, put together a school-record 29 wins overall, and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championships’ Final Four for the first time in 27 years.
And Small, as always, deflects the credit to his players.
“We’ve just been fortunate to have remarkable kids,” Small said. “We prioritize. We recruit kids of good character because we want kids of good character. We want kids who’ll put their basketball family first, kids who want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Those early Ursinus recruits bought into Small’s approach.
Those who followed have been an easy sell, too.
“When we first started here we thought we were looking at a five-year rebuilding project,” Small recalled. “But in our third year (2002-03), we went undefeated in the Centennial Conference. That was fun … a great year. But it caught us off-guard, to be honest.
“That’s when we realized we were fortunate to be getting the kids we were getting here. They all worked incredibly hard. They were selfless. They wanted something.”
So did Small. And he’s gotten it.
“We’re committed to what’s in front of us, to improving every day,” he said. “We’re not about winning, winning, winning.
“If you come here, we want you to be a great student, an engaged student, not someone merely going through the motions. And as a basketball player, we want you to be committed to execution, committed to getting better. If everyone does that, winning takes care of itself.”
Few can criticize Small’s approach.
Even though he’s already the winningest coach in the 92-year history of the Ursinus men’s basketball program (145-72), Small again likes to emphasize the achievements of those who play the game – like the 21 who have been named All-Centennial Conference; the six who have been named the CC’s Player of the Year; the four who have been named All-Americans; and the two Josten’s Trophy finalists (Division III Player of the Year). And he’s even more proud of the many players who have been selected to the conference’s Academic Honor Roll.
Small is a class act himself while courtside. Three times he has been presented regional sportsmanship awards, and two years ago was presented the College Basketball Officials Association’s National Sportsmanship Award.
“But I do this because I have a passion for basketball and I get the opportunity to work with kids,” Small said. “I am not employed to go to the Final Four … I am here to work with and mentor kids every day, to inspire them to become better people. That’s what is important.”

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

At the end of the tunnel

Break down District 1’s overall performance at last week’s PIAA Championships however you like. Look at it this way, that way, anyway you choose.
The panel of critics, which has grown tenfold in three years – or since the district’s Claim to Fame in 2005 – sure has. They began analyzing every single move throughout the preliminaries last Thursday afternoon and were still at it Monday night, two full days after the state tournament was over and done with.
That isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Neither will the bottom line … at least not until next March.
In plain ol’ English, the district didn’t fare well at all.
A total of 56 wrestlers were penciled into the AAA brackets for Thursday’s opening round, and their combined effort following Saturday evening’s final round was, well, humbling to say the least. Only one state champion and just 66 individual bouts won.
While it’s easy to get overwhelmed and often misled by the slew of numbers, that latter statistic – 66 wins – is one that cannot be overlooked. It’s the one statistic that truly defines how mediocre the district was last week.
There simply was no depth.
The district’s No. 1 seeds – or the Southeast Regional champions – were a somewhat respectable 31-29 with nine medals. But other than Council Rock South’s Mark Rappo, who dominated all the way through for the gold at 103 pounds, the remaining eight featured three fourths, two fifths, a sixth, and two eighths.
Regional runners-up were only 17-29 with three sevenths and an eighth. Only two wrestlers who were third at the regional won more than one bout at states and both finished seventh, and only one wrestler who was fourth at the regional won more than one bout at states, and he finished sixth.
The Southeast Region has four state qualifiers per weight class because of the number of schools in the district, and the District 1 Steering Committee should – and likely always will – continue to demand that number.
But if PIAA officials would ever resort to a revolving or floating number-of-qualifiers format based on all district’s competitiveness in the PIAA Championships, District 1 would obviously be in jeopardy of losing that fourth qualifier. Especially after last week, when just four of the its 14 fourth-place finishers won a state bout, only one – Quakertown freshman Scott Wolfinger – won more than one (and finished sixth), and the 14 were a combined 5-29 overall.
There was a day, and not so awfully long ago, when coaches from around the state saw District 1’s shortcomings as a result of not having enough feeder programs, which resulted in wrestlers not having the wealth of mat time as rivals from around the state. And they never once hesitated to say District 1’s shortcomings were a result of not getting out of its own neighborhood and competing against quality programs from around the state.
Those arguments don’t hold any weight anymore.
Neither do those who question District 1 wrestlers’ technique, and the strength, quickness, and agility that go along with it.
But there were a few coaches, even some from throughout Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, who did question District 1 wrestlers’ intensity … or drive for the entire six minutes of every bout, as many mentioned.
“Sometimes I see our kids wrestling not to lose instead of wrestling to win,” one coach said.
Good point … the operative word there being point.
More than one-quarter of the district’s 115 losses last week were decided by a takedown or reversal or, perhaps, a near-fall. There aren’t too many people who will remember the actual move that led to all those losses, but few will forget that 15 of those setbacks were by a single point, and another 15 were by just two points.
But as disappointing as all those numbers may be – the number of wins and medals, that is – there were some promising numbers to take into the offseason. More than half of the state qualifiers (30 of 56) and more than half of the medalists (10 of 16) return next season.
Combined with what is supposed to be a very good incoming freshman class, it may be just enough to get District 1 wrestling back on a more respectable track.

No one from District 1 dropped their preliminary bout and came all the way back to medal. Pottstown’s Seth Ecker came close.
The 119-pound senior won his Class AA opener only to fall 9-6 to eventual state champion Travis Erdman of Line Mountain in the quarterfinals. Ecker then strung together a technical fall and two major decisions before outlasting Forest Hills’ David Fogle, 3-2 in overtime, for third place and the bronze medal.
Erdman got his gold medal by holding off Northwestern Lehigh’s Evan Yenolevich, who a week earlier edged Ecker in the Southeast Regional final.
Ecker’s admirable comeback also enabled him to pass Pottstown graduate Joey Allen (131) as the Trojans’ winningest wrestler. Ecker, who matched Allen’s school record of three state medals, finished with 132 career wins.

Boyertown, since returning to District 1 back in 2003, extended its streak of at least one state medalist to six straight years when 130-pound sophomore Alex Pellicciotti placed seventh. … Methacton’s string of three straight seasons ended, as did Upper Perkiomen’s area-high and District 1 record run of 10 straight seasons with at least one medalist also.
Rappo’s sweep of the 103-pound bracket in Class AAA extended District 1’s streak of at least one individual state champion to 13 straight years. In the 13-year streak, the district has had 25 state champions.
Rappo, who finished 50-0 (152-10 career), also gave his family its fourth gold medal. Brothers Rick (2004) and Mike (2005-06), now wrestling for Penn and North Carolina, respectively, were state champions as well. Unofficially, the three brothers were a combined 421-53 in their high school careers.

Upper Perkiomen still leads the area in state champions (5) and medalists (25). Methacton (18), Pottstown (13), Spring-Ford (12) are the only other area schools with double-digit state medalists.
North Penn remains District 1’s leader in state champions with nine, while Upper Perkiomen, the former Council Rock and now Council Rock South – in just its sixth year of existence – are tied for second with five apiece. … North Penn’s Matt Prestifilippo finished fifth last week to improve the program’s total of state medalists to 20 and into a tie with the former Downingtown High School for third on the all-time chart. That number trails only the former Council Rock (22) and Upper Perkiomen (25).

Great Valley’s Kyle Liberato (119) and Carl Buchholz (215) finished seventh and fourth, respectively, giving the Patriots two state medalists for the first time in the history of their program. … Upper Moreland’s Tim Santry (112) was eighth to become the Bears’ second state medalist. The first was Eric McCoy (fourth), 30 years ago. … Truman’s James Bak (103) was seventh, his school’s first medalist in 17 years.

Spring-Ford’s Ryan Kemmerer (132), who returns next year, and Ecker closed the season tied for 20th on the area’s all-time win chart. Methacton’s Jonathan Hammond (128), a senior who closes as the Warriors’ third winningest wrestler, is tied for 26th. … Daniel Boone’s Tyler Swartz (115) and Owen J. Roberts’ Connor McCormick (108), both seniors, were the area’s only other wrestlers to get on the list this season.
There are seven underclassmen who could reach the milestone next season. They are OJR’s Nick Fuschino (92), Upper Perkiomen’s Jared Bennett (79), Pellicciotti (77) and Boyertown teammate Tim Feroe (75), St. Pius’ Bobby Burns (74), Upper Perkiomen’s Michael McStravick (71) and Boyertown’s Matt Malfaro (67).

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wrestling season's biggest challenge awaits

No one had an eye on the clock and an ear glued to their cell phone, but as the four medalists in each weight class stepped up and onto the awards podium during the final hours of the Southeast Regional on Saturday night, four others stepped up and onto their own awards podium at about the same time during the final hours of the Northeast, Southwest and Northwest regionals (just as they did a week earlier at the Southcentral Regional).
The winner was hailed, the runner-up and those other two fortunate enough to survive the grind of the consolation bracket, were acknowledged by a rousing round of applause.
The goal of getting to the PIAA Championships – qualifying for arguably the most physically and mentally demanding tournament of its kind in all of high school sports – was reached.
It was, without question, a memorable moment. And not just for the 14 individual champions, but for the other 42 medalists.
A good time.
But before any of those 56 wrestlers rolled into bed and under the covers for the night, they were well aware that the most imposing challenge of their entire season, if not their career, lied ahead … the state tournament.
So, after sleeping on their victories, their accomplishments of a weekend past, and getting a day to soothe the aches and pains and the bumps and bruises, it was one of those back-to-work-Mondays, or a return to the practice room.
And if the weekday routine seemed a bit difficult from November through February, they discovered it was never quite as intense as it is now, in the three days leading up to that first bout at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Pick it up now or, sometime Thursday, pack it up and head back home.
You see, there are four particular things about the PIAA Championships that, year in and year out, never change. Won-loss records are worthless; reputations are of no value; previous match-ups are meaningless; and, most important, whoever did whatever in the past carries absolutely no weight.
The area’s 12 qualifiers will have to deal with and digest those four realities before their openers.
And if you don’t think they exist…
At 130 pounds, if Boyertown’s Alex Pellicciotti can get past West Allegheny’s Zach Kelly, he’ll be rewarded with a quarterfinal date against two-time defending state champion and Oklahoma State-bound Jordan Oliver of Easton.
At 135, if Spring-Ford’s Ryan Kemmerer can get past Jason Kane of Lower Dauphin, he’ll be rewarded a quarterfinal date with returning bronze medalist and the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked (depending on your poll of choice) Dylan Alton of Central Mountain.
At 140, Methacton’s Jonathan Hammond opens against returning state runner-up Marshall Peppelman of Central Dauphin, who was upset in the Southcentral Regional final last week.
At 145, Owen J. Roberts’ Nick Fuschino makes his PIAA debut against defending state champion Walter Peppelman of Central Dauphin (yep, older brother of Marshall), who had to settle for third place in his regional that featured – and will send to Hershey – undefeated James English, who took down Peppelman in the semifinals and Cumberland Valley’s Joe Napoli in the final (and Napoli owns the only other two wins over Peppelman).
At 152, Boyertown’s Tim Feroe opens with returning bronze medalist and Southcentral Region champion Mallie Shuster. At 171, Upper Perkiomen’s Nick Edmonson takes on two-time state qualifier and Northeast Regional champion Joe Laffredo of Jersey Shore. And at 189, Owen J. Roberts’ Scott Syrek – the area’s first freshman to qualify at such a high weight – happens to get unbeaten and returning bronze medalist Mike Salopek of Norwin.
At 215, Spring-Ford’s Alex Kanakis opens against Northwest Regional champion Glenn Barnes of Central Mountain. And the big boys, 285-pounders Jared Bennett of Upper Perkiomen and Tyler Swartz of Daniel Boone, get just as big as tests. Bennett goes against Mike Horton of Phillipsburg-Osceola, and Swartz opens with returning seventh-place medalist Eric Kush of Chartiers Valley.
That’s just in AAA.
It isn’t any easier for Pottstown teammates Seth Ecker and Fred Holly in the Class AA bracket, either.
But getting to Hershey is no easy task to begin with. Ask any of those “can’t miss wrestlers” – a lot with just as good credentials as those heading there – who are sitting at home this week.

District 1 has won at least one individual state title the past 12 years. Whether this weekend is the Lucky 13th or Unlucky 13th remains to be seen.
Since 1981, or when the district quietly broke out of its woeful ways in Hershey, it has been blanked in the gold-medal count just four times – in 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1995. In the current 12-year streak, the district has had 24 state champions.

Edmonson and Bennett helped Upper Perkiomen extend its area-high streak of consecutive years with at least one state qualifier to 11. Spring-Ford is next at seven straight years, while Boyertown is third at six (as a member of District 1). Methacton and Owen J. Roberts each have qualifiers for the four straight year, while Pottstown’s streak in Class AA is now at three.
Bennett also gave Upper Perkiomen a regional champion for the ninth straight year. Head coach Tom Hontz has had 16 overall in that nine-year span.

In AAA, the area’s 25 regional qualifiers combined for three individual championships, nine state-qualifying berths, and a collective 47-41 record.
In AA, the area’s 12 regional qualifiers combined for two runner-up finishes and state-qualifying berths, and a collective 6-22 record.
District 1-Central – which includes Boyertown, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford – had the best winning percentage (.521, 101-93) of the three sub-district alignments and tied with the South for the most state qualifiers (20) during last weekend’s AAA Southeast Regional.

Once again, way too many coaches were jotting down their Outstanding Wrestler votes before the AAA Southeast Regional was over. While it would be difficult to go against the selection of Hatboro-Horsham’s Robert Gribschaw, one has to wonder how many votes Bennett would have received had everyone waited until the 285-pound final was over.
Bennett did something no one else did the entire tournament by dealing two undefeated opponents their first losses of the season. He beat Marple-Newtown’s Pete Massaro, a prized Penn State football recruit, and Abington’s David Osei, who was ranked No. 1 in the district the entire season.
The rush to get the ballots in brought back memories of the fiasco at the 2004 PIAA Championships. A lot of writers were asked to get their votes in for the OW award before the 171-pound final had even started. About a half-hour later, Boyertown’s Mike Spaid punched up his 12th pin in 13 postseason bouts (the other never started because of a medical forfeit) to complete his run to the 285-pound state title.

Kemmerer (131) is now tied for 21st place with Owen J. Roberts’ Robert Hoffman and Spring-Ford’s Matt Moley on The Mercury’s all-time win chart. Four wins at states this week would push him past six former standouts and into a tie for 14th place with Upper Perkiomen’s Shane Smith. … Hammond (128), who will finish as Methacton’s third winningest wrestler, and Ecker (126), who will finish as Pottstown’s second winningest wrestler, are 26th and 29th, respectively. … The remaining state qualifiers and their career totals going into Thursday’s opening rounds are: Swartz (114), Kanakis (91), Fuschino (a junior with 90), Holly (82) and Bennett (junior with 78), Feroe (junior with 75), Pellicciotti (sophomore with 74), Edmonson (sophomore with 58) and Syrek (freshman with 39).

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