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.

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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