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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wrestling season starts with a flurry

Trace the history of wrestling, and you’ll likely run out of lead (or ink, if you’re into BICS or upscale pens). Cave drawings, dating back 15,000 years, show wrestlers using a lot of the holds still taught in practice rooms and used on the mats today.

It’s actually been 120 years since the first organized national wrestling tournament was held in this country … and tonight marks the 75th anniversary of sanctioned wrestling in District 1.

The field has certainly grown since that inaugural 1933-34 season, when just over a handful of teams — among them Abington, Cheltenham, Lower Merion, Upper Darby, and Upper Merion — featured the sport in their athletic programs and represented a then very young district in the PIAA’s postseason.

There are a heck of a lot more teams now, 74 to be exact (502 statewide) … and considerably higher expectations — among wrestlers, coaches, and a devoted fan base — throughout the district in particular and locally to be specific.

Last year, like many before it, had its share of drama. In the Pioneer Athletic Conference, few expected Spring-Ford to bounce back from its first loss ever to Perkiomen Valley with its first win over Upper Perkiomen in more than 10 seasons just three days later and a narrow decision of Boyertown four more days later, leaving both the Rams and Bears with a share of the PAC-10 title.

But there was little if any drama — and a lot of disappointment — down the stretch, or as the postseason wound down.

Yes, the PAC-10 threw its share of knockout blows in three sectional and two district tournaments. But it was missing at the Southeast Regional … and hardly noticeable at the PIAA Championships in Hershey, where just Pottstown’s Seth Ecker, Boyertown’s Alex Pellicciotti, and Owen J. Roberts’ Nick Fuschino sparred their way to the awards podium.

Ecker has graduated. But Pellicciotti and Fuschino, who will be together in the Boyertown gym Saturday morning for the Bear Duals, and a long list of others will be on the mats this weekend determined to erase last year’s woes and pin down the respectability that escaped the PAC last March.

The warm-ups actually begin tonight down in Royersford for newcomer Methacton, Perkiomen Valley, and Spring-Ford in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Classic, a two-day affair that winds down late Saturday afternoon.

The two-day grind also begins for St. Pius X, which is at the New Hope-Solebury Tournament. Then on Saturday, while Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts share the spotlight at the Bear Duals, Phoenixville makes its annual trek to Frazer for the Great Valley Tournament.

Four teams in the PAC-10 lineup don’t have much time to relax, either, because the league’s 23rd season opens next Wednesday evening.

Boyertown, nearly everyone’s favorite to make it a hat trick — three titles in a row — is at Perkiomen Valley, and Phoenixville visits Upper Perkiomen, which may have its best lineup since stringing together those record nine straight championships (1998-2006).

The early invitationals, tournaments, and classics — whatever you care to call them — continue next weekend. And the PAC-10 gets into its full weekly routine just after we flip the calendar to 2009.

As the eloquent Doug Landis says, while announcing tournaments held at Spring-Ford: “Let’s watch.”


Council Rock South, which may very well be District 1’s dominant team again this season, will find out exactly how good it is in a hurry. Head coach Brad Silemperi’s gang will be competing in the Cement Town Duals at Nazareth next Saturday; the King of the Mountain Tournament at Central Mountain High School the following weekend; the Bethlehem Holiday Classic after Christmas; and the Easton Duals just after the New Year’s break.

Great Valley, coached by former Phoenixville standout Joe Tornetta — who amassed 101 wins and two championships guiding Pottsgrove as well as the Patriots through 17 seasons in the PAC-10, will also be among the district’s best. Tornetta has two returning state medalists (Kyle Liberato and Carl Buchholz) and a slew of 20-match winners from a year ago. The Patriots’ key will be staying away from the illness bug and injuries that all but disabled the team over the final month of last season.

Among the other district leaders entering the new season are Quakertown, led by Kurt Handel — who along with Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz was responsible for the Panthers’ powerful punch back in the mid-to-late 80s; and Boyertown, which was deep in talent even before Ryan Kemmerer (and his 132 career wins) transferred into its lineup.


An area-record five new coaches will be matside this season. In the PAC-10, Maida takes over at Methacton; Dave Saville inherits the Phoenixville program; Jeff Madden tries to add to his total of 257 wins (all at Wissahickon) as the new guy at Pottsgrove; and Mark Houseal steps in at St. Pius X. The devoted and energetic Tim Klavon — son of former North Penn head coach and Hall of Famer Ed Klavon — is back at Perkiomen School after overseeing the program for 12 previous seasons.

Think Methacton is making a mark in the PAC-10 before even stepping on the mat for a league match? Maida, Saville, and Madden are all former Warrior wrestlers. And if they have any questions (or beefs), all they have to do is call their former coach Dennis Kellon, the new chairman of the District 1 Wrestling Steering Committee.


Daniel Boone, coming off one of its best seasons in a number of years, debuts Saturday at the Ephrata Duals. Head coach Matt Palmer opens his fifth season just one win under the .500 mark (56-57). The Blazers will be led by lightweight Eddie Lockowitz (55 wins in two seasons) and Colin Martucci (20 wins as a freshman last season), the son of former St. Pius X head coach John Martucci.


If you’d like a wrestling gift just before Christmas, get on down to Methacton on Dec. 23. The Warriors make their PAC-10 debut against Upper Perkiomen.

Methacton, with new head coach A.J. Maida — a former Warrior himself — is two wins shy of the 500 mark. A victory over Upper Perkiomen would sure set up a New Year (Jan. 3) brawl in the county seat, where the Warriors would go toe-to-toe with longtime rival Norristown in search of the milestone win.


Kemmerer starts his senior season Saturday tied for 20th on The Mercury’s career win chart. He needs only 10 wins to jump into the Top 10 and 29 to get into the Top Five. Older brother Zack Kemmerer, a sophomore at Penn, owns the area, district, and state record with 199 career wins. … Pius’ Bobby Burns needs 26 wins this season to become the first Lion to reach 100. … Boyertown’s threesome of Pellicciotti (77), Tim Feroe (75), and Matt Malfaro (67) are all within reach of the milestone, too.



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