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, February 11, 2009

Bears back on the rise

This column was originally published in the Feb. 6 edition of The Mercury.

HERSHEY – There’s no question Boyertown took one heck of a seesaw ride the past week.

It began during last Friday night’s semifinals of the district duals. The Bears, nowhere near 100 percent with one starter out of the lineup and another hobbling on one leg, beat Council Rock North. And you had to be impressed with what unfolded in the match, because it was the fourth straight win this season over the Indians, who were much better and a considerably bigger challenge than they were in those previous three meetings.

But as high as the Bears may have been that night, they were that low, if not lower, less than 24 hours later. They had their singlets and headgear handed to them by Quakertown. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong. The 54-16 loss wasn’t just unexpected and ugly, it was Boyertown’s worst loss in a long, long time, worse than any of its previous four setbacks this season, and they were to state powers Central Dauphin (No. 1), Northampton (No. 2) and Cumberland Valley (No. 5), and Delaware dynamo St. Mark’s – all nationally ranked rivals.

If there was one consolation, and you

had to bet head coach Pete Ventresca, his staff and the Bears themselves were desperately seeking something to soothe their devastated wrestling souls, it was the fact they had already earned a spot in the PIAA-Class AAA State Duals.

Most people, at least those outside Boyertown, didn’t expect the Bears to get rid of the hangover before Tuesday night’s state-opener at La Salle College High, either. But in what may have been their most physical challenge in recent memory, the Bears did. They rocked and socked their hosts – a team whose only loss was a three-point thriller to Quakertown, by the way – keeping their composure and giving a handful or so of foul fans something to whine about the rest of the winter, by sweeping nine of the individual bouts in a 41-21 romp.

The Bears didn’t let down Wednesday night at St. Pius X, either. They took all but one match against the Lions and clinched no worse than a share of their third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title.

Whew … what a ride.

It’s brought them, for the very first time, here to the Giant Center – the arena wrestlers crave to visit this time of year as much if not more than the next-door amusement park youngsters crave to visit throughout the summer.

It could be a thrill, like the Coal Cracker, Great Bear and Kissing Tower rides offer in the adjacent park. But Boyertown will be stepping onto the mat this morning (10:00) against Central Mountain, which has given many an opponent few thrills and a whole lot of chills this winter.

Yes, Central Dauphin and Northampton – even Cumberland Valley – have been grabbing most of the headlines all season. But Central Mountain is ranked right behind those two – No. 3 in the state and No. 6 in the nation – and aren’t just a threat to beat up on the Bears (20-5) but a threat to beat up on everyone else out here.

The Wildcats (10-0) line up with five returning state qualifiers, three of whom are two-time state medalists – Jordan Rich and the unbeaten Alton brothers you’ve heard so much about. They were third at the prestigious Ironman, and swept the team honors at the Mountain League Tournament, the King of the Mountain, and the Escape The Rock Invitational at Council Rock South. They cruised to the District 6 title by humbling both Bellefonte (53-15) and Indian Valley (47-15), and come into this morning’s bout with the Bears with a ridiculous average winning spread of 47 points.

There’s no shame in being the underdog. As a matter of fact, a lot of coaches kind of covet that tag. But Boyertown, rest assured, is the underdog in this one … and for five big reasons – Rich, Andrew and Dylan Alton, and returning state qualifiers Forrest Bechdel and Glenn Barnes.

Those five will likely go against five of the big Bears. Ventresca isn’t likely to admit it, but for his team to survive this one he’ll likely have to go with Adam Kolb (13-9) against Bechdel (18-11) at 103; Jon Neiman (15-8) against Rich (26-5) at 125; Alex Pellicciotti (30-3) against Andrew Alton (28-0) at 140; Ryan Kemmerer (20-1) against defending state champion Dylan Alton (29-0) at 145; and Zach Heffner (19-3) against Barnes (24-7) at 215.

Central Mountain will be favored in three or four other bouts, but the Bears have countered some mountain-like odds in the past, too.

And they’d sure like to ride this one out (in other words, forget the seesaw).

* * *

The survivor of the Boyertown-Central Mountain affair gets treated to a quarterfinal meeting with unbeaten District 11 champion Northampton (19-0). … District 1’s third-place Council Rock North will be wrestling this morning, too, against District 7 runner-up Connellsville. District champion Quakertown takes on the winner of the Blue Mountain-Clearfield bout in the 2 p.m. quarterfinals.

* * *

Five of the 12 teams here in the Class AAA bracket are nationally ranked. Central Dauphin (No. 4), Northampton (No. 5) and Central Mountain (No. 6) top the list, which also features Blue Mountain (No. 14) and Cumberland Valley (No. 19). … Rich (102-22) career) was seventh and fourth at states the last two years; Andrew Alton (115-8) has a pair of third-place finishes; and Dylan Alton (113-5) was seventh two years ago before grabbing the gold last March. All three are juniors.

* * *

Central Dauphin is the defending champion, defeating Northampton, 37-21, last year. … In state duals competition, which began in 1999, Quakertown is 0-1, Boyertown is 1-2, and Council Rock North is 4-5. The rest of the AAA teams and their respective overall records in state duals competition coming into this morning are Blue Mountain (1-0); Central Dauphin (5-3); Central Mountain (4-1); Clearfield (1-4); Connellsville (9-5); Cumberland Valley (14-9); Erie Cathedral Prep (3-4); and Northampton (5-2). District 7 champion Bethel Park, which doesn’t open until this afternoon’s quarterfinals, is making its debut.

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