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, February 3, 2009

Beast can be a beast

This column originally was published in the Dec. 22, 2008 edition of The Mercury.

If there is a scale (not the kind you weigh in on practically every day), or a measuring stick to discover just who’s who, where they are, and where they may be headed, it’s the Beast of the East.

The name certainly implies exactly what it is (with apologies to Shrek), an ogre. And if you don’t think wrestling as often as five times, possibly from early morning until late at night the first day, and as often as four times, possibly from early morning until dinner time the next — against some of the best competition in the entire nation both days, too — is a monster challenge, well, you’d better stick to the other sports (or the movies).

It is what it is.

A beast.

This past weekend’s 16th edition of the Beast was just that, too, with four of the Top 10 nationally ranked programs and 10 of the Top 25 overall in the 88-team field. And even though national high school rankings in any sport have their flaws, the Beast had the giant itself in Blair Academy of N.J.; four of Pennsylvania’s power punchers in Northampton, Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley and Wyoming Seminary; and more than a handful of other mighty entries from up and down the eastern side of the country and as far west as Oklahoma. And don’t forget the wave after wave of individual talent that may not be part of those mighty lineups, but nonetheless is still spread throughout every one of the 14 brackets.

Local wrestlers, even District 1’s entire entourage, were overwhelmed in the early tournaments. This past weekend, they failed to return home with a gold medal for the ninth time since 1994.

It’s actually been three years since Upper Perkiomen’s Zack Kemmerer and Octorara’s Mike Letts provided the district with an individual champion at the Beast and, if you remember, both Kemmerer and Letts went on to become two-time PIAA state champions. Two other Beast champions from District 1 — Council Rock’s Rocky Mantella (1999-2000) and Neshaminy’s Mike Pirozzola (1997-98) — would double as state champions, too.

In other words, performances in the Beast provide a little insight into wrestlers’ immediate future — or how they may do the rest of the winter. And even though there never have been too awfully many District 1 teams enrolled in the Beast year in a year out, the efforts of individuals in their respective lineups have certainly reflected on the district’s overall showing at the PIAA Championships.

Prior to last weekend, District 1 has had double-digit (10 or more) medalists in five of the Beast tournaments, and each of those five seasons happened to end on a rather productive note in March out in Hershey

If that trend continues, District 1 could very well be on the rebound from last year’s disappointing finish both at the Beast and at states because this past weekend, thanks in part to Boyertown’s four medalists, the district had 10 overall.

The Bears’ Ryan Kemmerer came oh so close to ending the district’s three-year gold drought, taking second at 140 pounds. Matt Malfaro (119) and Alex Pellicciotti (130) recovered admirably from early losses to place fifth, and Tim Feroe (152) won five of his first six bouts before settling for eighth.

With four medalists and a seventh-place finish in the team standings, the Bears — barring injuries and any other unforeseen distractions — may very well be positioning themselves as a favorite in next month’s District 1-Class AAA Duals. A lot could happen in the ensuing weeks, of course, but Boyertown has certainly matched moves or gone step-for-step with the other elite, namely Council Rock South, Great Valley, Quakertown (15th at the Beast), and Springfield-Delco (28th at the Beast) thus far.

Kemmerer’s path to the final included four straight decisions, including an 8-6 semifinal win over No. 2 seed Ben Morgan, an Oklahoma state runner-up from Catoosa High School. He dropped a 7-2 final to top-seeded Anthony Baldasaro of Eastern Regional, a New Jersey state champion, Cadet National champion and returning Beast silver medalist who is ranked No. 3 in the country.

Malfaro was part of a bracket that featured seven Beast medalists from a year ago. His biggest win was a 14-1 humbling of Central Dauphin’s Simon Rice, who was third at states a year ago. Pellicciotti rang up five straight wins in the consolations, with one over a Virginia state medalist and two others over seeded rivals. And Feroe beat up on one of Catoosa’s standouts and Caesar Rodney’s highly-touted Issah Meade in his comeback to the medal stand.

All but two of Boyertown’s 14 wrestlers won at least one match. The Bears went 38-26 overall en route to its seventh-place finish, far and above better than its previous-best finish; just shy of the area’s best showing (Upper Perkiomen was fifth in 2005 and 2006); and three spots below District 1’s best showing (Neshaminy was fourth in 1996).


Upper Perkiomen, without the injured 171-pound Nick Edmunson and a pair of other regulars that left two voids in the lineup, was 25th among 89 teams at the Reno Tournament of Champions, considered by some as the western version of the Beast.

The Indians had just one medalist in 285-pound Jared Bennett, who was seventh. But Michael McStravick (140) came within a win of the medal round, three others won three bouts, and the team finished with a 26-24 overall mark in individual bouts wrestled.

In other words, the Indians have not quite gone away yet. They’ll host Boyertown on Wednesday, Jan. 14 in a match that will undoubtedly decide the PAC-10 championship.


Great Valley dominated the Border Battle Duals at Rowan University over the weekend. Head coach Joe Tornetta, a graduate of Phoenixville, guided his team to five straight wins, and 215-pound Carl Buchholz was named the OW. … Council Rock South was eighth among 36 teams at the highly regarded King of the Mountain. Jim Vollrath was golden at 152 and Ed Shupe was the runner-up at 160 for the Golden Hawks, who had two other medalists. Hatboro-Horsham, with two medalists, was 21st.


The Hill School continued one of its best early-season runs in a number of years with a third place in the Northfield Mount Hermon Invitational up in Mass. Head coach Jesse Young had three individual champions in Jack Sullivan (119), Colin Saunders (125), and Jay Knighton (285) and 10 medalists overall. Sullivan and Knighton pinned all three of their opponents, and Saunders had two pins and a technical fall. ... Phoenixville also came up with a strong showing at the Radnor Tournament. The Phantoms got a first from Chris Onder (112), a second from Joe Mandrusiak (160), and thirds from Matt Cermanski (130) and Ken Cenci (215).


Kemmerer’s weekend blitz pushed his career win total to 143, tying Boyertown graduate Jesse DeWan for ninth on The Mercury area’s all-time list. Kemmerer will likely move past DeWan and No. 8 Dan Covatta of Methacton at the Cedar Cliff Duals on Saturday, Jan. 3. … Pellicciotti (91), Bennett (90), and Feroe (88) all moved closer to the 100-win mark over the weekend. … And on a final note, safe and happy Holiday Season wishes to all.



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