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, January 26, 2011

Let the show(s) begin

This column originally ran in Jan. 25, 2011 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

There are nine weeks, plus a day or two, in high school wrestling’s regular season. That’s a lot of tournaments and invitationals – for individuals as well as teams – sandwiched in and around league matches. Entertaining? For sure. Challenging? You better believe it.

But for four area teams, namely Methacton, Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen, there may never have been a Week Like This on any of their schedules … or anything like a Week That Was when it’s all said and done with.

In case you haven’t noticed, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford are both 5-0 and atop the Pioneer Athletic Conference standings. Considering OJR has never won a PAC-10 title and Spring-Ford has only shared two of them since its own four-year run ended way back in 1993 – and considering someone other than Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen is unbeaten and on the top rung of those standings for the first time since 1997 – well, that’s kind of different to say the very least. And considering both Methacton and Upper Perkiomen have just one loss apiece means the PAC-10 title race is still an interesting four-team chase.

That, of course, is exciting.

Quite entertaining, too. And the show, or shows, all gets under way Wednesday night.

Methacton, which has improved tenfold since its mid-December, 36-24 loss to Upper Perkiomen, hosts Owen J. Roberts, which must guard against a letdown

after Saturday afternoon’s emotional 29-28 win over Boyertown. Upper Perkiomen, which has had a week to regroup from its narrow setback to OJR and to soothe any aches and pains, is at Spring-Ford, which has drawn rants and raves from a lot of wrestling folk but has yet to wrestle anyone among the upper-half of the PAC-10’s rank and file.

If you don’t get a “wow” out of Wednesday’s card, then you may want to loosen the chin strap on that headgear.

The entertainment switches channels less than 24 hours later, though, with the first two rounds of the District 1-AAA Team Duals Tournament.

More entertainment. And, as they say, the plot thickens.

Spring-Ford (No. 2), Owen J. Roberts (No. 4) and Upper Perkiomen (No. 6) drew very respectable seeds for the duals, and first-round byes. Methacton (No. 12) drew a first-round, roll-around with Ridley — which ran off 21 straight wins to start the season only to lose to Downingtown West (and it’s 6-8 record going in) last Saturday.

The duals are a challenge, no kidding. The bigger challenge will be coming back and wrestling in the duals a day after the those two huge PAC-10 matches that, regardless of their outcomes, could very, very easily be a setup for a letdown – of physical or mental, (or both) nature.

And the results of those PAC-10 and duals matches, at least for Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford and Methacton, could even impact what’s going on Saturday. Yep, hold on, there’s more.

On Saturday, Methacton visits Boyertown (the four-time defending champion isn’t exactly out of any title chase, at least officially, with two losses). If Methacton pulls off the upset of OJR on Wednesday, which most diehards outside Fairview Village don’t think it can, the Warriors visit to Boyertown on Saturday moves to a much bigger stage. Either way, though, Saturday’s headliner is in Bucktown, where OJR will host Spring-Ford – the match most fans have desperately been waiting for, but an outcome that will only postpone any legitimate celebration until the grand finale (Spring-Ford at Boyertown on Wednesday, Feb. 9) is over and done with.

And to think this is only the seventh week of the nine-week regular season…


Boyertown (No. 9) and Pottsgrove (No. 24) also earned spots in the District 1-AAA Duals. The defending district champion Bears beat the Falcons last week, 46-22, and, ironically, face off against one another again Wednesday night in a first-round match at the Pottsgrove Middle School. … To answer a question received by email, every one of the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s 10 teams are AAA schools for this year and next.


Up in the Berks Conference, Daniel Boone (3-3, 9-6) can clinch no worse than a tie for another Section Two title with a win over visiting Twin Valley (0-6, 4-12) on Wednesday night. Co-leader Muhlenberg (3-3, 8-12) entertains Conrad Weiser (1-5, 6-16). Needless to say, both the Blazers and Muhls are the favorites. But Daniel Boone will have to bounce back without a couple of injured starters, and that humbling 77-0 loss to Biglerville last Saturday. … The Berks Conference Team Duals will be held this Saturday.


The big step in the Central League championship chase will be taken Wednesday night, too, when Garnet Valley (6-0) entertains Ridley (7-0). Co-leader Marple-Newtown (7-0, 11-0), which shocked a lot of fans by not applying for entry in the District 1 Duals, still has to host Garnet Valley (Feb. 2) and visit Ridley (Feb. 12). … Also on for Wednesday night is the Unity Cup – featuring the Council Rock brawl between South and North, the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds, respectively, in the district duals.


The PIAA reportedly likes the National Federation of High School’s new wrestling weight classes proposal, which is on the table now for the second straight year. And, according to Rod Frisco – who I respect as much if not more than anyone in the media – the executive staff will recommend the PIAA Board of Directors approve the proposal when they meet Thursday in Mechanicsburg.

The new lineup would be 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220 and 285. But even if the PIAA approves the proposal, nothing would be official, or adopted, until the first or second week of April at the earliest … or until the NFHS national rules committee vote, the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee review of the proposal, and the NFHS Board of Directors’ final stamp of approval.


Congratulations to Pottstown for becoming the fourth – not sixth as previously reported – area program 11th in District 1 to reach 500 wins. The Trojans reached the milestone with a 55-18 rout of Concord, Del., during the Kennett Duals on Saturday. … Pottstown trails only Boyertown (519), Methacton (527) and Spring-Ford (529) on the local overall wins chart.

Congratulations to Spring-Ford head coach Tim Seislove, who picked up his 150th career win last Wednesday when the Rams defeated Perkiomen Valley. Seislove is third among active coaches, trailing only Pottsgrove’s Jeff Madden (279) and Uppper Perkiomen’s Tom Hontz (293).

Pottsgrove’s Zach Robinson broke the Falcons’ school record for career wins last week, passing Chris Beasley (112) and pushing his total up to 115. The two, along with Ryan Michaels (103) – who two younger brothers (Dan and Riley) are members of this year’s team – are the only Falcons to over the 100-win mark. … Perkiomen Valley’s Gavin Milligan (105) is closing in on the Vikings’ all-time mark of 111, set by the late Tim Smith. And Daniel Boone’s Colin Martucci (107) is closing in on the Blazers’ all-time mark of 116, set by Tyler Schwartz. … Methacton’s returning state medalist Brandan Clark (127), with another deep run into the postseason, could break the Warriors’ all-time mark of 145 set by state champion and three-time state medalist Dan Covatta. … Boyertown’s Jeremy Minich (118) and OJR’s Scott Syrek (107) are the only other active wrestlers with 100 or more wins. … Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s top-ranked John Staudenmayer last week became the district’s 20th wrestler to reach 150 career wins.

Lighty gets the last laugh

This column originally ran in the Jan. 18, 2011 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

Rashaad Lighty got more than his share of ribbing last week when a picture of him getting pinned appeared on the front page of our sports section. Some of the teasing was good-natured. Some, of course, wasn’t. According to a few sources, a lot of students — not student-athletes, that is — got a good laugh after seeing it.

Sure enough, two nameless emails made their way into my mailbox over the weekend, both demanding an explanation as to why we would so “carelessly” publish a photograph that can only “humiliate” a young man. I wasn’t laughing.

The funny thing is Rashaad Lighty — a junior at Pottstown — will (and should) get the last laugh.

Without question, wrestling lacks the fan base that supports the sport like the throng that hoots and hollers for football, basketball and baseball. But wrestling does have a loyal following. Actually, they should be acknowledged as an educated following, because anyone with the slightest understanding of wrestling would do anything but laugh at such a photograph.

Let’s try Wrestling 101 here…

There is no sport in high school or college like wrestling. There is no sport in high school or college that demands such physical and mental strength, such discipline, on a daily basis, as wrestling does.

It is individual sport at its best … two athletes going toe to toe, or head to head, in a circle in plain sight for everyone to see for upwards of six minutes. Ankles and knees get turned, elbow and shoulders get twisted, necks get tortured and faces get slapped and smacked. There

are also times, more than most care to admit, when one of those ankles, knees, elbows or shoulders snap — torn cartilage and ligaments, muscle tears, separations, broken bones. Ouch doesn’t quite cover it. And to think hardly a day goes by when they aren’t watching what they eat — or how much they can eat — just so they can make weight, just so they can put themselves in a position to get all twisted and turned (beat up kind of covers it), well, that takes a special athlete … a real athlete.

But they do it, day in and day out, week to week, for a little over three months.

They do it to get their arm raised … to win. When they don’t, they’re right back in the practice room the next day, and the grind begins again.

Rashaad Lighty did lose that match last Thursday night, even lost another Saturday morning. But in between, he was working to get better. And while others were sleeping in, sitting in front of a computer or fiddling with their iPad, iPod, Xbox or Kindle, enjoying a day off from school or work, Lighty was back on the mats Monday.

That’s more, considerably more, than any of those laughing at the photograph can say.

Yep, Rashaad Lighty gets the last laugh.

Methacton headed south to Maryland over the weekend, wrestled eight matches in two days, and gave head coach A.J. Maida something to smile about on the ride back.

The Warriors swept their pool and three crossover matches before a 45-22 loss to Spalding (Md.) in the final of the Cavalier Duals.

“The kids wrestled very well,” Maida said. “We had a few kids go undefeated, a couple of others went 7-1 … it just seemed like everyone challenged their opponents at one time or another. Everyone stepped up.”

Rob D’Annunzio (112), Pat Carr (145) and Brandan Clark (215) were all 8-0, while freshman Joe Staley (119) and Eliot Reisz (171-189) both went 7-1 for the Warriors, who limited the opposition to less than 20 points until their semifinal (44-28 over Decatur) and final matches.

D’Annunzio knocked off a national prep medalist, who is also nationally ranked this season; Staley, who was just 7-6 before the trip, dropped a close decision to a state-ranked rival from Spalding; Carr was, “just dominant the entire weekend,” according to Maida; and Clark underlined his spotless showing by winning a bout he trailed 8-3 in the second period.

Methacton actually led Spalding by an 19-6 spread early on, but came up short in eight of the last nine individual bouts.

“After the loss to Upper Perkiomen (on Dec. 18) the kids realized they had to change things,” Maida said. “I think what sparked us was the (come-from-behind) win against Perkiomen Valley, and then the big win over Downingtown East.

“I think that’s when the kids realized they could hang with some people. They realized they could be successful if they continued to do the little things. They’ve been working hard, and that was evident (at the Cavalier Duals).”

The first round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Round-Robin Tournament — which some are calling this year’s championship chase — was held last weekend, with Upper Perkiomen taking down four-time defending champion Boyertown, 39-31. It was the Bears’ first league loss since falling 32-28 to Spring-Ford back on Jan. 23, 2008, ending a 22-match winning streak.

Tom Hontz, who guided Upper Perkiomen to nine straight titles from 1998 through 2006, is well aware Saturday’s win meant nothing more than the Indians are now 4-0.

“There is still a long way to go,” Hontz said after the come-from-behind win Saturday.

Hontz and the Indians have little time to celebrate because Wednesday it’s Round Two — Upper Perkiomen at Owen J. Roberts, where the Indians lost 39-25 a year ago.

And win, lose or draw, the Wildcats will have little time to dwell on whatever outcome awaits them because they’re traveling to Boyertown on Saturday for Round Three.

If anyone cares (or dares) to look ahead, Upper Perkiomen will be at Spring-Ford for Round Four on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Then, just two days after the opening rounds of the District 1-Class AAA Duals Tournament — which is likely to include a foursome or more from the PAC-10 — Spring-Ford gets right back into it for Round Five on Saturday, Jan. 29 at Owen J. Roberts.

Oh, there’s a Round Six, too … but more on that – maybe even on a Methacton, Perkiomen Valley or Pottsgrove upset in between – in a week or so.

Injuries to Boyertown’s Zach Heffner and Owen J. Roberts’ Scott Syrek — two of the state’s better upperweights — will take a wee bit of a bite out of what could’ve been some great individual matchups down the stretch — as well as in the postseason.

The 189-pound Heffner, a returning state qualifier, tore his ACL at last month’s Beast of the East Classic and hasn’t wrestled since. He is scheduled for surgery Thursday and will, in all likelihood, miss the rest of the season.

Syrek, a two-time state qualifier and medalist last year, has been slowed his entire career by shoulder and knee injuries. He had his shoulder operated on this past summer, and didn’t get onto the mats until last Wednesday’s dual against Perkiomen Valley. Then Saturday, after two more easy wins in the Escape The Rock at Council Rock South High School, he re-injured his shoulder during the semifinals and medically forfeited out of the tournament. Syrek may or may not return this season. If he does, though, few expect him to be anywhere close to 100 percent for the postseason grind.

PAC-10 race is filled with questions

This column originally ran in the Jan. 11, 2011 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

The high school wrestling season passed the one-month mark last weekend. That’s four full weeks of invitationals this, classics that, duals marathons as well as the latest and greatest round-robin tournaments – even an occasional, old-fashioned dual meet.

Problem is, there seems to be as many unanswered questions now as there were on the so-called “official” opening day of practice back in November.

None seems to have been tossed around more than who (or whom) is (or are) going to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Please, watch your grammar answering that one. Watch it carefully, because even though Boyertown at first was far and away the favorite among the matheads to win a fifth straight title, there doesn’t seem to be a favorite any more … only favorites.

It’s gotten to the point now that it just may depend on where you live (you know, root-root-root for the home team).

In less time than it took Rulon Gardner to drop 32 pounds from his 474-pound frame on The Biggest Loser, Owen J. Roberts served notice it would

be one of the contenders by taking down Boyertown on opening day — in front of the hometown folks, no less — at the Bear Duals. Upper Perkiomen established itself as a legitimate contender with early decisions of Methacton and Perkiomen Valley (more on these two later). And now, Spring-Ford – the only team other than Boyertown or Upper Perkiomen to win a PAC-10 title since 1998 – has quietly made it a foursome.

So guess what?

There isn’t likely to be an answer, or champion (dare we say champions), until Spring-Ford visits Boyertown to settle their own issue on the final night of the PAC-10 season next month – Wednesday, Feb. 9, to be exact.

From now until then the four contenders not only must deal with one another, of course, but with a few others very, very capable of turning this championship chase into a round-robin ruckus. The few others? Methacton and Perkiomen Valley, as stated earlier, and Pottsgrove. If healthy, if determined to stay off their backs, if able to avoid surrendering bonus points – agreed, that’s a lot of “ifs” – all three could pull off a surprise or two. Coulda, shoulda… be careful.

Be careful time, or ready to go from the opening whistle, begins this Wednesday for Owen J. Roberts, which entertains Perkiomen Valley, and for Spring-Ford, which hosts Pottsgrove.

The Wildcats have two notable starters out of the lineup right now. Make no mistake about it, they’re good, but still not as good as they’d be with Jordan Moser and Scott Syrek in the lineup. Head coach Steve DeRafelo would like nothing more than to have them both weighing in next week when OJR has to go back-to-back with Upper Perkiomen (Wednesday) and Boyertown (Saturday). But first there’s PV, a team that had both Methacton and Upper Perkiomen beat until the final bout in each determined otherwise.

Spring-Ford may actually have the most balanced lineup of anyone right now, but needs that balance to offset Pottsgrove’s four (perhaps five) big guns. The Rams also need to remain focused – not to mention healthy – through the next week or so before finishing up with Upper Perkiomen, Owen J. Roberts and Boyertown.

Upper Perkiomen may be the unknown factor in the championship equation at this juncture because the Indians have done most of their wrestling in North Carolina and Virginia. They can wield a punch down low and in the upper portion of their lineup. They showed some spunk in the wins over Methacton and Perkiomen Valley. Whether they contend or pretend will be determined in the next week and a half, or following encounters with Boyertown (this Saturday) and Owen J. Roberts (next Wednesday).

Which brings us back to Boyertown, where this whole darn conversation – or argument – started.

Mark it down. Even though there is a noticeable hole or two in their lineup, magnified even more now that Zach Heffner is reportedly done for the season because of an injury, the Bears are still the team to beat.

Can they, or will they, get beat – is the big question.

But for now, no more questions … please.


Perkiomen Valley’s Gavin Milligan and Daniel Boone’s Colin Martucci last weekend became the second and third area wrestlers to reach the coveted 100 career wins mark this season, the 90th and 91st overall from The Mercury area.

Milligan joined the late Tim Smith (111) as the only Vikings to hit the mark, while Martucci joined Eddie Lockowitz (103) and Tyler Schwartz (116) as the only Blazers to achieve the feat.

With the milestone win out of the way, the 145-pound Milligan wouldn’t mind penciling his name into another column at Perkiomen Valley – which hasn’t had a postseason champion or a state qualifier since 2004.

The 152-pound Martucci, the son of former St. Pius X head coach John Martucci, is geared toward ending his own personal postseason frustration. The senior is a two-time section runner-up who came within one win of qualifying for states last year with a fourth at the AAA Southcentral Regional. Daniel Boone hasn’t had a state medalist 1999, either.


As many as five others – Phoenixville’s Ken Cenci, Pottsgrove’s T.J. Demetrio, Spring-Ford’s Matt Krueger, Owen J. Roberts’ Jonathan Dempsey and Methacton’s Rob D’Annunzio – are likely to reach the 100-win mark before season’s end, too.

Cenci would become Phoenixville’s fourth with 100 or more, while Demetrio would join Ryan Michaels (104), teammate Zach Robinson (107) and Chris Beasley (112) as the lone Falcons on the list.

The area’s active career win leaders are Boyertown’s Jeremy Minich (114), Methacton’s Brandan Clark (111), Robinson and Owen J. Roberts’ Scott Syrek (103), who has yet to wrestle this season due to an injury.


And speaking of wins, Spring-Ford is now the area’s leader with 526 victories in the history of its program. Methacton (518), with just two duals thus far this season, and Boyertown (517) are the only other area programs with 500-plus wins. Pottstown is just four shy of joining that select group.

District 7 power Canon-McMillan, which defeated Upper Perkiomen in the season-opening Quakertown Duals last month, is the runaway leader in all-time wins. The Macs opened the year with 954.

Versatile Mauger has been superb

This column originally ran in the Jan. 4, 2011 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

Tyler Mauger has proven time and time again he can carry his own weight. He did it last year on the wrestling mat, this past fall on the football field, and through the first month of the current wrestling season.

And did it with the old-fashioned, blue-collar approach…

“I just go all out all the time,” Mauger explained.

Mauger was the jack-of-all-trades — or the pencil-me-in-wherever-needed upperweight – a year ago. He didn’t have to watch what he ate, and didn’t have to resort to any last-minute running in the gym to shed a pound or two, either. He was a legitimate 171-pounder. But because of the talent around him —namely Brock Hallman, Zach Heffner and Ryan Schwager — he competed in that weight class just eight times, and only once after Christmas.

If there was ever a key to Boyertown’s run to a fourth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship and the program’s first District 1-AAA Team Duals title, though, it was Mauger. He often got bumped up to 189. But when the postseason rolled around — a time when most wrestlers stay put or drop a weight class — he was right smack in the middle of a predicament when Hallman locked in at 171 and Heffner dropped and locked in at 189.

Mauger’s only option was to go all the way up to 215. And as unusual as the move may have been — and despite being considerably shorter and obviously lighter than anyone he wrestled — Mauger responded with a second at sectionals, fourth at districts, and an appearance at regionals — where he lost to eventual state medalist Brandan Clark of Methacton and eventual fifth-place finisher Marcus Collins of Bonner.

This past fall, Mauger wasn’t exactly the cut-out-of-stone strong safety, either. But he hit like a boulder and drew praise from virtually every opposing coach. After helping the Bears to a share of the PAC-10 title, he was

named a first-team defensive back on the league and Mercury All-Area teams.

The day after the football season ended, Mauger was one of the first in the wrestling room the following morning.

“I came off the football field and went right into wrestling,” he said. “I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me, a lot of hard work just to get in condition. I was running a lot when I wasn’t practicing, too.”

Mauger made up for lost time in a hurry, won four of his first five bouts in the season-opening Bear Duals, and put up a major in the PAC-10 opener against Pope John Paul II.

Up next was the Beast of the East – unquestionably one of the most challenging high school tournaments in the country. A year ago, Mauger lost a 14-0 major and was pinned in 30 seconds, both of which overshadowed his two wins.

No one had any reason to think he’d do much better this time around, either, especially when Heffner moved down to 189 and, once again, Mauger found himself bumped up to 215. But he won his first three bouts before falling to nationally-ranked Kyle Snyder in the semifinals and, eventually, had to settle for sixth place.

Last week, Mauger was back at 189 for the Bethlehem Holiday Classic … and was golden. He started with a first-period pin, then followed with three straight overtime decisions – one of which was a 5-4 semifinal thriller over Michael Mauk of St. Mark’s (Del.) to avenge his lone setback in the season-opening Bear Duals.

“Right now I feel I’m good enough to go out there with anyone,” Mauger explained. “I have that confidence.

“I feel I’ve gotten a lot better since last year. Last year my biggest problem was probably on my feet. But now I feel a lot smoother on my feet.”

Mauger spent a lot of time on the mats last summer, right up until the football season kicked off. The practices, camps, clinics and matches – followed by the turnaround football season that ended with the share of the PAC-10 title and 10-2 overall record – have all played a big part in Mauger’s eye-opening December run.

“I think there was a little carryover from football,” Mauger admitted. “I got used to winning in football, and that helped me going right into wrestling.”

There’s no question Mauger’s technique has improved. There’s no question he has a bit more of a confident strut these days.

But he still wrestles each and every match like he did from the beginning.

“I go hard all six minutes,” he said. “That’s what has won me a lot of matches, and it’s how I’m going to win now. I go hard all the time. I want to be in better shape than the other guy, and I want to be more aggressive and more physical than the other guy. Confidence does help, too.

“But I just go all out, just like I go all out playing football. That’s all I can do. I don’t want to regret that I didn’t give it my best. I don’t want to regret that I didn’t give it everything I have.”

* * *

There are only two PAC-10 matches Wednesday and another on Saturday as the tournament grind continues this weekend. … Up in the Berks Conference, though, defending Division Two champion Daniel Boone visited Exeter on Monday night and hosts defending Division One champion Wilson (3-0, 7-1 overall) on Wednesday night. … The Hill School, off since Dec. 19, returns to the mats Saturday as the host of the annual Mid-Atlantic Prep League and Inter-Ac Duals. … Perkiomen School, off since Dec. 14, is back wrestling on Saturday at the Church Farm School Tournament.

* * *

Methacton’s Brandan Clark is now The Mercury area’s active leader in career wins with 111. Boyertown’s Jeremy Minich, idle due to illness for over a week now, is next at 109. Owen J. Roberts’ Scott Syrek, who has yet to start his senior season due to an injury, has 103 career wins, and Pottsgrove’s Zach Robinson is at 102. … Perkiomen Valley’s Gavin Milligan (97) and Daniel Boone’s Colin Martucci (95) are both closing in on the coveted 100-win mark.

* * *

NATIONAL NOTE: Townsend (Mont.) senior Jade Rauser set a state record last week by winning his 145th straight bout and is now 147-0 in his high school career. The 125-pound Rauser will be looking for his fourth straight state title next month. His twin brother, 130-pound Val, owns two state titles and a 132-4 career record. Both have already committed to Division I Utah Valley.

Injury bug bites PAC-10’s best

This column originally ran in the Dec. 28, 2010 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

If it seems as though something has been missing through the first two-plus weeks of the wrestling season, well, there is.

Pottsgrove’s T.J. Demetrio and Owen J. Roberts’ Scott Syrek, both state qualifiers last March, have yet to step onto the mat. Boyertown’s Zach Heffner, another returning state qualifier who was off to an 8-3 start, may not be stepping onto the mat for a while. And Perkiomen Valley’s Lou Fioravanti, unquestionably one of the area’s break-out talents who wrestled his way to regionals last season and was projected to be one of the better heavyweights this winter, has yet to step onto the mat.

Injuries, injuries, injuries, injuries … ailing elbows, knees. You name it and they, unfortunately, got them.

Demetrio suffered an elbow injury in Pottsgrove’s first scrimmage and had to settle for a seat in the bleachers when the Falcons opened just over a week ago at the West Chester East Tournament. Syrek reaggravated a knee injury during the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C., back in October, and has sat matside through the Bear Duals and Beast of the East as well as the Pioneer Athletic Conference opener with Pottstown. Heffner was a real bear throughout Boyertown’s season-opening duals as well as a PAC-10 test with Pope John Paul II before hurting his knee at the Beast of the East. And Fioravanti was all set for the season-opening Southeast Classic until suffering an elbow injury during practice the day before.

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch…

“T.J. is coming along,” head coach Jeff Madden said of Demetrio, who last year became just the second AAA Southeast Region champion at Pottsgrove. “I guess if you’re going to get hurt, (getting hurt in the preseason) is a good time of the year to do it.

“He’s been taking it slowly, though. He’s going to wrestle (today and Wednesday) at the Christmas City (tournament).”

Late starts aren’t new to Demetrio. He was late getting into the practice room last year after helping the Falcons’ football team win the District 1-AAA team and advance to the state playoffs. But he made up for lost time in a hurry, joining Chris Beasley as the school’s only regional champion and becoming the program’s first state qualifier since Beasley way back in 1992.

“I guess it is very similar to last year,” Madden said of his 152-pound senior. “He didn’t get started then until Christmas City. If this had happened to someone else you may be a little more concerned. But T.J. works hard. He works so hard in the summer. He’s as prepared as well as anyone can. Every injury can set you back, but he’ll overcome it.”

Syrek, a two-time state medalist who has been slowed by shoulder and knee injuries throughout his career – which includes 103 career wins – isn’t expected to compete in this week’s Buckskin Classic at Conestoga Valley High School.

According to OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo, the 215-pound Syrek tweaked his knee during the Super 32 Challenge, where he had decisioned returning Pennsylvania state runner-up and nationally ranked Zach Nye of Pennsboro only to fall in the final to Garnet Valley’s Matt Idelson, who is also nationally ranked.

“He just reaggravated (the knee injury),” DeRafelo said. “We’re hoping to have him back as soon as we can, but it’ll probably be another two or three weeks.”

The Wildcats could really use Syrek in the lineup when they get into their 10-day January grind. From the 19th through the 29th, OJR’s schedule features PAC-10 showdowns with Upper Perkiomen, defending champion Boyertown and Spring-Ford.

“We’ve been pretty lucky up to this point that we have two young kids (Brad Trego and Nick DeAngelo) wrestling well,” DeRafelo said. “Not many teams have much depth, or good backups at 189 and 215, but both Trego and DeAngelo have done a nice job for us with (Syrek) out of the lineup.”

Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca, as well as everyone else in his practice room, are hoping Heffner can make it back quickly … if at all.

A two-time Section Four champion who looked like a lock to return to states this season, the 215-pound Heffner was 3-1 and in line for a medal at the torturous Beast of the East. However, a knee injury forced him to medically forfeit to St. Mark’s Michael Mauk.

“Zach hurt his knee, but we don’t know to what extent,” Ventresca said. “It’s just one of those things that happen in this sport. Right now we just can’t jump to any conclusions. I know we don’t want to think the worst…

“But we’ll know soon. He’s waiting on the results of some tests, so no one knows for sure. It’s a wait-and-see situation. He may be good in a week or two, or he may be out for the rest of the season. All we can do at the moment is hope for the best.”

Fioravanti eluded injuries during football and throughout the two weeks of wrestling workouts. But the day before the Southeast Classic, the Viking heavyweight injured his elbow during practice.

“We were concerned at first because we thought (the injury) could be a fracture,” said Perkiomen Valley head coach Tim Walsh. “He hasn’t been able to wrestle since. He has been running, and he’s keeping his cardio up by riding the bike. But he really can’t do anything else.”

Without Fioravanti, the Vikings finished third at the Southeast Classic and had no trouble in a pair of duals against Unionville and Pottstown. But the veteran 285-pounder could have made a difference in last week’s 33-28 loss to neighboring Methacton.

“The kids are doing well, and everyone hopes to have Lou back as soon as possible,” Walsh said. “I know he had high hopes for himself after doing so well last year, so we hope to have him back before the postseason.”

* * *

Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz got a nice holiday present when his Indians finished third in last week’s King of the Mat at North Davidson High School in Lexington, N.C.

Dante and Dylan Steffenino both knocked off the top-seeds in their brackets en route to gold medals at 103 and 112 pounds, respectively. Teammates Wolfgang McStravick (125), Nate Pompei (160) and Dalton Fleming (189) added fourths as the Indians finished up with 167.5 points and behind only co-champions Parkland (N.C.) and Soddy Daisy (Tenn.) and their 224 points.

Parkland, which has won (or shared) the tournament title four straight years, had seven top-four finishes. Defending state champion Antwan Davis (136 career wins), who edged McStravick by a 12-9 count in the semifinals, took third. The Mustangs have won 193 consecutive duals since 2006-07 and are 253-11 in five seasons under head coach Maurice Atwood.

Soddy Daisy was ranked No. 2 in Tennessee before a 31-30 loss to Christian Brothers just over a week ago dropped the Trojans to No. 4.

The King of the Mat featured 45 teams – 36 from N.C., four from S.C., two from Virginia, and one each from Alabama, Tennessee and, of course, Pennsylvania.

* * *

The Christmas/New Year holiday break means wrestling … and plenty of it. Here’s this week’s menu:

Today and Wednesday: Boyertown in the Bethlehem Holiday Classic at Liberty High School; Pottsgrove in the Xmas City Classic at Bethlehem Catholic High School; and Daniel Boone and Pottstown in the Governor Mifflin Tournament.

Wednesday and Thursday: Methacton and Perkiomen Valley in the Wetzel Invitational at Hatboro-Horsham High School; Owen J. Roberts in the Buckskin Classic at Conestoga Valley High School; Phoenixville in the Tunkahannock Kiwanis Tournament; and Spring-Ford in the Manheim Holiday Tournament.

Pottsgrove’s Robinson now halfway to reaching goals

This column originally ran in the Dec. 21, 2010 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

Zach Robinson had two specific goals when he strolled into Pottsgrove’s practice room as a highly touted freshman – 100 wins and a spot in the PIAA Championships out in Hershey.

One down … one to go.

The senior pinned down his 100th career win last Saturday when he decked Central Bucks South’s Eddie Keegan at the 1:24 mark in the second round of the West Chester East Tournament. Earlier, he opened his season by running up a technical fall and, following his milestone win, added two more pins and a major decision to capture the 145-pound gold medal.

“The 100 wins mean a lot to me,” Robinson said. “There aren’t many wrestlers from Pottsgrove who have done it. It’s

been an honor working for it, and I’m more than happy to finally get there.

“It’s something I’ve been shooting for since my freshman year, that and wanting to be in Hershey. I’m still working on the second part, but this will give me some confidence.”

Robinson admits he’s been a slow-starter. As a freshman, he opened 9-2 before winning 19 of his next 21. As a sophomore, he was just 6-4 before taking 22 of his next 23. Last season, he was 9-3 before stringing together 20 in a row.

Handling the punting and placekicking chores for Pottsgrove’s football team all three years may have had something to do with those slow starts, especially considering the Falcons went deep into the postseason all three years.

“I was a sophomore when Jordan Klinger was (the football team’s) kicker. But Jordan hurt his knee real bad in soccer and I just went out and said, ‘Let me try a couple.’ Lo and behold, coach (Rick) Pennypacker said OK and I was the kicker.”

Robinson, who punted very well, didn’t realize he booted his way over the 100-point career mark this season and finished with a school record 127 kick-scoring points.

Now, a 100-100 double…

Interesting, and obviously rare among high school athletes who kick the football as well as kick around on a wrestling mat. But there’s still that issue of getting to Hershey.

“I don’t have an answer if my slow starts are due to football,” Robinson said. “I do know I’m a little rusty in the beginning (of wrestling). I do some camps in summer, but I don’t get a lot of matches. So I guess it’s a little tricky for me to hit all my stuff early on. It’s made for some rocky starts.

“I know this year I felt it because the first week or week and a half in the room was really hard. I was always feeling out of breath. After that first week went by I felt OK, though. I feel I’m getting in shape now. I also realize now why we did all that running so much.”

Robinson hopes to get on another long run, on the mats.

And he hopes this last lap goes considerably further than in the past. He has two section titles, a pair of fourths at districts, and two forgettable regional appearances (2-4 overall). Passing the 100-win mark – which puts him well within reach of former Pottsgrove standout Chris Beasley (112) and tied with Ryan Michaels (103) on the school’s career win chart – is already in the book. He hopes to add considerably more to get on board for that coveted trip to Hershey in March.

“I established those two goals as a freshman,” Robinson recalled. “Looking back maybe I tried too hard. But not getting (to states) has been more than frustration. I’ve had some really tough moments after the last two years at regionals.

“But now I’m focused on one thing. I’ve gotten 100, so that’s over with now and I’m happy about that. So I’m really focused on that other goal … getting to states.”


Robinson was one of Pottsgrove’s three individual champions and nine medalists overall at the W.C. East Tournament. Also capturing gold were Danny Michaels (160) and Tyler Wysochanski (189) – two other starters on the Falcons’ football team. Michaels, a junior, and freshman brother Riley Michaels (third at 125), are both younger brothers of Ryan Michaels, who went on to become a three-time NCWA All-American at RPI.


The Mercury’s first team and individual rankings appear today. Spring-Ford and its very balanced as well as experienced lineup, which finished second at the Southeast Classic and dropped just one of five matches at the Wilson Brawl last weekend, debuts at No. 1. Owen J. Roberts and defending PAC-10 champion Boyertown follow in the second and third spots, respectively, followed by Upper Perkiomen and Perkiomen Valley to close out the Fab Five.

Individually, it’s pretty much a poke-and-hope putting everyone in the first through third slots at this early stage. But among the big surprises heading into the Christmas break – as short as it may be for wrestling – are Spring-Ford’s Sean Hennessey (11-0 at 119), and Daniel Boone teammates Liam Gibbons (10-1 at 130) and Ken Bock (10-0 at 189).

The area’s toughest brackets thus far appear to be 103 with Boyertown’s Ed Kriczky (10-3), Upper Perkiomen’s Dante Steffenino (7-1) and Hill School’s Chad Saunders (7-2); 145 with Robinson, Perkiomen Valley’s Gavin Milligan (8-0) and Methacton’s Pat Carr (5-0); and 189, with Bock, Boyertown’s Zach Heffner (8-3), Methacton’s Eliot Reisz (1-0) and three others.


Boyertown’s Tyler Mauger, who has little if any problems making weight at 189, moved up to 215 when teammate Zach Heffner moved down for last weekend’s Beast of the East Classic. But the luxury of taking a few extra bites of food for a few days isn’t quite like the taste of a medal … any medal, that is, at the Beast.

Mauger, who this past fall played much bigger and considerably more physical than his listed height and weight in helping the Bears to a share of the PAC-10 football championship, won four straight bouts to get into Sunday’s semifinals. Surprise? Better believe it was considering he had about two weeks in the practice room to soothe the aches and pains, make the transition from tackles to takedowns, and to build up his endurance. And then moving up and giving up more than a handful or two of pounds in arguably the toughest high school tournament in the country?

As it turned out, he was denied a spot in the final by Kyle Snyder, who just may be the nation’s next upperweight phenom. The Good Counsel (Md.) freshman – that’s right, freshman – not only beat him 14-6, but went on to blank Garnet Valley’s defending champion and nationally ranked Matt Idelson, 3-0, in the final. Prior to last weekend, Snyder’s high school debut included two tournament wins at the Ray Oliver Invitational and the War at the Shore.


The three area teams at the Beast – Boyertown (28-25), The Hill School (8-14) and Owen J. Roberts (17-24) – went a combined 53-63 in individual bouts. Though nothing to really shout home about, the Bears got at least one win from all 12 of their wrestlers; OJR got wins from nine of its dozen entries; and Hill – which sent a portion of its lineup to the West Chester East Tournament – got at least one win from four of its seven wrestlers.

Boyertown – which was presented the Team Sportsmanship Award – has now had at least one medalist at the Beast of the East six straight years.


John Staudenmayer became Plymouth-Whitemarsh’s first Beast champion after taking the gold at 171. Staudenmayer capped the weekend with a second-period near fall and third-period reversal for a 4-2 decision in the final. Not only does he become Colonials’ first champion, but the program’s first medalist since Shane Vocht finished fourth at 125 back in 1999. Even two-time state champion Justin Giovinco was never able to close the deal, settling for a pair of runner-up finishes in 1997-98.


If there was a Beast OW it would have to go to 189-pound James Fox of St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.). Unseeded, Fox stunned two-time defending champion and Ohio State-bound Kenny Courts of Central Dauphin, 2-1 in overtime, during the semifinals. Fox added another win in Sunday afternoon’s final for the gold medal.


Council Rock South got a first place from Danny Martoccio (103) and second from Trey Balasco (112) and had seven medalists overall to finish sixth among 41 teams at last weekend’s King of the Mountain brawl. The Golden Hawks were without returning state medalist Billy Rappo – out with an injured hand – who is District 1’s only nationally ranked wrestler (eighth at 103). … Easton appears back in its dominating stance after winning last weekend’s Reno Tournament of Champions out in Nevada. Mitch Minotti dominated at 145 (two pins, technical fall, two majors and 3-0 shutout in the final), and Jalal Paige bounced back from an opening-round loss with eight straight wins to take third at 285 to headline seven medalists. Easton put up 171 points to outdistance Tulsa Union (Tex.) and Roseburg (Ore.), which were second and third, respectively, with 151.5 and 143.5 points. … The nation’s No. 1 ranked team, Apply Valley (Minn.), won its fourth consecutive team title and 13 overall at last weekend’s Minnesota Christmas Tournament. The champions were led by seventh-grader Mark Hall, who won at 130, and Destin McCauley, who became the first four-time champion in the 24-year history of the event, at 152.

Major decision

This column originally ran in the Dec. 14, 2010 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

Parvanti Dominque knew very, very little about wrestling, actually never even saw a wrestling match, growing up in Haiti. Like most of his friends, basketball and soccer were his games.

So when Dominque held off Upper Moreland’s Sebastian Medina, 3-2, in his varsity debut during the second round of the Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals last Saturday, it was impossible not to notice the smile, the joy that overwhelmed him – as well as all his Boyertown teammates – when the his arm was raised to acknowledge the victory.

“That was a great moment,” Boyertown assistant coach Tony Haley said.

It was indeed, and not because Dominque first stepped on a wrestling mat less than a month earlier.

But because of how far Dominque had come since sleeping on a makeshift bed every night for nearly two months outside his home in Port-au-Prince, approximately 16 miles east of the epicenter of last January’s earthquake … how far Dominque had come since surviving the catastrophe that affected three million people, injured close to a million, killed more than 230,000 – many of his friends – and left his country in near total ruin.

“I was in our house watching a movie when I felt a vibration,” Dominque said, recalling the late-afternoon quake of Jan. 12. “I thought it was the end of the world. I saw our house kind of tilt over.

“I think (the initial shock) lasted around seven seconds. I ran outside, but then (the shocks) started again and again. We had aftershocks all night. I was so scared.”

According to reports, more than 50 aftershocks were recorded in the 12 days following the quake. Over 250,000 homes had collapsed or were severely

damaged, including the Dominques.

That forced so many families – including Parvanti, his two brothers and their parents – into rather uncivilized accommodations.

“It was scary,” Dominque said. “We put up tents outside our house and slept in them, outside, for about two months. But what made it scary were people coming into your homes, stealing things. Some would even put a gun to your head.”

Dominque witnessed firsthand how his civil nation was turned upside down … total chaos with no running water or any electricity, gangs stealing food and looting whatever else they needed to survive.

“A few years earlier, when I was in seventh grade and on my way home one day, I saw people shooting guns,” Dominque recalled. “That’s when my mom wanted me to come to the U.S. My dad didn’t (favor that) move, though.”

But when the earthquake forced schools to close, and Dominque and his brothers had virtually nothing to do all day but play basketball and study in the midst of all the turmoil, his father saw what he felt was best for his sons.

“Soon after the earthquake, my dad wanted us to come here,” Dominque said. “Because of all the troubles, everything that was going on, he changed his mind.”

Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city in Haiti, located in a bay on the country’s southwestern coast, is just 750 miles southeast of Florida.

It isn’t a world removed from America, which is one reason why Dominque had taken vacations to visit relatives in Florida, New Jersey and New York. This time, though, he wouldn’t be heading north for just a week or so of fun.

This time, he and his brothers would move in with an aunt in the Boyertown school district. They arrived April 27, and it hasn’t been any vacation for Dominque or his brothers – 18-year-old Marvy and 12-year-old Leonaldo.

Not like any of them needed a reminder, but their education – first in Haiti and now Boyertown – is very important, especially for Dominque.

“I want to be a doctor,” he said.

After coming to Boyertown, Dominque didn’t really expect to do much other than go to school and study, either. But by late-summer he was a member of the Bears’ football team, taking on the challenges of learning a new sport. He didn’t get to play much, of course, but certainly enjoyed being part of the team that shared the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship this past fall.

“Football was fun,” he said.

Then soon after Thanksgiving, he was in the wrestling room.

“Coach (Pete) Ventresca saw me in school one day and told me I could be a wrestler,” the soft-spoken Dominque explained. “So I decided to try it.

“I never saw a wrestling match before I came to here to the U.S. I did see some UFC on television once, but that’s not real wrestling. But I like contact, and in a way that’s why I quit basketball. I like to always work hard. I want to be good.”

At 5-foot-11 and just over 190 pounds, Dominque discovered very quickly it won’t be easy, by any stretch of the imagination, breaking into the Boyertown starting lineup. Not with veterans like Tyler Mauger at 189 and Zach Heffner at 215, and an experienced Josh Fiss at 285. But Ventresca managed to give him one junior varsity and two varsity matches last Saturday.

“I don’t find (wrestling) too difficult,” Dominque said. “If you’re strong and you know what you’re doing you can do OK. But I have learned you have to stay focused on what you’re doing. I really like it.”

Haley, like Ventresca and the rest of the Boyertown staff, is amazed by Dominque’s work ethic, by his entire approach to wrestling.

“First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer kid,” Haley said. “He wants to learn, wants to do well. He works hard. He wants to succeed.”

A major part of that plan – to succeed – is finishing school, going to college and becoming a doctor.

Dominque, you see, hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

“I want to be successful in whatever I do,” he said. “In the U.S., and especially right here (in Boyertown), people help you, help you progress, help you in everything. I like America, and I really like Boyertown because it’s a nice school and everyone is so friendly.

“But I miss home. I miss my parents, my friends. I miss them a lot. And things are getting worse down there.”

Dominque is well aware of the cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened close to 100,000 others. He’s well aware of the protests that turned into riots recently after the preliminary results of the late-November elections were announced.

“There’s just no activity in Haiti right now,” he said. “It’s a bad situation there. That’s why I want to be successful, why I want to study and work hard in everything I do. I want to become a doctor so I can go back and help my country.”


New format in postseason seedings

This column originally ran in the Dec. 7, 2010 edition of The Pottstown Mercury

The District 1 Wrestling Steering Committee was a busy bunch during the offseason. Come to think of it, that’s nothing new. But what the committee discussed, debated and eventually decided on in recent months certainly created a new way or two of doing things for this season, which gets under way in just three days.

“We are always open to improving District 1 wrestling,” said former Methacton head coach Dennis Kellon, now in his second year as chairman of the steering committee.

There’s no question the district has made significant strides in recent years, both on and off the mats. And the major change written into the 2010-2011 guide – which deals with postseason seedings – is arguably one of the best moves yet.

Three criteria will be used to seed wrestlers for the postseason, the three-week grind (sectionals, districts and regionals) that leads to PIAA Championships in Hershey.

The first awards points based on a wrestler’s won-loss record, except now that number will be determined by the individual’s winning percentage instead of the previous point system. A wrestler is awarded one point for each win, and his total points are then divided by his total bouts. For example, if a wrestler owns a 20-0 record, he would have a winning percentage of 100, or 100 points. If he owns a 16-6 record, he would have a winning percentage 72.7, or 73 points (when rounded out to two decimal points).

However, wrestlers entering the postseason must have competed in a minimum of 12 bouts to get the full points. If not, eight points for each bout under the minimum are subtracted from his totals. For example, if a wrestler is 8-0, his win

ning percentage of 100, or 100 points, would be reduced to 68. If a wrestler is 5-1, his winning percentage of 83, or 83 points, would be reduced to 35.

“We’ve gone with a percentage now rather than the regular point system we used for a number of years,” Kellon explained.

The second of the three criteria – prestige points – has been in place for several years now, too. Bonus points are awarded to wrestlers for their finishes in the previous year’s postseason tournaments. Wrestlers receive 1-7 points for finishing among the top four in their respective sectionals; 8-25 points for finishing among the top six in districts; 30-60 points for finishing among the top six in regionals; and 65-100 for finishing among the top eight in states.

The third and final segment of the postseason seedings’ criteria, which focuses on the caliber of a wrestlers’ competition, is new. Bonus points will be awarded for competing against opponents – Pennsylvania opponents, that is – who medaled in last year’s regional and state tournaments.

Just wrestling an opponent who was sixth or fifth in a regional earns an individual two points, beating them earns an individual 15 and 18 points, respectively. Wrestling an opponent who was fourth, third, second or first in a regional is good for three points, and beating them earns an individual 20, 23, 25 and 30 points, respectively.

Those bonus points increase when going up against returning state medalists. Four points are awarded to wrestlers who go up against any returning state medalist. Defeating opponents who were eighth on up to first at last year’s state tournament earns a wrestler 33, 35, 38, 40, 43, 45, 48 and 50 points, respectively.

“The coaches and our steering committee talked about the addition of the third criteria,” Kellon explained. “Each representative of our committee surveyed their respective league to get a feel for the change. Although it wasn’t unanimous, a great majority of the coaches were in a favor of it.

“The (third criteria) encourages more teams to improve their strength of schedule, encourages them to look for better non-league matches and tournaments. Schools are open to schedule teams in or out of District 1, and to enter more competitive events.”

That new criteria could help during the regular season – or league season – as well.

“It should help create better match-ups and fewer forfeits,” Kellon added.


The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance from the six AAA sections to districts, while the top five in each weight class advance from the District 1 North and District 1 South tournaments to the Southeast Regional.

District 1’s regional entourage (10 in each weight class) will team up with District 12’s qualifiers (three in each weight class) to complete the AAA regional lineup. Unofficially, a 16-man bracket – with opening-round byes, of course – will be used at the regional this season.

As it’s been since 2003, the Southeast Regional’s top four finishers in each weight class advance to states.


The District 1 Team Duals get under way Thursday, Jan. 27 at four different sites – Council Rock North, Hatboro-Horsham, Pottsgrove and Rustin. The final rounds will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4-5, at Council Rock South. The top four teams advance to the state team duals tournament, with the second-, third- and fourth-place teams opening up the Monday. Feb. 7 and the champion earning a bye into the quarterfinals.


The individual postseason begins with the six sectionals on Saturday, Feb. 19. The sites are Neshaminy (Section One), Pottsgrove (Two), Hatboro-Horsham (Three), Boyertown (Four), Ridley (Five), and Garnet Valley (Six). The District 1-North and District 1-South tournaments, set for Feb. 25-26, will be held at Council Rock North and Spring-Ford, respectively. The Southeast Regional, scheduled for Mar. 4-5, returns to Oxford.

The District 1-Class AA Tournament, set for Feb. 25-26, will be held at Pottstown, while the AA Southeast Regional will be held the following weekend at Wilson (West Lawn).

The PIAA Championships, for both the AAA and AA brackets, will be held Thursday through Saturday, Mar. 10-12, in Hershey.