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.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Minich, Clark will realize how great they are .. in time

This column was originally published in the March 15, 2011, edition of The Mercury.

There are times when the frenzied media needs to step back, provide a little space for a minute or two before bringing out all the pad and pencils, microphones, flip-cams and cameras, before starting their seemingly endless stream of questions.

One of those times was last Saturday night, during the final hours of the PIAA-Class AAA Championships in the Giant Center out in Hershey, when Boyertown’s Jeremy Minich and Methacton’s Brandan Clark needed an inch or two away from everyone, a moment or two alone, to collect themselves.

Anyone who has ever been blessed to get within six minutes of living their dream — to get oh so close to what they worked so hard for and given up so much for — only to have it end so quickly…

The visuals — bowed heads, slumped shoulders and tears they desperately seek to hide — are, for the most part, beyond words. And inside, there simply are no practice room drills or warm-up routines — all geared toward winning and winning only — that prepare them for the agony that digs deep, deep into the gut.

Minich and Clark, absolute class acts in victory and defeat, on and off the mat, were hurting Saturday night after coming up short of winning a gold medal. Few can honestly describe the pain, the emptiness, of getting so, so close – and not winning – the most treasured prize a kid could ever want, or any kid who’s grown up wrestling in this state.

Few expected Minich and Clark to be under the Saturday spotlight.

Yes, Minich did make two previous trips to Hershey, but going 1-for-3 both times didn’t lend much to any argument he would be in the final this time around. Yes, Minich did run the table at sections, districts and regions, but so did a lot of others around the state. And yes, Clark was in Hershey a year ago, too, even won a seventh-place medal.

Past weeks and past seasons, however, mean nothing when the final three days of the wrestling season unfold in Hershey … absolutely nothing.

So Minich and Clark didn’t just beat the odds, they beat whoever and whatever was thrown up and at them for two straight days. District and regional champions, some without a loss and others with just a loss or two, couldn’t beat them, couldn’t stop them from rightfully earning their spots in the Parade of Champions and spots in two of the 14 finals on Saturday night.

And even though all that began well didn’t end well, neither Minich nor Clark found any comfort finishing second.

Minich didn’t want to hear about losing to a three-time state champion and four-time state medalist – who also happened to be ranked No. 1 in his weight class in the entire nation. Clark didn’t want to hear about recovering from a third-place finish at his own regional, about beating three other regional champions who had over a 100 wins and just one loss between them to get to the final, or about losing to the first freshman state champion over 152 pounds in the history of the PIAA Championships.

Winners never accept losing, even on one of high school sports’ biggest stages – as wrestling in the Giant Center (and the Hersheypark Arena before it) – is.

Neither Minich nor Clark were about to accept it Saturday night.

But in time, hopefully sooner rather than later, both will realize how good they really were for four years at Boyertown and Methacton … and both will realize just how good they were for the biggest three days – and final three days – of their high school careers.

Minich’s second gave Boyertown a state medalist for the 11th straight year – an area record. The previous mark was nine, set by Upper Perkiomen (1999-2007). … Clark, along with teammate Rob D’Annunzio (fifth at 112), combined for seven wins last week in Hershey, the most any group of Methacton qualifiers mustered at states since the school-record 10 back in 1998. Clark, the Warrior program’s first state finalist since Dan Covatta in 1993, finished up with 146 career wins to break Covatta’s mark (145). … And last but not least, Pottsgrove’s always energized T.J. Demetrio became his school’s first Class AAA medalist (sixth last week) and only the second overall (Chris Beasley was third in AA back in 1991). Overachiever as some said? “I think that may have come up more because he’s from Pottsgrove, because you don’t think of state qualifiers or state medalists from Pottsgrove,” said Falcons head coach Jeff Madden. “T.J. worked extremely, extremely hard, and earned everything he won.”


Wayne Armstrong was Interboro’s sixth state qualifier, but only the second to ever win a bout at states – and first since Adam Parcell did en route to finishing eighth in 2003. … Marple-Newtown had two state qualifiers for the first time since Kyle Rosenbloom and Bob Savino made the trip in 1994. … Souderton’s Joe Stolfi, who finished third at 215, had 10 career wins at states to break his school record of eight, set by Chad Clemens (1988 and 1990). … Unionville’s Mason Popham was third at 135, the best finish in the history of his school’s program. He is also Unionville’s only two-time state medalist. … Upper Moreland’s John Bolich, who was third at 189, will graduate as his school’s winningest wrestler at states and its only two-time state medalist.


During Saturday night’s award presentations, it was announced Council Rock South brothers Rick, Mike, Mark, Matt and Billy Rappo became the state’s First Family of Wrestling. The fivesome, thanks to junior 103-pound Billy’s title, have accounted for five state titles and 11 medals overall (as well as a 39-14 record) at the PIAA Championships. … Rick was first and second with an overall record of 7-1; Mike was a two-time champion with a spotless 8-0 mark; Mark was sixth, second and first and 10-4 overall; Matt, who improved from seventh last year to fourth this past weekend, was 8-6; and Billy, with a year to go, was eighth a year ago and, combined with his first on Saturday night, is now 6-3 going into what he hopes to be a similar 2012. One of head coach Mark Silemperi’s assistants, by the way, is Pottsgrove graduate Derick Lynch.


Council Rock South had three medalists to push its overall total to an amazing 23 in its nine years of existence. The Hawks are now second only to Upper Perkiomen (25) in total state medals. … The former Council Rock and Norristown – which had three last weekend, too – are tied for third with 22 each, while the former Downingtown, Methacton – with its two last weekend – and North Penn share fifth place with 21 each.


In the PIAA-Class AAA Championships last weekend, Southeast Regional champions went a combined 40-22, while runners-up went a combined 31-27. After that, the numbers literally dropped off the chart, with the third-placers from regional going 15-26 and the fourth-place finishers going just 4-27 (Boyertown’s Jon Neiman owned one of those four wins). … District 1 wrestlers went a combined 78-92. Add in District 12’s efforts from LaSalle and Father Judge and the total individual bout won-loss mark was 95-106. … The 78 wins ranks as only the sixth-best in AAA Southeast Regional history, while the 95 overall wins are second only to the 104 back in 2005. … The 215-pound weight class produced the most wins (12), and along with 103 shared the region-high in medals (three each). … District 1 went 10-9 in Saturday’s finals – 2-2 in the championship finals; 3-4 in the third-place finals; 3-1 in the fifth-place finals; and 2-2 in the seventh-place finals.


District 1 had just one state qualifier – who went 0-2 – in last weekend’s Class AA bracket. It was only the fourth time since the two-classification format began in 1974 that the district didn’t win at least one bout in the small-school division. Eight years, there were no qualifiers, thus no wins. Back in 1985 (three qualifiers) and 1986 (two qualifiers), the district record was 0-3 and 0-2, respectively. … It was also the first time the district was denied an AA medal since 2003.


Wrestler of the Year in District 1? Without question, Plymouth-Whitemarsh senior John Staudenmayer, who capped an unbeaten season (43-0) and outstanding career (168-12) with a no-doubt-about-it, 15-2 major in the 171-pound final Saturday night. … Apparently too many “fans” were content getting results from a computer instead of from a seat in the Giant Center this year. Attendance for Saturday was good (21,427) despite live cable coverage from PCN. But for the three days (49,643) not so good, not when considering the tournament year after year after year drew well over 60,000 fans.

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