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.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sizing up the wrestling competition

This column originally ran in the Jan. 9, 2012 edition of The Mercury.

Like a lot of coaches in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and around District 1, Spring-Ford's Tim Seislove has been keeping both eyes on Owen J. Roberts' wrestling results this winter. But when he hears all the talk about how his own team could challenge the Wildcats for the PAC-10 championship, maybe even a district duals title, well, those words fall on deaf ears.

"Owen J. Roberts is heads and tails the best team in our district," Seislove said. "Owen J. Roberts and Norristown are above everyone else. Then you can throw about 10 other teams in the hat and take your choice."

A lot of people have indeed had an eye on unbeaten OJR, which has a wealth of talent and depth, or enough to make a run at a second straight league championship and, quite possibly, that district dual title.

But regardless of what Seislove says, or refuses to hear, the Rams haven't been able to escape the spotlight, either. Their quick start, 12 straight wins before a 38-28 loss to District 3-Class AA's top-ranked Biglerville in last Saturday's final of the Canner Duals, is the big reason, too.

The Rams have gotten the expected punch from their lightweights, a group of veterans that features Chase Brown, Sean Hennessey, Jimmy Stong, brothers Adam and Jason Dombrosky and Jesse Quave from 113 up through 145 pounds. But they're also getting some unexpected jabs from the upper portion of the lineup, namely Jon Cooper, Dan Dipipi, Tyler McGuigan and Dan Lawrence at 152, 160, 170 and 182, respectively. And they're slowly getting more and more consistency from Mason Romano, Josh Boyer and Zach Dorsey, two sophomores and a junior, who usually occupy the final three spots in the lineup.

"We're happy where we're at," Seislove said. "We're 12-1, so we can't complain."

But ...

"In wrestling, records can be very deceiving. It's one sport you can't look at records, and everyone should know that. We haven't wrestled the toughest schedule. We have wrestled some tough teams that, in the beginning, I felt we had a good shot at beating if we wrestled well."

The Rams have, for the record, wrestled quite well thus far. They've beaten, rather handily, four upper-level District 1 teams at the Abington Duals, crushed a couple of PAC-10 opponents, and had a good run at the Canner Duals, defeating longtime District 11-AA challenger Pine Grove, stuffing Southern Columbia, and topping Wyomissing, the No. 7 team in District 3-AA, before the setback to Biglerville.

The long road trips are over for now, with seven PAC-10 matches ahead of them.

"Traveling isn't anything new because (former head coach) Pat Nugent started doing that years ago here," Seislove said. "It's important to find good competition, the kind of that's your (own program's) top competition. You try to build a schedule, a tough schedule, with teams you can be competitive with.

"But now we have the meat of our schedule ahead of us. Nothing's easy in the PAC-10, and then you have the district duals in between those matches."

Spring-Ford will not overlook its next three opponents: Pottsgrove, Pottstown and Perkiomen Valley. But then there's a trip to Upper Perkiomen on Wednesday, Jan. 25; the opening round of district duals the following night; and, just two days later, the showdown with visiting Owen J. Roberts.

And don't forget the closing fireworks with Methacton and Boyertown.

"We're improving. We're getting better," Seislove said. "But our big concern is staying healthy. We have quite a few freshmen, a lot of inexperienced kids in the lineup, especially up top. They're good kids who work hard. But we have to stay healthy.

"You have to understand that we don't have any superstars. We don't have one kid who I can say is definitely going to go to states. We don't have any standouts, no superstars. But we do have good, hard-working kids."

Enough to everyone else around the PAC-10 and District 1 rather interested.

Frankie Krauss (145/152), Cooper and Dorsey are three freshmen getting a lot of mat time for Seislove. Dipipi, Mike Spohr (182) and McGuigan, an impressive 19-5 thus far, spent most of last season with the junior varsity. Lawrence blew his knee out early last year and missed most of the season, while Romano, a sophomore, opted to return to wrestling after sitting out his freshman year.

Upper Perkiomen returning state qualifier Wolfgang McStravick didn't wrestle the final day of last weekend's Battlefield Duals down in Va., after suffering a mild concussion the previous night. He is expected back in the lineup sometime this week.

The most improved team since the start of the season? Methacton, hands down. The Warriors have won their last two tournaments -the Wetzel Classic and Octorara Duals- and are 10-2 overall.

Owen J. Roberts has seven of the preliminary Top 10 seeds for this weekend's rugged Escape The Rock Tournament at Council Rock South, quickly becoming one of the top events in Pennsylvania if not the entire East Coast. Andrew Kinney (145), who'll go for his 100th career win Wednesday night against Perkiomen Valley, drew No. 6; freshman Demetrio D'Orsaneo (132), Kyle Shronk (152) and James Warta (195) drew seventh seeds; and freshman Derek Gulotta (113), Colby Frank (126) and Mike Lenge (160) are all 10th seeds.

Boyertown senior Jon Neiman needs two wins for 100 and should reach the milestone Saturday at the Cumberland Valley Duals.

Pottstown will recognize all Trojan wrestling alumni prior to its Wednesday, January 18th match against Phoenixville. The festivities including honoring the program for reaching 500 dual meets. All alumni are asked to arrive at the high school at 5:30 p.m. for food and beverages. The presentation begins at 6:25. Alumni planning to attend should contact head coach Jamie Gill at

For those who haven't already heard, the PIAA state tournament will undergo a major change in March. And if anyone thought the new weight classes were a joke, the final day of states -- Saturday, March 10, to be exact -- may be an absolute comedy, but no one will be laughing.

The normal schedule featuring consolation finals for the seventh, fifth and third places on three mats followed by the championship finals on one mat is no more. That's right, no more. The new format (take a deep breath now) is all finals, consolations as well as the championships in each weight class, will be wrestled simultaneously, Class AA at two in the afternoon and Class AAA at seven that night.

Seems as though someone lost their headgear and got slammed a few times.

According to PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi, the change is the result of the three-day tournament ending way too late, which it does (usually around 11 p.m.). There is a genuine concern for kids on the road that late and about the costs of hotels/motels for an additional night in the Hershey area.

Lombardi's concerns are warranted, and no one in the PIAA office has ever been as supportive of wrestling as Lombardi has for the past twentysome years

However, Pennsylvania is among the best states (if not the best) in wrestling. In a sport that battles year in and year out for respect, this is one particular move from its own governing body that undermines that fight. A few other states have been going with the "all-finals-together" format, but who cares. This is Pennsylvania, be the best -- or, as one former state champion said, "set the trend."


10 for 2011

It's been three months now, but in all likelihood most if not every one of the girls on this past fall's Owen J. Roberts soccer team are still searching for the answers - an explanation, some sort of rationalization, why teammate Kelsey Kramer died in an automobile accident.

Soon after hearing about the incident later that night and into the wee hours of the following morning, and trying to comprehend the tragic news of her death less than 24 hours later, the Wildcats could've called it a season right then and there. The 16-year-old junior wasn't as much one of their stars on the field as she was their superstar off it.

"Whenever someone on this team was down (Kramer) was able to cheer them up," said OJR head coach Joe Margusity.

Ironically, the day the Wildcats needed someone to cheer them up the most, their genuine friend and teammate with the infectious smile and spirit always so capable of doing just that, was not among them.

"The girls cried for three days," Margusity said.

Then they rallied around one another, leaned on one another, dedicated the remainder of their season to Kramer and, despite heavy hearts, played their way through the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 playoffs to reach the PIAA-Class AAA state semifinals where their incredible run ended following an overtime setback to Pennridge on an unseasonably warm evening in mid-November at Harriton High School.

It wasn't just a loss that ended an extraordinary season, but a loss that dug deep into the Wildcats' collective soul and tugged at the heart of their team that had overcome such long, long odds and the kind of adversity very, very few high school teams in any sport ever experience.

The Owen J. Roberts girls' resilience and strength, the determination many felt Kramer provided them spiritually, has been selected as The Mercury's Sports Story of the Year.

"To see where we came from, how we were ripped apart, I think (people) underestimated us, underestimated how adversity bonded us together," OJR keeper Cassie Popp said after the exhausting, season-ending 2-1 loss to Pennridge.

"Going out for that first game (after Kramer's death) was hard for the girls," Margusity added. "But playing that game brought some sort of solidarity with it. It brought all of us together."

It kept them together, kept them believing in one another. And more than a few attributed their passion to play, and play as best they could every minute of every game, to Kramer.

Popp felt it, felt that passion, during teammate Rachael Carpenter's team chat prior to the Pennridge showdown.

"Before the game, "'Carp' was saying how we're all here tonight, our coaches and our friends," she said. "It was kind of strange, too, because it just felt as though Kelsey was right there with us, right there in the middle of our circle.

"You always want to win, especially for your seniors. We wanted so badly to win this for Kelsey, too. (Her memory) always seemed to give us that extra punch, that extra spark. This (loss) hurts right now, hurts a lot. The tears will come later."

They did.

The remaining Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year were:


Ithaca College's Seth Ecker, a graduate of Pottstown High School, became the area's first NCAA wrestling champion, and only the second national champion in any bracket, after pinning down the gold medal at 133 pounds during the Division III Championships at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Ecker decisioned RIT's Mike McInally, 6-2, for the title and finished his season at 30-3. Later, Ecker and teammate Jeremy Stierly, an Owen J. Roberts graduate and national runner-up, were both named to the NCAA Academic All-America team.


Owen J. Roberts' Ryan Brumfield, Upper Perkiomen's Ron Gillespie and Pope John Paul II's Tom Lang won gold medals during the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University. Brumfield, who may long be regarded as one of the top all-around athletes in OJR as well as Mercury-area history, cleared 6 feet 10 inches to win the Class AAA high jump. Gillespie, who later in the summer gave a verbal commitment to play football at Temple University, ran away from everyone to win the Class AAA 200 meters. And Lang capped his outstanding career by defending his state title, this time in Class AAA, in the javelin.


Despite losing more than half of its starters from the previous football season, Pottsgrove regrouped after an early-season setback to eventual champion Spring-Ford, got noticeably better week after week after week and captured its second District 1-Class AAA championship in three years, defeating longtime rival Phoenixville, 42-13 at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, for the title. The Falcons, under head coach Rick Pennypacker, were led offensively by all-state junior Madison O'Connor and quarterback Tory Hudgins and defensively by Steve Ambs, Robbie Curtin and Danny Michaels. Their season ended in the PIAA quarterfinals to eventual Class AAA state champion Archbishop Wood.


Boyertown and Spring-Ford staged one of the most memorable girls basketball championship games in Pioneer Athletic Conference history, with the Bears coming away with yet another come-from-behind, triple-overtime 56-51 victory that even left a huge crowd at Perkiomen Valley High School exhausted. But it was just the beginning of a historic postseason run for Boyertown. Behind a starting lineup featuring guards Kelly Furman and Jess Schlesman, center Kaitlyn Eisenhard, and forwards Brooke Mullen and Krista Schauder, the Bears would play their way into the PIAA-Class AAAA Final Four and finish with 28 wins, equaling the school record.


Owen J. Roberts, which hadn't won a wrestling title since 1975, or an actual outright title since dominating the Ches-Mont League back in 1966, swept the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship for the first time with a perfect 9-0 mark. Head coach Steve DeRafelo and the Wildcats then went one better, pinning down the Section Four team title for only the second time – and first since 1973, and the District 1-AAA South team title for the very first time.


Nicole Barnhart, a Boyertown High School and Stanford University graduate – and backup goalie on USA's last two world championship teams, played a key role in helping the USA qualify for the Women's World Cup. She served as a backup to Hope Solo, who returned from a shoulder injury, for the championships then signed on as a keeper for the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS.


Spring-Ford ended a 13-year drought by winning the Pioneer Athletic Conference football championship, and winning the title outright for the first time since 1995. Head coach Chad Brubaker had to replace 10 of 11 starters on defense. But a number of unsung Rams stepped up on that side of the ball and, combined with outstanding play from quarterback Hank Coyne, sophomore running back Jarred Jones and wideout Andrew Scanlan, the team went unbeaten in league play and qualified for the District 1-AAAA playoffs for the first time in the program's history.


Pope John Paul II may have just opened its doors for the first time, but the Golden Panthers' boys basketball team sure had a way of closing the door on its opponents. Head coach Jack Flanagan called the shots from the bench and Mercury Player of the Year Paul Mills provided the leadership from end line to end line for PJP, which defeated neighboring rival Spring-Ford in an exciting Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Four championship game.


The Spring-Ford baseball team's dynamic blend of quality pitching, reliable defense and potent offense may have been one of the best in the 25-year history of the Pioneer Athletic Conference. Led by ace right-hander Mike Oczypok, catcher as well as leader-extraordinaire James Hoff and the hot bat of Ryan Conway, the Rams swept both the PAC-10 and District 1-AAAA championships. Head coach Bruce Brobst's team would play all the way to the state final before falling to Conestoga, 6-3 in 10 innings, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University.


Boyertown graduate Ali McEvoy and Hill School graduate Colleen Gulick help the University of Maryland to the NCAA women's field hockey championship.
Upper Perkiomen's Tom Hontz goes over the coveted 300 career win mark and a week later becomes the area's winningest wrestling coach with his 304th victory.
The Pottsgrove boys cross country wins the Pioneer Athletic Conference team title, the very first in the history of the Falcons program.
The Spring-Ford boys track and field team wins the Pioneer Athletic Conference team title, the very first in the history of the Rams' program.
The Owen J. Roberts girls field hockey team captures its third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, matching the league record set by Phoenixville (1990-92).
The Boyertown girls lacrosse team won its eighth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title to equal its own league record set from 1992-99.


Looking back at wrestling history

This column originally ran in the Dec. 26, 2011, edition of The Mercury.

No one bought me a singlet (Thank God, what a sight that would be); any headgear (no need, brain is already damaged on one side); or a mat (I have no clue for what) for Christmas. I did get two gift cards I cherish the most, one for Wawa (coffee and the workers are the best) and one for Dick's (always stocked with Titliest golf balls), even a high-end surround sound system I was too cheap to buy myself (bless my daughters and their husbands).

But with the wrestling schedule down for the holidays and having a few days off, well, it allowed me to open up the sports files -or the wrestling files, in this instance- to study (for the umpteenth time) and share a little history.

Have fun reading some of the trivia (or insignificant notes only someone like me would find interesting). Also, don't take my personal "Top Fives," the top five wrestlers from each of the area's schools, too seriously considering I compiled the lists in about a half-hour (thus I likely overlooked one of your favorites)-- but the effort was there.

Did you know?

* The area's first postseason champions were Owen J. Roberts' Bill Christman, Jim Kulp and Ron Bean. Although sanctioned postseason wrestling began in 1934 and sectional wrestling began in 1957, it wasn't until 1963 when Christman (138 pounds), Kulp (145) and Bean (165) won their respective weight classes in the Section Three Tournament. Christman was also the area's first two-time postseason champion when he won his second Section Three title the following year (1964).

* Spring-Ford's first two postseason champions included a future Medal of Honor winner. In 1964, after 112-pound Florine "Butch" Mungin won the Rams' first with a gold medal at the Section Three Tournament, teammate Dave Dolby followed suit at 180 pounds. Three years later, Dolby - who died on August 6, 2010 - was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

* The first time an area school had four successive champions in a postseason tournament occurred in 1966, when the Section Three finals opened with Bill Lawrence (95), Sandy Sweisford (103), Jim Maack (112) and Charles Lawrence (120) capturing the first four weight classes. The following week, Sweisford became the area's first District 1 champion.

* Mike Meko (1974) and Chris Beasley (1991) are the only two Pottsgrove wrestlers to win sectional, district and regional titles in a single season.

* Perkiomen Valley's only state medalist is Bill Neil, who won the PIAA state title at heavyweight in 1977 - and later played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

* District 1's first Outstanding Wrestler Award recipient at the PIAA state tournament was Methacton's Chuck Murray (1984).

* Phoenixville's Jason Meister and Pottstown's Seth Ecker are the only area graduates to go on and win national titles in college. Meister, now the head coach at West-Mont Christian, was a two-time NCWA champion (and two-time runner-up) for Baptist Bible. Ecker, currently a junior and Academic All-American at Ithaca College, won an NCAA Division III title last season.

* The best winning percentage among area coaches belongs to the late Nelson Stratton of Methacton, who was 173-31-1 (.844) in 11 seasons. Five of the top eight winning percentages are actually owned by former Methacton coaches - Chris Lloyd (.783 in three seasons); Tony Haley (.688 in two seasons); Dennis Kellon (.686 in 18 seasons); and Bill Moser (.671 in five seasons).

Fab Fives

OK, here we go, the area PIAA-member school's Top Five (listed alphabetically to avoid additional arguments).

Boyertown: Jesse DeWan, Nick Hyatt, Alex Pellicciotti, Fred Rodgers and Mike Spaid (with Jody Munch so close to the bunch). Daniel Boone: John Clemens, Chris Gallino, Mike James, Carmello Marrero and Colin Martucci. Methacton: Jeff Albano, Brad Clark, Dan Covatta, Jon Moser and Chuck Murray. Owen J. Roberts: Aaron Brown, Nick Fuschino, Don Kulp, Jeremy Stierly and Scott Syrek. Perkiomen Valley: Kevin Kehs, Bill Neil, Tim Smith, Steve Van Alsine and Tom Watts. Phoenixville: Tom Bearden, Jeff Below, Mark Cagle, Steve McGovern, and Jason Meister. Pottsgrove: Chris Beasley, T.J. Demetrio, Mike Meko, Ken Norris and Zach Robinson. Pottstown: Joey Allen, Brian Campbell, Seth Ecker, Jeff Green and Paul Green. Spring-Ford: Tom Ingram, Matt Moley, Mike Moley, Jason Shivak and Tim Waller. Upper Perkiomen: Brent Fiorito, Zack Kemmerer, Brad Rozanski, Chris Sheetz, Mark Smith and Derek Zinck (that's six, but I couldn't eliminate one).

The holiday tournament feast picks up again today, but three dates to mark on the new 2012 calendar: Jan. 18 - Owen J. Roberts at Upper Perkiomen; Jan. 25 - Spring-Ford at Upper Perkiomen; and Jan. 28 - Spring-Ford at Owen J. Roberts. The survivor of the 10-day round-robin will in all likelihood win the Pioneer Athletic Conference title.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

OJR in Beast mode

This column originally ran in the Dec. 19, 2011, edition of The Mercury.

They call it the "Beast", short for the Beast of the East for a reason. It's unquestionably a demanding and exhausting two days of wrestling as any other. And any other includes the mighty Iron Man in Ohio, the Reno Tournament of Champions out in Nevada, the Minnesota Christmas Tournament up near the Twin Cities and, of course, Pennsylvania’s own PowerAde at Trinity High School.

The "Beast" provides the ultimate challenge for a wrestler because of the mental preparation needed before even stepping on the mats, and the physical endurance required to return to those mats time and time again .. for as many as seven, eight or more bouts in a single weekend.

And to think the test unfolds on a stage that features as much if not more individual talent than anyone may ever see in one setting during their entire career.

So when the Owen J. Roberts entourage got back into Bucktown early Sunday night with a bunch of filled-out brackets but not a single medal, head coach Steve DeRafelo wasn't whimpering, weeping or whining.

Like many before him, including Pioneer Athletic Conference rivals Pete Ventresca of Boyertown, Tim Seislove of Spring-Ford and Tom Hontz of Upper Perkiomen, all of whom can relate to the "Beast" experience, DeRafelo realized it may not be the medals as much as the mettle, or the resolve, that counts most during those two very grueling winter days in Delaware.

The bottom line is that no other inindividual or dual tournament, or practice room routine on any given weekend, will help the Wildcats better prepare for the grind that lies ahead of them ※ and better prepare them to deal with all the lofty expectations.

"I thought we had a pretty good showing," DeRafelo said. "You think about how a lot of our kids lost right away, but (all but two) of them came back to get at least one win. I thought we did pretty well."

DeRafelo and his staff focused on and worked on the moves made as well as the moves not necessarily made over the weekend when everyone returned to the practice room Monday afternoon, and they likely worked on reinforcing that resolve.

The Wildcats, all 14 of them, went a combined 23-28 at the "Beast." Not bad considering a couple of very promising freshman lightweights still weren't in the lineup. Not bad at all considering unbeaten upperweight Nick DeAngelo watched instead of wrestled when a couple of teammates moved down a weight class and squeezed him out of the lineup. And when considering they finished 21st among ninetysome teams.

"Like I said, a pretty good showing," DeRafelo reiterated. "The only team from (District 1) who finished better than us was Norristown (15th), but that's a team with five or six lights-out studs. In a tournament like (the "Beast") you're going to do well with that many outstanding individuals.

"We're just not a tournament team. We don't have a lot of studs. We don't have anyone who medaled at states. But we have what I feel is a very good dual-meet team. So to finish 21st .. our kids did well."

One Wildcat in particular who did well was Demetri D'Orsaneo, who has as promising credentials as any freshman to roll through OJR in recent memory. The 132-pounder knocked off two seeded opponents, including a state champion and state runner-up, in a three-bout run Saturday that put him in the quarterfinals. But then he got tutored by Blair Academy's nationally ranked Mark Grey, who not only won his fourth straight "Beast" title but the OW award as well.

Another solid showing came from 126-pound teammate Colby Frank who didn't look at all like the freshman regional qualifier of a year ago during the season-opening Bear Duals, but who responded with four wins and, like D'Orsaneo, came oh so close to getting into the medal rounds. And DeRafelo had to be pleased with newcomer Jim Warta, who moved down to 195 and went 3-2.

"A lot of our kids stepped up their game a lot," DeRafelo said.

Quote of the Week comes from Pittsburgh Central Catholic's 195-pound "Beast" champion Perry Hills, the Vikings' star quarterback who has committed to Maryland: "Every quarterback should wrestle," Hills told InterMat when talking about the mental and physical toughness of the sport.

OJR's Andrew Kinney is the area's winningest active wrestler with 92 career wins going into this week. Boyertown's Jon Neiman is one back with 91 after going 7-0 and winning his 160-pound bracket at the Jarvis Memorial Tournament last weekend. Teammate Eddie Kriczky (126) was also golden at the tournament. Also closing in on the 100-win milestone are Upper Perkiomen's Wolfgang McStravick (78) and Spring-Ford's Chase Brown (75).

It was an interesting weekend for Easton head coach Steve Powell, a Henderson graduate. Powell guided his Rovers to a third-place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions and also got to watch his former three-time state champion and current defending NCAA champion Jordan Oliver put on a clinic. The Oklahoma State junior had five straight first-period pins (in a ridiculous total time of 5:44) to win the 133-pound title and OW honors in the college portion of the Reno T of C.

With most schools out for the holidays, college wrestling was light last week. But No. 5 Penn State (4-1) leveled Lock Haven, 50-0, on Sunday. The Eagles' Zach Heffner, a freshman out of Boyertown, was tech-falled by defending national champion Quentin Wright at 184. Davidson's Ben Hartshorn (Conestoga) dropped to 6-7 on the season after losing a decision at 141 pounds in the Wildcats 27-19 setback to Ohio Northern. And Drexel, with Nick Becattini (Conestoga) falling 8-3 at 184 pounds, nudged Northern Colorado, 26-11.


Hontz pins down a milestone

This column originally appeared in the Dec. 12, 2011 edition of The Mercury.

Tom Hontz has a good memory — or at least you'd think it.

This past weekend, he was asked if there's any one win or any one match that stood out above all others in his 22 years as Upper Perkiomen's head coach.

"Obviously, the match with Nazareth in the semifinals (of the 2006 PIAA-Class AAA Team Duals) out in Hershey," Hontz said, recalling Chris Sheetz's last-second miracle move that helped the Indians stun their District 11 rival, 27-26. "And earlier that same season (Dec. 23, 2005), when Easton came down to our place. We had like seven pins (in the 49-26 rout), and Easton coach Steve Powell said he couldn't ever remember any of his teams being pinned that many times in a match."

Funny, Hontz forgot to mention Saturday afternoon's 44-25 whipping of Wyoming Valley West during the second round of the Quakertown Duals.

It was the 300th of his career.

So much for the short-term memory.

"Oh, it's kind of a neat milestone," he said.

It isn't every day, or year for that matter, when a wrestling coach sits in on 300 matches let alone has the opportunity to win 300. But Hontz did on Saturday, joining Boyertown's Bruce Hallman and Pottstown's Jim Tsakonas as the only area coaches to reach the "neat milestone." Hontz actually added two more wins Saturday to move into a tie with Tsakonas (302), and if the Indians are able to get by North Penn and Perkiomen Valley this Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, he'll not only move ahead of Tsakonas but Hallman (303) as well to become the area's winningest coach.

And he'll have done it quicker than both Hallman (24 seasons) and Tsakonas (26).

"I would think that means we've done some good things consistently through the years," Hontz said.

That Upper Perkiomen, or Hontz, to be more specific, has done.

But no one in their right wrestling mind would've thought all the wins, all the Pioneer Athletic Conference championships and all postseason titles the Indians have accumulated were possible when Hontz took over the program in 1990.

"We struggled at first," Hontz said, his memories of those early years as vivid as any other. "One of our first goals was to put out a full lineup. In the beginning here we were forfeiting four or five weight classes. Sometimes we were beat before we even started (a match).

"It took a while. But we had some good people running our midget programs, guys like Brian Berlanda and Ken Gaugler. Everyone, at all levels of our program, started getting together and working together."

Don't think Hontz didn't welcome the help, or the support. He was, after all, just out of Duke University, only 22 years old and getting his feet wet in his first job as a teacher and coach.

"I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into," he explained. "The only coaching experience I had was being around other coaches (during his wrestling career at Quakertown High School and Duke). I was kind of copying what they did.

"I was very inexperienced, and pretty foolish in regards to having any kind of experience working with kids. I didn't understand that at first. So it's pretty amazing how all that evolved."

Hontz initially drew on what he learned from his former coaches: Dave Evans at Quakertown and Bill Harvey at Duke. As years passed, he didn't hesitate to pick up a few pointers from two of Pennsylvania wrestling's best: Nazareth's Ray Nunamaker and Powell.

"They say the best teachers are those who steal from other teachers," Hontz said, breaking into a laugh. I've been around some of the best. But what we do isn't all that much different from anyone else. We stress fundamentals, emphasize hard work. We want everyone on the same page."

For longer than some care to remember, the Indians have been just that: on the same page season after season after season.

After a rather uneventful start, Hontz guided the Indians to a record nine straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championships (1998-2006), a string that would've extended to 10 in a row if not for a wrestler's residency violation that eventually erased six of eight league wins and 16 others that season. He already owns a league-high 133 wins going into Thursday's PAC-10 opener against Perkiomen Valley.

And beyond all the section, district and regional team titles, Hontz has guided Upper Perkiomen into the state spotlight. He owns five district duals titles, the 2006 team following up that memorable win over Nazareth with a 46-19 rout of Easton for the state championship.

Five of District 1's seven winningest wrestlers, including state-record holder Zack Kemmerer (199 career wins), have been part of Hontz's program.

"I've been fortunate," he said. "For a number of years there we went on a magical ride with some amazing kids. And we feel it's still that way. We have a lot of great kids."

Enough to keep Hontz's mind occupied and busy creating some new memories.

"We had some rough times there and we didn't always know how things would work out," he said. "But it's been fun. I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year, but after that we'll sit down and evaluate things like we always do."

Hontz teaches a social studies gifted humanities class for 9th and 10th graders and 11th grade history at Upper Perkiomen. He has also been involved with the football program for 16 years, six at the high school and the last 10 at the junior high.

Hontz is the 17th coach in District 1 to pass the 300-win plateau. Up next after Hallman and West Chester East's Mike Colley is C.B. East's John Tomlinson and Hatboro-Horsham's Ralph Wetzel, who are tied for 12th on the list with 307 wins apiece.

The only District 1 coach to reach 300 wins quicker than Hontz was Pennsbury's Joe Kiefer, who retired following last season after 25 years and 411 career wins.

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