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, March 21, 2012

Present, future bright for OJR states-bound freshman Gulotta

Originally published in the March 6 edition of The Mercury.

Derek Gulotta is just the third Owen J. Roberts wrestler to qualify for the PIAA Tournament as a freshman. (Mercury file photo)

A few hours after earning a spot in this week’s PIAA-Class AAA Championships, Owen J. Roberts’ Derek Gulotta was already talking about next season – about what he had to do to get better, about what he needed to do in order to get a couple of steps higher on the postseason awards podium.

Pretty heady stuff for a freshman who could’ve easily rambled on about three impressive wins that led to a third-place finish at the Southeast Regional and the coveted trip to Hershey.

The 113-pound Gulotta is just the third OJR wrestler to qualify for states as a freshman. He’s in a position to become the first OJR wrestler to medal at states as a freshman. And looking ahead, he has the opportunity to become just the fourth four-time state qualifier in the history of the Pioneer Athletic Conference – joining a very short, select list that includes Upper Perkiomen graduates Derek Zinck (1998-2001), Chris Sheetz (2004-07) and Zack Kemmerer (2004-07).

For now, though, Gulotta is only peeking ahead to Thursday afternoon’s opener against Northeast Region champion Sean Bianco of Pleasant Valley and, after he’s finished with his business in the Giant Center, returning to the practice room.

“I have to get better,” Gulotta said shortly after his 4-1 decision of Pennsbury’s Jason Bing in Saturday evening’s consolation final. “I have to get a second shot. I need another shot that’s just as good as my sweep, something I can set up on.

“I definitely need better set-ups. And I need to lift more, which I’ll start doing in the summer.”

Gulotta’s first season began with a lot of promise, mostly because of the hype surrounding all the success from his youth and junior high school wrestling. Reality set in immediately, though, when he was decked by Big Spring’s Greg Warner in his Wildcat debut at the Bealer Memorial Bear Duals, and when he was forced to default in his bout with Blair Academy’s national prep champion Joey McKenna during the Beast of the East a week later.

But there was no denying the improvement, and the maturity, as the season rolled into the New Year. Of Gulotta’s five losses since flipping the calendar over to January, two have been to defending state champion Billy Rappo of Council Rock South; another to returning state medalist Zach Fuentes of Norristown; one to regional runner-up Michael Marino of Garnet Valley (who took Rappo into overtime last Saturday night); and the other to Delaware state runner-up Tyler Carney.

Gulotta battled back from an 11-3 semifinal setback to Rappo earlier Saturday with a pin that assured him to trip to states. He nonetheless finished with the 4-1 decision of Bing.

“I knew I had a chance (to go to states) in the beginning of the season,” Gulotta said. “I know I wanted to go, but I didn’t really know if I could.

“After (clinching) winning my consi semi, it was almost like a relief. So now my goal is to get out there and place. I’m not happy just getting there. I want to go and do something there.”

And eventually add to that “something” the next three years, too.

* * *

Some AAA regional ramblings of note:

* The Pioneer Athletic Conference did not have an AAA Southeast Regional champion for the first time in 19 years, or since 1993. The league has been blanked in the gold-medal count just five times – four of which came in its first seven years of existence (1987-93). The two regional finalists – OJR’s Andrew Kinney and Pottsgrove’s Danny Michaels – were the fewest since 2002.

* The nine state qualifiers ties the league’s seventh-best previous mark, half of the PAC-10 record 18 – including a record seven regional champions – who made the trip to Hershey six years ago.

* Jon Neiman extended Boyertown’s streak of 10 straight years of having at least one state qualifier, or every season since returning to District 1. Owen J. Roberts has qualified at least one wrestler eight years in a row, and Pottsgrove – thanks to Michaels – has now sent someone to Hershey three years in a row. … Upper Perkiomen has been represented at states in 14 of the last 15 seasons, Spring-Ford in 11 of the last 12.

* Phoenixville, which got an outstanding season from senior Brendan Bonner, has had the longest stretch of no state qualifiers of any PAC-10 team (11 years), while Perkiomen Valley is next (eight years). The Phantoms’ last qualifier was Bret Wade (2001), while the Vikings – who nearly had one last weekend when Nick Giangiulio finished fifth place – was Steve Van Alstine (2004).

* The 28 regional qualifiers from the PAC-10 compiled an overall won-loss record of 58-50. … Hats off to Spring-Ford’s unsung junior, Tyler McGuigan, who came out of Friday night’s pigtails and went 5-2, finishing fifth at 170.

* * *
Pottstown, overlooked somewhat because of competing in the AA bracket, will be represented at states this week (by 132-pound Trenton Clifford) for the fifth time in the last seven years. Rashaad Lighty just missed joining Clifford after finishing sixth at 182.

* * *
Wrestling lost a legend last week when Phoenixville native Bill Harvey, who guided Duke’s program for 31 years, passed away at the age of 76.

Harvey was the Blue Devils’ head coach from 1967 through 1997, retiring with a school-record 220 career wins – fourth all-time in the Atlantic Coast Conference. One of his biggest achievements, though, was his last team finishing with the highest grade-point average (3.98) in the nation.

A member of the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame, Harvey was presented an honorary lifetime membership in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (2001) and awarded the Lifetime Service Award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (2005). Both were to recognize his years of dedication to the development of leadership and citizenship in young people through the sport of wrestling.

In his 37 years at Duke, Harvey also served as an assistant coach in wrestling and football and as the head coach of the Blue Devils’ freshmen baseball team.

Services were held for Harvey on Monday morning in Durham, N.C.



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