This column was originally published in the Feb. 12, 2013 edition of The Mercury.
|Owen J. Roberts’ Kyle Shronk, left, showed some serious grit through the PIAA team duals |
tournament, wrestling through a shoulder injury to help the Wildcats
become one of the top eight teams in the state. (File photo by Tom Kelly III)
Central Dauphin, Canon-McMillan, Franklin Regional, Easton and, take your pick, either McDowell, Parkland, Owen J. Roberts or Delaware Valley.
Wherever your allegiance may lie, whatever wrestling intelligence you may be blessed to have, there’s absolutely no debating they’re the top eight teams in Pennsylvania this year.
Hats off to each and every one of them.
And that includes Owen J. Roberts.
No one in the Pioneer Athletic Conference except for Upper Perkiomen’s run in the early 2000s (and, please, no bickering about recruiting this or illegal that), and no one in District 1 except for Council Rock South’s run after that, has been as competitive or entertaining from the Southeast Region as Owen J. Roberts has been the past two seasons.
Last year, the Wildcats fell short of a medal, going 2-2. This year, without three leaders (Andrew Kinney, Mike Lenge and James Warta) who happened to be pretty darn good on the mats, too, or good enough for 100-plus combined wins in their senior season, the Wildcats fell short of a medal again, going 2-2.
But as unhappy and unfulfilled as the Wildcats may have been this time around, and as disappointed for them as head coach Steve DeRafelo and his staff were, there was also a sense of pride… in their performance against not only some of the best teams in Pennsylvania but arguably in the entire nation. And, most important, there was that pride in their resiliency, bouncing back from that first loss of the season — a one-point heartbreaker to Franklin Regional on Friday; and, in the end, the never-give-up stance they took throughout the second one — an uphill, five-point setback to Parkland on Saturday.
Unfortunately, that intestinal fortitude — or guts, as we’d prefer to call it — doesn’t show up in the scorebook or on the scoreboard. If they did, most if not all of the 28 matches contested from Thursday through Saturday would’ve been draws. No one gets to the Giant Center in the second week of February without that true grit.
And no one had more of it for OJR than Kyle Shronk, wrestling with a shoulder that pops more than a freshly opened Coca-Cola; Gordon Bolig, taking on a returning state qualifier instead of an opponent he likely would’ve easily pinned; and Dominick Petrucelli, showing some mighty mettle the entire time he was on the mat.
The difference in the scorebook and on the scoreboard in the Pennsylvania state team duals is talent — from 106 on up through 285 pounds — with match-ups and a wee bit of luck mixed in. Owen J. Roberts didn’t get many of the matchups it needed, and little if any luck. And the Wildcats didn’t quite match up with their opponents’ talent, though one-point and five-point losses aren’t all that convincing, or enough to suggest the final results would be the same from one day to the next.
The bottom line was that this year’s state team duals field out in Hershey was absolutely packed, maybe as strong as any in recent memory.
Upper Perkiomen, which even head coach Tom Hontz felt was a .500 team at best back around Christmas, represented itself, the PAC-10 and District 1 well by reaching the quarterfinals and finishing 2-2 overall.
Owen J. Roberts did the same, and also proved — without question — it was among the top eight teams in Pennsylvania.
Not bad at all.
* * *
Last week’s combined four wins and five losses in the PIAA-Class AAA Team Duals by Owen J. Roberts, Upper Perkiomen and Boyertown brought the PAC-10’s overall record in the state team duals to 21-28 — which broken down shows a 21-22 mark in AAA and 0-6 mark in AA. … Upper Perkiomen, with the most appearances, owns the most wins (13) as well as the most losses (8).