NEWTOWN - Marple Newtown freshman Bill Brosko patiently waited outside of the athletic director's office Tuesday for assistant coach Anthony Goodman, who was taking him to Garnet Valley High to work out with Jaguars wrestler Coltin Deery in preparation for the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championships, which begins Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
The 220-pounder needed the lift because he's not close to be being old enough to drive. In Pennsylvania, you have to be 16 to gain a learner's permit, and 161/2 to obtain a junior driver's license. Brosko won't be 15 until April 11, which means if all goes well, he could be a two-time state qualifier before he is legally old enough to give anybody else a lift himself.
It isn't unusual, however, for a freshman to make the state tournament. There are 19 ninth-graders headed to Hershey in Class 3A, including two from Delaware County. Strath Haven's Chase Barlow (126) is the other. Most of those freshmen, however, qualified in the lower weights. Of 19 ninth-graders in Class 3A, 15 are in the four lowest eight classes, 12 at 106 and 113.
It is extremely rare for a freshman to make states in the upper weight classes.
"I think I'm the only freshman at 220," Brosko said.
Indeed he is. Brosko is the fifth freshman to make states at 220 or 285 since the PIAA went to its current weight-class format in 2012.
Brosko's trip to Hershey is remarkable and almost didn't happen. He had a one-point lead on Terrance Averett of Glen Mills in the fifth-place match at the Southeast Regional last Saturday at Souderton High School when he performed a wrestling no-no. He locked his hands with three seconds to go in regulation and the move cost him a penalty point and sent the match into overtime.
"It was a dumb mistake," Brosko said. "He was strong. He was a physical wrestler. It was a close match and I couldn't stop his double legs."
Brosko recovered to pin Averett with nine seconds to go in OT and become the first wrestler from Marple Newtown to qualify for states since Jason Rinaldi at 106 pounds in 2013.
"I stood up and I took him down, and I think he thought the match was over," Brosko said. "I put him in a half (nelson) and put him on his back."
Brosko let out a yell after his victory, but he did not realize the significance of his accomplishment until he looked at his phone on the next day.
"I saw all the text messages from people congratulating me," Brosko said.
He did not bother to count how many messages he received.
"It was a lot," Brosko said. "My phone blew up."
Brosko is no stranger to state-level competition. As a fifth grader he finished third at 150 pounds in the 9-10 division at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling championships. Two years later, he took third at 160 in the 11-12 division.
But considering the way his high school career started, Brosko is surprised he is going to Hershey. He suffered a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Dec. 8, in the second match of the season.
Fortunately, the injury required rest, not surgery. Brosko returned to competition on Jan. 9 and went on to compile a 20-7 record and finish third at the Central League and District 1 Class 3A South tournaments, and fifth at regionals to earn his first trip to states.
"I would lift every day after school to build up my upper body," said Brosko, who also plays football and lacrosse. "I took it slow. As soon as I could, I did the bike a little bit and worked that into jogging and running. My coaches really helped me out, all my coaches from MJT (Marple Junior Tigers) to Paxon (Paxon Hollow Middle School) to here."
It takes a village to raise a wrestler good enough to make it to the PIAA championships, especially as a freshman, and Brosko will be counting on that large support system when he gets to Hershey.
"I have to stay focused and not get overwhelmed about who I'm wrestling against," Brosko said. "All of my coaches have helped me do that so far. They've been behind me the whole time and I know they're going to be there for me in Hershey."