St. Pius' Rogers looking to keep unexpected run going
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on February 27, 2009
WEST LAWN - Josh Rogers has sure messed up his schedule.
For the last two years, this has been the week he usually returns to full-time workouts in the weight room ... the week he starts huffing and puffing, benching and squatting, bulking up for football season.
But that's going to have to wait, at least for another week (hopefully two).
Rogers extended his wrestling season last weekend by finishing second at 189 pounds during the District 1-Class AA Championships, which earned the St. Pius X junior a spot in tonight's opening round of the Southeast Regional at Wilson High School.
So he's been kind of busy all week, just in the practice room instead of that weight room.
And he isn't complaining, either.
"I didn't expect this in the beginning of the season," Rogers admitted. "But then it dawned on me that the (Pioneer Athletic Conference) is as tough if not a lot tougher than a lot of the leagues in the district, and I was seeing a lot of good competition.
"As the season went on, I felt I could do
something like this, do well in districts and get to regionals. It became a goal of mine."
Rogers has reversed his ways rather dramatically to get where he is, too. As a freshman, with little or no experience, he labored through a 6-23 season. Those numbers improved to 13-16 last season.
Tonight, he takes a 20-12 record - with 15 pins - into his debut against Saucon Valley senior Kyle Steckert (17-9), who finished fourth at the District 11-AA showdown last Saturday.
"It's night and day," Rogers said when comparing where he was two years ago and where he is today. "Experience is a weapon in itself, and I've gotten a lot stronger.
"Overall, though, I've gotten a lot more comfortable with a few moves. I don't have a lot of them, but I feel I have a few that at any part of a match I can do and do well. I guess you could say I'm just more comfortable with my game plan."
Rogers wouldn't have minded if he had a few teammates with him for the trip and regional battle, either. He is Pius' sole survivor.
"Being the only one doesn't really effect me," he said. "This is a team sport, but now it's about 'you' and about how far 'you' can go.
"It's a first for me, but I've been to the regional the last two years (as a spectactor), so I'm not a stranger to the Wilson gym. It's going to be hectic, I know that. But it's not really any different than any other tournament you wrestle in ... it's just a little more important."
Rogers' 189-pound bracket features defending regional champion Dallas Brown (30-3) of Delone Catholic; Denny Doyle (29-2) of Northern Lehigh and Nate Ronan (25-9) of Oxford, the District 11 and 1 champions, respectively; and Garth Lakitsky (32-2) of Tamaqua and Pat Leavitt (43-4) of Schuylkill Valley, the District 11 and 3 runners-up, respectively.
Also on the card is Kutztown's Brock Krumanocker, who Rogers pinned during a dual last month.
But first thing's first.
"I didn't expect to get this far, but I want to win my first match," Rogers said. "I just have to win that first match. I'm happy to be here, and I want to get back here next year and get to states. But for now, I want to get past that first match.
"I'd love to move on, but I'm also very realistic. So I'm going all out in that first match."
If Rogers does survive his opener, he'll get Leavitt in the quarterfinals.
* * *
Pius' string of 10 straight seasons with at least one District 1-Class AA champion - the second-longest behind Octorara's mind-boggling 18 in a row - ended last weekend.
There aren't any weak weight classes for this weekend's AA Southeast Regional ... at least from the top rungs of the brackets. Ten of last year's champions are back, including eight in a row from 119 through 160 pounds, as well as 18 other medalists who survived the two-day tournament and advanced to the PIAA Championships last season.
Among the defending champions are two from the Berks Conference - Wyomissing's Nick Hodgkins (130) and Schuylkill Valley's Colin Shober (135). There's also Northwestern Lehigh's Evan Yenolevich (125), who last year denied Pottstown's Seth Ecker his second straight regional title and just last week became District 11's first four-time Class AA champion since North Schuylkill's Joe Cesari accomplished the feat nearly 20 years ago.
Among the five returning runners-up are Octorara's Josh Smith (171), who is already a two-time state medalist.
Three other 2008 medalists will not be in the lineup Friday night. One, East Pennsboro's Charlie Bise - who was fourth - competed in last weekend's Class AAA Southcentral Regional.