Wildcats' Syrek battles through injury to reach semifinals
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on March 7, 2009
HERSHEY - Scott Syrek's confidence is up there, about as high as it can get, right smack at 100 percent.
His physical well-being isn't. Sometimes mind over matter is good enough, though.
It was Friday afternoon, when the Owen J. Roberts sophomore decisioned Albert Gallatin's Jeremiah Karpency, 5-1, to advance into this morning's semifinals of the PIAA-Class AAA Championships at the Giant Center.
The 215-pound Syrek, who came here and returned home after just one day a year ago, will get to be part of the entire three-day feature despite an ailing shoulder that has forced him to medically default a few bouts this postseason. But he used an escape and takedown in the final minute of the second period to take a 3-0 lead on Karpency (35-7), then negated Karpency's escape in the third period with a takedown as the final five seconds ticked away.
The win not only improved Syrek's record to 30-8, but guaranteed him a medal regardless of what transpires today. Moreover, he is the first Owen J. Roberts wrestler to go into the final day with a chance at gold since Don Kulp - the program's only state champion - did it 38 years ago, back in 1971.
"I'm feeling confident because I've already beaten a lot of the (wrestlers) on my side of the bracket," Syrek said. "I knew what was ahead of me coming in. I knew what I had to do. I just felt I had a shot at a medal."
What Syrek wasn't so sure of, though, was his shoulder.
He injured it a year ago while on the mat with Springfield-Delco's Andre Petroski - a semifinalist at 189 pounds - and it's gotten, "progressively worse," Syrek said. He hopes to begin therapy next week, when the long and grueling season is long over. And if that doesn't provide some relief, then it's surgery.
But a win this morning against Connellsville junior Nate Gaffney (47-6), the Southwest Regional champion, would go a long way in a temporary healing process.
"Right now, (the shoulder) kind of limits my motion on my feet," Syrek explained. "It hurts my set-ups, so I just have to find other ways to do things. There's no medical forfeits now. This is it, this is the end of the line, so I have to work around it. This was a good win, but now I have to let it rip."
"Scott is banged up, there's no doubt about it," added OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo. "But he can wrestle with these guys, wrestle with the best guys in the state. He's overcome (the shoulder) problems so far. He's battled."
Five other area qualifiers battled through Thursday night's opening rounds to get into Saturday's quarterfinals, but all came up short in their second bouts. And by day's end, only Boyertown's Alex Pellicciotti (130) and Owen J. Roberts' Nick Fuschino (152) remained by recovering to take their consolation challenges and moving into the medal round.
The slide began when Boyertown's Jeremy Minich fell to Nazareth's Zach Horan, 5-3, at 112. Then Boyertown's Matt Malfaro went down to Central Dauphin's Simon Rice, 9-2, at 119. Pellicciotti fell to Cathedral Prep's Rocco Wellek, 3-2, and Fuschino gave Central Dauphin's unbeaten defending state champion Marshall Peppelman all he could handle in a 5-3 setback.
Syrek ended the skid, then Upper Perkiomen's Jared Bennett was defeated by Abington Height's undefeated Evan Craig, 7-1, at 285.
Pellicciotti remained alive by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to decision South Western's Drew Rebling (34-8). A second-period escape made it 2-1, then he got the decisive points on a tilt with 35 seconds remaining to improve to 47-4 - tying the Boyertown school record for wins in a season - and assure himself of a second state medal.
"It gets hard to get back into it because one minute you're fighting to get into the semifinals and a chance for a gold medal, and the next you're fighting for maybe eighth place," Pellicciotti said. "But I just didn't wrestle to my full potential (against Wellek). It just didn't seem like I was awake and ready to go. It was definitely an off-match for me."
Fuschino worked the heavily-favored Peppelman (44-0) for six full minutes. He was tied at 2-2 midway through the match and trailing, 4-3, after three periods, with Peppelman already given a warning for stalling. But the only additional scoring in the third period was Peppelman's escape.
Fuschino (36-3) managed to come back and work a 6-1 win over Great Valley's Travis Donnor.
"I think the fact that I was that close with Peppelman made me stronger," Fuschino explained. "Like I've said, I usually get better as the day goes on. But after being able to stay that close to Peppelman, I knew I'd be okay. It definitely helped my confidence."
Minich, Malfaro, Boyertown senior Tim Feroe, and Bennett were later eliminated in the wrestlebacks. Minich (41-7) was pinned just before the final buzzer by Blue Mountain's Brandon Choate; Malfaro (41-8) was edged, 6-5, by South Western's Cameron Throckmorton; the 152-pound Feroe (42-10) was defeated, 12-7, by District 1 rival Jimmy Vollrath of Council Rock South; and Bennett (42-5) was decisioned, 11-4, by Red Lion's Keith Dahlheimer.
District 1 has seven others in this morning's semifinals - Council Rock North's Zac Haynes (119), Kennett's unbeaten Kyle Bove (135), Council Rock South's Ed Shupe (160), Henderson's Hunter Smith (171), Springfield-Delco's Andre Petroski (189), Council Rock North's Jack Callender (189), and Abington's unbeaten David Osei (285). ... Fourteen others, are still alive in the consolation brackets, have also clinched medals. ... Prior to tonight's Class AAA championship finals, the Pottsgrove High School's choral group - Prima Voce - will sing the national anthem. The group, under the direction of Cynthia Foust, features Samantha Boatman, Courtney Chu, Kendal Conad, Amanda Cope, Melissa Cox, Courtney Daniels, Fae Dietz, Ophir Frazier, Alyssa Hartzman, Carly Hendricks, Jenny Kohler, Jennifer Korb, Victoria Lambert, Elizabeth Lester, Rowan Meador, Nicole Messina, Ashlyn Neiffer, Nina Nicolella, Brittnai Panton, Chelsea Payne, Vanessa Pellechio, Haley Robbins, Ashley Rubendall, Courtney Sell, Ashley Shaner, Heather Smith, Kayla Speedy and Katrina Zadoyko.