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PAC-10 High School Wrestling District 1

Pedal To The Medal

by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor

Posted on March 8, 2009

HERSHEY - Nick Fuschino had a couple of legitimate reasons to moan and groan.

But the Owen J. Roberts senior - frustrated when defending state champion Marshall Peppelman of Central Dauphin didn't get hit for stalling at critical points of their physical second-round bout Thursday, then shortchanged when what appeared to be an obvious (and decisive) takedown of Dan Karpency of Albert Gallatin was taken off the board in the consolation semifinals Saturday - never revealed his frustrations ... never uttered a word of dissatisfaction.

He just wrestled.

And when the 152-pound Fuschino was finished Saturday night here at the PIAA-Class AAA State Championships, he had closed out one of the most successful careers in the fortysome-year history of the Wildcats' program.

Fuschino was fifth, becoming the very first two-time state medalist at Owen J. Roberts, closing with a 38-4 mark and 130 career wins, the third-best total on the school's all-time chart.

"I would have liked to have finished (better), but I'm definitely satisfied with how I wrestled here," said Fuschino, who settled for the fifth-place medal after a very one-sided 6-2 decision over Hopewell's Matt Hundenski, the Southwest Regional champion. "I think I came back and made the most of the situation."

He did, as did teammate Scott Syrek, who was OJR's first state semifinalist in 38 years Saturday morning before settling for a sixth-place medal at 215 pounds.

And, not to be overlooked, was Boyertown's Alex Pellicciotti, who added a second state medal to his wrestling collection by taking seventh at 130 pounds.

Overall, the Pioneer Athletic Conference threesome helped District 1 pick up 22 medals in the AAA bracket.

"I didn't realize I could become (OJR's) first two-time state medalist until last week," Fuschino said. "That kind of gave me more confidence to do well here, gave me more drive ... intensified things a bit."

Fuschino also got a mental shove here and there from older brother Anthony, an eighth-place medalist himself back in 2005.

"Anthony was one of those guys who didn't have a lot of natural ability, but had success because of hard work and a lot of determination," Fuschino explained. "He always encouraged me, always pushed me to go harder.

"He's been one of my biggest fans, and very supportive of me because he understood what I had to go through. And even though I (did better with career wins and state medals), he was always pushing me to do even better."

Fuschino began the day with a 4-0 shutout of Conneaut Lake's Matt Laird before the controversial 3-2 setback to Karpency dropped him into the fifth-place final with Hundenski, and he was as dominating in this high school finale as he'd ever been.

"We've just been lucky to have a wrestler, an overall great young man, like Nick," said OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo. "It's sad to see him go because he's brought so much to our program.

"He had such a gutsy tournament. Knowing you have to go out in the second round against the No. 1 kid in Pennsyvlania, the No. 1 kid in the country (in Peppelman), and go after him like he did. That was a tough loss, but he didn't let it get to him and came back and got it done. Finishing the way he did was just great for Nick."

Syrek not only became just the second Owen J. Roberts qualifier to get into the semifinals since eventual state champion Don Kulp did it way back in 1971, he also became the program's first sophomore to medal at states.

Despite an ailing shoulder, which could require surgery, Syrek went toe-to-toe with Southwest Regional champion Nate Gaffney of Connellsville in a 4-0 loss Saturday morning. The loss dropped him into a consolation semifinal against longtime rival Carl Buchholz of Great Valley, who ran his season mark against Syrek to 3-0 with a 3-1 decision.

Syrek then closed with a 7-1 setback to Warwick super soph Antonio Giorgio, who was undefeated and the 215-pound favorite until being upset in the semifinals himself.

"In the beginning of the year, I kind of expected this, but then when the injuries started, I wasn't so sure," said Syrek, who finished 30-11. "But when I got here (on Thursday) I felt I could (medal).

"The medal's cool, but when you get to the semifinals, you expect to finish better. I wanted to finish higher ... I'm just going to have to bring it on more next year. I wanted more, but that (awards) podium shot will be kind of cool."

For him and DeRafelo.

"We honestly didn't expect (Syrek) to medal," added DeRafelo admitted. "We didn't think he had enough in him physically with the bad shoulder, and that affects you mentally.

"So, yes, it was a surprise to a certain extent. But even when he lost (in the semifinals), he came back tough. He battled two of the best kids in the weight class, and battled tough. Scott can leave this arena with his head up."

Pelliciotti (48-5) had clinched a spot in the medal rounds Friday afternoon, but when he returned Saturday morning in the consolation quarterfinals, he discovered he had a date with defending state champion Cortland Choate of Blue Mountain. Pellicciotti simply could not escape Choate's ride in the 4-1 loss, and fell into the seventh-place final against Council Rock South's Matt Martoccio, who he had edged 7-6 in last weekend's Southeast Regional semifinals. This time, though, Pellicciotti dominated from the outset en route to a 9-0 major and the seventh-place medal.

"I ended the season with a win, so that's always a positive," Pellicciotti said. "I was going for a higher medal, but when seventh was the best I could get then that's what I wanted to take."

Pellicciotti, just a junior, became the fourth Boyertown wrestler to pick up two state medals; broke the school's single-season record for wins; and will have an opportunity to pass everyone on the Bears' career win chart when he opens his senior year next season with 125.

"It was nice to get that win at the end and (break) the school record," Pellicciotti said.

"We're kind of leaving here with mixed emotions," added Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca. "We thought Alex had a very good shot at getting to the final. But sometimes when you make a mistake, especially here, people take advantage of that, and it makes all the difference in the world.

"But Alex wrestled back strong, and we're proud of how he finished. That last match was his best here, so it was a great way to finish."

NOTES

OJR's two state medalists equals the effort from three years ago, when Robert Hoffman and Jeremy Stierly finished seventh and eighth, respectively. ... Fuschino's 130 career wins are third behind Robert Hoffman (131) and Aaron Brown (134). ... Buchholz set a new Chester County League record for career wins with his 151st in the decision of Syrek during the consolation semifinals. He finished with 152 after pinning down the bronze medal. ... Penncrest's 171-pound Jim Resnick had to forfeit his third-place final after being hit with a second unsportsmanlike conduct in the tournament following his 3-1 consolation semifinal decision of bitter rival Patrick Tasser of Belle Vernon. Resnick did not have to surrender his fourth-place medal or any team points accumulated in the postseason. ... Cardinal O'Hara's Chris Alexander finished eighth at 125 pounds, giving the Philadelphia Catholic League - part of District 12 and the Southeast Region - its very first PIAA state medal. Alexander was the lone medalist out of the group of Catholic and Public league qualifiers. ... Saturday afternoon, the National Anthem for the Class AA championships was sung by Pottstown High School's Isiah Washington.

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