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PAC-10 High School Wrestling District 1

Upper Perk takes long-anticipated match vs. Bears with late charge

by By Don Seeley dseeley@pottsmerc.com

Posted on January 17, 2011

RED HILL - The first thing Tom Hontz does when he gets his new wrestling schedule is look for Boyertown and circle the date.

"About 200 days from (the match), that's when I start thinking about this, when I start giving the kids an occasional reminder," the veteran Upper Perkiomen coach said. "It's a big rivalry."

The Indians sure may have gotten tired hearing about the Bears since last June. But were they ever the energized bunch Saturday afternoon when they erased a 17-point deficit at the halfway point by winning six of the final seven bouts to stun their guests, 39-31, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference's annual feature brawl.

Despite losing the coin flip - to determine who sends their wrestlers out first in the individual bouts - not getting anywhere near the number of match-ups they had hoped for, and dropping five of those first seven matches, the Indians managed to make up the difference and more thanks to a run reminiscent of those throughout their nine-year reign over the PAC-10. Sandwiched in between two forfeits, they got a pivotal overtime decision from Dante Steffenino at 103; back-to-back pins from Kyle Fellman and Wolfgang McStravick at 119 and 125, respectively; and an edge-

of-your-seat, seal-the-deal, 4-3 decision from Dan Rodenberger in the 135 finale.

"I have to be honest," Hontz said. "Watching (Boyertown) celebrate the last few years has really hurt."

This time, after the Indians ended Boyertown's 22-match winning streak in the PAC-10 and the celebrating was done on the other end of the gym, Hontz was beaming.

"This seems to be the biggest match of the year every year," said Rodenberger, who strutted onto the mat with the Indians holding a 36-31 lead. "Coach counts down the days for us for this one."

If Hontz or his staff had attempted to count down or add up the numbers early on Saturday, they likely would've run out of fingers and toes. Make no mistake about it, Boyertown was doing the math.

Unsung David Waight opened the affair with a pin at 140; Ross Herrlinger followed with a 3-1 overtime decision at 145; and Jon Neiman put on a clinic with a 20-5 technical fall at 152 to put Upper Perkiomen in a 14-0 hole. The hosts got back into it when Nate Pompei's last-minute flurry was good enough for a 6-4 decision at 160, and Cody Ambrose made everyone forget he was trailing 6-1 with a third-period pin at 171.

It didn't take Boyertown long to rebuild its advantage, thanks to Tyler Mauger's pin at 189 and Josh Fiss' 29-second pin at 215.

Upper Perkiomen may have been down, but not out.

"We didn't think we were out of it," Rodenberger said.

Turns out, they weren't.

The Indians (4-0, 11-8 overall) held Dalton Fleming out until 285 in hopes of getting a match against the injured Zach Heffner, who actually weighed in but didn't wrestle. So seconds after Fleming walked onto the mat and was greeted by Boyertown's Parvanti Dominque, Hontz rushed to the scorer's table to alert official Kimber Smith that Dominque was too light to go at 285. He was correct, too, so the Bears (2-1, 9-5) not only had to forfeit but surrender a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

That was big, but not as big as Dante Steffenino's 4-2 overtime battle with freshman phenom Eddie Kriczky.

"I didn't let anything affect me," said Steffenino, who had lost twice to Kriczky in middle school. "I just went out and did my best. I always want to wrestle my match, or try to make my opponent wrestle my type of match. I want to get my opponent out of their comfort zone."

Kriczky led 2-0 after the first period. Steffenino rode him the entire second period, then got a takedown to tie it at 2-2 with 41 seconds. Steffenino had Kriczky turned, oh so close to getting a decisive near-fall, but the Boyertown freshman avoided that and forced overtime, which ended 39 seconds in on Steffenino's takedown.

Twin brother Dylan Steffenino accepted a forfeit at 112 to get Upper Perkiomen within a point at 25-24, the Fellman needed 1:35 and McStravick just 44 seconds to give Upper Perkiomen it's first lead of the afternoon at 36-25.

Boyertown standout Jeremy Minich cut into that spread with a pin of his own at 130. But that meant teammate Peter Jones had to pin Rodenberger... had to.

"I knew what I had to do, and I didn't want to change my style," said Rodenberger, explaining the often dangerous strategy of avoiding a pin. "Yes, I was more cautious. But I just didn't want to do anything stupid."

He didn't.

"We knew this was going to be tight," said Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca. "It's a backyard brawl, a great rivalry. This is a match that brings out great performances from both sides.

"But there were a few toss-up (matches) that we felt our kids would win. But Upper Perk won them. Give Upper Perk credit. They didn't quit. They deserved to win. They were the better team here today."

The Indians have no time to rest, though. Up next is a trip to unbeaten Owen J. Roberts on Wednesday night (and a visit to Spring-Ford the following Wednesday night).

"This is just the start," Dante Steffenino said. "We have a long way to go."

"The tough thing is that we get a nice win like this today and have to get right back to work to get ready for Owen J.," added Hontz. "But our grunts work real hard."

NOTES

Boyertown's last PAC-10 loss was 32-28 to Spring-Ford on Jan. 23, 2008 -- a setback that left both teams tied for the league title. ... Dominque weighed in at 188.4 pounds, meaning he could've went at 189 or 215, but no higher. "We were just trying to make some moves and forget he weighed in under 189," Ventresca said. "That's my fault. It happens. It wouldn't changed the outcome, but..."

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