Rashaad Lighty got more than his share of ribbing last week when a picture of him getting pinned appeared on the front page of our sports section. Some of the teasing was good-natured. Some, of course, wasn't. According to a few sources, a lot of students - not student-athletes, that is - got a good laugh after seeing it.
Sure enough, two nameless emails made their way into my mailbox over the weekend, both demanding an explanation as to why we would so "carelessly" publish a photograph that can only "humiliate" a young man. I wasn't laughing.
The funny thing is Rashaad Lighty - a junior at Pottstown - will (and should) get the last laugh.
Without question, wrestling lacks the fan base that supports the sport like the throng that hoots and hollers for football, basketball and baseball. But wrestling does have a loyal following. Actually, they should be acknowledged as an educated following, because anyone with the slightest understanding of wrestling would do anything but laugh at such a photograph.
Let's try Wrestling 101 here...
There is no sport in high school or college like wrestling. There is no sport in high school or college that demands such physical and mental strength, such discipline, on a daily basis, as wrestling does.
It is individual sport at its best ... two athletes going toe to toe, or head to head, in a circle in plain sight for everyone to see for upwards of six minutes. Ankles and knees get turned, elbow and shoulders get twisted, necks get tortured and faces get slapped and smacked. There are also times, more than most care to admit, when one of those ankles, knees, elbows or shoulders snap - torn cartilage and ligaments, muscle tears, separations, broken bones. Ouch doesn't quite cover it. And to think hardly a day goes by when they aren't watching what they eat - or how much they can eat - just so they can make weight, just so they can put themselves in a position to get all twisted and turned (beat up kind of covers it), well, that takes a special athlete ... a real athlete.
But they do it, day in and day out, week to week, for a little over three months.
They do it to get their arm raised ... to win. When they don't, they're right back in the practice room the next day, and the grind begins again.
Rashaad Lighty did lose that match last Thursday night, even lost another Saturday morning. But in between, he was working to get better. And while others were sleeping in, sitting in front of a computer or fiddling with their iPad, iPod, Xbox or Kindle, enjoying a day off from school or work, Lighty was back on the mats Monday.
That's more, considerably more, than any of those laughing at the photograph can say.
Yep, Rashaad Lighty gets the last laugh.
Methacton headed south to Maryland over the weekend, wrestled eight matches in two days, and gave head coach A.J. Maida something to smile about on the ride back.
The Warriors swept their pool and three crossover matches before a 45-22 loss to Spalding (Md.) in the final of the Cavalier Duals.
"The kids wrestled very well," Maida said. "We had a few kids go undefeated, a couple of others went 7-1 ... it just seemed like everyone challenged their opponents at one time or another. Everyone stepped up."
D'Annunzio knocked off a national prep medalist, who is also nationally ranked this season; Staley, who was just 7-6 before the trip, dropped a close decision to a state-ranked rival from Spalding; Carr was, "just dominant the entire weekend," according to Maida; and Clark underlined his spotless showing by winning a bout he trailed 8-3 in the second period.
Methacton actually led Spalding by an 19-6 spread early on, but came up short in eight of the last nine individual bouts.
"After the loss to Upper Perkiomen (on Dec. 18) the kids realized they had to change things," Maida said. "I think what sparked us was the (come-from-behind) win against Perkiomen Valley, and then the big win over Downingtown East.
"I think that's when the kids realized they could hang with some people. They realized they could be successful if they continued to do the little things. They've been working hard, and that was evident (at the Cavalier Duals)."
The first round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Round-Robin Tournament - which some are calling this year's championship chase - was held last weekend, with Upper Perkiomen taking down four-time defending champion Boyertown, 39-31. It was the Bears' first league loss since falling 32-28 to Spring-Ford back on Jan. 23, 2008, ending a 22-match winning streak.
Tom Hontz, who guided Upper Perkiomen to nine straight titles from 1998 through 2006, is well aware Saturday's win meant nothing more than the Indians are now 4-0.
"There is still a long way to go," Hontz said after the come-from-behind win Saturday.
Hontz and the Indians have little time to celebrate because Wednesday it's Round Two - Upper Perkiomen at Owen J. Roberts, where the Indians lost 39-25 a year ago.
And win, lose or draw, the Wildcats will have little time to dwell on whatever outcome awaits them because they're traveling to Boyertown on Saturday for Round Three.
If anyone cares (or dares) to look ahead, Upper Perkiomen will be at Spring-Ford for Round Four on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Then, just two days after the opening rounds of the District 1-Class AAA Duals Tournament - which is likely to include a foursome or more from the PAC-10 - Spring-Ford gets right back into it for Round Five on Saturday, Jan. 29 at Owen J. Roberts.
Oh, there's a Round Six, too ... but more on that - maybe even on a Methacton, Perkiomen Valley or Pottsgrove upset in between - in a week or so.
Injuries to Boyertown's Zach Heffner and Owen J. Roberts' Scott Syrek - two of the state's better upperweights - will take a wee bit of a bite out of what could've been some great individual matchups down the stretch - as well as in the postseason.
The 189-pound Heffner, a returning state qualifier, tore his ACL at last month's Beast of the East Classic and hasn't wrestled since. He is scheduled for surgery Thursday and will, in all likelihood, miss the rest of the season.
Syrek, a two-time state qualifier and medalist last year, has been slowed his entire career by shoulder and knee injuries. He had his shoulder operated on this past summer, and didn't get onto the mats until last Wednesday's dual against Perkiomen Valley. Then Saturday, after two more easy wins in the Escape The Rock at Council Rock South High School, he re-injured his shoulder during the semifinals and medically forfeited out of the tournament. Syrek may or may not return this season. If he does, though, few expect him to be anywhere close to 100 percent for the postseason grind.
Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury. His high school wrestling column appears Tuesdays through the PIAA Championships.