The wrestling leaves have turned. The postseason -- the real postseason, that is -- has arrived. So forget about exactly who is bumping up or down in the lineup, or what coaches are manuevering their personnel around to get the right match-ups.
Forget about all those invitational and holiday tournament titles back in December and January, that league championship from earlier this month, even those memorable milestones along the way ..there'll be plenty of time to reminisce, talk about and applaud those particular achievements later this spring during the plethora of team and league banquets.
Right now, the focus is on gold, silver and bronze, or any combination thereof, to pay for -- or earn, if you will -- an early March, three-day excursion to the Giant Center in Hershey.
Getting there, though, is as big a challenge -- both mentally and physically -- as any in high school sports.
It's one-on-one ..individual sport at its best.
It is four weeks of being at your best against the best. It's knowing the slightest error in judgment, just one simple move the wrong way, can end one's season. It's wrestling through all the aches and pains.
If that isn't enough, this particular postseason will have as much if not more talent in each and every one of the 14 individual brackets as any in the past, or since the very first sanctioned District One postseason unfolded back in 1934.
This is the time of the year when you don't get props, you earn them.
And earning those props doesn't come easy, not when considering in District One alone there will be as many as 800 wrestlers on the mats for the opening rounds of the six respective sectionals Saturday morning. That number will eventually dwindle to just 56 - four in each weight class, or just over 14 percent of the original cast -- for the trip to Hershey.
Climb aboard ..this could be one incredible journey.
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The postseason also marks the beginning of the end for a slew of wrestlers who, as their individual records reflect, will draw the lower seeds and, in all likelihood, be eliminated after two or possibly three matches.
They are the wrestlers who invested just as much time and energy and just as much blood, sweat and tears in the weight room and practice room as well as in matches as anyone else. But their rewards -- wins -- were far and few between. Despite mounting losses, getting beat time and time again in front of family and friends, they remained as devoted to the sport and as committed to their team as their more successful and renowned teammates.
Unlike most sports where a missed block, bad pass or strikeout is often overlooked or later forgotten because of a touchdown, a big shot or a key basehit, there is no hiding in wrestling. There's a mat, a circle and one-on-one competition -- a winner and a loser, nothing in between.
So, for the 15th year, we acknowledge the following wrestlers -- not for their losing ways, but for their unwavering commitment to wrestling, and becoming better student-athletes because of it:
Boyertown's Todd Speilman; Daniel Boone's Chuck Cubero, Brandon Johnson and Jared Martz; Methacton's Jeremy Bini, Nick Cope and Jacob Stonelake; Perkiomen Valley's Geoff Melle and Justin Ward; Phoenixville's Jason Bearden, Justin Dantonio, Joe Galie, Chris Grover, Andrew Licwinko, Sean McClintock and Drew Oxenreider; Pottsgrove's Kevin Calo and Steve Lindley; Pottstown's Kyle Musso and Tom Watson; Spring-Ford's Dave Dyba, Anthony Pappas and Chris Poole; St. Pius' Andrew Bone, Colin Meehan and Jared Stercula; and Upper Perkiomen's Luke Buck and Ryan Johnston.
Some final thoughts on the 2004-2005 regular season:
The Best Individual Rivalry had to be between Boyertown's Fred Rodgers and Upper Perkiomen's Shane Smith at 103 pounds. Yes, Rodgers did win all three meetings -- 2-0 in the Governor Mifflin Holiday Tournament; 1-0 in their team's PAC-10 meeting; and 3-2 (overtime rideout) in the District 1-AAA Duals. But you don't need a calculator to add up the scant four points that separated the two in those three matches. Perhaps they'll meet again in the Southeast Regional.
The Best Team Rivalry, of course, was Boyertown and Upper Perkiomen. The Indians won the close matches in the PAC-10 meeting for a misleading 38-18 win, then had to win a few more crucial bouts down the stretch -- including an overtime finale -- to outlast the Bears, 27-25, in the District 1-Class AAA Duals semifinals.
The Most Improved could be a number of wrestlers, but from start to last week no one made bigger strides than Perkiomen Valley's Nick Bonavita. The senior was 10-7 at one point, competing at 160 and then at 189. But he moved up to 215 and now owns a 10-match winning streak and 20-7 record heading into the postseason.
The Most Unsung Twosome is Upper Perkiomen's Ryan Lapish and Jeremy Pompei, who accounted for a combined 27 wins while wrestling in and around an otherwise star-studded lineup.
The Milestones were aplenty -- Boyertown reaching the 400-win plateau; Spring-Ford's Eric Smith, Upper Perkiomen's Brent Fiorito and Pottstown's Jordon Haring each pinning down their 100th career wins; Boyertown head coach Bruce Hallman hitting the 300-win mark and then passing Pottstown coach Jim Tsakonas as the area's winningest coach; rookie head coach Bill Moser guiding Methacton to its 32nd consecutive winning season; Upper Perkiomen winning an unprecedented seventh straight outright and eighth overall PAC-10 title; St. Pius X winning the District 1-Class AA Duals championship -- the first tournament title of any kind in the history of the school's wrestling program; Upper Perkiomen winning its second straight District 1-Class AAA Duals title and record fourth overall, then finishing third in the state duals tournament; St. Pius X senior Craig Owsiany eclipsing the school record for career wins; and Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz picking up his 200th career.
When the season began back in December, Upper Perkiomen's Alex Maza struggled with the transition from football field to wrestling mat. The 171-pound senior was 1-4, then 2-5, and eventually got back to even at 7-7. In case you haven't noticed, Maza is now 33-7 -- that's 26 wins in a row, a string that includes 11 pins, three forfeits, two major decisions and one technical fall. His last loss was Dec. 29, a 5-0 setback to Owen J. Roberts' Tony Fuschino, at the Governor Mifflin Holiday Classic.
Hot seems to be the operative word when talking about the Indians, too.
Brent Fiorito has won 30 in a row to push his overall record to 39-2. The 152-pound junior is within reach of the District One record for wins in a season (52), set last year by Norristown's Tim Harner.
Teammates Chris Sheetz and Zack Kemmerer are working on 29- and 24-match winning streaks, respectively. Sheetz hasn't lost since a 5-0 setback at the Beast of the East, and among his 29 straight wins are 17 pins, six technical falls and four forfeits.
Boyertown junior Fred Rodgers has swept 20 straight bouts at 103 pounds.
And if you're looking for a legitimated One-Two Punch, keep an eye on Owen J. Roberts' Robert Hoffman and Fuschino. The two opened the year with 13 wins, lost together at the Mifflin tournament, and have won 10 in a row since. Identical 23-1 records at 160 and 171 pounds ..not bad.
Upper Perkiomen may have finished third in the state in the Class AAA Duals, but the Indians finished No. 1 in Pennsylvania for pins The Indians amassed 170, finishing ahead of Wyalusing (155) and Tyrone (151). Boyertown and Juniata tied for fourth with 149 each, one in front of Council Rock South's 148.
The Pennsylvania Independent School State Tournament, which gets under way Friday and concludes Saturday, is being held at The Hill School.
The host Blues have a handful of contenders, too, namely middleweights Doug Maynard and Justin Abbate and upperweights Joe Leone, Zach Stone and Stu Lindberg.
The six District 1-AAA sectionals begin Saturday morning at William Tennent (One), Upper Perkiomen (Two), Methacton (Three), Great Valley (Four), Haverford (Five) and Penncrest (Six).
Up Routte 724, Daniel Boone begins its postseason this weekend in the District 3-AAA Section Three Tournament.