Upper Perkiomen takes title, advances eight to states
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on March 6, 2005
WEST NORRITON - Tom Hontz took what seemed like an endless minute to collect his thoughts. Yes, he already knew his Upper Perkiomen wrestling team pinned down the AAA Southeast Regional Tournament title and had an unheard of eight qualifiers for next week's state spectacle.
It's just the veteran head coach didn't know where to begin ..how to keep his emotions in check and make sense of what unfolded Saturday at Norristown High School.
"Amazing," Hontz said, stumbling to find a word - any word - to add to his analysis of the Indians' record showing. "Every time someone did something well someone else would so something more incredible.
"We set a lofty goal for the number of people we wanted to send to states, and we did that and more. That's a pretty incredible achievement. And to win the team title is something, too, especially when you think of all the firepower in those Council Rock (South's) kids and in the tournament overall. Just amazing."
Hontz was not - repeat - was not exaggerating.
The Indians had a pair of gold medalists in Zack Kemmerer (135 pounds) and Brent Fiorito (152); three runners-up in Chris Sheetz (112), Austin Reed (119) and Alex Maza (171); a pair of thirds in Shane Smith (103) and Sam Walters (130); and a fourth in Derek Bennett (215). That not only added up to 157 points, or well in front of second-place Council Rock South (109), but erased a 28-year-old District 1 record for the most state qualifiers in one season.
Upper Perkiomen nearly accounted for half of the area's record 17 state qualifiers - 16 from the Pioneer Athletic Conference - a list topped by Boyertown's Fred Rodgers and Owen J. Roberts' Tony Fuschino, who swept their 103 and 171 brackets, respectively.
But it was still difficult to overlook just how impressive, how dominating, the Indians were from Friday night's preliminary rounds through Saturday night's finals.
"We work read hard, so it makes us feel real good when it pays off like this," said Reed, who fell to CRS's Mike Rappo, 7-3, in their 119-pound final. "This was one of our goals. We set individual goals and team goals. We know we don't have as much talent as some teams, but we do have a bunch of scrappy guys."
"It's just amazing," added Kemmerer (46-3), who took the umpth out of the anticipated brawl with Springfield-Delco's Sean Reed by dominating the 6-2 decision. "We've heard how this was supposed to be the best regional they've ever had (in District 1), and now we're sending eight guys to states. This is hard to believe. We were hoping four to six guys would get through, so this is incredible."
Incredible may have suited Fiorito (49-3) best. He came through the preliminaries, upset Pennsbury's Bill Trimble (41-2) in the semifinals, then used a pair of takedowns to defeat Coatesville's Corey Blake, 5-1, in the final.
"It's becoming a trend," Fiorito said of his and his teammates' showing. "It feels good to win, especially when everyone around you is winning. This is just phenomenal. We feel bad for Jimmy (McVeigh, ousted at 160), but taking eight guys to states is just awesome."
"You could look at the brackets and say we may have had a chance to win this," Hontz added. "We're talking about kids here, though, so you never know what they're going to bring to the table. But our kids really stepped it up. They wrestle as a team, even in individual tournaments. Amazing..
Rodgers started the amazing evening - for the PAC-10 in general and the area specifically - with one of his patented last-minute reversals en route to a 5-2 decision of Quakertown's Jon Weibel.
"It just seems to happen that way," Rodgers said, now a gaudy 41-2 on the season of his nail-biting finishes. "I've been in some tough matches. And I guess when you're down to the last seconds and have to win you have to pull something out."
Rodgers did, and he'll be joined at states by teammates Nick Hyatt (119), Mike Schwager (160) and Josh White (189), all of whom finished fourth. The foursome also makes up the largest contingent of Boyertown state qualifiers, too, erasing the previous mark of three.
Fuschino (35-2) came up with four straight wins for his gold at 171, the last one a 3-1 decision over Maza.
"Last week (at districts) surprised me more than this week," said Fuschino, who will be joined at states by 160-pound teammate Robert Hoffman - second to unbeaten Austin Carter (41-0) of Council Rock South.
"That loss (to Lower Merion's Jack Hartman) upset me. It made me stop and think what I had to do here. I just feel I haven't wrestled anyone I can't beat."
The area's three remaining qualifiers were Methacton's Brad Clark, fourth at 152; and Spring-Ford brothers Matt and Mike Moley, who were third and fourth, respectively, at 119 and 140.
Coming up just short of a trip to states were fifth-place finishers Jason Kadelski (112) of Methacton and Eric Smith (135) of Spring-Ford. Boyertown's Austin Jones (112) and Spring-Ford's John Martin (103) were both sixth. ..OJR's Jeremy Stierly was on his way to states before a severe ankle injury forced him to default in the semifinals. The sophomore 125-pound tried to come back in the consolations, but again defaulted 2:52 into the match. ..Upper Perkiomen broke the record of most state qualifiers by a District 1 team that was set in 1977 by eventual state champion Council Rock and tied by the Indians last year. ..Downingtown East's Paul Girafalco (130) was named the OW after defeating three district champions and picking up his 100th career win in the final, a stunning 3-2 overtime decision of Quakertown's Nate Nauroth. ..Boyertown (4th) and OJR (7th) both finished in the top 10, while Spring-Ford (11th) missed a spot among the elite by just two points.