Mike Moley's first wrestling opponent, and his first real wrestling buddy, was Clint Collins. Rarely did a day go by when the two pint-sized 5-year-olds weren't rolling around on a mat somewhere, and their friendly rivalry went on and on until Moley left the neighborhood for Spring-Ford, and Collins moved up to Upper Merion.
Twelve years later, or this morning to be exact, Moley and Collins will meet again - in the 140-pound semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA Championships here at the Giant Center.
"I've always wanted this," Moley said.
"Clint was the first person I ever wrestled. We went at each other almost every day for six or seven years, from preschool on up.
"But now I want a payback ..the last two times we've met he's beaten me, 10-6 last year and in overtime my sophomore year."
Both of those setbacks came in the season-opening Southeastern Pennsylvania Classic. This morning's match-up carries considerable more weight.
Moley (16-4) advanced into the semifinals - and guaranteed himself a second state medal - with a 5-3 decision over Dallastown's Justin Myers during Friday afternoon's quarterfinals. Collins (38-0), a state runner-up two years ago before missing the postseason a year ago due to injury, advanced into the semifinals with a thrilling 1-0 rideout win over Connellsville's Zach Snyder.
Collins had the opportunity to sit in and root-root-root for Moley during his brawl with Myers. Then, the moment Moley finished up, he was in the first row of stands bordering the mat Collins was on and, sure enough, was there to root-root-root for his lifelong friend.
That will change this morning, of course, when the two battle it out to see who advances into the state final against either Council Rock North's Dave Zeek (47-3) or Trinity's Dan Burkholder (22-1), the heavy hitters in the bottom half of the 140-pound bracket.
And is Moley looking forward to yet another roll-around with Collins?
"Yes and no," he said. "I know Clint's style, what he likes to do and what he can do, so that makes it kind of tough. But he's beaten me the last two times and, like I said, I want a payback. I'm just going to have to wrestle hard and wrestle smart.
"I think I've stepped it up a little lately. I'm getting used to the close matches, and my confidence is pretty good. Compared to last year I think I'm a little bit better. But I'm going to have to be even better against Clint."
Most people would think after driving 70-some miles and being in the state championships it would be strange to run into a neighboring rival.
Well, six of Friday's second-round consolation bouts - the matches that determines who will get a medal and who won't - featured District 1 rivals, four of those six happened to include local hopefuls.
At 103 pounds, Boyertown's Fred Rodgers (43-3) defeated Upper Perkiomen's Shane Smith (43-13) for an incredible fifth straight time this season. And, like all but one of those meetings, it was a one-point differential as Rodgers escaped in the second overtime to eliminate Smith.
Also at 103, Neshaminy's Dex Lederer pinned Quakertown's Jon Weibel, meaning District 1 will be assured two medals - but otherwise could've had all four of its qualifiers on the medal stand later tonight.
At 135, Upper Perkiomen's Zack Kemmerer (48-4) bounced back from his quarterfinal setback to eliminate Springfield-Delco's Sean Reed (35-4), who was favored to medal.
At 145, Pennridge's A.J. Detweiler knocked out Council Rock North's Nick Martin. At 171, it was Owen J. Roberts' Anthony Fuschino (37-3) getting the best of Upper Perkiomen's Alex Maza (43-12) for the second straight week to guarantee himself a medal. And at 215, Plymouth-Whitemarsh's Seth Hillstrom ended Upper Perkiomen junior Derek Bennett's season a win shy of the medal rounds.
LONG TIME COMING
Methacton's Brad Clark bounced back from his preliminary round loss with two wins to assure himself of a medal, the Warriors' first since 1998, when Jeff Albano and John Pagnotta finished third and fifth, respectively.
Fuschino will be OJR's first on the podium since Aaron Brown took third in 2000.
And Boyertown will have two medalists - Rodgers and Nick Hyatt (119) in one trip here for the very first time. As a matter of fact, the only Boyertown medalist before this year was heavyweight Mike Spaid, seventh in 2003 and the state champion last year.
Upper Perkiomen's three medalists - Chris Sheetz (112), Kemmerer and Brent Fiorito (152) - gives head coach Tom Hontz and his program at least one state medalist for the seventh straight year.
But if anyone took a major - or memorable - step this weekend it was Penncrest, or freshman Chuck Mulloy, to be specific. Penncrest had only three state qualifiers in the history of its program before sending Mulloy (119) and sophomore Steve Resnick here this week.
Resnick lost two straight. But Mulloy (37-7), with his two wins Thursday and Friday, has doubled the program's previous total - the one win apiece posted by Pete Ventresca (1990) and the late Reed Shanaman (1998).
Six District 1 qualifiers who finished fourth at last weekend's Southeast Regional, will medal this weekend - Lederer (103 pounds), Hyatt (119), Upper Darby's Chris Grill (135), Mike Moley (140), Detweiler (145) and Clark (152).
BY THE NUMBERS
District 1's 55 qualifiers went .500 overall (42-42) in Thursday's two rounds and 29-24 in Friday's quarterfinals and second-round consolations. Both numbers are far and above district records, as are today's 15 semifinalists and the guaranteed 29 medals - breaking the standard of 21 set last March.
Northampton's Steve Mytych, ranked No. 1 and expected to compete with Easton's Seth Ciasulli for the gold medal at 125 pounds, was ousted Friday.