Area and District 1 wrestlers never better at state spectacle
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on March 15, 2005
It's been three days, just three days since the PIAA Championships wound down, three days since the District 1 congregation of wrestlers, coaches and fans got wound up in a frenzy.
And it could be some time before any of them -- actually anyone who has an interest in or is affiliated with District 1 wrestling -- chills, too.
When you've been called everything from whimps to the lollipop gang and a few other creative but lame names in between for longer than anyone cares to recall, well, it's easy to understand this sport's own version of March Madness.
Fifty-five wrestlers and their coaches, each and every one of them, gave District 1 something to cheer about, something to shout about, something to remember ..for a long, long time.
What happened last Thursday, Friday and Saturday has been well-documented here and in newspapers throughout the Philadelphia area, as well as on websites around the state..
The headliners were a record eight finalists; a record four state champions; a record-tying two all-District 1 finals; a record two wins over defending state champions; a record one or more medalists in 13 weight classes; a record three medalists in six weight classes; a record 29 overall medalists; a record 16-13 performance in Saturday's medal rounds; a record for the highest percentage of medalists (53 percent of its total qualifiers; a record 104 individual wins; and a record winning percentage (.507, 104-101) for the three-day tournament.
Get all that?
All those incredible numbers started coming to light when Upper Perkiomen sophomore Chris Sheetz stepped on the mat Saturday night.
Sheetz, the little guy who played second fiddle to Council Rock South's Rick Rappo in the district and regional tournaments -- was golden the third time around. He beat the defending state champion, albeit at the expense of a district rival, but it was only the third time in 68 years that a District 1 wrestler had done it. And he wasn't just Upper Perkiomen's first state champion in 15 years and second overall, but the first for head coach Tom Hontz -- who knew all too well about the frustration and emptiness of second place as a state runner-up himself exactly 20 years earlier.
The 112-pound Sheetz also gave the Pioneer Athletic Conference a state champion for the second straight year ..and the confidence to add to that string next season.
No sooner did Sheetz walk off the mat than Rappo's younger brother, 119-pound Mike Rappo, dumped defending champion Brad Pataky of Clearfield -- who was ranked No. 1 in the country a good part of the season. His decision created a roar from the 8,000-plus fans that was second to none the entire weekend, and sent head coach Brad Silemperi --a state champion himself as a sophomore for Nazareth back in 1988 -- into a gyrating jump-and-dance act that would've made the best of American Bandstand envious.
Later, at 160 pounds, Silemperi was at it again when Austin Carter capped a perfect 44-0 season with a pin of North Allegheny's Rob Waltko. And for those who had sat in on 20 or so state championships, remember when District 1 wrestlers -- with the exception of North Penn giant Chris Kwortnik's royal run in the late-80s -- were merely toys to play with for North Allegheny's state qualifiers.
Carter's win tied the district mark for state champions -- set in 1966 and equaled five more times.
But Pennridge's Dan Goetter erased that stuttering-like six lines from the record book when he won at 215 to give his school and head coach John Rittenhouse their first state champion. And if you'd care for a little irony in Goetter's decision Justin Terhune of Dallastown..Back in 1987, when Rittenhouse was a senior at Quakertown, he pinned a Dallastown rival - John Druck -- in the 132-pound state final.
Goetter's golden performance was District 1's last hurrah.
The last of so, so many.
District 1, for the fourth straight year, had upped its medal count -- from a ho-hum 12 to 16 between 2002 and 2003, respectively, to a noticeable 21 last season, and now to 29, more than any other district -- including the mighty Districts 11 and 7 -- in all of Pennsylvania.
Talk about stepping up.
JUST AS IMPRESSIVE
District 1 accounted for 27 of the 112 schools in last week's PIAA-Class AAA Championships. All but three of those 27 had at least one win, and all but seven claimed at least one medal.
Only five schools picked up more than one medal, and three of those five were from the Pioneer Athletic Conference -- Upper Perkiomen (three), Spring-Ford (two) and Boyertown (two).
Five of the district's schools finished among the Top 20 in the team standings. Council Rock South tied for the team title -- joining Council Rock (1977) and North Penn (1987) as the only District 1 schools to achieve that feat. Also among the elite were Quakertown (4th); Upper Perkiomen (6th); Pennridge (13th); and Spring-Ford (16th).
Six of the PAC-10's eight state medalists -- and seven of the area's nine medalists -- return next year.
They are Boyertown juniors Fred Rodgers (eighth at 103) and Nick Hyatt (seventh at 119); Methacton sophomore Brad Clark (eighth at 152); Spring-Ford junior Matt Moley (fourth at 119); and Upper Perkiomen sophomore Sheetz (first at 112), sophomore Zack Kemmerer (fifth at 135) and Brent Fiorito (third at 152).
Those seven put together an eye-popping 269-35 record this past season.
Spring-Ford senior Mike Moley, a two-time semifinalist and sixth a year ago, improved to third at 140 pounds despite his late start this season.
And Owen J. Roberts senior Tony Fuschino, who won just seven matches as a freshman, managed to just get over the .500 mark as a sophomore and struggled as late as two weeks ago at districts, regrouped to win regionals and finish eighth at 171 pounds on Saturday.
Only one of the other eight PAC-10 state qualifiers -- Upper Perkiomen's Alex Maza -- is graduating. The league's lone AA qualifier, St. Pius' Greg Care, also graduates.
The returning seven are Boyertown's Mike Schwager (160) and Josh White (189); Owen J. Roberts' Robert Hoffman (160); and Upper Perkiomen's Shane Smith (103), Austin Reed (119), Sam Walters (130) and Derek Bennett (215), who together had a combined 276-89 won-lost record this season.
Spring-Ford's Eric Smith (128) and Mike Moley (123) graduate No. 17 and No. 20, respectively, on the area's career win chart. Fiorito (122) has his senior year ahead of him and could -- if he matches this season's record 53-4 effort -- become No. 2 locally and No. 1 in the district.
A slew of others -- including Reed (98), Sheetz (91), Matt Moley (90), Kemmerer (89), Hyatt (85) and Walters (80) -- will join the select group next season.