HERSHEY >> Boyertown coach Dave Jones and his star senior wrestler, Jacob Miller, go way back.
A dozen or so years ago Jones met a much smaller version of Miller at a youth camp, and Thursday, at the first round of the 3A PIAA Duals, the pair was able to experience something a long time coming.
Miller won his 100th career bout in Boyertown’s dual against Bethlehem Catholic on a night that was otherwise fruitless from a team perspective.
“He’s meant a ton to the program and to me as a coach,” Jones said. “I’ve coached him since seventh grade, when I was with the middle school, and it’s been really neat to see him develop. When I was in high school he was in elementary school and I used to see him come in to camps and you could see his love of the sport. To see him flourish like he has is a real thrill.”
The Bears were routed by the Golden Hawks, 57-9, while fellow Pioneer Athletic Conference teams, Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts, were bounced from the championship bracket. The Rams fell to Erie Cathedral Prep, 47-19, and OJR was downed by Kiski, 50-12, which sets up the third matchup between Spring-Ford and the Wildcats since January 23.
The PAC trio will compete again Friday morning in the first round of consolations at 10. The Bears will square off against Mifflin County, as Miller hopes to add to his total.
“It’s awesome,” Miller said of hitting the century mark. “It’s been one of my goals since I started wrestling when I was five. To see it come to reality is a really special moment that will stay with me the rest of my life.”
Boyertown (15-9) lost its first 10 matches against Beca, and 12 of 14. The Hawks intended to forfeit at 195, so Miller was bumped to 220 so he could earn his 100th. Along the way the Bears got a view of what top-level talent looks like and Evan Mortimer (160 pounds) and Julien Maldonado (106) showed well in decision losses to the Frinzi brothers, Luca and Dante, respectively.
For many Bears, it was the first exposure to the Giant Center in Hershey.
“We feel blessed at Boyertown to make states for the seventh year in a row,” Jones said. “Getting out on the floor at Hershey is the cherry on top for a young group. We have more juniors and seniors in our lineup than last year, but less experience. To be able to get young guys this experience is a great opportunity for them to grow and develop for the future.”
The Wildcats (19-4) had their hands full with a powerful Kiski team, but Ricky McCutchen stepped up and had the win of the night for the locals. Paired with Nick Delp, who’s ranked No. 5 in 3A at 170 pounds on papowerwrestling.com, McCutchen won a 4-2 decision.
“The last time we wrestled (Kiski) Delp beat (Dan) Mancini, so that shows you the kind of kid he is,” OJR coach Steve DeRafelo said. “That’s the kind of thing that can get a kid believing in himself and can take a kid to the next level. Ricky’s kind of knocked on the door of the next level and when you’re able to do something like that, all of a sudden you’re at the next level. Now he’s gotta use it. He can’t go away, he has to believe in himself and what he’s capable of.”
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, McCutchen’s win was the last OJR would register. Also winning decisions for OJR was Cole Meredith (138), Antonio Petrucelli (145) and Mancini (152), who defeated returning seventh-place medalist, Cam Connor, 8-1.
“When you look at the score it looks like we kind of got our teeth kicked in, but I don’t think we did,” DeRafelo said. “There were some good bouts and the score isn’t indicative of how tight some matches were.”
Spring-Ford (18-5) actually led its dual through eight matches, but the Ramblers won the final seven bouts to run away with it. The Rams lost a couple backbreakers at 160 and 170 when Gavin Hartman and Chase Smith led 3-0 and 4-0 into the third, respectively, but lost by decision and fall.
“Where we started we were hoping to be leading getting into 182, and we were pretty close,” Spring-Ford’s coach Tim Seislove said. “I was pleased with the way the kids wrestled. They came out and performed and I don’t think they were nervous. They enjoyed the situation and we realize how fortunate we are to compete in Hershey.”
At 182, Erie’s Carter Starocci, the top wrestler in the country at the weight, according to intermatwrestle.com, resides. Sophomore Joey Milano got the challenge of taking on the Penn State recruit, but it wound up being a learning experience for the young Ram in a 19-6 loss.
“Joey was excited,” Seislove said. “He knows how good (Starocci) is. He’s the No. 1 kid in the country, and you don’t get many opportunities like that to test where you’re at and where you want to be someday. He battled him.”
Shane Reynolds (113) earned a pin in the opening bout of the night and Quinn Tobin (120) and Jack McGill (138) won by technical fall for the Rams. Dirk Nugent (152) was the fourth and final winner for Spring-Ford with a decision.
In the rubber-match between OJR and Spring-Ford, familiarity breeds competitiveness, but maybe not contempt.
“They’re a great bunch of guys and we get along real well,” Seislove said of OJR. “But neither of us like to lose to each other.”
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