It could be considered their rubber match.
Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts lead the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s march into the post-season Saturday, the league staging its individual tournament at Boyertown. A full day of wrestling action, which gets under way at 9 a.m., will determine which of 84 grapplers qualify for next weekend’s District 1-AAA West competition at Spring-Ford.
It will also, as is routine, crown a team champion for the super-sized circuit, which welcomed Norristown and Upper Merion into its fold. And with the league set up into a two-division alignment, with no overall regular-season champ being determined, that distinction carries a lot of weight.
“The whole team has been immersed in the team run,” OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said after seeing his squad complete a busy week of dual-match action at the PIAA Class AAA Duals last weekend. “Now we have to refocus and get ready for the post-season.”
Dan Mancini of Owen J. Roberts lifts Nazareth's Nathan Stefanik during an 8-2 decision at 145 pounds on last week at the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships. (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)
The teams are 1-1 in head-to-head competition during the regular season. Boyertown won its lid-lifting Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals Tournament by handling Owen J. in the championship match, 44-23. But Roberts returned the favor in their Liberty Division meeting on Jan. 25, scoring a 37-33 victory that ended the Bears’ 33-match PAC regular-season win streak dating back to February 2013.
In four other common competitions during the winter, Boyertown has fared better than OJR. The Bears placed fifth at the King of the Mountain tourney to Roberts’ seventh, fifth at the Escape the Rock Tournament to OJR’s 23rd place, and second in the District 1-AAA Duals to the Wildcats’ third.
Both the Bears and ‘Cats went 1-2 during the PIAA Duals at the Giant Center in Hershey.
“Competing on this (Hershey) mat says we’re a team that’s good enough to compete,” DeRafelo said afterward.
Hunter Vogels of Boyertown works on a takedown against Tyler Harkness of Exeter on his way to a 6-3 win at 160 pounds last week. (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)
Boyertown (4-1 PAC, 21-5 overall) will be shooting for a successful defense of its 2016 PAC title, and fourth in the past five years. Owen J. Roberts (5-0, 19-4), in turn, will be seeking its first team championship at the ground floor of the post-season since winning the District 1-AAA Section 4 tourney in 2012.
“We’re hoping to rebound, and show what we’ve got,” Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca said in the wake of his team’s elimination from the PIAA Duals.
The PAC field shows five returning champions from its 2016 tournament: David and Jakob Campbell (Boyertown), Daniel Mancini and Ryan Resnick (Owen J. Roberts) and Brandon Meredith (Spring-Ford). All but one will open defense of their league titles as top seeds in their respective brackets.
David Campbell (29-5) will be looking to defend his 120-pound title, while Jakob (26-4) jumps from 113 to 126 in his bid to become a four-time PAC champion. Mancini, a 126-pound champion his freshman season, takes a 29-9 record into the fray at 145, and Resnick (32-2) leaps four weights from the 132 bracket he won his junior year to 160.
Meredith, the PAC’s 106-pound champion as a sophomore, will be vying for a second league title at 113. The highest-finishing state tournament wrestler in the active ranks — he placed fourth at Hershey in 2016 — comes into the post-season with a 26-3 record; he will be the PAC’s second seed, however, the top spot going to Boyertown’s Matt Wilde (34-3).
Owen J. Roberts' Ryan Resnick closes in on a pin at 160 pounds against West Chester Rustin's Ethan Harkins Friday. (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)
Newcomer Norristown has two grapplers on its roster who were champions at the Suburban One League’s American Conference tournament last winter. Eric Fuentes (23-4), an SOL American champ at 132, will be atop that bracket in the PAC while Rich Maggio (19-9), who won out at 160 last year, is a PAC four-seed at 182.
Boyertown’s other top seeds are Chris Berry at 152 (28-9) and Elijah Jones at 182 (34-6). Owen J. senior Nick Duliakas (19-6) will be heading the bracket at 195.
Methacton has a pair of first seeds in Corey Morabito at 106 (24-4) and Dylan Henry at 138 (24-4). Other top seeds are Pottstown’s Isaiah Mayes at 170 (22-2), Upper Perkiomen’s Mike Modugno at 220 (24-3) and Spring-Ford’s Matt Lepore at 285 (22-7).
With the expanded field of teams, the weight-class brackets will have the top four seeds draw opening-round byes while the remainder wrestle off for advancement to the quarterfinal round. The tournament will be double-elimination from start to finish.
“The coaches voted for this option,” Tony Palladino, Norristown’s athletic director and the PAC’s wrestling liaison, said.
Meredith comes into the PAC tourney with 97 career wins. When he hits the 100 mark, he will become the program’s 17th wrestler to reach that milestone. ... With three second seeds, Methacton leads the league in that category. Owen J. Roberts, Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen each have two, with Norristown, Perkiomen Valley and Pottstown getting one apiece.