Penncrest’s Young, Pyfer earning some redemption

ROYERSFORD — The 2015 postseason has been one of redemption for Penncrest seniors Matthew Young and Joe Pyfer. After winning their respective weight classes at the Central League Tournament a week ago — Young at 160, Pyfer at 182 — the pair of Lions moved one step closer to the PIAA Class AAA Southeast Regional with quarterfinal victories in the District One-West Tournament Saturday at Spring-Ford High School. The meet was cut short by afternoon snow and will resume Monday.

One more win will send Young to the regionals, a place he envisioned he’d be as a junior. But injuries thwarted his 2014 campaign.

“I broke my hand in my first match of the year,’ Young said. He never fully recovered from the early setback. “I just wasn’t myself. I was losing matches I should have won.’

Young finished a disappointing fifth at the Central League meet before failing to place at the districts. He’s responded well in 2015.

“It’s a big test for me, to bounce back,’ Young said. “I thought last year was going to be my breakout year. It’s nice to have a breakout season as a senior.’

Saturday, he earned a 15-0, technical fall victory, his 27th win of the season, over Haverford’s Blake Enters. He’ll wrestles Trevor Weeks of Upper Perkiomen in the semifinals.

Pyfer is also coming off an injury-plagued 2014. He blew out his knee the day after placing second in the Central League, which kept him from competing in districts. It was just another test for a young man who’s faced plenty of them his entire life.

After he dispatched Perkiomen Valley’s Omar Elghawy 21-6, Pyfer vaguely spoke of his troubled upbringing in Vineland, New Jersey.

“(There were) a lot of fights,’ he said, “a lot of getting jumped.’

His home life made matters worse. Pyfer went to live with his father after his parents divorced, while he became estranged from his mother. Only recently have the two started to patch up their relationship.

Meanwhile, as cliche as it sounds, the teenager used the turmoil of his childhood to fuel his fighting on the mat and in the ring.

“I turned a lot of my anger into motivation,’ Pyfer said, though his humble nature hides any hint of rage.

He grew up practicing mixed martial arts and won his first tournament at the age of 5. By 13, he was routinely beating 16-year olds. Wrestling, though, offered a different sort of challenge.

“It’s much more of a grind,’ Pyfer said. “I’ve learned to stay stronger mentally, because you can’t get away at all like you can in MMA. There are no breaks.’

He began his high school wrestling career at Schalick (Elmer, NJ) as a sophomore before moving to the Penncrest school district prior to his junior year. Pyfer’s lived on his own since he was 17.

“He’s faced more adversity than any 17- or 18-year old should have to,’ said Lions coach Greg Jacobs. “It was a great opportunity for him to join us, but also to have his experience (in MMA) really helped our guys. There’s benefits all around.’

Pyfer, who’s trained with fighters such as Eddie Alvarez and Sam Oropeza, both of whom compete in the UFC, struggled to adapt to the ground game of wrestling. He’s more comfortable on his feet, a fact that’s reflected in his style — most of Pyfer’s 21 points against Elghawy came from takedowns. But last week’s 1-0 win over Radnor’s Zak Taylor, which earned Pyfer the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament honors, suggested that the 18-year old can grapple if he has to.

“He was a very athletic kid,’ Jacobs said of Pyfer’s initial phase with Penncrest. “And he wanted to learn as much as he could along the way. He’s tried to learn as much in two years as most kids do in their entire careers. Now he can still win matches even if he can’t take his opponent down.’

The studying has paid off in the form of a 27-2 record and a berth in the district semifinals. Pyfer has come a long way in his life, but he’s still having fun. He dyed his hair red on two sides, leaving a streak of his natural brown color down the middle.

“It’s my last year,’ Pyfer laughed as he explained his ‘˜do. “You better go all out.’

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Pyfer will face stiff competition from Central League rivals in the 182-pound bracket. Ridley’s Lawrence Alkins, 24-3, awaits in the semifinals, while Radnor’s Taylor moved on in another quarterfinal.

At 170 pounds, Taylor’s teammate Tom Myers kept his undefeated season (32-0) alive with an 11-3, major decision victory over Upper Perk’s Michael Felix. The Raiders senior used a big third period to pull away from Felix, who put up a strong fight early.

The Central’s strength at heavyweight was on display Saturday as well. Marple Newtown’s Lavante Godwin advanced to the semifinals as did Strath Haven’s Justin Fremont. Fremont followed his league championship a week ago with a pin of Perk Valley’s Alex Michener.

Speaking of undefeated wrestlers, Upper Darby’s Joshua Yeboah-Gyasi stretched his record to 26-0. He earned a tech fall, 16-1 win against Methacton’s Shuajb Nuredini. Three of Yeboah-Gyasi’s Royals teammates had solid days in their own right. Madhat Fares reached the semis at 195 as did Colin Cronin (31-1) at 132 and Jake Mejias at 113.

Garnet Valley boasts three wrestlers still alive in championship brackets. Central League champ Matt Marino pinned Upper Perk’s Jarek Svanson in 58 seconds at 120. Nick Puliti advanced at 126, while Pat Rowe bested Saddiq Ibn-Mustafah of Pottstown at 152.

Other Delaware Country wrestlers to advance at the West tournament Saturday include Haverford’s Vince Tavani (106), Marple’s Zak Elferani (120), and Strath Haven’s Elijah Crew (220).

At the District One-East AAA Tournament, also postponed due to snow, Interboro’s Eric Thomas won twice on his home mat to push his record to 32-2 and earn a trip to regionals. He’ll wrestle in the championship at 138 Monday. Glen Mills 285-pounder Elijah Brooks fell in the semis. No other Del Val wrestler, with the exception of Thomas, got that far.

Sun Valley had a big day at the District One-Central AAA Tournament at Wissahickon High School. The Vanguards sent four wrestlers to the semifinals including Sean Donohue (132), Chris Bateman (138), Alex Elliot (160), and Steve Okoorian (170). Wrestling resumes Monday.

In the District 12 Class AAA tournament, Cardinal O’Hara’s Mike Lewis finished third at 145 pounds to advance to the PIAA Northeast Regional at Liberty High School in Bethlehem. Lewis pinned Central’s Gerrit Roscioli in 3:50 to take home the bronze.

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