EAST NOTTINGHAM — So much has changed in one year.
Last year at the PIAA Class AAA Southeast Regional wrestling tournament, only the top three wrestlers took the next step and became state qualifiers. This year it is five. A quarterfinal win on Friday set up all the wrestlers in good position to extend their season another week.
A lot has changed for North Penn’s Colin Shannon since last season. As a freshman he finished with a 13-15 record and this year he returns to Oxford Area High School Saturday with a chance to punch his ticket to states. A 8-0 major decision over Pottstown’s Mason Pennypacker put Shannon into the semifinals.
“I did not have a winning record last year and now I am in the semifinals at regionals,’ Shannon said. “I need one more win, no matter what. I knew Pennypacker was strong, but I never back down from a challenge. I like to be the aggressor.’
There Shannon faces top-seeded Dominick Petrucelli of Owen J. Roberts, who barely squeaked out a 1-0 decision in his contest. Shannon is aware of the Wildcat and knows he beat his 145-pound rival Central Bucks West’s Riley Barth last season. Barth, too made it to the semis with a 9-4 decision on Friday. Shannon is up for the challenge as his confidence grows.
“Petrucelli is going to be a battle,’ Shannon said. “He beat Barth last year and it would be a big upset if I could beat him.’
Also gaining confidence is Pennridge’s freshman Micah Visuwaun. After a slow start to his high school career, the 120-pounder is not just expecting to win. He is expecting to dominate. It took a 4-3 ultimate rideout to secure his spot in the semis, but the Ram got the job done.
“I don’t think that should of been that close,’ Visuwaun said. “Most of the time I was on the offense.’
Visuwaun will be joined in the semifinals by teammates Matt Parker (106 pounds), Kordell Rush (113 pounds), Kyle Gentile (170 pounds) and freshman teammate Josh Stillings, who won 1-0 in his match at 138 pounds. Last year, Visuwaun and Stillings were just middle school spectators and now they are a part of the show with a strong shot at Hershey.
“I love Josh, but I am looking to do better than him,’ Visuwaun said. “He has been doing better all year. In the beginning of the year when I was not placing in tournaments I felt like the weak link. Then I beat Garrett Mauger and everything from there I have gained confidence.’
Matt Parker wishes they took five to states last season and he would have been a competitor. With a 10-4 win in his only match on Friday, after receiving a bye, the sophomore lifted a heavy weight off his shoulders as he inches closer to the PIAA podium. It has been a challenging year for Parker, battling a shoulder injury, but he still believes he can wrestle better than he has all season when it matters them most.
“I just try to focus on what I did wrong,’ Parker said. “I was a little tentative out there. Staying healthy is my main goal. Ever since Beast of the East I have been hurt. I took a month off and it is still bugging me. My toughest battle right now is myself.’
Methacton’s Bryce Reddington won two matches on Friday to reach the semifinals, while North Penn’s Mikey O’Brien and Sofiane Bensmail went 1-1 and will come back to wrestle with their seasons on the line.
Wissahickon’s Josh Trunk’s 1-0 loss to the top seed Josh Shalinksy in the 160-pound bracket and will have to wrestle back. Shalinsky will see Upper Moreland’s Dom DeLaurentis in the semifinals. Phil Stolfi of Souderton also lost his quarterfinal match.
Dreams will be made and shattered Saturday. Medals will be worn and regional championships will be won. But at this stage all the wrestlers have one thing on the mind — taking the mat next week and being on the podium in the Giant Center in Hershey.
“I was in this situation last year, but this feels different,’ Parker said. “I don’t have any extra pressure. I just have to wrestle my best. The goal is to win a state title.’