LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Getting that all-important first win is a special moment for any freshly-minted head coach.
Even more so for Jake Engle.
Two days after being called on to take over the Upper Perkiomen wrestling team, Engle found himself Wednesday leading the Indians against Pottsgrove in a match with considerable impact on the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Frontier Division standings. The normal level of emotion was ratcheted up by virtue of third-year head coach Sam Walters resigning the post on the heels of the team’s third-place showing at the Kurt Meister Invitational Tournament Sunday.
UP took care of the business at hand in workmanlike fashion, rolling up a 45-26 victory on the Falcons. It did so with help from five pins, one major decision and two forfeited weight classes.
“It’s been a tough week for everyone,” Engle said after seeing his club (2-0 PAC, 5-5 overall) take over the top spot in the Frontier ranks. “It was nice to get out here and give it our best … giving it all. We have a purpose for the rest of the season.”
Falls by Gavin Marks, Jared Kuhns and Zach Rozanski from 106 to 120 bolstered the Tribe to a 23-6 lead through five weights. Jarek Svanson (132) and Jacob Folk (152) added to the pin total before Mickey Hopkins finished out the night with a 21-7 major decision at 182.
Folk’s 1:36 pin proved the clincher, giving UP a 41-14 lead with four weights to contest. As one of four seniors on the roster, he feels Walters’ departure in particularly acute fashion.
“He’s the best coach I’ve been under,” Folk said. “It’s upsetting, but we came out to show we can keep pounding.”
Engle and Brent Fiorito were the only coaches left from the UP staff in the wake of the recent personnel change. But other UP mat alumni have stepped up to help fill the void.
“Mark Smith and his dad, Ryan Kemmerer … we’re glad they’re helping us,” Folk said. “It’s fortunate for us.”
The Indians’ sense of purpose was more than Pottsgrove (2-1, 4-10) could contend with. The Falcons’ highlights were pins by Skylar McLeod (285) and Noah Miller (160), and major decisions from Josh Cerrito (126) and Stephen Hennelly (138).
“Obviously, it’s a situation you don’t want to have to deal with,” Pottsgrove head coach Jeff Madden said. “They dealt with it well. It’s a credit to their coaches and kids.”
The Falcons found themselves forfeiting two weights (220, 145) and being part of a double-forfeit at 195. They got only one forfeit, to Ryan Finn at 170.
“We weren’t prepared,” Madden said of the Pottsgrove lineup configuration. “When Ryan stays down at 171, we can have all spots filled.”
UP was in the position of being without three regulars unavailable — two to illness, one with a concussion. But the Tribe ended up in better stead with its lineup, and will be looking to continue that when it opens the District 1 Class AAA Duals Tournament Thursday at West Chester Rustin.
“We had guys step up,” Engle said. “We’re hoping to get healthy for (Thursday) night.”
For the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign, Engle sees his role as keeping the UP program on course through the rest of the regular season and into the post-season tournament grind.
“Monday afternoon, I got a call asking if I could finish the season,” he recalled. “I would never have dreamed of leaving the kids without help pursuing their goals.”
He’s not looking past this year, though, citing his work situation and assistant-coaching position with the high-school football program.
“Sam and (Tom) Hontz gave me practice plans,” he said. “With that guidance, we’re looking to have the most success we can.”
NOTES >> Madden on the PAC’s divisional setup, which puts Pottsgrove and Upper Perk in with Phoenixville, Pope John Paul II, Pottstown and Upper Merion: “It’s good for both of us to be in a division where we can compete,” he said. “We have to get used to a new situation. But having every match count … that’s a positive.” … Pottsgrove will be the host for the district duals’ final rounds of Class AAA and AA competition the weekend of Feb. 3-4. The PAC has five teams in the AAA field, where four of the 16 entrants will qualify for states.