Ram It Home: Balanced Spring-Ford kicks off postseason with PAC team championship

BOYERTOWN >> It had a comparable number of champions, and finalists, to the other schools in the field.

But there was more to Spring-Ford’s successful showing in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s individual tournament Saturday. Much, much more … as in quality performances to go with its big numbers.

The Rams saw all but one of their 14 entries come away from Boyertown High School with medals. That, according to head coach Tim Seislove, was key to the program finishing as a solid team champion at the first level of high-school wrestling’s post-season.

Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith raises a ‘1’ to the sky after his last-second escape in the 182 final gave him a 4-3 win over Boyertown’s Jacob Miller at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“We had three champions,” he noted, “but the (team) championship was won in wrestlebacks.”

Behind the gold-medal outings of Brandon Meredith (120), Joey Milano (160) and Chase Smith (182), Spring-Ford got silver from Ben D’Arcangelo at 152. The Rams had another six grapplers place either third or fourth in their respective weights, and a trio whose fifth- and sixth-place finishes not only padded the team’s title-winning 210 points, but qualified them for next week’s District 1-AAA Central tournament in their home gym.

“Thirteen kids moving on, thirds and fourths, pins … that made a big difference,” Seislove said.

Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith flexes after winning the 182 final over Boyertown’s Jacob Miller at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

At a time of season when individual performances get the biggest spotlight, the “team too” mindset was strong for Spring-Ford — particularly on the heels of a highly-productive regular season highlighted by a 5-0 run through the PAC’s Liberty Division, a runner-up finish in the District 1-AAA Duals and a 20-5 overall record.

“The whole team came together,” Milano said after accepting a gold medal earned by his 3-1 decision of Owen J. Roberts’ Ricky McCutchen. “We wanted to win the PAC, make it to the next step.”

Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith, left, tries to fend off the takedown attempt of Boyertown’s Jacob Miller in the 182 final at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The freshman middleweight made a decided step up in his scholastic mat career with the championship. It surpassed the successive third-place finishes scored at junior-high state tournaments.

“I wrestled all the time,” he said. “That prepared me for high school.”

Meredith got back on the top step of the medal stand by scoring a pin in the 120-pound final. He came away from the tourney with a pair of drops and a technical fall in boosting his season record to a gaudy 35-1.

“It’s an accomplishment,” the Ram senior said, “but the next two weeks I want to fix things. I’m not where I want to be this time of year.”

Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith pins Boyertown’s Noah Fisher in the 120 final at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

With 20 pins to his credit this year, Meredith felt good about beefing up his personal total.

“When I saw the bracket, I knew pins were an aspect I had,” he said. “I wanted to do it for the team, to help for individuals who had bad days.”

Smith had a particularly challenging final against Boyertown’s Jacob Miller, the two looking to go into overtime after working a 3-3 tie. But Smith literally scored a last-second escape — one the bout officials finally confirmed after a discussion to complete the Rams’ champions parade.

“I’m glad I’m not a referee,” Seislove said. “They sometimes have to make tough decisions like that one. I thought he had it all the way.”

It was a historic day for Pope John Paul II, in part through the efforts of brothers Matt and Ryan Vulakh. They were among the Golden Panthers’ three finalists — the program never had any previously — and both PAC champions.

PAC wrestling tournament Outstanding Wrestler Ryan Vulakh of Pope John Paul II. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Matt opened with a major decision at 106 to become the school’s first champ, and Ryan followed with a major of his own at 145. The elder Vulakh was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler, presented the Don Seeley Memorial trophy after posting a pin and clock-beating technical fall for the day.

A third PJP competitor, Jack Files (195), ended up second to Boyertown’s Elijah Jones.

“It’s a nice competitive battle,” Matt said of the interface between him and his older brother. “We both signed up for wrestling at the same time. It was something for us to do in the winter.”

The former North Penn area products and Files, who came from Spring-Ford, helped lift their program to a ninth-place team finish. Their hope is to enhance the Panthers’ image in the PAC mat community, to the end of getting more students out for the team.

Pope John Paul II’s Ryan Vulakh tries to turn Methacton’s Roman Moser in his technical fall win in the 152 final at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“For wrestling, maybe we’re setting a higher standard,” Ryan said. “As a team, we do the best we can to represent our school.”

Owen J. Roberts came away with four champions and five other wrestlers medalling between second and fourth places. That got it second place in the team standings (183.5 points) ahead of Boyertown (181) and Methacton (143).

Owen J. Roberts’ Connor Quinn, top, works a headlock on Pottsgrove’s Chase Banyai in the 126 final at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Connor Quinn (126), Antonio Petrucelli (138), Daniel Mancini (152) and Jason Zollers (170) led the Wildcat medal parade. Mancini scored a technical fall in his title match while Quinn and Petrucelli had major decisions.

“I’d like to get a District 1 title, win at regional and get a state medal,” Petrucelli said of his goals for the next three weekends.

Elijah Jones repeated as a PAC titlist, this time at 195, ahead of teammate Zak Reck’s championship at 220. With three silver medalists, the Bears matched OJR’s number of championship qualifiers.

“I want to place at states again,” Jones, a fifth-place medalist last winter, said. “But I’m not looking too much ahead. I’m taking them one at a time.”

Kibwe McNair (Methacton), Jared Kuhns (Upper Perkiomen) and Tommy Doyle (Pottstown) were the tournament’s other gold medalists. McNair won out at 132, Kuhns controlled the 113-pound bracket and Doyle emerged triumphant at 285.

Methacton’s Kibwe McNair smiles after winning the 132 final at the PAC Wrestling Championships Saturday at Boyertown. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“The key to every success is confidence,” the Trojan heavyweight said. “I never overthink anything.”

Behind Spring-Ford’s near-full complement of district qualifiers, Boyertown will advance 11 to the district weekend at Royersford. Owen J. and Perkiomen Valley will have nine apiece.

“It’s nice to host districts at our place,” Seislove said. “I hope we can wrestle well.”

The Pioneer Athletic Conference wrestling individual champions were: kneeling from left, Pope John Paul II’s Matt Vulakh, Upper Perkiomen’s Jared Kuhns, Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith, Owen J. Roberts’ Connor Quinn, Methacton’s Kibwe McNair, Owen J. Roberts’ Antonio Petrucelli, Pope John Paul II’s Ryan Vulakh, Owen J. Roberts’ Dan Mancini; standing from left, Spring-Ford’s Joey Milano, Owen J. Roberts’ Jason Zollers, Spring-Ford’s Chase Smith, Boyertown’s Elijah Jones, Boyertown’s Zak Reck and Pottstown’s Tom Doyle. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

NOTES >> The six medalists from each weight class qualify for districts. Each team in the conference advanced at least three wrestlers. … Chase Banyai (Pottsgrove) and Perkiomen Valley’s Jahir Holmes were their teams’ highest-finishing medalists. Both earned silver, Banyai at 126 and Holmes at 285. … Phoenixville’s top finisher was Bryce Thompson, third at 170. … Upper Merion’s Anthony Yacovetti was second at 170, and Norristown had a quartet of bronze medalists in Rick Bregenzer (138), Nick Semon (152), Lakine Wallace (182) and Rich Maggio (195).

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