BUCKTOWN >> It wasn’t the Senior Night Cole Bechtel envisioned for himself since he first stepped on the Owen J. Roberts mats back in 2018.
No crowd, no decorations, no fanfare or celebration. But given the current COVID-19 pandemic-impacted circumstances, Bechtel considers himself happy to have any kind of recognition of his scholastic mat career.
“You get what you get,” OJR’s senior 160 pounder said following Thursday’s match with Perkiomen Valley. “I love this team for all the encouragement it’s given me.
“I was definitely looking forward to senior nights, and being part of it.”
It was a unique Senior Night, recognizing both teams’ Class of 2021 grapplers. It became a happier one for Owen J. Roberts, which outlasted the Vikings 31-30 in their Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division pairing.
And Bechtel provided the clincher. His 28-second pin staked OJR (2-2 league, 6-2 overall) to a 31-18 lead with only two weight classes left to contest. The lead weathered PV (1-2, 5-2) taking the last two weights with its senior class, Hunter Sprecher awarded a forfeit at 172 and Nate Gey closing out the affair with a second-period fall at 189.
Sprecher and Gey joined Roberts’ four seniors — Bechtel, Dante DeNardo, Richard Nathan, Jaden Viti — in the pre-match observance … one Dave Thomas wasn’t expecting.
“It was a surprise to see them announce us. We have our own Senior Night with Phoenixville next Tuesday.”
Still, Thomas was no less complimentary in pointing out Gey’s contributions.
“Nate, as a starter, has done well,” he said. “We bring him up to fill the weight class (at 189). He and Grant (Euker) are both wrestling heavier.”
For his part, OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo would have liked to stage a more elaborate celebration of his 2021 graduating class.
“I felt bad for the seniors,” he said. “It wasn’t possible to do what we’ve done before, but we did the best we could.”
Though OJR is not allowing spectators for events this winter, the senior parents who were acknowledged during the Senior Night recognition were able to stay for the match.
With the District 1-AAA North and South tournaments scheduled for next weekend, both Wildcats and Vikings are focusing on doing the best they can on the mats. Smaller fields for each tourney (eight per weight class) puts a higher premium on season records and power rankings across the board.
“It’s out of our hands,” DeRafelo said. “We talk about it a lot … the things we can control, effort and attitude.
“We have kids on the bubble. They had their chances.”
The night’s 132-pound bout featured two high-level talents who could possibly rematch in the post-season. PV’s Kelly Kakos, a defending District 1-AAA North champion ranked fourth in the district, locked up with OJR’s Mason Karkoska in a close duel Kakos won 4-3.
The sophomores went into the third period tied 2-2. Karkoska (7-1) escaped from the bottom for a brief lead, but Kakos (7-0) responded with a takedown before keeping Karkoska tied up the rest of the way.
“We were looking forward to that one, for Kelly in the power rankings,” Thomas said. “We feel Kelly, Gavin Pascoe (145), Luke Ricci (152), Nate and Grant all have chances. They’re all undefeated or only have one loss.”
“That was a premier one,” DeRafelo added. “That’s one we need to push us when we’re doing sprints or pushups.”
Roberts’ 4-2 edge in falls featured other drops by Brady Quinn at 106 (:42), Matt Englehardt at 126 (4:34) and Gabriel DellaPenna at 138 (:30). Other bonus points were scored by Sam Gautreau, who posted a 10-0 decision at 120 to break Owen J. out of a 9-9 tie and give it a lead that was not yielded the rest of the way.
“Sometimes a dual is won by kids you don’t know,” DeRafelo said. “DellaPenna’s pin, and Vincent Langford (152) wrestling his kid (Ricci) tough.”
Vincent Corropolese had PV’s other fall, a 1:17 body press at 285 that gave the Vikes a 9-0 lead after two bouts. Euker aded a 7-1 decision of Francis McCoy at 215, and Pascoe a 12-5 verdict against Jack Dalton at 145.
OJR’s other scoring was provided by Dysen Neil, a 5-2 winner over Luke Hanlon at 113.
In his quest for post-season achievement — he reached the South East AAA Regional last year, his furthest advancement to date — Bechtel has a fitting example to emulate. Former teammate Austin Boaman (Class of 2020) qualified for the PIAA Class AAA Tournament his senior season … the first, and only, time in his scholastic career.
“He was my practice partner,” Bechtel recalled. “I was behind tough wrestlers before, but now I got a spot.”
NOTES >> The District 1-AAA North tourney will be at Quakertown, District 1-AAA South at Sun Valley. Both will be staged Saturday, Feb. 20, with brackets being established in meetings Sunday.