The first part of the test is effectively completed.
The second part of the test is now on tap.
Pennsylvania high-school wrestling’s regular season, all 1½ months of it, is coming to a close. Now, local teams are looking to the accustomed three-week grind of a post-season that resembles nothing previously experienced.
Pioneer Athletic Conference programs are heading to District 1’s two sectional tournaments being staged this weekend. Quakertown and Sun Valley high schools will host the district’s Class 3A North and South tournaments, respectively Saturday, with top finishers qualifying for the South East AAA Regional Saturday, Feb. 27, at Council Rock North and South High Schools.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions on congregating and social distancing, the tournaments have just eight wrestlers in each of the 13 weight classes. PAC schools qualified a total of 42 for the districts, 22 to the North and 21 to the South. Boyertown, Owen J. Roberts and Spring-Ford are headed south while the rest of the PAC in entered in the north in a field primarily comprised of the Suburban One League.
Spring-Ford, fresh off completing a 10-0 run through the PAC’s regular season, has seven district qualifiers. Accustomed in past years to more dual and tournament exposure, the Rams’ talented roster — it has three 2020 state qualifiers in Jack McGill, Dominic Ortlip and Joey Milano, the latter a fourth-place medalist at 182 — posted three shutouts and outscored the opposition by an average score of 49-16.
“We’re fortunate,” SF head coach Tim Seislove said, “because we have a lot of talent in our room. They can battle everyday. But it’s different when you battle in the room versus when you battle (in a real match). We missed Escape the Rock and the Bethlehem Holiday Tournament, so we haven’t seen that competition and been in those situations where you’re battling and the pressure’s on.
“That’s going to be the hard part, being prepared for those situations you haven’t really been in, but I’m confident our kids will be ready. They’re excited about the challenge.
McGill, a seventh-place medalist at 152 in states last year, is 10-0 to date. He has moved up to 160, a bracket that boasts other unbeaten wrestlers in West Chester Henderson’s Bobby English (9-0) and Downingtown East’s Bo Horvath (8-0).
“It’s doing the extra stuff, extra cardio here and there because that’s the biggest thing,” McGill said of Spring-Ford’s 2021 season. “Our practices are a little shorter than previous years, so we don’t have as much time to wrestle live as other years. We’re sharing the room with the middle school because of the capacity limits.
“You just have to push yourself harder with the time you have.”
Zach Needles is another of the Rams’ perfect regular-season grapplers, going 10-0. He is at 152, where Strath Haven’s Chase Barlow (12-0) and Interboro’s Dom D’Agostino (8-0) put unbeaten marks on the line.
“It’s just another match,” Needles said of postseason competition. “We wrestle all the time in the room and in the summer, and you just can’t make it a big deal, as much as you want to. You have to wrestle as if it’s just another match.”
Ortlip is 9-1 at 113, with the rest of the Rams’ district contingent comprised of Cole Smith (8-0) at 106, Quinn Smith (9-1) at 120 and Xavier Cushman (9-1) at 172.
Joining Spring-Ford at the South tournament are fellow PAC Liberty Division powers Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts. The Bears, in their first season under head coach/former longtime assistant Tony Haley, qualified a league-best nine wrestlers for the post-season.
Boyertown had three returning 2020 district champs in Jay Maldonado, Chance Babb and Anthony Bauer. Babb and Maldonado both qualified for states last winter, Maldonado falling one win shy of making the tourney’s medal round.
Maldonado, who reached the 100-win career mark in his first bout of the season, is 7-0 at 120. Babb is 6-0 at 138 and Bauer 7-0 at 215.
The remainder of Boyertown’s district contingent is Gavin Sheridan (6-0) at 106, Luke Heimbach (5-2) at 113, Ryder Gehris (5-1) at 145, Jimmy Sinclair (4-2) at 172, Preston Fox (5-0) at 189 and Robert Terra (5-1) at 285.
Owen J. Roberts’ five-man district group is headed by 2020 medalists Cole Bechtel (third at 152) and Matthew Englehardt (sixth at 126), Youngsters like freshman Dysen Neil, Sam Gautreau and sophomore Mason Karkoska are getting first chances to show their skills in the high-school post-season.
Gautreau is the Wildcats’ lone representative with a perfect record, 9-0 at 120; and Karkoska is a near-perfect 8-1 at 132. Neil (113) is 7-2, Englehardt (126) is 6-3 and Bechtel (160) is also 6-3.
District 1-AAA North has a majority of the PAC’s participating schools: Methacton, Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove, Upper Merion and Upper Perkiomen. PV and UP lead the way with six qualifiers apiece, followed by Pottsgrove (four), Methacton (three), Phoenixville (two) and Upper Merion (one).
The Indians, currently in the running for the PAC’s Frontier Division championship, have three returning district medalists in Matt Milkowich, Joey Carpenter and Damon Faraco. Milkowich was second at 106 while Carpenter (126) and Faraco (195) brought home fourth-place medals.
Their half-dozen district qualifiers was around head coach Steve Adam’s projection for the post-season.
“We had a conversation with the team,” he said. “Being in the top eight from 28 schools is a challenge. They understood the situation.
“We’re just thankful to have a season. An invite to the post-season is not our focus.”
Milkowich is 7-2 at 113, Carpenter 6-3 at 126 and Faraco 7-2 at 215. They will be joined by teammates Brandan Rozanski (8-1 at 106), Shane Freeh (6-1 at 132) and Keaton Durning (7-2 at 145).
For Perkiomen Valley, Kelly Kakos is a returning district champ, winning 120-pound gold as a freshman. Grant Euker and Vince Corropolese scored fourth-place medals at 160 and 285, respectively, and Luke Ricci was fifth at 126.
Kakos is 9-0 at 132, Ricci 8-1 at 152, Euker 8-1 at 189 and Corropolese 5-0 at 285. They will be joined by Gavin Pascoe (9-0 at 145) and Nate Gey (7-2 at 172), sixth at 170 last year.
Pottsgrove, coming off a recent COVID-related shutdown, has four North qualifiers: Tony Lindgren (4-0) at 106, Trenton Allen (3-1) at 138, Dominic DeMeno (3-1) at 215 and Manny Allen (4-0) at 285. Manny was second in the district at 285 last winter, and Trenton third at 120.
Methacton will be represented by Levi Borkowski (6-3 at 152), Brody Borkowski (5-3 at 160) and Damian Moser (6-2 at 285). Brody was fifth at 126 in 2020.
Phoenixville has Justin Meyers (4-5 at 120) and Owen Koch (8-1 at 172) in districts. Koch was fifth at 160 in last year’s tournament.
Upper Merion’s lone qualifier is Ayden Cheng, 8-1 at 126.
Both tourneys have 9 a.m. starting times. The North competition will be divided into three sessions: Four rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, first- and second-round consolations) for 106-138, the same schedule for 145-285 starting at 2 p.m and the championship and consolation finals starting at 6 p.m. Breaks are scheduled between the sessions for clearing the gym and mat cleaning.
The South tournament is expected to wrestle straight through without breaks with the championship round tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m.
Chris Sheetz’s pre-season assessment of his Pope John Paul II wrestling team spoke accurately to the situation it faced.
With a roster numbering only four athletes, the Golden Panthers were not looking to make any kind of mark during the regular season. Its focus, instead, was to prepare for the end-of-season individual tournaments.
“Mat time … that’s all it is,” he said. “That’s about it this year.”
Brackets: District 1/12-2A tournament
For two Panthers, the key part of their season starts with the District 1-12-AA Tournament Saturday at Faith Christian Academy. Alan Alexander and Jake Rau will represent PJP in the competition, which will bring wrestlers from seven schools in the two adjacent districts for action getting under way at 10 a.m.
Alexander (8-1), a 1-AAA North champion last winter, will be shooting for gold at the AA level. The junior transfer from Boyertown is atop the 152-pound bracket and draws a bye into the semifinal round, where he will square off against Faith Christian senior Jacob Kurlak.
At 189, Rau (3-6) is one of only three contestants in his bracket. He also draws a bye into the semifinals, where he goes against Archbishop Ryan’s Kevin Szychulski for the right to go against top-seeded Alberto Moreta of Conwell-Egan.
The tourney field lists just 40 wrestlers for the 13 weight classes. Alexander is one of just four in his weight class.
It was a dominant team in the regular season, sweeping the Berks League’s Division I and winning 11 of 13 duals.
Now, Daniel Boone is looking to advance as many wrestlers as possible through the post-season. And it goes into that phase of the 2021 campaign with sizeable numbers.
Brackets: District 3-3A Section 1 Tournament
The Blazers have nine in the field for Saturday’s District 3-AAA Section 1 Tournament at Gov. Mifflin Intermediate. They are heavy in the lower and middle weights, all placed between 106 and 172.
J.T. Hogan, a junior returning to the post-season after qualifying for the 2020 PIAA Class AAA Tournament, takes a 12-0 record into his 138-pound opener with Garden Spot’s Jeremy Schilling. He is one of three Boone competitors coming out of the regular season with perfect records, joined by
Stephen Spitko (13-0) at 126 and brother Tucker Hogan (13-0) at 172.
Gavin Richard brings a near-perfect 12-1 mark into the 120-pound field. Boone’s other qualifiers are Dean Houser (9-4) at 106, Brett Marchiano (7-5) at 132, Canton Dolla (9-3) at 145, Khyre Inman (4-2) at 152 and Josh Smith (7-6) at 160.
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