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Locals better bring best to every match

by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor

Posted on March 5, 2009

Welcome to the PIAA Wrestling Championships.

Be forewarned ... this is not the big easy.

Those with the audacity to dare think they have a pushover only get a wrestling hangover (the kind that lasts a long, long time, the kind that Advil, Bayer Aspirin, and Alka Seltzer won't even relieve). And those who aren't rip, roaring and ready to go, at the top of their game - for six full minutes each and every time they step on any one of the six mats here on the Giant Center floor - will discover the sixtysome-mile drive here took little or no time compared to how long it will take to get back home.

You've surely heard of March Madness.

Well, this is Mat Madness ... condensed into three very mentally draining and physically exhausting days for 448 wrestlers and three very exhilarating days for 50,000-plus fans, most of whom are a bit finicky when it comes to who they're hooting and hollering for, and many of whom will get a bit fidgety - restless, if you will - sitting in on the season-ending spectacle.

Six of the seven area qualifiers - Boyertown's Matt Malfaro, Alex Pellicciotti and Tim Feroe, Owen J. Roberts' Nick Fuschino and Scott Syrek, and Upper Perkiomen's Jared Bennett - are fully aware of the insanity.

Malfaro was here two years ago, the rest last year and, like everyone else, they came to realize very quickly that this is one place where individual records are mere rubbish, and past conquests are irrelevant.

The newcomer - or seventh area qualifier - Boyertown sophomore Jeremy Minich, will realize it this afternoon while warming up for his debut.

The 112-pound Minich (40-5) will open with Big Spring sophomore Dereck Enders (30-6), who was third at the Southcentral Regional two weeks ago. And a win will likely earn him a second-round encounter with returning state runner-up Zach Horan (31-3) of Nazareth, a name that has popped up in a number of national rankings this winter. There's also Franklin Regional's returning bronze medalist Nico Magaludis, who owns a spotless 42-0 mark.

The 119-pound Malfaro (40-6) begins with Northampton freshman Jason Stephen (30-15), the Northeast Regional bronze medalist who he defeated 6-2 back on Jan. 3 during the Cedar Cliff Duals. And if Malfaro can survive his opener and a likely second-round battle with Central Dauphin's Simon Rice (41-6), the reward will be a semifinal showdown with two-time defending state champion Shane Young (38-1) of Penn Trafford.

Pellicciotti (45-3), back at 130 where he finished seventh here a year ago, has won 16 straight matches and 32 of his last 33 bouts dating back to the Beast of the East Classic in December. The junior opens with Big Spring senior Ryan Irvin (32-6), also a bronze medalist at the Southcentral Regional two weeks ago. A successful opener moves Pellicciotti into the second round, where he'll probably see Cathedral Prep senior Rocco Welleck (42-2), who was eighth here last year. On the bottom of his bracket, there are once-beaten Joe Waltko (37-1) of North Allegheny, who was third last year, and Cortland Choate (47-6) of Blue Mountain, a defending state champion.

Feroe (41-8), the lone senior in Boyertown's entourage, finds himself in one very deep weight class ... that's deep as in talent. The 152-pounder faces Southwest Regional champion Matt Hundenski (40-2) of Hopewell. Unbeaten returning state runner-up Marshall Peppelman (42-0) of Central Dauphin - a state champion two years ago - as well as returning state runner-up Bryce Busler (37-6) of Cumberland Valley, unbeaten sophomore Mark Havers (29-0) of Bradford, and five others with two or fewer losses are also locked in at 152.

Fuschino (34-2) is one of those with two or fewer losses, too. The OJR senior, eighth here last season, opens with Northwest Regional runner-up Colton Spade (34-2) of Lewistown. And the big reward for a first-round win will be, make no mistake about it, Peppelman - who dumped Fuschino in last year's opening round, 9-4.

Syrek (28-8), banged up, bruised, and considerably less than his dominating self, opens at 215 against Glenn Barnes (37-9) of Central Dauphin. The opposition in his bottom-half of the bracket isn't overwhelming, mind you, but the top? That's where you'll find unbeaten returning state runner-up Antonio Giorgio (45-0) of Warwick, old nemesis Carl Buchholz (38-2) of Great Valley, and Spencer Myers (39-1) of Selinsgrove.

Bennett (41-3), who hadn't lost to a Pennsylvania rival all year until last weekend's Southeast Regional setback to unbeaten David Osei of Abington, opens today against Stephen King (26-9) of Lewistown. Up next would likely be unbeaten returning state runner-up Craig Evan (37-0) of Abington Heights, with unbeaten defending state champion Sean Owen (39-0) of Clearfield looming in the semifinals.

Yep ... Mat Madness.


Pellicciotti needs three wins to break the Boyertown single-season record for wins (47, set in 2006 by Fred Rodgers and equaled the following year by Jesse DeWan). ... Feroe needs three falls to break the Boyertown single-season record for pins (31, set in 2004 by Mike Spaid). ... Pellicciotti (122) is also just three wins from tying former teammate Jamie Soupik for fourth place on the Bears' career win chart. Feroe (116) and Malfaro (107) aren't far down that list, either. Minich, the first Boyertown sophomore to reach 40 wins in a season, could end up catching the entire lot with 72 wins already and two seasons of eligibility remaining. ... Since returning to District 1 in 2002-03, Boyertown has had at least one state medalist every season - including a school-record three in 2006. The program has produced at least one state qualifier every year since 1996.


Fuschino has 126 career wins, five shy of Robert Hoffman (131) and OJR leader Aaron Brown (134). ... Syrek, with 68 despite being slowed by injuries, could pass all three before he graduates. ... The Wildcats have had a state qualifier for five straight years now, matching the program's previous-best run back in 1982-86, a stretch when Tony Troyan (1983), Kevin Pyle (1984) and Tim Kier (19896) gave the Wildcats' three medalists in four years in the heavyweight bracket.


Thanks to Bennett, Upper Perkiomen has had a state qualifier every year since 1998. Ironically, this is the first year since then - when Derek Zinck was the sole entry - that the Indians had just one representative at states. ... The program's streak of 10 straight years with at least one state medalist ended here last March. ... Boyertown has four wrestlers with 40-or-more wins this season, but that - as well as the Bears' gang of five in 2006 - both trail Upper Perkiomen's area record of eight. The Indians' Brent Fiorito (53), Zack Kemmerer (50), Chris Sheetz (49), Austin Reed (43), Shane Smith (43), Alex Maza (42), Derek Bennett (41) and Sam Walters (41) achieved the feat in 2006. The group - all underclassmen - also combined for 163 pins. ... Bennett (120) and older brother Derek (111), a 2006 Upper Perkiomen graduate, own a combined 231 career wins.

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