Impressive six out of seven locals reach quarterfinals
by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor
Posted on March 6, 2009
HERSHEY - No matter how you slice it or dice it, or even if you opt for some good old-fashioned math (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, whatever you chose), six out of seven isn't too bad.
Go 6-for-7 in the opening round of the PIAA-Class AAA Wrestling Championships - that's six wins in seven bouts - that's pretty darn good.
And if you happen to be getting those numbers from Pioneer Athletic Conference qualifiers?
Not once since its inaugural season back in 1986-87, had the PAC packed such a winning punch as it did Thursday during the 72nd renewal of the state tournament here at the Giant Center. Boyertown's Jeremy Minich, Matt Malfaro and Alex Pellicciotti got the flurry started at 112, 119 and 130 pounds, respectively, Owen J. Roberts' Nick Fuschino and Scott Syrek added to it at 152 and 215, and Upper Perkiomen's Jared Bennett capped it at 285.
And the end results weren't nearly as impressive as what led to them.
Minich recovered from a big deficit with a strong finish; Malfaro and Pellicciotti never allowed their opponents to get into any reasonable rhythm whatsoever; Fuschino simply dominated; Syrek needed less than a period to end his bout with a pin; and Bennett was flawless.
"A pretty good round," said Boyertown head coach Pete Ventresca.
Boyertown's Tim Feroe, who dropped a controversial 5-3 overtime decision in his opener at 152, recovered admirably and blanked Parkland's Wade Rivera, 2-0, to remain alive and keep the gang of seven intact for another day.
But there was no overlooking the rest of the PAC-10 entourage.
Minich (41-5) trailed Big Spring's Dereck Enders (30-7) by a 7-3 count before an escape and takedown in the final seven seconds of the second period got him within 7-6. Then, in the third period, another escape and takedown in the final minute erased the deficit for good and gave the sophomore - the only newcomer of the group here this week - a 9-8 win.
"I was kind of nervous, even my stomach hurt a little," Minich admitted. "But (Enders) was so strong, and when he bumped me in the eye it kind of threw me off my game. I just had to regroup, get my head back into it.
"Towards the end, I just felt he was beginning to wear down. I could tell he was. There were two times earlier I thought I could've taken him down and didn't, but I was finally able to as the match went on. When I felt him getting tired I knew I could win it."
Malfaro (41-6), who was here as a freshman before seeing his season end prematurely a year ago, didn't give up much at all to Northampton's Jason Stephen (30-16). He was up 5-0 before giving Stephen an escape with 26 seconds in the second period. But he negated that with a takedown of his own with eight seconds left in the period, then put it out of reach with a reversal and two near-fall points in the final session for a 7-1 decision.
"I usually give up that first takedown and then have to come back," Malfaro said. "But I got my points early on and just kept working at it.
"I'm just more experienced this time, and I wasn't as nervous. When I was here as a freshman I didn't wrestled my match, but this time I did."
Pellicciotti (46-3), unquestionably the area's hottest wrestler - with gold medals at the section, district and regional stops - broke up a scoreless struggle against Big Spring's Ryan Irvin (30-7) with a takedown that resulted in six points when Irvin went to his back and called for injury time. It ended, mercifully, at 11-0.
"I'm taking this as just another match, just another tournament," said Pellicciotti, who medaled here last March. "Last year, I was too nervous, too slow, and I let the crowd get to me.
"Right now I feel I can go out there and end (a match) quicker, get a lead, add to it... And watching (Minich and Malfaro) win kind of built the momentum for me. I saw them win, so I felt I could win."
Fuschino (35-2) left little doubt he was going to win, controlling Lewistown's Colton Spade (34-3) throughout in his 5-1 decision - a win that puts him into this afternoon's quarterfinal showdown with unbeaten defending state champion Marshall Peppelman (43-0) of Central Dauphin.
"I've come in this year with a different attitude," said Fuschino, eighth a year ago. "I was just so happy to be here last year, and I was more worried about giving up points than I was about getting points. So my focus this time was on being dominating, being on the offensive and not on the defensive."
Syrek (29-8) went on the offensive against Central Mountain's Glenn Barnes (37-10), who he had already beaten twice - 14-4 and 3-2 - back in January during the Escape the Rock Tournament at Council Rock South High School. The OJR sophomore caught Barnes late into the opening period, putting him on his back and getting the slap at 1:56.
"We just got into a scramble and I caught him," Syrek explained. "But it's a bit more comfortable being here the second time. I know I felt more comfortable. But (Barnes) is tough, too. I beat him pretty good the first time, but the second one was close.
"But I think I knew more of what to expect this time. I knew what to expect and I knew what I had to do. It's a great feeling winning, too, because it kind of gets the nerves out of the way."
Bennett (42-3) looked cool, calm and collected in his 3-1 decision of Lewistown's Stephen King (26-9). He got a takedown early on, an escape in the third period and, if not getting whistled for pushing King out of bounds, would have had a shutout.
"I think having that extra year of experience helped me this time," Bennett said. "And I'm more aggressive than I was last year here, too.
"I'm more confident, but also a little more nervous being it's my senior year. I want to do well, because there's no second chances now. This is my last year. It's nerve-wracking."
Feroe (42-9) appeared to be on his way to a 5-2 lead over Hopewell's Matt Hundenski in the middle of the second period when he had an apparent takedown taken away as Hundenski called for injury time. Hundenski (41-2) then escaped Feroe's ride with 48 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, which ended rather quickly when the Southwest Regional champion got a takedown and 5-3 win. Feroe came back later with his 2-0 blanking of Rivera to advance into the second round of consolations.
"Starting off 3-for-3 was great, and we would've loved to have been 4-for-4," Ventresca said. "But there are a lot of tough kids at the state level, and things are going to happen. You have to wrestle, and you can't make mistakes because these guys here will take advantage of it.
"Right now we just have to take it one match at a time. Hopefully we can continue what we're doing and head home (Saturday) with some hardware."
District 1 won three of four matches at 130, and all three of its qualifiers at 285 - Abington's David Osei, Bennett and Hatboro-Horsham's Alex Myers - swept their bouts. ... Earlier Thursday, District 1's only qualifier in the Class AA bracket, Octorara's Josh Smith (34-3), opened with a 13-0 shutout at 171 pounds. ... Today's AAA wrestling resumes at 1 p.m.