BOYERTOWN - Alex Pellicciotti always seems to come up with the right move at the right time nowadays.
But the Boyertown senior wouldn't have a drawer full of medals, or the school record for career wins, if it weren't for two particular moves he made a few years ago.
First, he gave up football for wrestling at a young age. Then, after a dreadful showing at the District 1-AAA Central Tournament led to a surprising and premature end to his freshman year, he recommitted himself to the sport.
Those moves, above all, put him in a position to sift through a slew of scholarship offers and make an even better move - writing his name on a national letter of intent to wrestle for Bucknell University.
"It's a great school that offers me a great education and a great wrestling program," Pellicciotti said. "That's what I wanted."
The opportunity to team up with the Bison and their Division I-A program likely wouldn't have happened if Pellicciotti had not been moved to give up playing another sport, or had not been moved to devote more time to the weight room and practice room after that humbling finish at districts three years ago.
"My dad got me started in wrestling, mainly because he and all of his brothers wrestled," Pellicciotti explained. "I kind of warmed up to it at first, but it wasn't something I loved to do. I was playing (youth) football a little bit, but when I was in fifth grade I was wrestling for a couple of (youth) teams and started to like it more."
Pellicciotti wasn't exactly the neighborhood brute, either. Not at first.
Wrestling in the Berks CYO League and with the Boyertown Demons, Pellicciotti admitted it took a year or so before the wins began outnumbering the losses. But after going 55-4 in two seasons at Boyertown West Junior High School, it was quite clear he was a talent.
Pelliocciotti moved up to and into the Bears' lineup as a freshman. Along with him came those high expectations, especially after a strong showing in early season tournaments - the rugged Beast of the East, among them. He breezed through sections, but back-to-back losses at districts left him with a fifth-place finish ... and too much time throughout the rest of the winter to think what could've or should've been.
"I remember I never wanted that to happen again," Pellicciotti recalled. "I remember seeing other guys move on (to regionals and states) who I had beaten during the regular season. It was just a bad weekend for me. I don't know what happened.
"But not (getting to regionals) motivated me. I joined some clubs in the summer and really worked a lot harder in the practice room. I just didn't want that to happen to me again."
Pellicciotti has won two more section and both district titles since that forgettable fifth. A year ago, he added a Southeast Regional title to the collection. He also has a couple of state medals.
Along the way, he has passed some of Boyertown's best on the career wins chart - first Derick Schoenly and Tom Kniezewski, then Jesse DeWan last weekend, passing his former teammate for the record with his 144th win during the Cumberland Valley Duals. He'll take 146 into this morning's dual with Pioneer Athletic Conference rival Perkiomen Valley.
"It was nice to get the record, to be the winningest wrestler at Boyertown," said Pellicciotti, the son of Annette and Wayne Pellicciotti. "That was a goal, but now I'd like to get the other one."
The other one would be former state champion and NCAA All-American Mike Spaid's career pin mark (80) at Boyertown. Pellicciotti has gotten the slap in exactly half of his 146 wins, 73 to be exact. And with 17 among his 22 wins this season, breaking Spaid's record will likely happen sooner rather than later.
But Pellicciotti's real focus will be on wrestling his way through the postseason ... and then into the lineup at Bucknell, where he'll have the opportunity to fill in for nationally ranked David Marble, a senior 133-pounder.
"I'm going to have to work even harder because everyone else is," Pellicciotti said. "They're projecting me to go at 133, and they've told me I'll most likely wrestle as a freshman. They have a senior there right now, and they're looking for me to replace him."
Pellicciotti was recruited by Bucknell assistant David Hoffman, a Pottstown area resident who was a two-time national prep champion at The Hill School and an NCAA All-American at Virginia Tech. ... Bucknell had one of the nation's oldest wrestling programs before discontinuing the program in 2002. Thanks to a generous donation from 1962 graduate Bill Graham, the program was brought back in 2005 and has had a lot of success - including a school-record six NCAA qualifiers a year ago - under head coach Dan Wirnsberger and his staff.