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PAC preview: Family-fueled Meredith, Owen J. Roberts set sights on state qualification

by Jeff Stover, Pottstown Mercury

Posted on March 1, 2018

Article originally appeared here:

Family is very meaningful for Cole Meredith.

Both the one with whom he shares DNA, and the one with whom he shares success on the wrestling mats.

Meredith has written one of the more inspiring turnaround stories in the sport around Pioneer Athletic Conference circles. From an 8-10 freshman season, the Owen J. Roberts junior crafted a 33-15 record and state-tournament qualification last year. It's been more of the same this winter, Meredith currently sporting a 32-9 record following last weekend's District 1-AAA Central tournament, through which he qualified for the South East AAA Regional being staged at Oxford High School this weekend.

He's achieved that with a renewed vigor and desire ... to which he credits his family - father William, sister Madison - and a crew of Wildcat teammates who've helped him along in the team's practice sessions. They've helped him along in the wake of his mother's passing from cancer a number of years ago.

"I have a great family," Meredith said. "My father does whatever I need. My sister, coaches, practice partners ... the whole entire family - grandparents, and my little cousin."

Cole's father, who wrestled for Great Valley during his high-school days, has been highly supportive of his mat activities.

"He's everything you could want in a dad," Meredith said. "He loves watching me. He's the perfect type wrestling dad."

And his teammates - former ones like Luke and Ryan Resnick, current ones like Daniel Mancini - have been key contributors to his accelerated development in the sport.

"The biggest thing is, they keep me going," he said. "In practice or two-a-days, they pick me up. They've been a big help along the way."

"He's different from the next kid," OJR head coach Steve DeRafelo said. "The wrestling community has been his family."

The post-season tournament run has been an aspect of the sport where Meredith has really turned things around. After going two-and-out at the Pioneer Athletic Conference tourney as a freshman, Cole's sophomore season was marked by his silver-medal showing at PACs, a fourth at District 1-AAA West and a fifth at the South East AAA Regional that qualified him for the PIAA Championships.

Getting to Hershey wasn't the end of the trek, either. Meredith won his first bout against Gettysburg's Dylan Reinert, finishing the trip with a 1-2 record.

"It was a big shock," Meredith said. "My expectations were higher after the past tournaments. I realized after districts I had to push myself harder at practice to be out there."

His coach has noticed the change in Meredith's mindset goes beyond the practice room and the mats.

"He's getting it done in the classroom," DeRafelo noted.

Through all the unique situations he's faced in his life, Meredith maintains an upbeat, friendly mood.

"He makes friends easily," DeRafelo added. "He hugs me every day when he sees me.

"He's a fun kid to be around."

* * *

Owen J. Roberts leads the local contingent heading to the South East AAA Regional Tournament this weekend.

The Wildcats are coming off a team-championship finish in the District 1-AAA Central competition at Spring-Ford. With four individual champions among seven qualifiers going to Oxford High School, they look to put together a sizeable group visiting Hershey's Giant Center for the PIAA Championships March 8-10.

"The boys are really excited," head coach Steve DeRafelo said. "They've prepared for this tournament for a long time. They're excited for the opportunity to compete."

Connor Quinn (126), Daniel Mancini (152) and Jason Zollers (170) were all champions both at the Pioneer Athletic Conference and district tournaments. Ricky McCutchen (160) claimed gold at Spring-Ford after placing second at PACs, and Antonio Petrucelli (138) is a district runner-up off a title run in the conference tourney.

"The mood is one of excitement and anticipation," DeRafelo said. "The key is to keep them healthy, and make sure they're fresh. The hard work is done; now we're finding ways for them to have fun."

David Forrest (113) and Cole Meredith (145) followed with fourth-place outings. They all contributed to Owen J. collecting 121 team points ahead of Boyertown (110.5), Methacton (105), Spring-Ford (86) and Pope John Paul II (56.5).

That took away some of the down feeling the 'Cats experienced at PACs, where Spring-Ford scored the team championship by a margin of close to 30 points (210-183.5).

"It's pretty awesome. The team is loving it," Meredith said of Owen J. Roberts' district team title. "We were pretty upset (at PACs), not being able to pull out on top."

Boyertown comes to Oxford led by three district champions: Jacob Miller (182), Elijah Jones (195) and Zak Reck (220). The Lehigh University-bound Jones (36-3) is looking to defend his 2016-17 regional championship and get to a higher step on the medal podium at Hershey to close out his stellar scholastic career.

The Pope John Paul II program has seen brothers Matt and Ryan Vulakh make history by becoming its first two PAC and District 1-AAA champions this winter. Matt (106) and Ryan (145) will be looking to add more laurels at AAA's regional level.

The local field includes another trio of district champs in Upper Perkiomen's Jared Kuhns (113), Spring-Ford's Brandon Meredith (120) and Methacton's Kibwe McNair (132). Meredith (38-1), a regional champion his sophomore year, is looking to win gold after placing third last year; he's also seeking a second state-level medal to go with the fourth he scored that sophomore season.

The top five placers from each bracket will qualify for the AAA state tournament.

* * *

Jarek Svanson is competing against both opponents and the calendar in March.

The Upper Perkiomen senior goes into the South East AAA Regional Tournament with 94 victories. He needs six more to become the latest entry in The Mercury coverage area's career win leaders chart, but he has only this weekend's competition and the PIAA Class AAA Championships to complete the race.

Svanson is coming off a second-place finish in the 132-pound weight class at the District 1-AAA Central tourney last weekend. He's following teammate/classmate Jared Kuhns, who became the program's latest 100-win performer on Jan. 20.

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