BOYERTOWN >> Family gatherings rank as a big part of the winter holiday scene.
The athletes and coaches of Boyertown High's wrestling team consider themselves a "family" in every sense of the word. At their first public gathering of the 2021-22 season, the Bears showed how strong their family ties are.
Boyertown hosted its traditional season-opener, the Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals, Saturday in its return to the schedule after last year's COVID-19 restrictions. In doing so, it re-established its perennial level of success in the competition.
The Bears placed second among the 10 schools in the field ... a field that included fellow Pioneer Athletic Conference member Owen J. Roberts and Suburban One League representative Souderton. They swept their pool matches to qualify for the championship match against perennial state power Easton.
A 50-15 loss to the Red Rovers ended up being the lone "down" moment of the day. Boyertown won matches by margins ranging from one to 32 points, claimed the runner-up team trophy, saw newcomer Leo Egbe have a very successful debut and had Gavin Sheridan named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
"It felt nice," Sheridan said. "We needed to kick-start the season and boost our confidence."
"We had good matches," head coach Tony Haley added. "Kids were tested today, and they're going to be tested more and more."
Boyertown's wins in pool action came against Harry S. Truman (50-18), Interboro (46-25), Garnet Valley (31-30) and Bethlehem Liberty (37-28). Egbe clinched the Garnet Valley match with a 12-3 major decision of Patrick Douglas at 215, staking his team to a 31-12 lead with three weights to contest.
"This is a new challenge for me," the Bear senior (4-1), little more than a month removed from his success as the Boyertown football team's premier running back, said. "The team took me in right away. They're teaching me from scratch. It's a testament to how much we're like family."
Sheridan's OW candidacy was bolstered by a 5-0 run through the tournament. The sophomore, working at 126 and 132, had a first-period pin, a third-period technical fall, 13-2 major decision and 3-2 decision alongside a forfeit.
"I wasn't thinking about it (award)," Sheridan, a third-place South East AAA Regional finisher and state-tourney qualifier his freshman season, said. "I wanted to wrestle my best to start up the season."
Chance Babb gave the Bears another 5-0 day primarily at 152 but once at 160. The senior picked up from where he ended the 2020-21 season, one that saw him place eighth at 138 in states; he posted three falls and a major decision while receiving a forfeit.
Derek Renninger, a senior, chipped in with a 3-0 record at 126/132. He was among the various Bears who pleased Haley with their ability to perform at a level that left few holes in the team's showing.
"We had freshman step up, and we had other inexperienced wrestlers step up," Haley said. "All day, we preached how all 13 in the lineup needed to win and step up."
Owen J's season got off to a poor start, the Wildcats going 0-4 in pool matches. But they kept the day from being a total washout by edging Truman in the ninth-place match, 32-30.
"You can talk in the (wrestling) room all day about doing the little things," head coach Steve DeRafelo said, "but if you haven't experienced it ... today was a learning experience for us."
Mason Karkoska (138) and Dillon Becktold (172/189) both had 5-0 outings for Roberts, garnering praise from DeRafelo for "putting in work during the off-season."
"We're going to have some changes over the next couple weeks," Roberts' mat boss said. "We have a couple wrestlers with injuries we're hoping to get back. How we wrestle will determine the final outcome."
NOTES >> The OW award Sheridan received is named for the late Don Seeley, The Mercury's longtime sports writer and department editor. ... Team trophies were presented to the first three placers. Garnet Valley, by virtue of its 36-33 win over Sun Valley, was the tournament's third-place team.