By Alex Frazier
Welcome to the 2009-10 wrestling season. Each week I will be writing a notebook and attending a match. Feel free to contact us with any ideas for stories and features, college commitments or any other items of interest to the SOL wrestling community. Each year in my first notebook, I like to recognize new coaches in the league.
This year there is only one. Cliff Gehret, a former Souderton wrestler, joins the staff of former archrival Pennridge. Gehret even acknowledged that it was a Pennridge wrestler who ended his career at Souderton in the District One Tournament.
Gehret wrestled for four years at Souderton and was captain his senior year, when he qualified for districts.
He went on to attend Eastern University. In high school, he had played soccer and wrestled and loved both sports, but when he made his decision to attend Eastern, wrestling fell by the wayside because it wasn’t offered.
Instead, he played soccer for four years and was captain of the team.
He graduated from Eastern with a degree in secondary education/English. He began subbing in the Pennridge School District and was hired this year as a long-term sub.
He noticed on the Pennridge website that there were coaching positions open in wrestling. According to Gehret, Pennridge was having difficulty filling the positions because of the small size of the wrestling room and also because the kids were dismissed at 2:15, a time that was hard for outside coaches to make.
Knowing he was teaching at the school and could make the start of practices, he decided to hand in his resume to Athletic Director Dave Babb. Originally, he figured he would just be an assistant coach, but after interviewing with Babb, he was named the head coach.
Though Gehret may lack experience in wrestling as well as coaching, he has five assistants who will be a big help to him, notably R.P. Norley and Dan Goetter.
As Gehret stated, his goals for the year are “to continue to improve and eventually be the champions in the league and to develop the talent of each child to the best of my and the other coaches’ ability. I expect the wrestlers to work hard during and after the season to reach their potential. Anything less would be disappointing.”
Assistant Coach of the Year – Council Rock South coach Brad Silimperi calls assistant coach Trap McCormack his “right hand man.”
So it was not surprising that Silimperi nominated McCormack for US Wrestling’s Assistant Coach of the Year.
Last April, to his surprise, he received a package from US Wrestling. Opening it, he found a plaque naming McCormack Assistant Coach of the Year.
“He was shocked,” said Silimperi. “He thought we were playing a joke on him.”
When you know what he’s done to deserve that honor, you’d say, “Wow.”
McCormack has been coaching at South since the school district split eight years ago.
He has been an integral part of creating the wrestling room “culture.”
He has instilled high expectations, hard work and year round training into the Hawk grapplers.
He even started a tradition at South that continues to this day. When the wrestlers run out on the mat for warm-ups, they toss Council Rock South wrestling T-shirts to the fans.
McCormack does more as an assistant coach than many varsity coaches do.
Not only is he strong technically, but he also takes an innovative approach to training. He researches all the best teams and wrestlers around the country and incorporates the best of the best for his own team.
In addition, he scouts, manages the lineup, attends all morning practices and even helps with fundraising.
In the off-season he works with the Apache Wrestling Club and has helped produce 10 Cadet All-Americans and five Junior All-Americans.
“He is a true model to the student athletes at Council Rock South,” said Silimperi. “CRS’s short history would not have been possible without Trap’s unwavering loyalty to the kids and the program. There is a direct relationship between his efforts and the success of the program.”
Previews – The following is an overview of the three conferences.
This year once again will be a two-horse race between Council Rock North and Council Rock South. Pennsbury also returns a strong nucleus, including regional qualifier Josh Mitchell, who is ranked eighth in the state in a pre-season poll.
The Indians feature state runner-up Jamie Callender as well as regional qualifiers Adam Slazak (6th) and Shane Longstreth (6th). Callender is ranked No. 2 in the state and regional qualifier Greg Lanctot is No. 5.
Rock South returns three state qualifiers in Matt Rappo, Matt Martoccio (8th) and Bobby Lavelle. Also in the lineup this year for the Hawks will be Billy Rappo, who wrestled 103 last year at about 85 pounds, and Pennsbury transfer Josh Dziewa, who sat out last year but won Junior Nationals over the summer and has committed to Iowa.
Dziewa is currently ranked No. 1 in the state, while Matt Rappo is rated No. 6 and Martoccio is 8th.
With Dan Winters at his second year at the helm, Neshaminy should be improved this year. Regional qualifiers Colby Lederer and Nick Russell, along with district sixth place finisher Steve Stemme, will anchor the Redskins.
Sean Edmondson will lead Harry S Truman. The junior won sections last year and was runner-up at districts. Look for Shame Marchesani and Justin Evens to also make contributions.
William Tennent returns heavyweight Rick Dracup, who finished second in sectionals and fourth at districts, and Kevin Flack. The Panthers will be young but have some good freshman talent.
With eight freshmen and 10 sophomores, it goes without saying that Bensalem will be a young team this year, but the Owls should field a full team. Three freshmen lightweights Michael Pritchard, Justin Cummings and Shane Hughes are hoping to compete with the “big” boys after completing a successful off-season of wrestling competition.
Quakertown has to be the preseason favorite to win this conference, but keep an eye out for Hatboro-Horsham.
The Panthers return a good nucleus of experienced wrestlers, including state qualifier Eric Koch, who is ranked sixth at 145. Scott Wolfinger, who won sectionals but missed weight at districts, will also be a huge factor.
But, Quakertown also lost state qualifier Colin Bynum, who moved to Maryland, and sophomore Tyler Edwards, who transferred to Wyoming Seminary. Those two losses will be hard to replace.
Hatboro-Horsham also returns most of its team from last year, minus state qualifier Alex Myers and regional qualifier Dave Smith.
Matt Harkins (sectional and district champion), Drew Felice (sectional champ and third at districts) will be the mainstays of the Hatter team.
Central Bucks South and Central Bucks West will probably vie for the third spot. Both return a state qualifier, the Titans’ Mike Mathis and the Bucks’ Mike McGinley. The Ferrara brothers, Steve and Gabe, could give the Bucks the edge.
Pennridge returns Rich Jasinski, who finished runner-up at sections and fourth at both districts and regionals. The Rams also have a proven grappler in Joe Winters (second sections, sixth districts).
Souderton returns state qualifier Joe Stolfi as well as two other studs in Rob Smothers (section champ, district runner-up) and Peter Jenne (fourth sections). The Indians should be improved this year.
North Penn has a record turnout this year of over 50 kids. In addition to many newcomers, the Knights return Tyler Romano (third sections, fifth districts), Dominic Colangelo (fourth sections, fourth districts) and Randy Haun (second sections, fourth districts).
Central Bucks East lost some good kids last year and will be rebuilding. The Patriots will look to returning seniors Andrew Foltyn, Joe Mannino and Dan Cendrelli for leadership.
Although the title will probably come down to Norristown and Upper Moreland, Plymouth Whitemarsh and Wissahickon can’t be overlooked.
Upper Moreland returns five regional qualifiers in Jake Ellis Tim Santry, Max Agasar, John Bolich and James Nicholson.
The Bears will have some holes to plug, but they should definitely be a tough individual tournament team.
While Norristown returns only three regional qualifiers, two of them made it to states, Dave Irwin and Brandon Parker, who is ranked seventh in the state in the preseason. Heavyweight Marcus Robbins was the Eagles’ other regional qualifier. They also had three district qualifiers in Chuck McLean, Joe Pierce and Matt Grill.
PW is a team on the rise, anchored by state qualifier John Staudenmayer, who is ranked fourth in the state in the preseason; sectional and district champ Lucas Wisniewski (section and district champ) and Sam Morrison, sectional champ and district third place. With Staudenmayer’s younger brother Justin, the Colonials will have five solid weight classes.
Though Wissahickon has no “super” studs, the Trojans have a solid core of seniors that could make them a good dual meet team. Dave Yannes and Brian Corliss are the only returning district qualifiers, but both Andre and Aubrey Watkins are capable of going far in the post-season.
Upper Dublin graduated 12 seniors and will rely on district qualifiers Matt Gusick and Nick DiMuzio to lead a group of 37 underclassmen.
Springfield should be more competitive as the Spartans will have more experience this year. Notably, Richie Kassabian (103), Zach MacGregor (112), Rob Galdo (130), Michael Honeywell (145), Kyle Jackson (171) and Dylan Evans (215).
Cheltenham will have a lot of inexperience and will look to some of the seniors like Ryan Gambino (third sectionals, sixth in districts) to provide leadership.
Upper Merion will be boosted this year by LaSalle transfer Ryan Ginsburg, who finished fourth at regionals last year. The Vikings also return district qualifier Nick Vuotto.
Predictions – I guess I must be a masochist for even attempting to do this every year because I know I will only be laughed out of town at the end of the season. Oh well, here goes again.
1. Council Rock South
2. Council Rock North
5. Harry S Truman
6. William Tennent
3. Central Bucks West
4. Central Bucks South
7. North Penn
8. Central Bucks East
1. Upper Moreland
3. Plymouth Whitemarsh
5. Upper Dublin
8. Upper Merion
2009-10 post-season changes – The six Sectional Tournaments will remain the same. Host sites will be Abington (Section 1), Upper Perkiomen (Section 2), Perkiomen Valley (Section 3), Boyertown (Section 4), Ridley (Section 5) and Garnet Valley (Section 6).
The District 1-AAA Tournaments will be reduced from three to two. The top four finishers from Section 1, 2 and 3 will advance to the North District 1 Tournament to be held at Quakertown.
The AAA Southeast Regional Tournament will be held at Council Rock North. It will include the top five finishers from each of the North and South District 1 tournaments and the top three finishers from District 12's Tournament.
The fifth-place finishers from the North and South District Tournaments will face off in a pigtail round, thus providing a 12-man bracket instead of last year's 16-man bracket. The respective district North and South champions, along with the District 12 champion, will be seeded, with the remaining qualifiers placed in the bracket accordingly.
Pre-season TOP Five SOL
1. Council Rock South
2. Council Rock North
4. Upper Moreland
103—Billy Rappo, Council Rock South
112—Mike Mathis, Central Bucks South
119—Matt Harkins, Hatboro-Horsham
125— Bubba McGinley, Central Bucks West
130—Ryan Ginsburg, Upper Merion
135—Josh Dziewa, Council Rock South
140—Matt Martoccio, Council Rock South
145—Rich Jasinski, Pennridge
152— Eric Koch, Quakertown
160— Greg Lanctot, Council Rock North
171—John Staudenmayer, Plymouth Whitemarsh
189— Jamie Callender, Council Rock North
215—Joe Stolfi, Souderton
285—Josh Mitchell, Pennsbury