By Alex Frazier
Welcome to the 2008-09 wrestling season. I’m once again looking forward to providing you with news, results, features and profiles. Don’t hesitate to contact me about any interesting stories or anecdotes. I will be covering one match per week, so I hope to see all of you at some point.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to three new SOL coaches—Eric Knoblouch of Bensalem, Dan Winters of Neshaminy and Nate Wachter of Plymouth Whitemarsh. More about them in an upcoming notebook.
In memoriam – In early November, the local wrestling community was shocked to learn of the death of one of its best grapplers.
Council Rock North coach Tom Vivacqua reeled off a laundry list of superlatives to describe Oliver Hertzel, none of which could possibly explain his tragic death at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a freshman.
“It was such a tragedy,” he said. “He was a great kid. He was captain of our team and a leader. He was friendly, hard working, very committed, good family, popular.”
Hertzel graduated from Rock North last year holding the school record for most wins (150+), including 80+ career pins.
As Vivacqua said, “He was a great pinner. He was so good at running bars on top. He was phenomenal on top. Some kids finish with 80 wins; he had over 80 pins.”
Hertzel was last year’s 135-pound Section One and District South champion and qualified for states by virtue of placing second at the Southeast Regional Tournament. At states he lost his first two matches.
“He easily could have (medaled),” said Vivacqua. “He wrestled a couple of tight matches and didn’t win.”
His death continues to have an affect on the team.
“We’re still reeling, trying to figure it all out,” said Vivacqua.
Conference previews – The three conferences have a slightly different look this year.
Council Rock South and Council Rock North will once again be reunited with their local rivals Pennsbury and Neshaminy. William Tennent also joins the conference this year, while Central Bucks South and North Penn drop to the Continental Conference.
Council Rock South will be the team to beat. The Golden Hawks picked up Ed Shupe (district runner-up, SE Regional champ, sixth at states) from Pennsbury. The Falcons’ other transfer, Josh Dziewa, was disallowed by the PIAA and will have to sit out a year of eligibility.
But the Golden Hawks return Matt Rappo (125), who finished fifth at regionals, second in districts and first in sections; Matt Martoccio (130), a district and sectional champ; Jim Vollrath (145) a regional bronze-medalist and district and sectional champ; Marc Helfrich (152), who won districts and sectionals; and Bobby Lavell (189), who just missed regionals by placing fifth at districts.
Council Rock North may not have enough guns to topple its sister school, but the Indians will be a good tournament team. That contest will be decided early as the two teams meet in the first league dual meet of the year. The Indians feature Shane Longstreth (district fourth, section third) at 112, state qualifier Zac Haynes (section and district champ, fourth regions) at 119, Greg Lanctot (fourth regions, second districts, third sections) at 145, Jamie Callender (fifth regions, district and section champ) at 189 and Andrew Duchesneau (fifth regions, third districts, second sections).
Pennsbury, Abington and newcomer William Tennent will battle it out for the third spot. The Falcons lost two wrestlers in Ed Shupe and Josh Dziewa that would have made them a very strong team. As it is, they return Jason Ongradi at 119, Mark Nicholson (third in districts, second in sections) at 140, and Matt Johnson at 171.
Abington has 11 seniors returning, including Cody Carrigan, (152) Max Barsky (160), and David Osei (285). Barsky placed fifth at districts last year and Osei went all the way to states after finishing second at regionals and first in districts and sections.
William Tennent also has some returning veterans. Zach Wolf (135) finished fourth at districts and third at sectionals, Zac Bush (145) was fourth at districts and second at sections, Andrew Scholer (189) was fourth at districts and second at sectionals, and Dan Clemenson (215) was also fourth at districts and third in the section. All four of those regional qualifiers hope to make the next step to Hershey this year.
Neshaminy has a new coach this year after a down season a year ago, but the Redskins can’t be counted out and could prove a spoiler. They return Nick Russell (fifth districts and fourth sections) at 119 and Mike Hanley (fifth at districts, fourth at sections) at 215.
Harry S Truman and Bensalem will still struggle as teams, but have several outstanding wrestlers. Truman returns a pair of tough lighter weights. James Bak (103) finished seventh in the state last year after placing second in regionals, districts and sections. Sean Edmondson (112) won sections and placed fourth at districts.
Bensalem’s J.C. Meza (160) finished sixth at regionals, second at districts and third at sectionals.
North Penn and Central Bucks South will not make a great impact in this conference, though both teams have individuals that will do well. While those two teams have been added, Norristown has dropped to the American Conference.
Quakertown, with two state, three regionals and one district qualifier, is the frontrunner. Both Scott Wolfinger (103) and Briar Malischewski (145) made it to Hershey, while Matt Rust (135), Eric Koch (140) and Nick Lubenetski (152) qualified for regionals. Rust just missed states with a fifth place finish.
Pennridge, Hatboro-Horsham and Central Bucks East may all be battling for the second spot. The Rams might be the early favorites as they return stud Colin McConnell (152), who finished second in the region after winning district and section titles. He most certainly should take a place at states this year. Regional qualifier Rich Jasinski (125) and district qualifier Brad Herrmann (145) will also be tough.
Hatboro-Horsham returns Matt Harkins (section camp, district third) at 112, Nick Lynch (third sections and districts) at 160 and heavyweight Alex Myers (third sections, fourth districts).
Jon Brodzik (135) and Devon Passman (171) will be the go-to guns for C.B. East. Brodzik took third at both sections and districts, while Passman finished first in sections, second in districts and third in the region.
C.B. West will be strong at the bottom and top of the lineup. The Bucks bring back Chris McGinley (119), who finished second at sections and districts and third at regions. Steve Ferrara (125) placed third at sections last year and should advance further this year, though 119 will be a killer weight class. Up top, the Bucks have district qualifier Connor Horn at 171 and district and section champ Ted Conrad at 189. His old nemesis Ted Salimay from C.B. South graduated, which should allow him to improve his finish.
Central Bucks South returns Mike Mathis, who finished fifth in the region after winning districts and sections.
With a large incoming freshmen class, North Penn will be building for the future. The Knights still have Matt Prestifilippo (fifth in state; first in regionals, districts and sections) at 125, district qualifier Dominic Colangelo (second, sections) at 145 and Tony Lozzi (third districts) at 215/285.
Souderton returns regional qualifier Joe Stolfi (171) along with district qualifiers Rob Smothers (189) and Chris Force (130). The Indians will be immediately improved with the addition of senior transfer Brian McCauley (135). They also won’t be forfeiting any weights like last year.
This conference lost Quakertown to the Continental Conference and Methacton to the Pioneer Athletic Conference, and picked up Norristown.
With defending champion Quakertown out, that leaves room for several teams to vie for the top spot, including Plymouth Whitemarsh, Wissahickon and Norristown.
PW would appear to be the frontrunner. The Colonials return frosh phenom John Staudenmeier (160), who won sections and districts before getting tripped up in regionals. Luke Wisniewski (130) finished third in sections and fourth in the district.
Norristown returns regional qualifiers Brandon and Stephen Parker. The two will provide the Eagles a good one-two punch at 135 and 140. Brandon placed third in sections and districts, while Stephen was first in sections and third at districts.
Wissahickon returns veteran senior Taylor Franko (171), who qualified for regions last year after finishing second in sections and third at districts. The Trojans have a promising brother act in Aubrey (140) and Andre Watkins (145/152).
Upper Dublin could also be in the mix. The Cardinals return 10 seniors and have a solid bunch in the middle, including district qualifier Pat Reilly (140) and sectional runner-up Nick Dimuzio (119).
Upper Moreland will be a young squad again this year, but the Golden Bears will have one of the top 125-pounders in the region in Tim Santry. Last year he placed seventh at states, second at regionals, third at districts and second in sectionals.
Also James Nicholson (189) took eighth in the Super 32 Challenge, a pre-season tournament in Greensboro, NC. Last year his season was cut short in the district quarterfinals by an injury default.
With only two seniors Steve Carpenter (160) and Pat Feehan (189), Springfield will also be showing its age. While the Spartans may struggle some in the league, they should be improved overall.
Having lost six starters to graduation, including Section Three runner-up Mike Beitcher and District North runner-up Asa Cameron, Cheltenham will be re-building this year. The Panthers return only junior Ryan Gambino (17-12) and sophomore Owen Libard (5-8) with any post-season experience.
Predictions – Last year I made a fool out of myself by predicting the finish of teams in all three conferences. Being a glutton for punishment, I’m putting my head on the block once again.
1. Council Rock South
2. Council Rock North
4. William Tennent
8. Harry S Truman
4. Central Bucks East
5. Central Bucks West
6. Central Bucks South
7. North Penn
1. Plymouth Whitemarsh
4. Upper Dublin
5. Upper Moreland
Top Five Pre-season SOL Teams
1. Council Rock South
3. Council Rock North
Pre-season Top Guns
103-James Bak, Harry S Truman
112-Matt Harkins, Hatboro-Horsham
119-Chris McGinley, Central Bucks West
125-Matt Prestifilippo, North Penn
130-Matt Martoccio, Council Rock South
135-Matt Rust, Quakertown
140-Eric Koch, Quakertown
145-Jim Vollrath, Council Rock South
152-Colin McConnell, Pennridge
160-Ed Shupe, Council Rock South
171-Devon Passman, Central Bucks East
189-Jamie Callender, Council Rock North
215-Dan Clemenson, William Tennent
285-David Osei, Abington