Last Saturday, in the oft-familiar confines of the Great Valley (Malvern) gymnasium, the Boyertown High wrestlers began their individual post-season journeys, with Hershey's mat-nirvana-land serving as the inspirational-impetus.The PIAA District 1/Section 4-AAA tournament is the first rung of this somewhat tortuous trek-ladder, the first of three critical weekends which can pave the way to the prestigious state wrestling championships.

After last Saturday's Sectional showdowns, eight of 11 BASH grapplers are still alive, looking toward this Saturday's District 1 AAA-Central tourney at Spring-Ford High School. (Indicative of this season's topsy-turvy Bear route, the locals failed to enter competitors in three of the 14 Sectional weight-classes.)

Beginning at 103 pounds, the Boyertown district contingent begins with freshman Jeremy Minich. His Sectional day included a 1:46 fall over Unionville's Matt Sokoloff, a 13-0 major decision over Owen J. Roberts' Jonathan Dempsey and a 6-2 finals win over Downingtown West's Josiah Bull. Minich (28-11 on the season) came back with a flurry after trailing by 2-1 at the end of his first period against Bull.

A freshman out of Junior High West, Minich's been more than slightly impressive to date, and his vast mat experience (he started in second grade) is yielding dividends. (And for a relative high school youngster, he's a pleasant interview.)

"I looked at the brackets before I wrestled, and I knew the Owen J. kid (Jonathan Dempsey) was pretty tough. After I came in and pinned Sokoloff, and then majored Dempsey, I was feeling better.

"I hadn't wrestled Bull before, but I knew he was strong. I've been picking up the pace the last few weeks in practice, so I felt strong and I knew I had plenty of time to win it and take first place.

"I'm looking at Districts first, and I feel confident that I can advance to Regionals. Right now, the only guy that's really tough is Rappo (Mark Rappo of Council Rock South, state silver-medalist a year ago). And I don't have to worry about him until Regionals."

At 112, sophomore Matt Malfaro (the 103 Sectional champ a year ago) ran into a buzz-saw of sorts in his final against Roberts' Will Bentley. Bentley, who blanked Malfaro by 9-0 in a dual match-up several weeks ago, ruled this time via a 13-1 major.

Malfaro's day included a 1:12 fall over Spring-Ford's Anthony Wallick and a 3:08 pin against Great Valley's Rick Piscella.

Truth be told, Malfaro (27-15 season, 65-26 career) appeared to be a bit sluggish, perhaps lethargic against Bentley. The BASH sophomore is blessed with abundant mat talent and he certainly has the goods to keep advancing in this post-season. Pairings and attitude will play roles this weekend and beyond.

Junior Trevor MacMinn (125) displayed flashes of his true potential, especially in his consolation final against Spring-Ford's Allan Gauger.

MacMinn's impressive 8-4 decision over Gauger was the finale of a day which included a 9-7 decision over D-East's Joe Linskens, a loss via fall to Unionville's Joe Bonaduce and a 3-2 nod over G-Valley's Gary Magill. MacMinn advanced to 22-10 on the year and 38-30 career.

Soph Alex Pellicciotti was a Sectional champ at 119 last year; this time around, he dominated at 130. His 9-1 major over Unionville's Mason Popham in the finals punctuated his day which also featured a 48-second fall over Kennett's Iain Grigsby and a 2:42 pin against S-Ford's Gareth Cooper.

Sporting his recently-dyed blond hair, a bit of a Bear tradition with some post-season wrestlers, Pellicciotti (31-4, 69-11) was exuding a renewed self-assurance after accepting his Sectional gold.

"I've worked a lot harder at practices recently and I'm getting more in the zone. When I get on the mat, I try to separate myself from people and just think about the match.

"Coming in today, I felt confident, but I was a little worried about Popham. I stayed real focused against him tonight.

"Now I'll start thinking about Districts, then Regionals, then States ' one step at a time. And it's true, my ultimate goal is to place at States."

Junior Tim Feroe settled for fourth place a year ago ' not so this time around. At 152 pounds, Feroe's 17-2, 4:39 technical fall over D-West's Matt McDonough in the gold-bout was one more indication of his mat maturity.

His route included a 53-second fall over D-East's Max Narewski, and an injury default win over G-Valley's Scott Schretzenmaier.

Feroe (30-9, 69-28) is a viable candidate for tourney advancement as these weeks progress. If he remains focused throughout, he could realistically be sampling chocolate in early March. And as a team leader, his example is critical.

At 160 pounds, freshman Zach Heffner was a bit rusty after dealing with a groin injury much of the regular season. However, the talented Heffner placed fourth to advance to the District level. His conso final ended as a 3-1 setback to DWest's Chris Kalbach, a senior.

Heffner (10-5) opened with a 1:43 fall over Bishop Shanahan's Steve Rucci; was pinned by eventual champ and senior Matt Patterson (S-Ford) in 1:55, and pinned G-Valley's Brian Curless, 2:08, in his conso semifinal. Suffice it to say, Heffner's mat future is a bright one.

BASH senior Tommy McNamara (171) enjoyed one of his finest hours, as he claimed a bronze medal via his 4-2 decision over G-Valley's Myles Tornetta. (Tornetta's father, Joe Tornetta, serves as Great Valley coach and wrestled decades ago for Phoenixville High.)

McNamara (13-21, 19-34) opened the day with a 4-1 tie-breaker loss to eventual silver-medalist Brian Fitzgerald of D-East; he responded with a 9-1 major over S-Ford's Matt Funk and a 17-5 major over Unionville's Ben Holloway to set up the conso finals bout against Tornetta.

With his boyish smile a-beaming (and that's nothing to be embarrassed about), McNamara was relishing his bronze medal gained (no small feat considering he's only been wrestling for five years).

"Coming in today, I felt pretty confident. "I knew there were some good teams and good wrestlers, but I was just focusing on doing my best.

"And looking ahead to Districts, I'm just trying to shoot for third or fourth and make it to Regionals. I figure almost anyone can make it if you work hard enough.

"There have been some real highs this season, including our win over Upper Perkiomen and us sharing the PAC-10 title (with Spring-Ford). And some lows: I had a lot of close matches (and losses), when I got bumped up (higher weights) against tough kids.

McNamara is starting to talk about college, possibly West Chester University or Montgomery County Community College. "I just want to focus on my studies when that happens."

Meanwhile, he's savoring the gains of his wrestling years. "The one thing I've really learned is hard work. I'm not the best at this (wrestling), but I've worked my butt off."

At 215 pounds, junior Zach Rodgers enjoyed a solid day and placed fourth to assure himself of a District berth. Prior to his 4-0 conso finals setback to DEast's Dave Medearis, Rodgers (20-14, 24-24) decisioned Kennett's Shawn Stewart by 6-2; was majored by eventual camp Carl Buchholz (G-Valley), 13-2; and pinned Unionville's Kris Walls in 2:53.

Rodgers is a markedly-improved wrestler, and his performance last weekend was proof-positive.

Three Bear grapplers concluded their seasons on the Great Valley mats.

Soph Adam Benfield (119), soph Justin Stewart (140) and soph Mike Brinilovitch (189) were eliminated during the course of the Sectional frays.

As the Sectional tension was waning on Saturday evening, Bear head coach Pete Ventresca was wearing his grateful visage. "We performed well today, and our kids wrestled up to their potential.

"Some of the weights featured really tough kids. It was especially nice to see some of our younger kids stepping up, and our older wrestlers making the best of their day.

"As far as Districts, we'll focus real hard this week. We should do well if our guys work hard and prepare for the next level. That's all I ask for."

MAT MEMOS - In the Sectional team race, Boyertown placed second to Downingtown West, 149-131.5 points prior to this year, the Bears had won nine consecutive Sectional team crowns, the last five in District One and four previous in District Three Saturday's tourney action at Spring-Ford begins at 9:30 a.m., with the top four finishers in each weight class advancing to the Feb. 29-March 1 Southeast-AAA Regionals at Council Rock South and the top four medalists at the Regional tourney will move on to the AAA Championships in Hershey on March 6-7-8.

Jim Davidheiser is a free-lance contributor to The Boyertown Area Times/Berks-Mont Newspapers. Contact him at jhdcom@comcast.net.

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