By Jim Davidheiser
As the always-tough Southeast AAA Regional tournament looms this weekend, as plenty of scholastic wrestlers envision a possible "ticket-punching" for the 2006 PIAA Championships in Hershey, three Boyertown High underclassmen deserve quite a bit of attention.
The trio - Jamie Soupik, Brian Rakowski and Dave Jones - were significant contributors last weekend, as the Bear grapplers claimed the District One South-AAA tourney team title (with no less than nine local wrestlers advancing to the Southeast level).
Boyertown was a convincing team champion with 184 points amid the 29-team field; Downingtown West was runner-up with 148, and Conestoga placed third with 102.5.
The Regional action will take place Friday evening (beginning at 5:30 p.m.) and all day Saturday (9:30 a.m. start) at Norristown High School. (The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the March 9-10-11 state-fest.)
Soupik, a junior 135-pounder, claimed a District One South third-place medal via a 4-0 conso finals decision over Conestoga's Amir Afghani. It was a sweet ending for Soupik (32-10 on the season), who came to life on Saturday after a lackluster Friday evening performance.
Following his bronze outing: "I feel good right now ... last night my body was shut down, and I felt like I had no strength. I just wrestled real bad last night ... I could have beaten him (Tom Wren of Glen Mills). And our team is real proud of what we did here ... it feels good to get our second straight District team title."
On his Regionals plan: "I plan to work hard all week and wrestle hard for six minutes (every bout) ... it usually comes down to that third period. I'll also be careful about my weight this week."
For Rakowski, a sophomore 140-pounder, his 12-0 major victory (third place final) over Chichester's Larry Conte was proof-positive that Rakowski can be the "real thing" when he puts his mind to it. (On Friday evening in a quarterfinal bout, Conte slipped by Rakowski, 8-7.)
Now 30-14 on the year, Rakowski went on a Saturday tear, winning four straight bouts en route to his impressive finish. "In that first match against Conte, he was stalling a lot ... I went after him tonight, and I admit there was a bit of revenge there."
A nagging groin injury was evident throughout the weekend, but Rakowski sidestepped the pain element and got down to serious mat business. "It's been bothering me, but tonight I really wanted to get third-place ... I knew this would mean a better seed at the Regional."
Some have suggested that Rakowski has a great deal of untapped wrestling talent, and he has displayed that intermittently throughout this season. His attitude regarding a trip to states? "I feel good about having a serious chance to make it to Hershey ... I've been working hard at practices and getting in better shape ... it's important that I'm not dead-tired by the third period."
Jones (junior, 152 pounds, 28-14) settled for fourth place after a 9-4 conso finals setback to Lower Merion's Gabe Pressman. A Pressman takedown and three back points with about five seconds remaining broke open a 4-4 stalemate and relegated Jones to the number four position.
Jones: "I don't know ... sometimes you want to win so bad, you allow desperation to take control. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't ... you keep thinking win-win-win.
"I also had in the back of my mind that win or lose, I would still be advancing to Regionals. And now ... I'm one step away from states ... last year (at Regionals) I was two and out (0-2) ... remembering that definitely helps to motivate me."
Jones had plenty of eyes on him as the tourney unfolded on Friday night, his two early wins placing him in the semifinals. One of those victories was a 41-second fall over Conestoga's Zach Trimmer, who owns a 34-6 season slate.
Six Bear wrestlers were in the D-1-South championship finals, and four of them walked away with golds.
At 112 pounds, senior Fred Rodgers kept his reputation intact with a 3-0 finals decision over Conestoga's Jack Chidester. Now 41-2, Rodgers warmed up for the finale with a 1:25 pin and a 14-1 major decision.
Fellow senior Nick Hyatt (119) created his very own clinic session in his final against Lower Merion's Jonathan Neafsey, a 16-0 technical fall in 3:54 one more indication of Hyatt's prowess. Hyatt moved to 34-4 on the year, and his tournament also included pins in 1:06 and 4:37.
Brother (junior) Asher Hyatt (130) had a second consecutive banner weekend, and a 5-4 finals setback to Great Valley's Bill Hasen did not diminish Asher Hyatt's District splendor. (A week earlier at the Sectional, Hyatt shocked mat followers with his perceived-upset of Hasen.)
His abbreviated season mark stands at 6-4. Asher Hyatt's D-1-South victories were via a fall in 3:25 and a 6-2 decision.
At 160 pounds, Mike Schwager (senior) moved within one victory of the 100-win (career) mark, courtesy of a 12-3 major decision (finals) over Dave Morey (Garnet Valley).
Schwager continued his dominant streak, notching earlier tourney wins by 9-4 and a fall in 2:36. He enters the Southeast frays with a 38-6 season record and a 99-43 career slate.
Junior Jesse DeWan (171) claimed his gold with a yeoman-like 5:34 fall over Upper Darby's Jesse Mariana. DeWan had led by 2-0 after one period and 5-3 after two.
DeWan appears poised to challenge for Regional hardware and a states berth with his 38-5 season mark. His weekend also included a 32-second pin and a 10-7 decision victory. (DeWan qualified for Hershey as a freshman, but a year ago, an injury short-circuited his plans.)
And at 215 pounds, senior Josh White (a name bantered about throughout the state) settled for silver after Garnet Valley's Kris Wazlawik claimed a 4-3 overtime/ride-out win.
It was 3-3 after regulation, and after a scoreless first overtime frame, White had the top position in ride-out, Wazlawik notching an escape with just a few seconds remaining.
With a 39-5 season record, White still heads for the Regional mats as one of the favorites at 215. He had a pair of pins prior to his bout against Wazlawik, those falls coming in 1:38 and 1:12.
Only junior Todd Speilman (125) failed to advance out of the D-1-South environs. Speilman lost his opener by 6-4, pinned in a consolation bout in 1:51 to stay alive - but was eliminated in a 7-5 conso heartbreaker decision. It was a solid 19-14 year for Speilman, and he will be counted on in a big way next season.
BASH head coach Pete Ventresca after two long but prosperous days at Spring-Ford (host to the District One South event): "I thought that our guys performed well ... they knew what they had to do, and they knew what to expect in certain situations. This week we'll keep working and get ready (for Regionals) ... we're not going to change the way we train ... the team keeps working hard and it makes a difference at these tournaments."
(NOTE: Jim Davidheiser is a freelance contributor to The Boyertown Area Times/Berks-Mont Newspapers. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)