By Don Seeley
POTTSTOWN — For a long, long time, Upper Perkiomen never had to circle any wrestling date with Pottstown. For a long, long time, Upper Perkiomen never had to be overly concerned with Pottstown.
But due to the influx of promising underclassmen, not to mention the across-the-board improvement of their upperclassmen, the Trojans certainly have gotten the attention of Upper Perkiomen and everyone else in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
“We saw (the improvement) in the beginning of the season,” Upper Perkiomen head coach Tom Hontz said. “They have some good kids, a quality group of wrestlers, and good coaches.”
All of which added up to quite a contest Thursday night.
Or a close enough one that the visiting Indians couldn’t put away until Kyle Fellman’s narrow 3-1 decision over Jasheel Brown at 152 pounds — in the second-to-last bout of the evening — clinched what would end at 33-28.
One would have to scour the record books, or go back into the very early years of the PAC-10, to find as close a bout between the longtime rivals.
Upper Perkiomen (4-1, 11-4 overall), still in the chase for a league title, never trailed after Owen Leister and Casey Cook opened the match with a decision and second-period pin at 182 and 195, respectively. But Pottstown (2-4, 14-7) didn’t exactly roll over, either, battling back to create three ties, including a 15-15 draw at the halfway mark and another at 21-21.
However, unsung Mike Felix broke that up with a 6-2 decision at 138, then the Indians’ formidable one-two punch — Wolfgang McStravick and Kyle Fellman, bumped up to 145 and 152 — followed with a pin and decision over two of Pottstown’s potent punch of Patrick Bohn and Brown. The 12-point spread, which Pottstown could’ve offset with two pins to end it at 33-33 wouldn’t have mattered, though, because Upper Perkiomen had already won eight of the 14 bouts (the first tie-breaking criteria).
“We’re missing a lot of guys with injuries and sickness,” Fellman said after improving to 20-4. “That always hurts. And it did tonight because Pottstown’s a good team. Of all the years I’ve been wrestling, that’s the best team they’ve had.
“I’m disappointed because I at least wanted to get some bonus points. I’m expected to get bonus points and I didn’t get them. I felt we needed them so (Pottstown) couldn’t come back on us.”
Fellman’s win was enough — being the eighth overall for the Indians.
And it was enough even without the criteria because Pottstown — despite two closing wins from Sebastian Shiffler (a 14-5 major at 160) and Darien Hain (a 5-3 decision at 170) — couldn’t erase the entire deficit anyway.
“The key was us getting lucky with the coin toss,” Hontz said. “We knew if we had to send out first at 138 they’d probably forfeit to (McStravick). The key for us was to get our two studs on two of their better guys. Hey, there were a lot of close matches out there.”
Pottstown and head coach Brad Bechtel sure knew that.
“The effort’s there,” he said. “We’re never happy with a loss, but we’re pleased we’re competing with the top teams in the PAC-10. It was just like (Wednesday night) at Methacton; one or two of those matches goes our way and... Tonight, Upper Perkiomen battled, we battled. We’re getting there.”
The Trojans were really there going into the pivotal 138 through 152 brackets, too.
Mason Weber (220) got the hosts on the board with a 9-2 decision at 220, then Josh Slody evened it up at 9-9 with a 41-second pin at 285. Logan Pennypacker lost a thrilling 3-2 decision to highly regarded Dustin Steffenino at 106, and Robbie McCoy dropped a 5-1 encounter to Eric Miller at 113 that left the Trojans trailing by a 15-9 count. But Mason Pennypacker quickly evened it up at 120 with a pin. And after Upper Perkiomen regained the lead 1:46 later on Dante Steffenino’s pin, Pottstown evened it up yet again with Bryant Wise’s pin at 132.
“We saw it coming,” Bechtel said of the Indians’ Felix-McStravick-Fellman flurry. “We looked at the matchups and knew (Upper Perkiomen would) want to do what they did, wanted to go with those matchups.
“We talked to our guys about it, but they were up for the challenge. They knew who they had to go against, but they didn’t want to duck the challenge. That’s two nights in a row we’ve been in it. We’d just like to see it turn our way soon.”
A moment of silence was observed prior to the match in memory of former Pottstown and St. Pius X head football coach Bill Rogers, who passed away earlier in the day following a battle with cancer. Rogers, a graduate of the former Royersford High School, served as an assistant to Pottstown’s Brett Myers this past fall — his 55th year of coaching in the area. ... Upper Perkiomen host C.B. East on Saturday and Phoenixville next Wednesday before heading over to Bucktown to take on unbeaten two-time defending champion Owen J. Roberts. ... “Coach (Hontz) puts the pressure on us for the next match, that’s all,” Fellman. “Owen J. is good, but that (match) isn’t until next week.”