The PIAA Class AAA State Wrestling Championships will be held next week in Hershey.For the six local high school wrestlers who are still alive in their quest to reach states, only one question remains at this point: If they go, will it be as spectators or as members of the select few who will compete on the Giant Center mats in front of thousands of spectators?
That answer will come this weekend as four Unionville wrestlers and two Kennett wrestlers head to the Southeast Regional Tournament at Council Rock High School on Friday, Feb. 29, and Saturday, March 1. For those six who have already survived both the sectional and district tournaments during the last two weeks to get to this point, all that stands in the way of a state tournament berth now is a top-four finish in their weight class this weekend. Those who accomplish the feat will head to Hershey. Those who don't will head home for the season.
"Making it to states has been my goal since I was a freshman," said Unionville senior Nick Fischer, who is 36-1 overall this season. "I came close last year. Now this is my last shot, and I can't even put it into words how much it would mean to me to get there."
Last Saturday at the District 1 Central Tournament at Spring-Ford High School - the second of three tournaments on the road to Hershey - Fischer captured the 140-pound district title in dramatic fashion.
Fischer, who now has 117 career wins, just five shy of tying Zach Leathers' school record set in 2001, defeated West Chester Rustin's Steve Hess (39-2) in the finals by a score of 1-0 on a ride-out in ultimate overtime.
"I got out with two seconds left," said Fischer. "It was awesome. I was jumping around, my coaches were jumping around. I almost knocked over the ref I was so excited. That's the closest match I've ever had in my career and he's the best guy that I've ever beaten up to this point. I think I have a good shot at making it to states now. I just have to keep wrestling well and give it everything I've got out there."
Kennett's Kyle Bove is hoping for a memorable weekend at Council Rock South High School. The junior 125-pound standout will be seeking his first trip to states and also his 100th career victory.
Bove (31-5) already has 99 wins in only three years - the school record is 114 set by Tyler Jones in 2002 - and will be out to avenge the sour taste left by regionals a year ago when he came within one match of qualifying for states.
At districts last weekend, Bove crushed his first two opponents - by pin and a 16-0 tech. fall - before being edged in the finals 4-3 by Jack Chidester (36-2) of Conestoga. Chidester, a senior, will wrestle for Penn State next year.
Unionville's Colin Ely was the other top local wrestler at districts last weekend, as the senior placed third overall at 189 pounds. Ely, who is 35-3 this season, opened the tournament with a pin. He then lost to eventual champion Anthony Fulginitti (31-1) of Lower Merion, 6-1, to fall to the consolation bracket. Ely bounced right back, though, to secure his regional berth with a 12-4 major decision, then scored an impressive 7-1 decision over Owen J. Roberts' Scott Syrek to claim third place.
Three other local wrestlers finished fourth at districts to advance to this weekend's regional tournament: Unionville's Chris Carney (112), Unionville's Joe Bonaduce (125) and Kennett's Josh Trykowski (160).
Carney (22-12) and Bonaduce (27-12) both lost their opening matches at districts, but each came back strong as they navigated their way through the consolation bracket with two straight wins apiece to make regionals. Trykowski (33-9) lost in the championship semifinals to eventual champion Justin Ortega of Oxford, 6-0, but came right back to beat Rob Massi of Avon Grove, 10-5, in the consolation semifinals to stay alive and reach regionals.