Junior Eric Miller is one of the Indian hopefuls who is expected to make an impact with this year's team.
Tom Hontz knows all too well of the recent parity in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
Gone are the days when one PAC-10 powerhouse would dominate, with other teams battling for the second spot and below. Back then, say 10 years ago, Upper Perkiomen was that powerhouse, with a league title more of a coronation or foregone conclusion than a battle to the finish.
Presently, the rest of the league has caught up to the Indians. And though there seems to be a new team to beat in Owen J. Roberts, which doesn’t show many signs of slowing down, the rest of the league is just as tough.
Take, for instance, last year. Upper Perk, with a handful of top-caliber upper class wrestlers, scrapped its way to a 7-2 mark, 20-9 overall, good enough for third in the PAC-10. Owen J. Roberts, meanwhile, ran through the ranks with a 9-0 mark, followed by Spring-Ford (8-1) and Boyertown in fourth at 6-3.
Upper Perk, with not as solid an upperclass punch as last season, will have to develop quickly if it hopes to make a ripple in such a tough league.
“It’s going to be tough this year,” Hontz said. “The league is stacked and we lost quite a few studs last year. We will try to be competitive, but realistically we will need to battle to finish .500 this year.”
Lost to graduation are the likes of Wolfgang McStravick (46-8, state qualifier), Kyle Fellman (34-12), Dante Steffenino (43-6), Ray Young and Dylan Steffenino. Those five wrestlers combined for nearly half of the team’s individual win totals last season.
To fill that gap, Hontz and company will look to some solid individual talent. Lightweight Dustin Steffenino is off a 41-8 sophomore season in which he took fourth at regionals. Senior Dan Jordan, a district qualifier last year, will be expected to produce, as will lightweight Eric Miller and senior Casey Cook, who was 27-10 at 182 and 195 last season.
Hontz also expects big things from junior Trevor Weeks, a returning district qualifier, Chris Kramer, Mike Felix, Tyler Livingstone and Justin Crossley. Newcomers Mahlon Schaffer and brothers Noah and Jacob Folk should also be contributors, along with Dylyn and Mike Lockhoff.
“We may struggle to fill the 106 and 182 weight classes, which obviously will hurt,” Hontz said. “And with the inexperience we have in some weights it will be tough, especially going against league opponents like Boyertown, Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts, all of whom are ranked in the state. Even Methacton, Pottstown, Pottsgrove and PV will be very strong.”
The Indians will officially kick off its season next Saturday at the Quakertown Duals. Teams will include Neshaminy, Pittston Area and Plymouth Whitemarsh. A week later, Upper Perk will travel to Henry Lackey High School in Maryland to take part in the Glenn Jones Charger Classic. The league season gets under way Dec. 18 at home against Pottstown and continues with a key showdown against Spring-Ford two days later.