Bermudian Springs High senior Brad Farley is 35-0 entering the District 3 Class AA Tournament, which will be held alongside the Class AAA South Central Region tournament on Friday and Saturday at Hersheypark Arena.
Farley, who would join 2006 state champion Rickey Schmelyun as the only wrestlers with perfect seasons under McCollum, is one of four undefeated Hanover area wrestlers. Joining him are Fairfield's Clay Kocsis (27-0) and Hanover's Ian Brown (31-0) and Derek Wolford (29-0).
The likelihood of being perfect at this point of the season is slim. Just 10 wrestlers competing in both of this week's events are undefeated.
"You have to be at the top of your game every time you step on the mat," McCollum said. "To be unbeaten at this point in the season, everything has to fall into place. You can't lose focus. You can't be sick. You can't be injured. And you gotta have everything going in the right direction."
Added Brown: "Anything could happen during our season. You could give (up a loss) because of blood time. You could just get caught. I don't know if you're expecting to be there."
None of the four has fattened his record against easy opponents.
Farley competed against wrestlers from teams that finished first, second and fourth in the PIAA Class AA Team Wrestling Championships. Brown has twice beaten Biglerville's Trevor Hernandez, who is 32-5, with the winning margin a combined 4-0. And Wolford and Kocsis have competed in challenging tournaments.
They say the zero to the right of the hyphen has proved beneficial.
"Some kids," Wolford said, "that kind of gets them a little scared, which gives you the upper hand."
The topic of perfection is rarely discussed at Hanover and Bermudian Springs. The only time Kocsis hears about it is when his teammates joke with him.
"'Oh, I guess you don't have to practice as hard because you're undefeated,'" he said. "It's definitely something I take pride in, but as far as thinking about it, I try not to think about it."
The rise of youth and year-round wrestling in the area has made improvement easier, but it also has produced more talented wrestlers. This makes maintaining a perfect record more difficult.
"Sometimes some of the areas are not as strong as others," Hanover coach Dave Cataldo said. "I think that's due to the vast distance for people to get to other people and clubs. District 3 is lucky because everything's pretty close. I think it's gotten much stronger over the last 10 years."
McCollum is quick to point out Schmelyun trained year-round.
"That's become a big part of programs in the area that have become successful and maintained that success," McCollum said. "You don't really run into too many wrestlers that haven't spent a lot of time on the mat in the offseason. I encourage my kids to get in a club. It's almost to the point where if you're not doing that, it's difficult to be successful."
Outside programs have also allowed wrestlers to gain experience earlier. There are 39 freshmen competing in this week's competitions in District 3.
"It doesn't matter whether you're in ninth, 10th, 11th or 12th grade," McCollum said. "They're coming in as freshmen with a tremendous amount of experience. This is one sport where it just seems like there's a new kid coming along."
Maintaining an undefeated record will soon become much more challenging. If the four unbeaten wrestlers advance beyond the district tournament, they'll be competing against wrestlers from District 11, which includes Class AA team state champion Bethlehem Catholic, in the PIAA Southeast Regional tournament the next weekend in Berks County.
Brown, however, doesn't worry so much about his record, but the result. And he has one goal in mind for the next three weeks.
"No matter what happens during the season, no one's going to remember you going 30-2," he said. "They're going to remember that kid was a state champion."
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