Entering its 12th season on the mat, the Council Rock South wrestling team has a storied history. Starting with Rick Rappo's PIAA championship at 103 pounds in 2004 — the first state medal in the history of the school and ending with brother Billy's state medals in 20011 and again in 2012, the Golden Hawks have always found a way to win.
But even head coach Brad Silimperi says last season was a down year for CR South, which finished third in the district and seventh in the South East Regional tournament.
While CR South tied Pennsbury for the regular season trophy in Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference competition (both teams finished 6-1), the Falcons won the postseason tournament by a pretty fair margin.
After SOLs, the Hawks finished third in the district, seventh at regionals and 52nd in the state.
"We need to get back to winning districts and regionals,' said Silimperi, flatly.
Still, South sent seven qualifiers to districts in 2013 including Nick Palmer (106), Dan Martoccio (113), Harry Murray (120), Luke Martoccio (145), Tom Shaatiel (160), PJ Steinmetz (195) and Ben Kenis (220).
Of the three regional qualifiers — Dan Martoccio, Shaatiel and Steinmetz, the latter two graduated with Steinmetz earning a scholarship to Penn State.
Over the last 11 years, the Hawks have had some dominating teams. The 2005 squad comes first to everyone's mind as it won a state championship and won three SE Region belts. There've been others more recently including the 2010 team that captured both D-1 and SE Region trophies. Two years ago, the team earned both district and regional runner-up medals.
This year, Silimperi thinks he has a winning combination starting with Dan Martoccio, a district runner-up and 4th-place regional finisher in 2012.
"This group lives the lifestyle; they love to train, love to get better,' stated Silimperi. "They're chomping at the bit to compete; they're ready to go now.'
While South got off to a good start last season with a pair of dual meet wins over SOL National Conference rivals CR North and Truman, the Hawks were a taken down a peg when they lost to Pennsbury in a match that was not close.
To its credit, South won its last four league meets including a touch-and-go 32-31 victory over Neshaminy.
"Last year wasn't a building year — we don't do those; it was a learning year,' explained Silimperi. "We were learning to win and it showed at the end of the season.
"We're hoping it carries over to this year.'
The Hawks take the mat Dec. 6 and 7 in the Cumberland Valley Kick-Off Classic then begin league competition Dec. 11 at home against CR North in a battle for the Unity Cup.
In addition to Martoccio who recorded 36 wins as a junior, South is led by seniors Harry Murray who registered a 21-19 mark at 126 pounds last year and Nick Palmer, the SOL National champ who went 32-13 at 106 pounds last season.
Juniors Thaison Nguyen (285), Emeka Enogwe (182) and Ben Kenis (220) are back on the mat along with a strong sophomore class that includes Joe Little (113), Dylan Schwartz (138) Luke Martoccio (145) Nick Verdi (132) and Shane Flanagen (138). Of this group, Martoccio registered 20 wins last year as a freshman and Kenis recorded 22 in his first year on the varsity mat. Schwartz also had a nice year, going 18-14, overall.
The team also has a couple of freshmen who could see time on the varsity mat including Riley Palmer at 106 and Zach Trampe at 126.
If Zach is anything like his brother Tommy — who won league and D-1 title belts along with a regional medal as a heavyweight in 2012, he'll do just fine on the mat at South.
"He wrestles a lot like his brother Tommy — on his feet,' said Dan Martoccio. "He's constantly moving, always trying to score.'
Already, Trampe has shown his pedigree on the mat, earning a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling belt, competing as an eighth-grader at 117 pounds and taking the runner-up spot last spring in MAWA Eastern Nationals.
"He loves to move from neutral; he doesn't like to stay still for too long, just like Tommy — always keeps his feet moving always hand-fighting,' explained Dan Martoccio. "He's constantly moving, always trying to score.'
Rule changes in 2012 that affected the number of wrestlers that moved on in districts and regionals are still in effect. Two years ago, Dan Martoccio grabbed a third place medal in regionals before nabbing an eighth place ribbon in states. But last year, he finished fourth in the region and he had to take at least third to advance.
"The four of us that placed top four in the region were all returning state medalists from the year before,' explained Dan. "It was not the way I wanted my season to end; it motivated me over the summer to do what I need to get back to states and to get back on that podium again in Hershey.'
Martoccio says the first week of the season was the best week of practice he has seen in his four years at South.
"Guys are focused, they're not screwing around,' he says. "They're doing exactly what the coaches tell them to do, they're doing it the way the coaches tell them to do it.'
"And we have the best coaching staff in the state. They know what it takes to get to the highest level.
"I believe if we do what they tell us to do, we shouldn't have a problem getting back up there.'
Two of those coaches are Mike Rappo, who won a state medal at 119 in 2005 then came back and won it at 130 the next year, and Bryan Knoblauch, who took league, district, and region medals in 2006 and again in 2007 while winning a state medal in 2006.
Who better to lead the Hawks back to Keystone State gold than a pair of those who were right there on the podium eight years ago.