Northeast Times

Historic hits

Brides­burg res­id­ent An­thony Si­wek trans­ferred to Fath­er Judge two years ago and has helped the Cru­saders pin their first PCL title ap­pear­ance in school his­tory.

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He has made the leap from con­trib­ut­ing to a tra­di­tion dec­ades in the mak­ing to help­ing start a new one.

An­thony Si­wek — a Brides­burg res­id­ent and former North Cath­ol­ic stu­dent ath­lete — is now a seni­or wrest­ler at Fath­er Judge High School. It’s only his second sea­son as a Cru­sader but he’s already helped make his­tory on Solly Av­en­ue.

The Fath­er Judge varsity wrest­ling squad earned its first-ever Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship ap­pear­ance when the team went up against power­house La Salle High School on Feb. 1.

The Cru­saders didn’t claim the title crown. They did turn in a stel­lar per­form­ance, gain­ing an early lead but even­tu­ally fall­ing to the Ex­plorers, 37-27.

Fath­er Judge stormed to an 18-12 lead dur­ing the first six matches of the cham­pi­on­ship con­test in La Salle High School’s gym­nas­i­um. The Ex­plorers re­tali­ated, though, claim­ing wins in sev­en of the fi­nal nine bouts of the night.

The cham­pi­on­ship win was La Salle’s fourth con­sec­ut­ive PCL title.

“We did really well as a team. We wrestled real tough against them,” said Si­wek, who de­feated La Salle’s Pat Mc­Gin­ley by a 3-2 de­cision in the 106-pound weight class. “The young­er guys got put in tough situ­ations, and they really stepped up.

“I think I could have wrestled bet­ter. It felt good to win, but I felt like I didn’t do my com­plete job,” he ad­ded. “I only won (on a ) de­cision, but I’m cap­able of do­ing bet­ter than that. He (Mc­Gin­ley) wrestled a smart match against me. I’m a little angry about it.”

Si­wek still has a chance at re­demp­tion. The title bout capped off an 8-2 Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League re­cord for the Cru­saders this sea­son, but they aren’t done just yet.

Fath­er Judge wrest­lers will com­pete in the Dis­trict 12, South­east­ern PA Re­gion­al, and even­tu­ally in the PI­AA State Cham­pi­on­ship tour­na­ment if they qual­i­fy. (Fath­er Judge can qual­i­fy as a team, as well as in­di­vidu­al wrest­lers.)

“Ob­vi­ously, our goal is to win a dis­trict title and go to the state tour­na­ment as a team,” said Fath­er Judge head coach Jim Sav­age. “I think this year has been one of my most en­joy­able years coach­ing. It has noth­ing to do with win­ning or los­ing. Watch­ing a group of kids im­prove as much as they have from the be­gin­ning of school year to now … com­ing in and do­ing the hard work. I’m really start­ing to see a lot of people have a lot of suc­cess.”

Sav­age is no stranger to coach­ing in the Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League. A gradu­ate of North Cath­ol­ic High School and a former wrest­ler for the Fal­cons, Sav­age re­turned to his alma ma­ter as the head wrest­ling coach for 13 years.

When the fin­an­cially strapped Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia closed North Cath­ol­ic in 2010, Sav­age was offered the coach­ing job at Fath­er Judge. He has guided the Cru­saders to two post­season ap­pear­ances in as many sea­sons and an over­all 15-4 re­cord.

“When North was clos­ing, I sat down with them (his wrest­lers) and I told them where I was go­ing,” ex­plained Sav­age. “I told them that we were go­ing to have the same type of train­ing and val­ues that we had at North. We had some kids go to (Arch­bish­op) Ry­an and some to Ro­man (Cath­ol­ic).”

Then, of course, there were the ones who fol­lowed Sav­age.

“Our coach came to Judge. As soon as he said he was com­ing, I made an im­me­di­ate de­cision to come to Judge,” said Si­wek, who was joined by five oth­er North wrest­lers. “Last year the Judge kids didn’t really un­der­stand the tra­di­tion of hard-nosed, tough wrest­ling. Now the kids are really start­ing to pick it up. ‘Sav’ (Sav­age) tells them to keep an eye on when we’re wrest­ling. Now they really get how to wrestle tough. Every­one is work­ing hard.”

Sav­age also thinks his North wrest­lers had an im­pact on the Judge squad.

ldquo;I think it al­lowed us to have suc­cess a lot faster than if I just came over here and told them how hard they need to work,” the coach said. “Hav­ing those guys come in and show them was very im­port­ant to im­prove to where we’re at.”

For Si­wek, the trans­ition offered an op­por­tun­ity to be­come a lead­er for his squad. Only in his fourth year of com­pet­it­ive wrest­ling, Si­wek em­braced his new role and im­proved his own game.

“When he was as a fresh­man, he only weighed sev­enty pounds. He was tiny,” said Sav­age. “As he’s got­ten older, he’s grown and his body filled out. He has put in a lot of time and ef­fort. His goal is to go to the state tour­na­ment and make a run for a state medal.”

Cur­rently ranked among the state’s top 10 wrest­lers, Si­wek has put to­geth­er a 68-16 re­cord dur­ing his high school ca­reer. Last year, he com­peted for the Middle At­lantic Ju­ni­or Olympic Cham­pi­on­ship team and earned a sil­ver medal.

“My goal is to make it to the PI­AA state tour­na­ment and place in the top eight,” said Si­wek, 17. “It was a tough loss in the cham­pi­on­ship, but now we’re right back in it. We’re not done yet.” ••

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You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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