Staudenmayer is Southeastern Pa. wrestler of year

Posted: March 19, 2011

Fate and destiny are the words Plymouth Whitemarsh wrestling coach Nate Wachter used to describe it. That's probably why, at least in part, Wachter found time to draw his cell phone from his pocket mid-match to record a little video footage.

The star of the film: Colonials senior John Staudenmayer, wearing scarlet tights that could have been his red carpet. And if he were the celebrity adorning the marquee, Wachter and assistant coach Justin Giovinco sat in his corner as co-directors.

Last Saturday in Hershey, Pa., in the late evening, Staudenmayer staged a 15-2 major decision over Spring Grove's Neal Grudi worthy of an Oscar (or maybe just a YouTube upload) to become Pennsylvania's 171-pound king.

After meticulously working over Grudi - and after the final moments of a life without a state title had ticked away - Staudenmayer gave his acceptance speech. Rising to his feet, he liberated the accumulation of angst that had brewed inside for more than a year with one raspy, muscle-flexing scream.

"That's all year. That's even since last year," Staudenmayer said. "Today, it just all came out."

The state championship punctuated a perfect senior season (43-0) a year after what Staudenmayer considers a disappointing third-place finish. Ranked No. 1 in the state in his weight class, he was the only area wrestler to go undefeated this season and is The Inquirer's 2010-11 Wrestler of the Year for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

If Staudenmayer has a wrestling hero, it's likely Giovinco. Giovinco, 30, wrestled in college at Pitt. He lives mostly in Los Angeles working in human resources for Nestle, but each season, he returns home to work on Wachter's staff at his alma mater. Until recently, Giovinco was the only wrestler in school history to win a state championship. He did it in 1998 and '99.

Therein lies the rub: the unavoidable comparisons to Giovinco, if only manufactured by Staudenmayer himself. He knew Giovinco as the best wrestler in Plymouth Whitemarsh history, and his achievements were always the benchmark.

So Staudenmayer worked. Without peer on PW's team, he wrestled his coaches in practice.

Wachter, 30, who wrestled at Penn State, enlisted wrestlers from Drexel, where he was an assistant before taking the Colonials post three years ago, as Staudenmayer's practice partners. Staudenmayer maintained two weightlifting regimes, the team's and the one catered by his father.

It paid dividends. Staudenmayer was hardly challenged this season. Of his 43 wins, 37 were decided by pin, tech fall, or major decision.

He won his fourth consecutive District 1 North Class AAA title - something, as Staudenmayer noted, Giovinco never did. He coasted to a Southeast Region championship. He won the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in Newark, Del. He earned an athletic scholarship to North Carolina.

"I feel so comfortable with my defense, with my offense. It works on [his practice partners]; it works on high school guys," Staudenmayer said. "It's just been preparation - drill, drill, drill. It's been drilled into my mind."

Staudenmayer amassed a career high school record of 169-11, but until this year had never won a championship-draw match at states.

As a junior, he placed third at 160 pounds, but did so by working through the consolation bracket after losing his preliminary match in the main draw.

"That was the hump that we got over, and it was full steam ahead after that," Giovinco said. "He was a buzzsaw."

With such lofty expectations, Staudenmayer heaped pressure upon himself. Wachter said last month that he didn't believe Staudenmayer was mentally prepared for states as a junior. At times this year, Staudenmayer lost sleep dreaming of a state title. He constantly wondered what it would be like to win it all. He frequently asked Giovinco how it would feel.

With the tournament approaching, Giovinco had a thought. In the state finals, he wore red tights with navy, block "PW" lettering plastered on the back. Anticipating Staudenmayer's potential championship run, he told Wachter they should get Staudenmayer a red singlet.

No Plymouth Whitemarsh wrestler wore red all season. They found one in the only place they knew one existed.

"We went down to the trophy case, and we grabbed it," Wachter said.

After the win, Staudenmayer gave hugs all around - to Wachter and his father, mother and brother, among others. He stood atop the podium and received his medal.

Photos were snapped and interviews conducted. Exhilarated, his voice trembled as if he had set foot on solid ground after bungee-jumping off a bridge.

But before all that, after quickly shaking hands with Grudi and the Spring Grove coaches, Staudenmayer sprinted toward the PW corner. With a brush of blood on his teeth that matched his tights, he jumped into Giovinco's arms.


Contact Evan Burgos at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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