Rappo vows to buckle down and win states

Council Rock South's Billy Rappo pins North Penn's Joey O'Brien in a District 1 North semifinal.
Council Rock South's Billy Rappo pins North Penn's Joey O'Brien in a District 1 North semifinal. (LOU RABITO / Staff)
Posted: February 27, 2012

Fifty-six wrestlers will move on to the PIAA championships after next weekend's Southeast Regional tournament.

You can bet one of those wrestlers will be Billy Rappo, the Council Rock South senior 113-pounder, who enters the regional with something on his resume no other wrestler in the field has: a state championship.

It makes Rappo's journey through this year's postseason unique among local grapplers. Rappo already has reached the mountaintop, last season claiming state gold at 103 pounds. For him, it's about maintenance, not ascension.

Since that victory in Hershey, he has lost but two high school matches. This year, gunning for a title at 113 pounds, Rappo - ranked No. 1 in the state in almost any poll - has eased to sectional and district titles. For guys such as Rappo though, this time of the year is about nitpicking. Fine-tuning all the loose ends.

When Rappo (35-2) emerged from his first-round match in districts with a mundane 6-2 win by decision over Pennridge's Ben Ross, the reigning state champion found something to gripe about.

"I didn't control my weight right, so I was really sloppy - actually almost lost," Rappo said. ". . . I've got to do my weight right, still have to get into better shape so I can last longer into matches and pushing the pace. Always things to improve on."

Rappo said he ate and drank too much, then waited a bit too long to cut those excess pounds in time to make weight for the tourney. No word on why Rappo was sluggish in his preparation for the event, the second-to-last qualifier for the PIAAs on March 8-10.

But try this: For a guy who rarely loses, could complacency be creeping in?

"You know, sometimes," South coach Brad Silimperi conceded. "It gets hard on everybody this time of year, making weight. Anybody can make that mistake. I don't care if you're a state champion or a new guy, if you don't do your weight right, all that training and all the sacrifice you make all year goes down the drain."

Rappo rebounded well, and cruised to his second consecutive D-1 North title with a win by pin in the semifinals and a major decision in the final. Silimperi doesn't believe anyone in the state can knock off Rappo, if he's in top shape.

Rappo, after his self-described sloppy opener this past weekend, sounds ready to accept that onus.

"You've got to do the little things to do the big things," he said. "Got to keep on going until I win another state title."

It is difficult to imagine Rappo not winning the regional title, but it's unfathomable to think he won't place in the top four at the event, thus clinching a return trip to Hershey. Check those weight problems off the list of matters to get in order.

"It's going to be a great run," Silimperi said. "We'll take it one week at a time, though."

More weighty issues

Norristown junior Zach Fuentes, who wrestled at 113 pounds for the vast majority of the season, recently dropped to 106 pounds for the playoff push.

The move has worked well for Fuentes, who claimed both sectional and district titles the last two weeks. He placed fourth overall in last year's state tournament. Staying at 113 pounds, where Rappo leads a stacked class of contenders, would have somewhat marginalized Fuentes.

With the drop, Fuentes moves to the front of the pack entering regionals. He claimed his first district crown by handing Pennridge's Scott Parker his first loss of the year on Saturday.

"I feel like I had weight to lose - unlike some kids who are at 113 [pounds], they're stepping down from 125," Fuentes said. ". . . I felt like I had more weight to lose, so why not lose it? It may be worth it in the end."

Contact Evan Burgos

at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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