Boys Varsity Wrestling
By Barry Sankey
@BarrySankey4 on Twitter
FRANCONIA >> The young man they call "Stevie" around Phoenixville just ended his second busy season sports season of his senior year.
Anthony Stevenson saw his scholastic wrestling season, and inter-scholastic career, end with two losses during the South East Regional AAA Tournament at Souderton High School.
Competing in the 170-pound weight class, Stevenson lost by fall in the opening round Friday night and then dropped his first-round consolation match Saturday morning in the double-elimination tournament.
Stevenson was Phoenixville's lone qualifier at regionals after placing fourth at the District 1-North Tournament at Pottstown High School the previous weekend. But several other Phantom wrestlers also had fine seasons and just missed qualifying for regionals. The top four finishers in districts qualified for regionals, and Phoenixville had several wrestlers who just missed the mark by placing fifth and sixth.
Stevenson first met Gunner Spain, a senior from Neshaminy High School and the East Region winner. Spain pinned Stevenson at the 1:23 mark Friday night. Spain wound up advancing to the championship final round, where he fell to Matt Romanelli of Downingtown East, 7-2. Romanelli, the West winner, is a junior who now will take a 35-3 record to the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey next weekend. Spain's record is now 35-9 this season, and he will also be making the trip to states to continue the postseason grind.
Stevenson completed a fine senior campaign with a 23-13 overall record. "Stevie" was one of just four seniors on a young Phoenixville squad. The others were Angelo Franzone, Dave Polanki and Bobby Krause, who did not wrestle until the end of the year due to injury.
There were 28 wrestlers on the Phantom roster. Head coach is Brandan Clark with assistant coaches Brad Clark, Micah Bollinger and Mark Houseal.
Stevenson also enjoyed a fine season in football back in the fall. He earned All Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division honors as a running back. The versatile performer shifted from his normal wide receiver position into the backfield due to injuries, and he wound up rushing for more than 700 yards. Stevenson also saw duty at defensive back, as a kick returner and as a punter for head coach Don Grinstead.
"It's been my thing offensively in football," said Stevenson. "Wrestling practice is a lot more stressful. You count on yourself, not just the group. It is one of those sports where you have to make the transition."
Stevenson is not done with sports for his senior year and career either. He plans to be a prominent member of the spring track & field team this spring. There, Stevie plans to compete in the long jump, pole vault and javelin events.
After that, he plans to study accounting at Temple University, while continuing his wrestling career at the club level. Stevenson would like to eventually earn his master's degree in accounting at Temple.
Grinstead and Brandan Clark have worked together as coaches in recent years so that both the football and wrestling teams have improved their standing as well as joining forces on their work habits and conditioning.
"Football and wrestling team are working better," said Stevenson. "It all blends together. They are not different programs butting heads."
Not coincidentally, football players Bryce Thompson, Alex Washington and now Stevenson have qualified for regionals the past few seasons, along with non-football players Polanki and sophomore 113-pounder Justin Meyers.
"A few guys got fifth and were one match short," said Stevenson. "There were a lot of tough brackets." Clark has guided the mat program for the last three years. "He (Stevenson) is an amazing kid, and he's had an amazing career," said Clark. "He did more than people expected out of him to get here. He proved a lot of people wrong. He came up short here, but he didn't come up short in wrestling. He was the first one in the room and the last one out."
Many of Stevenson's matches lasted the full three periods for six minutes of action, including his final one. That became his trademark, battling and working hard for a full six minutes. "He always put himself in a position to win," said Brandan Clark. "He made it here for a reason."
Clark said Stevenson is the kind of kid who absorbs what he is shown and immediately starts working to improve on the move and/or hold on the mat.
"He works on it until he's dead tired," said Brandan Clark. Stevenson compiled a career record of 59 victories and 39 setbacks during his four years as a Phoenixville wrestler for a winning percentage of .602 with 30 total pins.
During the 2019-2020 season, Stevenson had 15 falls, five decisions, one major decision, one technical fall and one forfeit for his wins.
As a freshman in 2016-17, Stevenson saw limited action and finished 2-4 with one fall and one major decision while wrestling at 152-160 pounds.
During the 2017-18 season, Stevenson went 13-12 with seven falls, three decisions and one major decision. Stevie's career made a big jump upward from his sophomore year to his junior year in 2018-19 as he added experience and continued to work diligently. He compiled a 21-10 record with seven falls, five decisions, five major decisions, one technical fall and three forfeits. Stevenson placed sixth at the District 1-AAA North Tournament last winter.