JACKSON TWP — Seneca Valley wrestling has been one of the winningest programs in the WPIAL over the past few years.
But the Raiders took a major loss recently.
Sean Swedish, father of incoming Raider senior wrestler Hunter Swedish, died unexpectedly in June. He was 47.
He was also the program’s most passionate supporter.
“Sean was very passionate. That’s a good way to put it,” said Larry Chappell, president of the Seneca Valley Wrestling Boosters.
He was certainly the loudest.
“Sean supported every kid on this team,” SV wrestling coach Kevin Wildrick said. “You could hear him over everyone else in the gym, every match, screaming for our kids. He was a big man. When he’d jump off the bleacher in excitement, we’d tease him and say ‘there goes your two-inch vertical leap again.’
“He impacted these kids’ lives just through being supportive. He was a jovial parent who would talk to kids after difficult losses. He’d come out of the stands, joke with the kid, snap him out of it, get him pumped up again.”
Dylan Chappell was one of those wrestlers.
An incoming senior and a former WPIAL champion, he was seeded No. 1 at the prestigious Powerade Tournament last season and lost in the second round.
“Mr. Swedish told me to shake it off, to come back and get third place. He really boosted my confidence,” Dylan said. “I came back and got third that night.
“I know it wouldn’t have happened without him. He was like a second father to me. There’d be times I’d be cutting weight, feeling miserable ... He would brighten my day. We’re all going to miss that.”
Swedish got involved with SV assistant coach Joe Montalbano’s OMP (One More Period) wrestling club when Hunter was younger.
Sean Swedish had no wrestling background himself, getting to know the sport through supporting his son.
“Whatever sport Hunter got into, Sean was going to be strongly supportive of him and the entire team,” Wildrick said. “I’m glad he chose wrestling.”
Swedish was part of a car-pool with other wrestling parents, often driving them to OMP club practices and various tournaments. He helped clean up the room after club wrestling practices.
“He grew into a friend,” Montalbano said. “He was always there. He was head cheerleader for every kid.”
Chappell is on the road a lot for business and wasn’t always able to get home in time to take sons Dylan and Tyler to practices.
“If I was running late, Sean would get the boys,” Chappell said. “He was always there like that for somebody ... anybody. He didn’t care who.”
“I loved riding with him. We’d joke and laugh the whole way. It was so much fun,” Dylan said.
Swedish’s funeral was well-attended by the wrestling community. Not only did Seneca Valley wrestling families attend, but so did some from Mars, Butler, etc.
“Sean developed many close relationships. He was a high-spirited, upbeat, boisterous guy,” Montalbano said.
Hunter Swedish was 31-13 on the mat his junior year and won a couple of matches at the WPIAL Tournament. Montalbano said he will definitely wrestle in college.
Sean Swedish will continue to be a part of Seneca Valley wrestling, however.
Chappell presented the Swedish family with a plaque at the funeral, honoring Swedish for being Seneca Valley’s most outstanding and loudest supporter.
A plaque — in Swedish’s memory — will now be presented annually to the Raider wrestling parent who best exemplifies those qualities.