Antonio Mercado isn’t just the Big Man on Campus at one school. The heavyweight wrestler and Penn Tech student is the BMOC at three schools.
Mercado just completed the wresting season for Camden High. In the fall, he played football for Woodrow Wilson. In a couple of weeks, he will play baseball for Penn Tech.
“When people play sports for their schools, they are real big on their mascots,” Mercado said. “For me, I play three different sports so in wrestling I’m big on the Panthers, in football I’m big on the Tigers and in baseball I’m all about the Tornadoes.”
This is how it works:
Mercado is a Camden resident. If he didn’t chose to attend Pennsauken Tech, which is a choice school, he would attend Woodrow Wilson. So he played football for the Tigers since Penn Tech doesn’t field a football team. And since Penn Tech and Wilson don’t have wrestling, he grappled for Camden.
“Whatever sport Pennsauken Tech doesn’t have, I go back to my sending school district, which is Woodrow Wilson and whatever sport Woodrow Wilson doesn’t have, I go to Camden High,” Mercado explained. “That’s what happened.”
This is so unique.
“A lot of people are just so confused when I try to explain it,” Mercado said.
Brett Fetty, the first year principal of Pennsauken Tech, has coached wrestling for 15 years, including last season at Pennsville.
“He is a leader in his class and everyone has great things to say about him,” Fetty said. “We would talk wrestling during the day when I saw him and then he qualified for the states – that’s a huge deal.
“He had a great run.”
Mercado, who first started wrestling as a freshman, finished second in District 27 and placed third in Region 7 to qualify for the state tournament.
Then, Mercado won three matches and lost two in Atlantic City.
“I broke 20 at states,” Mercado said proudly about his victory total."
Mercado missed a week wrestling during the season with “bad shoulders” after trying to compete through the injury.
“I took a week’s rest and the week of districts I came back and worked hard,” he said.
And he kept improving.
“As I advanced in districts and went to the finals and in regions, I thought maybe these are my tournaments because I kept advancing,” Mercado said. “I was being smarter as the time went on. Seeing all those good wrestlers, you learn how to be better.
“When I got to states, I saw a bunch of great wrestlers. And you have to be smart like them.”
Mercado lives in the Cramer Hill section of Camden.
“I just started driving in August,” Mercado said when asked how he commuted from home to school to either Camden or Wilson and then back home. “Before it would be my parents.”
Mercado is truly enjoying his high school experience – times three.
“It’s different environments in different places,” Mercado said. “Some things you experience here you won’t see at Woodrow Wilson. Same thing at Woodrow Wilson and Camden High.
“You meet different personalities and you learn different things. I see different people every day. I’m very friendly and very energetic so I introduce myself in funny ways and so I know a lot of people here.
“I meet new people and I can go farther in my trades.”
Mercado is studying carpentry at Penn Tech.
“I tried following what my dad does, he is a masonry union brick layer in Philadelphia, he is a foreman,” he said about Antonio Mercado Sr., his father. “I always wanted to work in a union like him so eventually I will try to join the union for carpentry.”
He also admires his mother, Emilia.
“Even wen she is busy she finds away to help me out in anyway,” Mercado said.
Mercado is an offensive and defensive lineman at Wilson and he also long snaps for the Tigers.
He wrestled at 285 pounds.
Mercado started on the varsity in both sports since his freshman year.
In baseball, which he didn’t begin playing until his sophomore year, he is a catcher and first baseman.
“I like all of them the best,” he said with a smile. “Football was where my heart was at first, but I love the sport of wrestling, so I will have to choose wrestling.
“I love the crowd, the crowd is unbelievable. It’s a way different experience than every other sport. It’s so different. It shows your toughness. You have to be tough in wrestling or you will get beat up bad. So it’s definitely a sport I would pick over all of them.”
Mercado is thinking of attending college to continue playing a sport.
“I’ve left my options open,” Mercado said. “I’ve always said whatever sport recruits me I will do because I love every sport I play. I’m not going to play a sport I don’t love.”
Fetty explained that students at Penn Tech can reach the core courses needed to attend college while learning a skill like carpentry.
“We are a choice school and part of what I want the draw to be is we do have athletics,” Fetty said. “We don’t have wrestling, or football, but we do have other sports and we do care about athletics.
“I want to put it in the kids heads that we do take sports serious here.”
And Mercado is just that student, except he takes three sports seriously at three different schools.
“So it is just great to have a good kid, who is a good student and a great wrestler and plays football at Woodrow Wilson and baseball here,” said Fetty, who played football at West Deptford. “I never heard of that ever, a student playing three different sports at three different schools.”
Before states last week, Fetty made an announcement to the school of Mercado’s achievement and wishing him good luck.
“It means a lot,” Mercado said. “When they announced about the state tournament, I was kind of shocked. It felt good because after announcements were done a bunch of kids in my class were clapping and came up to me and gave me high-fives.
“And on social media a lot of kids were saying good luck because of the announcements.
“Even when I came back from the tournament, a lot of people asked me how I did. A lot of kids asked me about my sports. A lot of kids come up and just talk to me.”
A lot of kids at three different schools talk to their star athlete.