Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Time is now for next generation
For the first time since 2015, there will be no returning state medalists from the Ches-Mont League at the Class 3A Southeast Regional tournament.
Downingtown West’s Dom Findora was the lone medalist in Hershey a year ago, leaving the flag to be claimed by the next generation of Ches-Mont grapplers.
While the youth of the league brings optimism for a resurgence, there are some very talented and motivated seniors looking to make the next seven days the best days of their careers.
The final two weekends of the wrestling season starts with the Southeast Regional, at Souderton High. Friday night’s action will begin at 5 p.m., with the first round and then the quarterfinals. Saturday will pick up with the first round of consolations at 9:30 a.m., semifinals around 11 a.m. and finals at 6 p.m.
The top five finishers qualify for the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey, beginning March 9.
Here’s a look at the 13 weight classes:
Five of the 16 wrestlers here back at the same weight from a year ago, including top-seeded Curtis Nelson of Ridley, who dropped from 114 pounds for the postseason. Nelson placed fourth at regionals as a freshman, and Spring-Ford’s Gus Smith is up top as the No. 4 seed, having finished fifth in the region last winter. Nelson likely gets Council Rock South junior, Connor Lenahan, in quarterfinals, while Smith looks for revenge against Downingtown West’s Brayden Sigle there. Sigle pinned Smith earlier in the season, but with four strong wrestlers on the top half, that means the losers of the quarters would face off in the blood round, making those matches even more important.
On the lower half, Perkiomen Valley freshman, Max Tancini,
is 10-0 against the other 107-pounders this season and has 40 wins. Many would expect Tancini to see Pennridge’s Colby Martinelli in the semifinals. In Martinelli’s quadrant of the bracket is the lone senior, Akahi Heywood, who starts with West Chester East’s Zach McFarlane. Heywood is looking to become the first senior to qualify for states at this weight since West Chester Henderson’s Jimmy Long did it in 2014.
It’s rare to find such a loaded and experienced bracket at this light of a weight, but that’s the case here. There are seven juniors and three seniors and two of the juniors — Haverford’s Cole McFarland and CR South’s Luke Reitter — are returning state medalists. There are three more returning state qualifiers — top-seeded Cole Smith of Spring-Ford, Pennridge’s Cole Coffin and Boyertown’s Luke Heimbach — and five others with regional experience.
Smith and Reitter should meet in quarters, as could Coffin and Central Bucks West freshman, Chris Dennis, who defeated Coffin last weekend, in a tournament Dennis outscored foes 30-0. As was the case at 107, one of those four won’t get out if they all reach quarters.
The lower half is a little less crowded, and McFarland has one of the more entertaining styles in the tournament, and Heimbach is battle-tested. With a win in the first round. Downingtown West’s Chase Sigle would get either Heimbach or Sun Valley’s Timmy Kearney.
While the first two weight classes were deep with potential state medalists, the next two are dominated by a big fish and a bunch of potential breakout stars. Quakertown’s Mason Ziegler is the top seed at 38-4 and has finished first and then second in the region his first two seasons. He starts with a 20-win freshman, Pierce Kane of Council Rock North. Also on the top half is No. 4 Andrij Szczesniuk of Coatesville and No. 5 Christian Ford of Avon Grove. Should Szczesniuk get past Unionville’s Mason Coursey, he should get Ford, who won their most recent bout. Szczesniuk finished sixth in the region, one win shy of extending Coatesville’s streak of 10 straight years with a state qualifier.
Upper Perkiomen’s Branden Rozanski is the No. 2 seed, but gets a tough first round matchup with Pennridge freshman, Quinn McBride. There are six freshmen in this bracket and five are ranked in District 1 by pa-wrestling.com. Other freshmen with McBride, on the lower half, are No. 3 Zack Jaffe of Kennett, CR South’s Pat Woloshyn and Conestoga’s Steven Wiechecki. Jaffe and Woloshyn are set to meet in quarters and Wiechecki would get the winner of Rozanski-McBride, with the losers potentially meeting in the blood round.
Council Rock North has had a regional champ five straight years and sophomore Eren Sement is poised to keep that streak going as the No. 1 seed. He’s 33-3 and won it last year at 107, before placing third in the state. Five of eight wrestlers in the top half are sophomores, including Sement’s potential semifinal opponent, CB West’s Patrick Kelly or Conestoga’s Miles Warkentine. Both made regionals as freshmen and have 28 wins this season.
On the bottom half, Spring-Ford’s Quinn Smith is one of two seniors at this weight. He’s the No. 2 seed at 26-3, having finished third in the region a year ago. Smith’s path to the finals is likely through the Ches-Mont. Oxford’s Jared Schaible hopes to get a shot at him in quarters, and Kennett’s Blake Boyer and Sun Valley’s Hunter Delaney could go for a third time this season to reach semis. Boyer is not only hoping to become Kennett’s first regional finalist as a freshman, but first freshman to qualify for states. He’s also two wins away from tying Josh Barlow’s freshman record for wins in a season (34).
Carmen Cortese became West Chester Henderson’s first regional champ in 17 years last winter, and is looking to become the first back-to-back champ since Jermaine Jones did it in 2001 (and then again in 2002). On his way to a surprising title as a junior, Cortese knocked off Boyertown’s Gavin Sheridan with a five-point move in semis. Those two could lock up again, this time more likely in the finals. Cortese is the No. 2 seed, behind Sheridan, and likely gets Kennett’s Kane Lengel in quarters.
One more win would give Cortese 100 for his career. Souderton senior, AJ Stayton, is also on the lower half. Lengel has a shot to reach states as a sophomore, but may finally have to figure out Sun Valley’s Brecken Strickland to do so.
Strickland is the No. 5 seed and draws Oxford senior, Reiland Canaday, first. Next would likely be CR South’s Ben Brillhart, and those two have the potential to meet again, should neither get past Sheridan, in the semis. Central Buck South’s Gabe Whittington is a 29-win senior on the top half who could deny an underclassman a spot in Hershey.
Seven of the 16 wrestlers here are making their regional debuts, including a couple top-four seeds. CB South’s Jake Neill is the top seed, having not made regionals his first two seasons, and No. 4 Mason Karkoska of Owen J. Roberts is a senior in his first trip. Neill earned the No. 1 seed with a 33-2 record, including two wins over Pennridge’s Sam Kuhns, a sixth-place regional placer from a year ago. Kuhns is the No. 12 seed after losing to Quakertown’s Gavin Carroll at sectionals, meaning Kuhns and Karkoska are in line to match up in quarters.
On the lower half, Oxford’s Austin McMillan is a returning sixth-place regional finisher and is No. 2. He has Henderson’s Angus Whittaker in his quad, but figures to reach semis where Carroll or HatboroHorsham’s Chris Staub would be waiting. Because of the lack of overall experience and resumé, this weight is ripe for the taking by whomever gets hot.
Quakertown’s Collin Gaj is the only undefeated wrestler in this tournament and is a heavy favorite as the No. 1 seed and returning fourth-place state medalist. The Panther sophomore is on the same side as five seniors, though none have been to Hershey. Chichester’s Blake Bryant or Neshaminy’s Beknazar Baiyshbekov will likely get their shot against Gaj in semis.
The lower half should be more competitive. West Chester East’s Max Parnis is the No. 2 seed and is heading towards a District 1-3A West Sectional finals rematch with Sun Valley’s Brandon Carr. Parnis defeated Carr last Saturday, 14-7, and the two could duke it out again in semis. Kennett’s Michael Pepe would love to deny Carr of that opportunity, should they meet in quarters. Pepe and OJR’s Skylar Davidheiser figure to hang around for a shot to advance.
There’s only one wrestler with multiple state medals in this tournament, and that is Perk Valley’s Kelly Kakos. He’s the No. 3 seed, though, having wrestled only 16 bouts this season due to a leg injury, as well as a loss to OJR’s Sam Gautreau in the North Sectional final. Quakertown’s Zach Borzio is No. 2 after finishing sixth in the region last year, and making states as a sophomore. Kennett’s Tyler Maiers is a wildcard with his daredevil style, but he’d have to get past Pottsgrove’s Trenton Allen to see Kakos in the quarters. Neshaminy’s Dan Hansbury is also a threat on the bottom half.
Up top, Gautreau has a nice path to the semis. He could see a Ches-Mont challenger, there, with Sun Valley’s Alexander Gamble-Williams, Avon Grove’s Garrett Landon and Coatesville’s Jacob Ruttman in the other quad. Landon, like Maiers, is always a threat to pin, but he drew a tough first round opponent in CR South’s Gavin Cole. Gamble-Williams edged Cole, 4-3, at district duals and made states as a junior with a fifth place regional finish.
CR South is one regional champ away from tying North Penn for the most in Southeast Regional history, and top-seeded Bekhruz Sadriddinov would be the pick to get that done. Unionville’s Topher Tryon landed in a decent spot after finishing second in the West last week. He could have a tough go against Ridley’s David Rainey in quarters.
Kennett’s Josh Barlow pinned Tryon at sectionals, but gets a brute of a first round matchup against Pennridge’s Ryan Gallagher, who made regionals as a freshman, but not last year. If Barlow gets past him, he’ll get either Conestoga’s Matt Boye or Henderson’s Jackson McMonagle. From there he could expect either Perk Valley’s Gavin Pascoe or Pennsbury’s Shane McGurrin with revenge on his mind. Pascoe beat Barlow, 4-3, at district duals and McGurrin owns a 4-2 win over him in early January. It’s a challenging, yet winnable path for Barlow, who looks for his second straight trip to Hershey.
It’d be hard to say Conestoga’s Hayden McLellan came out of nowhere to claim the top seed here, but he’s still a bit under the radar as a 98-win senior. He opened some eyes in the North final with a win over Perk Valley’s Carson Pascoe and is in one of the more wide-open weight classes. McLellan’s biggest threats on the top half are Haverford’s Luca Romasco, whom McLellan has pinned twice and majored this season, as well as Pennsbury’s Mason Keller, who starts with Oxford’s Nathan Vance.
The lower half has a couple finals options. Pascoe is the No. 2 seed with a 40-4 record, but No. 3 Talan Hogan of Pennridge is a talented sophomore who has gained a lot of experience since going 1-2 at regionals a year ago. Unionville’s Ryan O’Leary is on the bottom half, as is Coatesville’s Jack Weldon. The Coatesville sophomore will get a good test from SpringFord’s promising freshman, Mason Richards, and the winner there has a good chance to stay in the mix.
There is a good mix of senior experience and young potential here. The experience starts at the top with Strath Haven’s Sam Milligan. He’s headed to Bucknell to play football in college, but before that, he’s looking to win his first regional title after placing third last year. His half is not without potential pitfalls. Pennsbury sophomore, Walker Murray, has 32 wins and could face Milligan in quarters, and OJR’s Dean Bechtold comes in as a freshman North champ. Bechtold has a pair of sophomores in his quad — Perk Valley’s Carter Euker and Avon Grove’s Jagger Vitelli — but Bechtold is a beast on top and hopes to reverse a 5-2 loss to Milligan from earlier in the season.
Down low seems to be determined by Chester County’s finest at this weight. Oxford’s Jeremy McKinney is the No. 2 seed and he comes in with a ton of momentum in his first postseason since his freshman year. Downingtown West’s Mason Hale is No. 3 and starts with Coatesville’s Matt Luton. There’s a good chance Hale will meet Conestoga’s Jake Allred in quarters in a battle of former state qualifiers. Pennridge freshman, Ryan Rowe, is one to keep an eye on in the bottom half. This should be a good weight for Chesco.
Of all the weights, this might be District 1’s best chance to get three state medals next week. This is a as top-heavy a bracket as you’ll find in the tournament, with OJR’s Dillon Bechtold, Quakertown’s Calvin Lachman and Kennett’s John Pardo the top three seeds. Becthold placed fifth at states as a sophomore and is ranked No. 2 in the state by Pa Power Wrestling. He’s the class of the top half, though Perk Valley’s Grant Euker and Pottsgrove’s Dominic DeMeno are strong contenders to advance.
On the lower half, Lachman and Pardo both lost in the blood round at states as sophomores and met over the holidays in a bout won by Lachman, in overtime. Lachman is ranked No. 3 in the state, while Pardo is No. 7 and that is one of the most highly-anticipated potential semis in the tournament. Behind that duo, Sun Valley’s Chase Thompson and Strath Haven’s Anthony Crawford could duke it out for one of the last spots.
Always unpredictable, this weight class brings back a pair of returning state qualifiers in Strath Haven’s Ben Farabaugh and Kennett’s Bailey Shindle, who finished fourth and fifth in the region last year, respectively. Farabaugh is the top seed and likely awaits the winner of Garnet Valley’s Dylan Bledsoe and Downingtown East’s Adham Abouraya. Bledsoe won that matchup twice last weekend, both in ultimate tiebreaker. All four of the North’s qualifiers are in the top half, with Boyertown’s Cooper Gardner and Spring-Ford’s Connor Hudak expected to battle it out in quarters.
The lower half features some contrasting styles. Shindle is the No. 3 seed, behind Central Bucks East’s Joe Collins, and they are two slow-itdown, push-you-around big boys who use their size to their advantage. Then there is Pennridge’s Chase Washington, who Shindle starts with, and Downingtown West’s Troy Mack, who could see Collins in quarters. Washington and Mack are undersized but more agile and explosive. That foursome should be in the mix for a top-five spot, but CB South’s Collin Goetter is an upset candidate on the lower half.