COCHRANVILLE — In sports, and life for that matter, not trying is often the easiest thing to do.
With effort comes the inherent risk of failure, but, without effort, greatness rarely follows.
For Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards, just showing up has made all the difference. Whether it was a seemingly meaningless fifth-place bout at regionals last season or waking up early to train at his family’s barn early every morning, his pursuit of excellence far outweighs the chance of defeat.
“After states last year I didn’t get the same feeling I expected to get,” Edwards said. “I expected to feel, ‘alright, I’m on the same level as them,’ and instead I felt like I had a lot more work to go. I figured I had to do a lot more.”
A year ago, Edwards accepted a forfeit in the fifth-place match at regionals from a wrestler who beat him earlier in the same tournament. One week later an injury to the runner-up resulted in an unexpected trip to states for Edwards, and he wound up a sixth-place medalist.
The ante may have been upped, but getting back to Hershey starts Friday at Souderton High for the Class AAA Southeast Regional tournament, at 5:30 p.m. Five qualifiers come from the region this season, and after the two-day tournament grinds out those worthy of heading to Hershey, we’ll see where the 47 locals stand.
Also competing this weekend are Church Farm’s eight qualifiers at the Class AA Southeast Regional at Wilson (West Lawn).
Edwards is the No. 2 seed at 182 pounds and a favorite to reach the 3A finals.
“I have a lot less worry this season,” Edwards said. “Looking back at last year it showed anything can happen in any match or any tournament. I know I’m not the one in control with everything so I know it will turn out OK.”
It was the Cinderella story of the state tournament last year, but as Edwards said, he went out on a sour note. He had won a coveted medal, but he lost his last two bouts by fall and major decision.
Edwards decided to get to the next level it would take more than he had been doing. So he and his
older brother, Caleb Edwards, started working out in their family’s barn every morning. Kevin bulked up from 145 to 182, and Caleb, who was a state qualifier for Avon Grove and is now an assistant at West Chester Henderson, poured into Kevin.
“I wish I had someone who’s been in the position of where I wanted to be,” explained Caleb. “I want him to succeed and do better than I did.”
Edwards is 28-2 on the season, with losses to Parkland’s Frank Guida and South Philadelphia’s Miles Lee. Neither is in the postseason at 182.
Placing sixth in the state is not what makes Edwards a good wrestler, rather, his motivation and dedication
“He’s always been a hard worker,” Avon Grove coach Frank McCue said. “He puts the time in during the offseason and that’s helped him have better regular seasons. He’s an extremely hard worker in and out of the room.”
With the 12-man brackets and five advancing to states, if a wrestler gets to the semifinals, he will have three chances to pick up one more win to qualify. The entire tournament is double-elimination, including the pigtails this week.
Here’s a quick glance of what to watch for.
Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf is the top seed as the only returning state qualifier. He will be tested on his half with Methacton’s Corey Morabito likely in quarterfinals and Penncrest’s Dayton DelViscio and Council Rock South’s Maximo Mendez as potential semifinals opponents. Many expect Council Rock North’s Luke Lucerne to be the finalist from the bottom half, though he will be challenged by Norristown senior Justin Altrogge, or Quakertown’s rangy Josh Stahl. West Chester East’s Corey Celenza should get a shot at Lucerne in the quarters.
Boyertown’s Matt Wilde and Spring-Ford’s Brandon Meredith have met seven times in high school, and Wilde has won six of them, including in the finals the last two weeks. They’re favored to meet again for the regional title. West Chester Henderson’s Killian Delaney could see Wilde in quarters, but he’ll need to find offense to have a shot at an upset. Octorara’s Seth Hoopes gets Meredith in the pigtail, and Downingtown East’s Lukas Richie may see Meredith in the semis if the Cougar sophomore can get by Upper Perkiomen’s Jared Kuhns.
This is a minefield. There are at least eight state-worthy wrestlers here, making it arguably the deepest weight in the tournament. Pennridge’s returning PIAA runner-up is the top seed and Owen J. Roberts’ Luke Resnick is a good pick to see him in the semis. Down low, Henderson’s Jake Reid is No. 3 and will likely have a near must-win quarterfinal with CR South’s Ben Radner. The loser will probably have to get through either CR North’s Aidan Burke or Boyertown’s David Campbell to just make it to the blood round.
This is another deep weight where No. 2 Brett Kaliner of West Chester Rustin is joined by a lot of talent from the other districts. He is looking at a potential rematch with Neshaminy’s Jackson Erb, who he majored earlier in the year, in quarters. A win there would likely land Kaliner in the semis against Garnet Valley’s Matt Marino, who Kaliner’s 0-2 against. If Kennett’s Gerhardt Reiter wants to see the favorite, Jakob Campbell of Boyertown, in the semis, he’ll probably have to get past Souderton’s Brandon Bach first.
Downingtown West’s Nick Lilley did himself a favor last week by winning districts. Instead of being up top with CR South hammer, Zack Trampe, Lilley has a more manageable path to the finals. It won’t be easy, however, with tough freshmen, Cam Robinson of CR North and William Tennent’s A. J. Tamburrino, as well as Norristown’s stingy senior, Eric Fuentes. Unionville’s Jake Taylor will get the first crack at Trampe with a win in the pigtails, and Kennett’s Drew Massetti has a winnable pair of bouts to get to Trampe in the semis. If the Ches-Monters wrestle well, there could be multiple qualifiers.
Upper Darby’s Colin Cronin, a fourth-place state medalist, is the heavy favorite, with CR South’s returning state qualifier, Cary Palmer, on the other side. Conestoga’s Eric Hutchinson has been wrestling well and with a win in his pigtail, he will get Rustin’s Tyler Kaliner. The winner there has a much better chance at getting out. The loser would likely have to get by either Palmer or Garnet’s Nick Puliti, who always seems to win when it counts. West’s Alex Murta has a tough preliminary bout against Owen J. Roberts’ Cole Meredith, but a win there could convert into a semis appearance.
Two of the four undefeated wrestlers in the tournament are on the lower half of this bracket. Methacton’s Bryce Reddington is 34-0 and Coatesville’s Brent Windle is 14-0, and the two should meet in the semis. CR South’s Riley Palmer, a state medalist as a freshman, is the favorite up top and he would be West’s Gavin Hale’s first opponent if Hale wins his pigtail. OJR’s Dan Mancini and Avon Grove’s Nick Barnhart are up top, as well, and both are candidates to finish in the top five.
Coatesville’s Chase Stephens is hoping for his third trip to states and first regional title after finishing second last year. He’s the No. 2 seed and Boyertown’s Chris Berry is his biggest deterrent to the finals. North Penn’s Colin Shannon is the top seed, and Stephens is 3-0 against him in high school. Up top with Shannon are Upper Darby’s Max Livingston and Rustin’s Dan Labus. The weight doesn’t appear super deep, but there are a bunch of pinners in the bracket which could create some electricity.
Pennridge’s Josh Stillings is a returning fourth-place PIAA finisher and he’s up top, while OJR’s Ryan Resnick, is the rising challenger, opposite. Rustin’s Collin Hurley is on Resnick’s side and may face Boyertown’s Hunter Vogels in quarters. Vogels has been banged up but he’s a battler and will be a tough out in his last regional tournament. West’s Gio Angelini has a pair of tough seniors in his path to the semis, but Angelini is used to being in low-scoring, close matches.
Top-seeded David Cox of Oxford may have his toughest match of the tournament in quarters. Methacton’s Brendan Marion got upset last week and is Cox’s probable first opponent. If the Hornets’ senior can get by him, the finals look promising. Andrew DiBernardo is trying to become West Chester East’s first state qualifier since 2007, and if he’s on, he has a shot. Pottsgrove’s Ryan Finn would be waiting for him in quarters and is probably the favorite on that side.
Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards is the only one here with state hardware, but Boyertown’s Elijah Jones is the top seed and presumptive favorite. Jones wrestles every second of the six minutes and is battle-tested. Coatesville’s Sean McBride is Jones’ potential semi opponent and is in good position for a states run. Edwards will likely have to get through Central Bucks East’s 33-0 Collin Stevens. With a lot of the big names bumping up to 195, half the bracket comes in with double-digit losses.
One of those big names that made the jump was top seed, West’s Cole Zapf, who’s sitting on 98 career wins. He has done just enough to win the first two weeks and has yet to fully turn it on. If, or when, he does, he will be hard to beat, but OJR’s Nick Duliakas is a serious threat. Zapf should get Conestoga’s Kade LaMarre in quarters. Duliakas could have an interesting quarter with Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka, who has been impressive as a freshman. Catka is the only underclassmen in the bracket with 11 seniors hoping to end their careers in Hershey.
The final of the night could happen here between Upper Darby’s Brian Kennerly and CR South’s Joe Doyle. Kennerly is 31-0 and edged Doyle back in December. Doyle pinned Kennerly in last season’s regional finals. It doesn’t appear anyone can challenge that duo, but the race for qualifiers three through five will be much closer. Upper Perk’s Mike Modugno may be the best of the rest and with a win the pigtails, he’ll get Unionville’s Mike Maguire.
On papowerwrestling.com, there is at least one District 1 wrestler ranked in the top nine of every weight, except at 285. There, the highest-ranked kid is at No. 20, Great Valley’s Ryan Cavanaugh, who didn’t qualify for regionals. What does that mean for this tournament? Well pick your favorite heavyweight and hope he stays off his back, because it’s anyone’s bracket. Avon Grove’s Josh Walls is the top seed and hopes to follow in his older brother, Vince’s, footsteps at reaching states.