The quest for PIAA Class 3A Tournament wrestling medals begins tomorrow in Hershey for nine Delaware County products.
The survivors include Southeast Region champs Colin Cronin (138 pounds) and Brian Kennerly (220) of Upper Darby, who will room with Royals teammate Max Livingston (152).
“Like I tell the kids, we’re not going up there for the ride,” coach Bob Martin said. “We’re going up there to win. We’re going up there to place. And these guys have that desire to do it. So we’ll see what happens on Thursday and Friday.”
Cronin (35-1) is making his third straight trip to Hershey. Last year he lost by fall in the third-place bout to Sammy Sasso (35-0, Nazareth, North East 1), who just happens to be on the other side of the 138-pound bracket.
“I was winning and he caught me on my back and pinned me,” Cronin said. “But this year I think it’s going to be a different story. I’m working hard at it right now and I think I’ve got what it takes to beat him this year. I’m going to go out there and show my best.”
Cronin’s only loss this season is to Brock Wilson of Bellefonte, who’s wrestling at 145 pounds.
Kennerly (34-0) is coming off the Outstanding Wrestler award in the Southeast Regional, where he rallied for a 3-2 win over Joe Doyle of Council Rock South.
Doyle (35-2) has lost only to Kennerly this season. His bracket includes Evan Callahan (Bethlehem Freedom, 13-1), who was sixth in the states at 220 last year. Kennerly remembers coming up short in the so-called blood round last year at states against Francis Duggan, who finished seventh at 195 pounds.
“I was losing 3-2,” Kennerly said. “I went for a throw. Didn’t properly execute it. Went to my back, fought it off and ended up losing 8 to 2. I want to stand on the podium. I want to right those wrongs.”
Kennerly could get that chance against Duggan (34-3) in the semifinals. Duggan, now with Cedar Cliff, is in Kennerly’s portion of the 220 bracket.
Livingston (33-6) will be cheering his teammates on when he’s not on the mat.
“We’re going to have some fun up there,” Livingston said of his first trip to states. “And I could see three medals, easily. I think we’re all going to give each other hand and look to have fun up there and enjoy it because it’s our last time up there.”
The rest of the star-studded Delco group in states includes Matt Marino (126) and Ryan Mortimer (195) of Garnet Valley, Dayton DelViscio (106) and Ryan Stocku (145) of Penncrest, Mohamad Kaba (138) of Academy Park and Hunter Catka (195) of Sun Valley.
Marino’s third straight appearance in states is a testament to toughness. Like Cronin, he fought through regions with an illness.
“It’s an experience getting the Hershey bar three years in a row,” Marino said. “Now I’m just searching for the medal. I’ve got the hard part done getting to states. Now I’ve got to wrestle my butt off at states and hopefully finish off my senior season with a medal. It wasn’t an easy ride. It’s all about who’s the best that day.”
Mortimer can lean on Marino off the mats to get through his first trip to states.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mortimer said. “I want to get a state medal and I want to wrestle in college.”
A freshman, DelViscio (39-3) was undefeated until the district tournament. That trauma is long gone.
“I can’t wait to make a run at states and see how far I go,” DelViscio said. “I’m really happy. My goal forever has been to get on the podium.”
Stocku, like DelViscio, has a father who got him interested in wrestling. And a grandfather, in Carl Schnellenbach, who coached Ridley to more than 700 victories. Stocku’s father Mike, was a regional champ at 152 pounds who went to states for Ridley in 1988-89.
“My dad has been my coach, always there to help me out,” Ryan Stocku said. “My grandfather has had some health issues. He tries (to come to matches). He’s getting better. For a while it wasn’t good.”
Sun Valley’s Catka (33-5) not only has the most wins for a freshman in school history, he’s the only Vanguards rookie to wrestle in the states.
Catka finished third in the regions at 195.
“He wrestled a kid, Andrew Lamberjack, that he wrestled two other times this year and beat,” Vanguards coach Tommy Ellis said. “It was 2-2 going to overtime but he won again. He’s very calm, very poised and mature for his age. I don’t think the gravity of the situation ever overwhelmed him.”
Catka’s second-round match would be against defending 182-pound state champ Jake Woodley (46-2) of North Allegheny.
Last but not least is Kaba, of Academy Park. Though Kaba got a late start in wrestling, his finish is beyond crazy. He’s just the third Knight wrestler to reach the states.
“Going to states is an accomplishment in itself,” Kaba said. “I want at least one match and wrestle my hardest.”
Knights coach John Basile remembers Kaba’s first match.
“He was moved up from the JV team to fill in for an injury and he takes a kid down, runs him over with a freight train double and as the kid went down, as the whistle blew he picked the kid up and said, ‘Are you OK?’” Basile said. “It’s really a nice success story. And he’s as good a kid as he is a wrestler. He’s a great example to kids.”