HORSHAM — A precedent has been set in Downingtown where an undersized lightweight can develop into one of the best in the state.
That was proved by Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf last season when he won a state title as a junior after starting his career as a 90-something freshman.
Now, Downingtown East’s Keanu Manuel is hoping to make it a trend. The freshman, who struggles to hit 100 pounds, was joined by teammate Lukas Richie as champions at the Ralph Wetzel Holiday Classic at Hatboro Horsham High, Saturday.
“I’m trying to follow a similar path,” Manuel said of Zapf. “I’m trying to gain some weight and if I work hard enough, maybe I can win a state championship.”
For now, though, it’s all about progressing through his inaugural high school campaign. Going up against kids who weighed up to 109 pounds (thanks to the in-season two-pound growth allowance and another for the second day of the tournament), Manuel came from behind in the semifinals to edge Central’s Caleb Perline, 4-3.
In the finals, Manuel made much quicker work, decking Central Bucks West’s Chris Cleland in 75 seconds.
“It’s a lot tougher and I have to wrestle differently,” said Manuel, who won a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling championship at 77 pounds last year. “It’s a whole new world in high school since the kids are a lot bigger.”
East had eight of its 12 wrestlers place in the top eight to claim the team title by 39 points over the host, Hatboro Horsham.
“As a team it helps because we’re getting stronger and stronger,” Richie said. “A lot of guys are willing to push themselves and work to become our best.”
Brett Horne (138 pounds) was the third finalist for East, but he lost by technical fall to the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament, AJ Tamburrino of William Tennent.
Richie had a workmanlike 5-1 decision over Pottsgrove’s Chase Banyai in the finals to pick up his 87th career victory.
“Any time I’m in competition I’ve been trying to improve and not just reacting, but pushing to work hard,” Richie said. “I’ve been pushing myself to score as many points as I can and not get tired. I’m trying to increase my gas tank.”
Also placing for East were Josh Willeczek (third at 195), Kyle Mittelstadt (fourth at 126), Matt Romanelli (fourth at 170), Jett Lucas-Murphy (fifth at 145) and Spencer Uggla (seventh at 160).
Avon Grove was fourth in the standings with six medalists, including a pair of finalists. Jordan Howard (120) finished second after a 3-0 loss to Abington’s Jake Rose, while Nick Barnhart was out-funked, 6-5, by Lower Merion’s James Lledo in the 145-pound final.
The Red Devils got an eighth from Jacob Armstrong (126), third from John Bosio (132), sixth from Ryan Santos (195) and third from Chris Buonocore (182), who went 4-0 on day two.
“It helps a lot because last year I was just JV,” Buonocore said. “This helps build confidence as I get ready for the postseason.”
Conestoga only brought nine wrestlers and placed placed two, both as runner-ups. Talented freshman Morgan Lowland (113) dropped a 3-1 decision to Perkiomen Valley’s PJ Kakos in the finals, while Paul Pelham (220) was cradled up by Hatboro’s returning regional champ Nick Chapman, who has now pinned all 14 of his opponents this season.
“It’s disappointing,” Pelham said. “Last year I didn’t wrestle the postseason due to injury but wrestling a state qualifier helps me gauge where I’m at and what I can expect in the postseason.”
1. Downingtown East, 175; 2. Hatboro Horsham, 136; 3. William Tennent, 126.5; 4. Avon Grove, 124; 5. Springside Chestnut Hill, 119; 6. Pennsbury, 116.5; 7. Bensalem, 109; 8. Wissahickon, 108; 9. Perkiomen Valley, 98; 10. Abington, 95.5; 19. Conestoga, 67
106- Manuel (Downingtown East) pinned Cleland (CB West), 1:15
113- Kakos (Perk Valley) dec. Lofland (Conestoga), 3-1
120- Rose (Abington) dec. Howard (Avon Grove), 3-0
126- Colella (William Tennent) dec. Purcell (Springside Chestnut Hill), 4-2 SV
132- Richie (Downingtown East) dec. Banyai (Pottsgrove), 5-1
138- Tamburrino (William Tennent) tech. fall Horne (Downingtown East), 16-0
145- Lledo (Lower Merion) dec. Barnhart (Avon Grove), 6-5
152- Anderson (Central) dec. Martin (Abington), 5-3
160- Senderling (Wissahickon) dec. Arnold (Westerfield), 3-2 UTB
170- Dav. Esenov (Bensalem) dec. Novak (Upper Dublin), 10-4
182- Clements (William Tennent) tech. fall Grier (Hatboro Horsham), 15-0
195- Coles (Northeast) dec. Aladinov (William Tennent), 3-2
220- N. Chapman (Hatboro Horsham) pinned Pelham (Conestoga), 2:44
285- Cooper (Bensalem) pinned Petro (CB East), 1:22
106- Perline (Central) dec. McGurrin (Pennsbury), 6-4
113- Rainey (Ridley) dec. Andrews (Abington), 6-1
120- Hodges (Lower Merion) tech. fall Sithens (Pottsgrove), 17-1
126- Martoccio (Pennsbury) pinned Mittelstadt (Downingtown East), 2:50
132- Bosio (Avon Grove) dec. McGrath (Ridley), 3-1
138- Rubino (Northeast) pinned Showaker (CB South), 4:59
145- Polinchock (CB South) dec. Mallon (Hatboro Horsham), 10-4
152- Hugee (Springside Chestnut Hill) pinned Stehman (Cheltenham), :51
160- Dan Esenov (Bensalem) maj. dec. P. Chapman (Hatboro Horsham), 13-1
170- Needleman (Hatboro Horsham) dec. Romanelli (Downingtown East), 5-3
182- Buonocore (Avon Grove) maj. dec. Myers (Ephrata), 9-1
195- Wileczek (Downingtown East) maj. dec. Lee (Pennsbury), 8-0
220- Hieber (CB West) dec. McLeod (Pottsgrove), 4-3
285- McCann (Springside Chestnut Hill) dec. Thompson (Wissahickon), 3-1
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