HERSHEY — Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka is not a fan of checking out brackets before he starts a tournament.
Even one the magnitude of the Class 3A PIAA tournament, Catka kept his blinders on.
“I don’t like to look at all,” he said. “I just go one match at a time and not focus on who I’d have to beat later on.”
Imagine his surprise when, after dispersing his first round foe, Catka saw the name of the one wrestler who beat him all season on deck, Selinsgrove’s Nate Schon.
“I was kind of excited,” Catka admitted. “He beat me early in the season and that fired me up the rest of the season. I had to get revenge, I guess.”
Friday afternoon, Catka did just that, scoring three takedowns on his way to an 8-3 decision, making him the first Vanguard to reach the state semifinals. He is also the lone medalist from Delaware County and his spot in the semis guarantees him a top-six finish.
“It means the world,” Catka said. “I’m so grateful. I feel blessed. I worked hard and people pushed me. I’m excited.”
During the second weekend of the season, in the finals of the Comet Classic tournament at Penn Manor High, Schon caught Catka and pinned him in 37 seconds. Since, Catka has won 31 straight bouts.
In the rematch, Catka scored the first takedown 35 seconds in and dictated the match against the feisty freshman.
“The last match, all 37 seconds of it, Hunter controlled 30 of them,” Sun Valley coach Tom Ellis said. “Nate Schon is an unbelievably tough freshman and he has tricks out the wazoo. He can throw at any time, so to score the first takedown, it gave (Catka) confidence and he kept building and going forward.”
In the semis, which begin at 9 am on Saturday, Catka faces top-seeded senior, Ian Edenfield of Laurel Highlands, who is 30-5.
“I’m looking forward to wrestling the best I can,” Catka said. “I’m thankful and blessed to be here and excited and ready to go.”
Strath Haven’s John Crawford was defeated by Dallastown’s Jarrett Feeney, 6-3, and was eliminated from the tournament. Fellow Panther Lee Holbert (285) dropped a 3-1 decision to North Penn’s Ryan Cody and was eliminated, as well.
Garnet Valley’s Tommy Mahoney pinned Governor Mifflin’s Jordan Espinosa in his first match of the day to reach the blood round, but was denied a medal by West Mifflin’s Gerald Brown, who won by fall.
“It was a good experience,” Mahoney said. “I’m beyond blessed by God. He brought me all the way here, but I screwed up and couldn’t get it done. It was an awesome experience.”
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