HERSHEY — There is an inherent risk any athlete who wants to be great accepts — heartbreaking pain.
A year ago, Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf got to feel the ultimate payoff of that volatile investment, winning a state championship as a junior. Saturday, in the 120-pound finals of the Class 3A PIAA tournament, Zapf landed on the other side of the spectrum with a 3-2 loss to Canon McMillan’s Logan Macri.
West Chester Henderson’s Killian Delaney (113 pounds), fell victim to a one-point loss in the finals, as well, but while Delaney was able to shake it off quickly with two more years ahead of him, silver was a tough pill to swallow for the West senior.
“I expected to be (in the finals),” said Zapf. “I knew Macri was probably the toughest opponent, but every match was tight. I didn’t feel pressure. I love this sport because this is what you get, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”
In the morning session, Zapf earned an escape with 10 seconds left against Cedar Cliff’s JJ Wilson to win his semifinal bout, 1-0.
In the finals, Zapf scrambled out of a nice shot by Macri, but couldn’t avoid the only takedown of the match in the second. After escaping in the third, Zapf just couldn’t get to his attack.
“I’m grateful for every opportunity I got,” Zapf said. “I’m grateful I was given the shot, I just fell short.”
Delaney’s run was more unexpected with the Warriors’ sophomore coming in as the third-place finisher from the Southeast region.
Pitted against Hempfield’s Kyle Burkholder in the semis, Delaney scored two takedowns for a 5-1 win. In the finals he went up against Ryan Sullivan of Shaler, who lost to Zapf in the finals the year before.
Sullivan scored a takedown in the waning seconds of the first period, and that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 decision.
“We both wrestled really tight and really well,” Delaney said. “I don’t think we left anything on the mat. That first-period takedown when I relaxed at the end cost me the match.”
Delaney became the first wrestler from Henderson to reach the state finals since Jermaine Jones won his second title in 2001. With two years left in his promising career, the experience will go a long way.
“It’s a bunch of mixed emotions,” Delaney said after his match. “I’ve been thinking of each match and visualizing each one all weekend. All I think about is wrestling. It was a very big stage with a lot of people counting on you, but I don’t regret anything.”
Downingtown West’s Max Hale finished sixth and Unionville’s Tyler Mousaw placed eighth at 170 pounds. Hale defeated Mousaw, 4-3, in the fourth round of consolations, but dropped decisions to Nazareth’s Cade Wilson and Belle Vernon’s Scott Joll.
With his win over Mousaw, Hale became the first wrestler in Ches-Mont League history to win 50 bouts in a season.
“It’s a great trip and I learned a lot,” Hale said. “I’m ready to get back to work and climb higher on the medal stand next year.”
Mousaw ended his sophomore season with a 9-6 loss to Solanco’s Ben Root.
“I’ve been working for this since before the season,” Mousaw said. “As the weekend got closer to the end I realized I could place and it’s amazing.”
The sting of defeat may last awhile for Zapf, but when he’s able to reflect and soak it all up he will realize the legacy he left at West.
Zapf finished one of the greatest careers in Chester County history with a record of 156-29, tallying the second most wins in Ches-Mont history. His two trips to the finals was a feat only accomplished by one other Whippet in the history of the Downingtown district, Glenn Koser.
“It’s been phenomenal,” West coach Brad Breese said. “(Zapf) is an awesome kid and he does so much extra stuff that I don’t have to push him to do. I tell my guys I can only show them so much and if they want extra, they have to go find it. I told Doug that once four years ago and that’s the last time I had to tell him. All he’s done the last four years has been phenomenal and it’s made him what he is right now.”
In a tournament that had 137 teams represented, Downingtown West finished thirteenth.
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