It came as no surprise the Ches-Mont League’s fantastic foursome of sophomores would one day be state medalists.
The fact they did it as sophomores, they as in West Chester Henderson’s Killian Delaney, Downingtown West’s Max Hale, Unionville’s Tyler Mousaw and Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka, is the part that stands out.
Now as juniors, they’re the pacesetters for a league that has seemingly grown deeper and stronger over the last decade.
“It’s paramount for the league,” Henderson coach Rob Beighley said. “Those guys representing the Ches-Mont and District 1 in Hershey, it puts us on the map. Catka’s run was incredible. Hale, Mousaw, Delaney, (Henderson) bringing four (to states), it’s really showing you that wrestling is growing. It’s always been pretty good in Chester County, there’s always been strength and tradition, but now it’s elevating to the next level. The competition level is high.”
Catka won a state title at 220 pounds and is the top dog in Delaware County, while Delaney reached the finals at 113 pounds but dropped a 4-3 decision to Shaler’s Ryan Sullivan.
Delaney (120 pounds) has 80 wins in two seasons and his meteoric rise to state finalist has done nothing to squelch his objectives.
“Expectations are the same,” Delaney said. “Last year I said I was going to be state champ but I was one point short, sadly. Same expectations, working the same as I did last year, still improving and working to get better on and off the mat. Being a state champ and going undefeated are my goals this year.”
Henderson returns two other state qualifiers, sophomore Sammy McMonagle (113) and senior Luke Phayre (152), and McMonagle and Delaney get to sharpen each other every day in practice.
Hale (170), a sixth-place finisher at states, has a similar advantage, working with teammate Chase Mielnik (182), who was a win away from joining Hale in Hershey last winter.
Districts have been Hale’s bane, with a did not place and a third in his first two go-rounds, but last winter Hale responded with his first regional title and a trip to the state podium.
“If anything it made me want to work harder for this year,” Delaney said. “I know I opened some eyes last year but I don’t want to let that get to me. All I want to do is keep grinding and keep doing the best I can every day.”
Any sense of complacency that may creep in will surely be balanced by Mielnik’s ignited drive. A fellow junior, Mielnik toured the country in the offseason, hitting national tournaments like Fargo and Disney Duals.
Seeing his teammate reach heights Mielnik strived for himself fueled the offseason tour.
“After how I finished sixth at regionals, I was pretty upset,” Mielnik said. “I knew I needed to change something. I thought I worked hard the year before, but I started working really hard to fix things. I went to tournaments and took advice to make sure what happened last year doesn’t happen again.”
Mousaw, who will start the season at 182 pounds, will likely see either Hale or Mielnik in the postseason. It’s deep up top, with West Chester Rustin’s Collin Hurley and Downingtown East’s Matt Romanelli at 170, West Chester East’s Andrew DiBernardo at 182 and Great Valley’s Ethan Seeley at 195.
In the blood round to clinch a medal at states, Mousaw went to his trademark spladle move to pin Harrisburg’s Nehemiah Diggs. The locals know it’s coming, now the book will be out on the Indians’ junior.
“Wrestling’s an evolving sport and as it’s evolving I’m changing my wrestling as well,” Mousaw said.
The targets will be on each of the returning medalists, but those challenges throughout the season will only work to refine them for the postseason.
“He’s come into this season pretty hungry and he’s looking to get after it,” Unionville coach Bill Taylor said of Mousaw. “I’m looking forward to winding him up and letting him loose.”
Coatesville’s junior Brennan McBride (113) is a returning state qualifier and West Chester East’s Jamison Eadie is the only other junior who reached regionals a year ago.
If the Ches-Mont has really transformed into more of a wrestling league of late, with youth still on its side, the league is set to stay that way.
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