WEST CHESTER — No matter how you align District 1 championship wrestling, the gold medal at 220 pounds belongs to Hunter Catka.
So it was again Saturday, when the defending Class 3A state champion from Sun Valley breezed through the newly minted West section during a marathon weekend at West Chester Rustin.
Catka pinned Nate Rodgriguez of Oxford in the opener. He overpowered Terrance Averett of Glen Mills, 15-4, and in the final, Pat Cusack of Downingtown West, 11-2, to become the only Delaware County wrestler to prevail in the championship round.
“I’m surprised because there was a lot of potential for a couple different weight classes,” Catka said of the Delco wrestlers. “The matches just didn’t go as planned.”
It was an historic day for Garnet Valley, which saw one of its own, sophomore 285-pounder Coltin Deery, fall in his championship bout.
Despite the absence of a gold medal, the Jaguars won the team competition, 175-168, over West Chester Henderson.
Seven Garnet Valley wrestlers qualified for regionals, giving the program its first district title since 1999-2000 and just their second since they won the 2A crown in 1993.
“I’m just very proud of these guys,” coach Rocco Fantazzi said. “We wanted to have individual district champions, but it just shows that these guys work hard and they wrestle together as a team. They never give up, even the guys knocked out of the tournament that decided to wrestle for sixth place to get those wins and bonus points just so we could get this team title. And all the guys stayed around to support each other. To me that’s very important. All the hard work, all the time they spend together they deserve something special and they got an opportunity of just working hard and being a team.”
One of the biggest upsets on the day involved Deery, who was defeated, 4-2, in the final by Sam Blevins of Oxford. Deery won by fall in his first two bouts, bringing him within one pin of matching Matt Idelson’s school record of 27 pins in 2011.
Blevins used his savvy to prevail, the wisdom of 78 career wins serving him well. The match ended with one nostril of Deery’s nose packed with a bloody wad of cotton.
In addition to Deery, the Jaguars had another second-place finisher in Austin Fillipone at 160 pounds. The other regional qualifiers for Garnet Valley were brothers Gavin and Griffin Hollingsworth, Christopher Wood, Desmon Perry and Sam DiTrolio.
In other championship bouts, Penncrest’s Brendon Stocku was beaten by Nick Barnhart of Avon Grove, 5-4, at 145 pounds. Tymeir Bush of Chichester was defeated by Alex Pratzner of Rustin, 12-8, at 152 pounds. And Fillipone fell to Spencer Uggla of Downingtown East, 9-3, at 160 pounds.
“I got behind, then I just tried to stay with it,” Bush said. “I finished strong. I didn’t win but it’s better than nothing. My goal was regions.”
In the third-place bout at 220 pounds, Averett built a lead and defeated Matt Richards of Chichester by injury default. Both qualified for regions.
Averett was a bright spot for Glen Mills, having taken up the sport late. His only previous wrestling experience was with his older brothers. And they won.
“I’ve been wrestling five months,” Averett said. “It feels good. I made my Momma proud. And my staff and my coaches.”
Averett’s bout with Catka was an interesting test of strength, at least early. It looked a like a strongman competition, only on the mats.
“He’s good. He’s real good,” Averett said. “I shot on him and got him but I give him credit, he beat me. I’m a beast, he’s a beast. He just beat the beast.”
The beast, if you will, has wrestled just eight bouts this season in his comeback from a broken leg. Though Catka’s skills are rusty, his legs are healthy and fresh. Just as in the state championship season, he knows just one direction – north.
“He looked good,” Sun Valley coach Tom Ellis said. “He’s focusing on his conditioning. He’s pushing matches a little bit longer than what we’re used to but he’s also got to continue to progress and get in better match shape. It was stiff competition for the district level. But with Hunter he doesn’t really worry about who he has in his bracket. He’s just looking to see what he can do.”
Catka has his sights on another state title, albeit with the proviso that he’ll accept whatever fate has in mind for him. You know Catka’s getting close from the bruises on his face. That’s been his Hershey face in years past.
“That’s just from the practice room,” Catka said. “There’s a little bit of grabbing there. I felt good. I haven’t wrestled a lot of the year. So, I’m just trying to come back and work on some stuff and get my conditioning and cardio up.”
The outstanding wrestler in the West bracket was 182-pounder Chase Mielnik of Downingtown West. The regionals are next Friday and Saturday at Souderton, the first four finishers in each weight class qualifying for states.
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