FRANCONIA >> Downingtown East’s Lukas Richie felt a much-needed bolt of energy fire through his body at just the right time.
Downingtown West’s Max Hale, experienced something similar.
The two Downingtown wrestlers got put in precarious positions in the waning seconds of their finals bouts, but fortunately for the pair, when they called on their last ounces of guts, they responded.
“I felt a shot of adrenaline,” said Richie. “I heard everyone screaming and going wild when I scored the takedown and it got even wilder when I got reversed. I had an extra bust of adrenaline to get back to my belly.”
Facing Harry S. Truman’s Gunnar Fuss for the second straight year in the finals of the Class 3A Southeast Regional, Saturday, Richie resisted Fuss’ efforts to tilt his shoulders to the mat and survived with a 6-4 victory in the 132-pound final.
Richie, who lost to Fuss, 3-2, last winter, showed an improved arsenal from his feet in the rematch and took the returning eighth-place state medalist down twice.
“I don’t really pay attention to predictions, but I heard all the stuff about how I’d lose in the finals and that I was the worse wrestler,” Richie said. “This is what I worked so hard for and grinded so much for in the offseason.”
Hale (170) seemed comfortably on his way to his second straight regional title, leading Lower Merion’s James Lledo, 10-4, in the third period when things got hairy.
After Hale got in on another shot, Lledo hit an elevator and took the West junior to his back along the edge of the mat. Hale somehow found his way back to his feet.
“I had to use all my strength,” Hale said. “I used the rest of my energy I had left to get off my back. That would’ve been a pretty big upset for me.”
Lledo’s five-point move made it 10-9, and he let Hale up, but a last-second attempt resulted in a tack-on takedown for Hale for a 13-9 victory. Hale became the second wrestler from West to win multiple regional titles, following Doug Zapf last season, and seventh in Downingtown history.
Four other locals — West Chester Henderson’s Sammy McMonagle (113) and Killian Delaney (120), West’s Chase Mielnik (182) and Ethan Seeley (195) — reached the finals but walked away as runners-up.
The top-five placers advanced to the PIAA tournament in Hershey, beginning Thursday.
McMonagle and Delaney were thwarted by a pair of Council Rock South seniors. McMonagle gave up an early takedown to Maximo Mendez and couldn’t make it up in a 3-2 loss.
“Obviously you want to win the bracket, but I thought I wrestled a good match,” said McMonagle, who improved on his fourth-place finish as a freshman. “I gave up a takedown early and I wasn’t happy about that. It’s nice to be in the finals, but you want to be on top.”
Delaney’s match was knotted at one until Shane Hanson-Ashworth scored the only takedown late in the third period for a 3-1 win.
Mielnik fell victim to Spring-Ford’s Joey Milano via second-period fall, but punched his first trip to states after coming up a win short as a sophomore.
Seeley makes his maiden voyage to the Giant Center next week, as well, though he will get there with a sour
taste in his mouth. In a rematch of the North sectional final won by Seeley, Boyertown’s Jacob Miller scored a takedown in the last moment of sudden victory for a 3-1 win.
Though the referees didn’t have the benefit of video review, the takedown call appeared to come after time ran out in regulation.
“I don’t think it was the refs fault,” Seeley said. “I shouldn’t be in that situation. I can’t blame anyone else. I take full accountability. I just have to work harder and be able to go six, seven minutes at states.”
Coatesville’s Nate Lucier (113) used a third-place finish to clinch his first trip to states, while West Chester East’s Corey Celenza (126), Nick Barnhart (145), Andrew DiBernardo (170) and Unionville’s Tyler Mousaw (182) won consolation finals to book return trips.
Downingtown East’s Keanu Manuel (fourth at 106), Downingtown West’s Dom Findora (fifth, 106), West Chester Rustin’s Josh Viarengo (fourth, 126), Conestoga’s Paul Pelham (fourth, 220) and Oxford’s Sam Blevins (fifth, 285) became first-time qualifiers.
“Four years of work came down to one match,” said Blevins, who couldn’t hide the tears after an emotional win. “Everything came out, all the blood, sweat and tears in the practice room.”
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