HERSHEY — Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf’s facial expression hardly changes.
When he’s warming up, it’s stoic and focused. When he’s in the heat of a battle, stoic and focused.
Friday, in the second day of the Class 3A PIAA Championships, Zapf methodically overcame Cocalico’s Josiah Gehr, 5-1, in the quarterfinals to clinch a top-six medal.
Zapf (106 pounds) mixed in quick double arm raise in celebration, but that face of his, stoic and focused.
Downingtown West's Doug Zapf (Nate Heckenberger - for Digital First Media)
“I’m really excited,” Zapf said, proving his expression a lie. “This is what I’ve been working for. I just can’t leave any regrets out there.”
The junior became the second-ever medalist at West, and by reaching the semifinals — beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday — he’s guaranteed a top-six medal, which will be the school’s highest.
Eric Hutchinson (138) gave Conestoga a medalist in consecutive years, and Coatesville’s Chase Stephens (152) rallied back to earn his second trip to the podium, at the Giant Center.
Zapf is the only local left in the championship bracket and will face Nazareth freshman, Andrew Cerniglia. Against Gehr, Zapf scored two takedowns and an escape, staying true to his form of controlled, deliberate attacks.
“If my offense is on it’s hard to take me down,” Zapf said. “I think I became more patient. Sometimes I would rush and panic a little bit, but I’ve been more patient because one takedown is gonna win it here.”
Coatesville's Chase Stephens (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)
Stephens had a crushing upset loss Thursday night, ruining his hopes of a finals appearance, but the senior showed a lot of moxie coming back to win two matches in dominating fashion.
“(Thursday) night I was very, very upset with my performance,” Stephens said. “All that hard work I put in to get to the finals this year, but I knew I had to come back and get another medal.”
In his first consolation bout, Stephens tuned up Scranton’s Jacob Burnette for a technical fall. In the blood round, Stephens decked Somerset’s Austin Hemminger, to not only clinch his second medal, but break the Ches-Mont League career pins record, with his 105th. He also became the second Red Raider to win multiple medals, joining former state champion, Mike Boykin.
“Wrestling matches with one loss under my belt and another that would end my career, there was 10 times the amount of pressure,” Stephens said. “I brought everything I had and wrestled my hardest. I was able to whip myself back in shape and win some matches.”
Conestoga's Eric Hutchinson (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)
Hutchinson continued his fairytale ending of a career with a dramatic overtime victory in the blood round. He started the day in the quarterfinals, but Nazareth’s Sammy Sasso quickly pinned him and sent Hutchinson to the consis.
There, Hutchinson faced Bethlehem Catholic’s Luca Frinza, and with the score tied at two entering the rideout period of overtime, the Stoga senior worked a reversal and a pair of near-fall points to pull off a 6-4 decision.
“It means everything,” said Hutchinson, who became Stoga’s 11th medalist. “Before the match I was thinking about all the work I’ve put in in my youth career and high school career, and all that was for this moment, to be able to say I’m gonna be a state medalist.”
Three other locals — West Chester Rustin’s Brett Kaliner (126), Coatesville’s Brent Windle (145) and Oxford’s David Cox (170)— reached the blood round but fell just short.
Kaliner was on the wrong side of a 5-4 decision against Garnet Valley’s Matt Marino. Windle was edged by Scranton’s Will Evanitsky, 3-2, and Cox was shut out by Northampton’s Cade Moisey, 3-0.
Also eliminated on day two were West Chester Henderson’s Killian Delaney (113) and Jake Reid (120), Unionville’s Jake Taylor (132), West’s Nick Lilley (132), Octorara’s Ryan Sharpless (170) and Avon Grove’s Kevin Edwards (182) and Josh Walls (285).