UWCHLAN — Somewhere between where Downingtown East’s Lukas Richie began his high school career and where he is now, an unannounced change took place.
For the first two years of Richie’s days on the mats, he spent them chasing giants, slaying a few on his way to making a name for himself.
Now, as a junior in his third postseason, Richie (126 pounds) is trying to establish himself as one of those giants in District 1, fending off newcomers with an ambition he surely recognizes.
“When people are going for you it’s best not to look back” Richie said. “If I can maintain pushing forward and the grind, I don’t think anyone is going to stop me.”
Richie and 83 fellow qualifiers from the Ches-Mont League will compete in Saturday’s District 1-3A West tournament at Interboro High, beginning at 9 am, joining 42 qualifiers from the Delaware Valley League. The top four from each weight class will advance to the Southeast Regional, a place Richie has done some of his finest work.
As a freshman at regionals, Richie pinned Boyertown’s Matt Wilde, who was the favorite at 106 pounds, in the quarterfinals. A year ago he knocked off Spring-Ford’s returning fourth-place state medalist, Brandon Meredith, in the semifinals.
“I think Lukas is very unpredictable,” East coach Joe Horvath said. “He’s not very orthodox and thrives in that unpredictability. That makes him difficult against a wrestler of any caliber.”
Richie made his first trip to Hershey for the state tournament last March, losing a heart-breaker in the opening round and left without a medal. He came home with a greater appreciation for the details, both in technique and with weight management.
““There are a lot of things I love about the sport, but the one I really love is that it exposes character,” said Richie, who has 106 career wins. “What I love about that is I learn more about myself every day. It’s a learning experience, balancing everything together, taking hard classes in school and wrestling every day.”
Now, Richie is ranked No. 2 at 126 on pa-wrestling.com, behind Harry S. Truman’s Gunnar Fuss. Whether Fuss is the next giant that Richie will attempt to slay is yet to be determined. Richie cruised to his second straight Ches-Mont Championships title last week and would likely earn the top seed at regionals next week if he wins districts.
One thing that is certain is that Richie is the one to beat at Interboro, and there will be eight other 126-pounders hoping to take his place on top of the podium. If what he learned as the chaser has stuck, he should be prepared in the role of the chased.
“If you win most of your matches in your high school career you’re a wanted guy,” Horvath said. “Wanted guys are ready to be knocked off their pedestals, so you have to be ready for that pressure.”
The Del Val consists of just five teams, and just two of the league’s wrestlers are ranked on pa-wrestling.com, both as honorable mentions. On paper, it would appear the Ches-Mont will be favored to do very well, as it has in previous years against the Suburban One League American Division. But that’s why they wrestle the matches.
Coatesville’s Brennan McBride separated himself from the pack last week when he won Ches-Monts, and is the only sophomore in a bracket with eight freshmen. Chichester’s Chase Whartnaby is 27-1 on the year, but his loss came against West Chester Henderson’s Sammy McMonagle, who he’ll face right off the bat in the quarterfinals. With most of the other freshmen from the Ches-Mont matching up this year already, McMonagle and Downingtown East’s Keanu Manuel could finally face each other in the semifinals, opposite of McBride.
Henderson’s Killian Delaney has pinned the last five opponents he’s faced and will have a chance to add to that streak as the top seed. Coatesville’s Nathan Lucier has a good shot to see Delaney in the finals for the second straight week, though Unionville’s Dom Chaclas is no gimme in quarters. Del-Val champ, Osvaldo Carbajal of Interboro, made regionals last year, but West Chester Rustin’s Jimmy King will be an interesting quarterfinal foe. The loser will have a tough road to making it out.
Downingtown West’s Doug Zapf is on the verge of another milestone as he sits on 147 career wins. His third straight district title would give him 150. Octorara’s Seth Hoopes is five wins away from 100 as a junior, and he will have to navigate through the more-experienced side of the bracket to make ground. Hoopes will get Avon Grove senior Jordan Howard in quarters, while a pair of seniors, Kennett’s Logan Reigel and Academy Park’s Isiah Fields, are in the other quarter.
If the Del-Val hasn’t gotten a regional qualifier in the first three weights, it doesn’t look promising for it to get one here. Freshman Aiden McDevitt of Interboro is the Del-Val champ and he is on the same side as Unionville junior, Jacob Lehman, and Octorara senior, Liam Babauta. Downingtown East’s Lukas Richie is the favorite at 30-3. West Chester East’s Tommy Luke is hoping to get back to regionals after missing out last year, and the odds are in his favor.
Unionville’s Caden Mareno got off to a fast start in his PIAA debut last weekend and has established himself as the favorite at this weight. Oxford’s Brandon Sheffield is on the opposite side and has a chance to see Mareno in the finals, but Sheffield is fighting an injury and will likely have to get through Kennett’s Gerhardt Reiter in semis, first. Avon Grove’s John Bosio and West Chester East’s Jamison Eadie may face each other with a spot to regionals on the line.
Health will once again be a huge factor here, as Downingtown West’s Nick Lilley medically forfeited his way to sixth place last week. That means Ches-Mont champ, Luke Wilson of Great Valley, will likely get him in quarters. If Lilley is healthy, he is the favorite, but Wilson had a very good tournament a week ago. He’s also on 97 career wins. Whoever wins the quarter between Henderson’s Luke Phayre and Downingtown East’s Brett Horne should reach finals, and Coatesville’s Nate Gathercole hopes to stay hot.
Chichester has 11 wrestlers in the tournament and one of its better kids, Marquell Hudnell, is here. He could face Avon Grove’s Nick Barnhart in the semis, though Barnhart would be favored to get back to the finals for a second straight week. Rustin’s Tyler Kaliner would likely be waiting. Downingtown East’s Jett Lucas-Murphy could be in line for his first regionals appearance.
Downingtown West’s Gavin Hale and Henderson’s Matt Phayre have wrestled three times since January 31, and they could meet once again in the finals. Hale has won all three and will probably have to get through Octorara’s Caden Dalton to get there as the top seed. On Phayre’s side is Chichester’s Jovani Perez, who is solid with a 25-4 record.
Rustin’s Collin Hurley has yet to be 100 percent, and probably won’t be, so it’s tough to tell his ceiling. A finals bout between he and Henderson’s Ray Martin would be compelling. Hurley comes in as the Ches-Mont No. 4 and will get Chichester senior Harrison Guy in quarters. Avery Frank of Sun Valley is also on his side and can’t be counted out. Downingtown East freshman Matt Romanelli could get his third shot at Martin in the semis up top, and has given him trouble.
West Chester East’s Andrew DiBernardo stuck to his game plan last week against Unionville’s Tyler Mousaw, making him wrestle on his feet, and the Viking has a favorable draw to the finals. On DiBernardo’s side, Sun Valley’s Ryan Catka will attempt to beat Chichester’s Noah Harvey in the quarters, for the second time this year. The loser will have a tough road to regionals. Mousaw should get his first look at West’s Max Hale, but with the Whippets skill on his feet, a finals rematch of Hale and DiBernardo seems like the choice.
Maybe it’s because his team hasn’t been in the limelight, but Great Valley’s Ethan Seeley is quietly 31-1 with 25 pins this year. He calmly won his first postseason title last week against West’s Chase Mielnik and it wouldn’t surprise many if there was a rematch, Saturday. Seeley’s biggest threat on his side is Sun Valley’s Nicholas Bailey, while Mielnik is joined by Interboro’s Anthony Zizza. Rustin’s Ethan Harkins gets Zizza first and the winner has a much better shot to advance.
Downingtown East’s Josh Wileczek and Coatesville’s Alex Raimondo have wrestled four times in high school, both winning two. Wileczek won last week, but the pair could get a chance to break the tie in the finals again, Saturday. Winning would be beneficial, as it would likely keep him away from Boyertown’s Elijah Jones at regionals. If Octorara’s Brandon Jackson can knock off Del-Val champ Mike Moore of Interboro, he should be capable of moving on.
We’ve reached the penultimate weight class and finally there is a Del-Val champ many expect to reach the finals in Dan Dumas of Penn Wood. Dumas faces Oxford’s Sam Blevins first and, should he win, West’s Chris Madanat would likely give him a go in the semis. Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka is the heavy favorite though after pinning his way through leagues a week ago.
It’s a good bet that West’s Jesse Cook will be back in the finals as the top seed. Who he may face there is a bit tougher to predict. There is not a lot of offense on the opposite side, so it may come down to the coin toss. Great Valley’s Tyler Lafferty and West Chester East’s Joseph Timm go at it in one quarter, while Coatesville’s Ayden Geter gets Del-Val champ, Faizan Raza of Chichester.
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