PROSPECT PARK >> In between bouts, Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka dons a t-shirt that displays his family’s home gym, aptly called “Lab training.”
Catka, who looks as if he was created in a lab, is as built a 220-pound sophomore as you’ll find, and the Sun Valley star’s postseason has been just as impressive.
Saturday, at the District 1 Class 3A West tournament at Interboro High, Catka was the lone Delaware County champion when he majored Oxford’s Sam Blevins, 13-2, in the 220-pound finals.
“I’m pretty blessed to be able to come here and win the tournament,” Catka said. “I’ve improved a lot, thanks to my coaches and teammates and it means the world to me.”
A year ago Catka burst on the scene, taking second at leagues and districts and qualifying for the state tournament as a freshman, where he won one match but did not place.
After pinning his way through the Ches-Mont Championships a week ago, Catka used a pair of pins to reach the finals and is now 34-1 on the year. Against Blevins, the bout remained scoreless going into the second period before Catka figured out his attacked and rolled.
“I definitely needed a bigger push, going into the tougher tournaments coming up,” Catka said. “(Blevins) slowed my offense a little bit, but I started coming back in the second period and figured him out a little bit.”
Catka will head into his second regional tournament Friday at Oxford as the favorite, having already majored Hatboro-Horsham’s returning regional champ, Nick Chapman, last month.
“It’s fun being the underdog, but now I have something to prove,” Catka said.
Delco, as a whole, had a rough Saturday. Of the 42 qualifiers from the Del Val League, only four finished in the top four to move on to regionals. Avery Frank (fourth at 160) and Nick Bailey (third at 182) joined Catka as qualifiers for Sun Valley from the Ches-Mont League, while Chichester also advanced a trio — Marquell Hudnell (third at 145), Jovani Perez (fourth at 152) and Noah Harvey (fourth at 170).
Hudnell lost a 12-8 battle with Avon Grove’s Nick Barnhart in the semifinals, but rallied back to win two in a row to finish as the highest finisher in the Del Val.
“I knew I could get the two matches,” Hudnell said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘you know what you gotta do,’ and I kept my confidence up.”
Despite the tough day in general, Chichester coach Jim Beletti found a lot to be pleased about with his Eagles.
“I’m definitely proud,” Beletti said. “As a coach you always want more, and I feel like there could be other guys, if they had better days, that could’ve gotten through. We’ve had days where we didn’t get any guys to regionals, so I’m happy with the three guys that got through.”
Penn Wood’s Dan Dumas was upset by Blevins in the quarterfinals, 3-2 in ultimate rideout, but the senior responded with a win in the consolation semifinals before dropping a 2-1 decision to Downingtown West’s Chris Madanat in the third-place bout.
Sun Valley finished tied for seventh as a team, as Bailey and Frank reached their first regional tournament as seniors.
“It means a lot,” Bailey said. “I got knocked out of districts early on last year and didn’t place, so to actually place high in the ranks, it means a lot.”
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