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Pope John Paul II’s Vulakh brothers lead charge to Hershey at South East Regional

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OXFORD >> It’s been a unique postseason tournament run for Ryan Vulakh.

The Pope John Paul II junior has joined with his brother in a historic run for their program, both becoming its first Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA champions. The elder Vulakh scored a first for himself Saturday, becoming a South East AAA champion at 145.

And his run has included featured finals against Methacton’s Roman Moser — and three wins, all by technical fall.

“Not to my knowledge,” he said about ever being in a similar situation. “My mentality’s been the same. Go for the pin.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Dan Mancini rides Council Rock North’s Dillon Sheehy during a 16-3 major decision in the 152-pound final. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

In their latest go-round, Vulakh got the tech-fall nine seconds before the end of the second period. He built an 8-0 lead in the first period against Moser.

“It all depends on the kid … what’s open,” Vulakh said of his strategy.

Ryan and Matt Vulakh will be adding another first for the Golden Panthers with their qualification for states. They will be the program’s first AAA-level qualifiers, Matt securing a Hershey berth by finishing second at 106 to Council Rock South’s Kyle Waterman.

“It’s going to be really fun,” Matt said. “It’s a lot more fun having him on the team.”

Matt Vulakh didn’t become Pope John Paul II’s first AAA regional champion, but he has the distinction of being its first state-level AAA qualifier.

“I wanted to do the best I can,” Vulakh said. “I now want to go ahead for the team.”

Boyertown’s Evan Mortimer celebrates after winning the fifth-place match over Sun Valley’s Avery Frank, 8-2. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Elijah Jones continued his memorable senior campaign by repeating as a regional champion. Boyertown’s 195-pounder capped his third South East visit with a 14-3 major decision of Downingtown East’s Josh Wileczek, in the process qualifying for a third trip to states.

At this level, Jones’ focus is more on his individual performance in any given bout.

“I go in to every match the same … looking to give my best,” Jones said. “I want to wrestle the best match I can, to the best of my ability.”

It’s the same mindset Jones will assume for his third trip to an individual state tournament, with the goal of improving on last year’s fifth-place showing.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I hope it’s the best one yet.”

Boyertown’s Jacob Miller tries to roll away from Pennridge’s Josh Stillings before getting pinned in the 182-pound final. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Daniel Mancini crafted a solid regional by winning the 152-pound bracket. The Owen J. Roberts junior swept his way through the weight class, following a technical fall and pin with a 16-3 major decision of Council Rock North’s Dillon Sheehy in the final on a day when the schedule was compressed following Friday’s weather-related postponement.

“It was pretty crazy,” Mancini said. “When that happens, it’s difficult to keep your composure. I just wanted to keep winning, score points and not worry about anything else.”

Mancini’s OJR teammate, Antonio Petrucelli, saw his seeding at 138 bumped up when Central champion Brendan Stocku, who won their final last weekend by a 9-6 count, had to withdraw from the regional due to an injury he sustained at Spring-Ford. He won two matches by decision to reach the championship bout, where Council Rock North’s Cameron Robinson won 8-2.

“I was okay with wherever I dropped in the bracket,” he said. “I just went out and did my thing, and got to Hershey.”

It was a jump up from last year, when Petrucelli’s sixth-place finish at the regional left him short of qualifying for states.

“I still have that sixth-place medal, as a reminder every day,” he said.

Boyertown’s Elijah Jones locks up a cradle against Downingtown East’s Josh Wileczek en route to a 14-3 major decision in the 195-pound final. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

Locally, Boyertown’s Jacob Miller placed second at 182. Miller lost to Pennridge’s Josh Stillings in the final, but the junior came away with his first regional medal and first trip to Hershey for the individual tournament.

A number of local wrestlers will have to return to Oxford Sunday to log their medal-round bouts, due to the requirement of not wrestling more than five times in a day. They are:

Third place >> Brandon Meredith (Spring-Ford) vs. Octorara’s Seth Hoopes at 120, Jack McGill (Spring-Ford) vs. Quakertown’s Josh Stahl at 126.

Fifth place >> Corey Morabito (Methacton) vs. Neshaminy’s Zachary Martin at 113, Connor Quinn (Owen J. Roberts) vs. Neshaminy’s Colton Jordan at 126.

The card of bouts will get under way at 9 a.m.

NOTES >> The top five wrestlers from each weight class qualify for PIAA Class AAA Championships March 8-10 at the Giant Center in Hershey. … Council Rock South was the regional team champion, its 137 points distancing the Hawks from neighborhood rival North (79.5). Spring-Ford was the PAC’s highest team finisher, fourth overall with 66.5 points ahead of fifth-place Owen J. Roberts (62.5) and Methacton (62.0). … Pennridge senior Josh Stillings, the champion at 182 with a pair of pins and a technical fall, was named the tourney’s Outstanding Wrestler.

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