Following a tighter-than-expected first-round win against Upper Darby eight days ago, Downingtown East coach Joe Horvath said his team needed some work in the mental toughness category.
As the No. 6 Cougars head into the quarterfinals of the Class AAA District 1 Duals, tonight at Upper Dublin High at 6 p.m., they will need to be equally mentally and physically tough.
Third-seeded Spring-Ford will be waiting for East, and while the Suburban One League has been kryptonite to the Ches-Mont League in football, the Pioneer Athletic Conference has been such in wrestling. A Pac-10 representative has won eight of the last 11 district duals titles.
The Rams bounced East, 36-19, in the semifinals of last year’s duals. The objective this year remains the same for both teams: finish in the top four to qualify for the state duals tournament the following week. The quarters, semis and consolation quarters will take place tonight, with the consi semis starting Saturday at 1 p.m. and the finals and consi finals at 3 p.m.
East barely squeaked by No. 11 Upper Darby in the first round, winning 28-27 by a criteria h. Spring-Ford, meanwhile, smoked No. 14 Haverford High, 51-6. The Rams are led by eighth-place state medalist, Ryan Hayes (120 pounds). He is surrounded by a group of solid, stingy wrestlers that wins far more than it loses. Nine Rams have been in the District 1 rankings this winter.
The Cougars are coming off the belly of their schedule, winning six dual meets since the Upper Darby contest by a combined score of 418-22. While East got no competition, it can hope its wrestlers got a little healthier and gained some confidence.
As always, bonus points and winning the swing matches will determine the outcome. There could be some interesting swing matches like East’s Jude McDowell against Matt Krieble at 138, Austin Lillis versus Nick Beauchamp at 145, James Meyer and Frankie Krauss at 160 and Alec Horne and Steven Rice at 170.
The Cougars are the underdogs, as many expect Spring-Ford to advance to face No. 2 Council Rock South, who has to get through No. 10 Council Rock North, first. If the seeds stay true, East would have a winnable dual against CR North.
A win in the consi quarters would set up a do-or-die dual against the loser of the semi at the top of the bracket, which pits No. 1 Boyertown against No. 9 Upper Perkiomen and No. 4 Pennridge against No. 5 Owen J. Roberts.
Boyertown is the favorite to win the tournament at 15-0, so if East does wind up in the consi semis, it’ll likely be against the winner of Pennridge-OJR. Neither will be an easy task.
All top four seeds haven’t advanced to states since 2011, so the Cougars will have to hope that trend continues. They’ll need to be at their best and have a little luck to survive, but East has one thing no other Ches-Mont team has at this point: an opportunity.