Downingtown East stays alive in Duals

FORT WASHINGTON — Downingtown East knew it would have to beat a top-four team to reach states.

While the No. 6 Cougars couldn’t pull it off Friday night in the Class AAA District 1 Duals quarterfinals, they have one more chance against No. 4 Pennridge today at 1 p.m. at Upper Dublin High.

East dropped the quarterfinal contest to No. 3 Spring-Ford, 43-18, but stayed alive in the consolations quarters with a 45-21 defeat of no. 7 Council Rock North.

Top-seeded Boyertown will face off against No. 2 Council Rock South at 3 p.m. in the championship finals, while No. 5 Owen J. Roberts squares off against Spring-Ford in the other consolation semi. The top four teams advance to the state duals next week.

“The thing I’m most proud of is we held our seed,’ East coach Joe Horvath said. “We were the sixth-seed and we’re still top six. We’re competing for a berth to states so I’m honored and proud.’

The Rams (19-2) were rarely overmatched against the Cougars (20-3), giving up just two pins by Billy McGinley (220 pounds) and Wade Cummings (126). They won 10 of 14 bouts and had the lead from the get-go.

East’s two wins by decision were big for both James Strommer (113) and Austin Lillis (145). Strommer avenged a pin by Jimmy Frank a year ago with an 11-8 edge, and Lillis used a five-point move in sudden victory to knock off the district’s second-ranked wrestler, Nick Beauchamp 10-5.

“I thought we could have had a couple more wins, but (Spring-Ford) is a very balanced and successful team,’ Horvath said. “We needed to find some magic, but we had some great individual performances by Austin Lillis and James Strommer.’

Lillis, No. 3 in the district, is 27-5 this season and needs 14 more wins to reach 100 for his career. To get there he’d likely have to reach the state tournament.

“It’s a confidence boost for the postseason,’ Lillis said. “I knew I could win it and I planned to beat him on my feet. I knew my gas tank was better in the end and I got it done in overtime to help the team.’

Against North (11-6), East took a lead in the fifth bout — a major decision by Brett Horne (106) — and never looked back.

Nik Zimmerman (120) had a pin for the Cougars and Jude McDowell (138) and Lillis earned technical falls.

“Coach talked about leaving the loss behind us and wrestling better,’ Lillis said. “I think we wrestled better as a team and it was a big confidence booster for us (today).’

Pennridge has seven wrestlers ranked in the district, and though state-medalist Kordell Rush (113) was injured Friday night, East will have to pick up an upset or two.

The best match-up, on paper, could be between Pennridge’s Ezra Outlaw (No. 3 at 220) against McGinley (No. 2).

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