Cummings, Stephens will have fathers coaching them at states

For so many wrestlers in Pennsylvania, getting to the Giant Center in Hershey is like reaching the pinnacle of the sport.

Pennsylvania has long been known as the hotbed of wrestling, especially outside the basketball-crazed southeast region. To get to states is to make it. To climb all the way to the top of the podium, well that’s like scribing one’s name into the lore of a great history book.

Today, nine locals will embark on their quest to enter one of the toughest tournaments in the country, the Class AAA PIAA tournament, and walk away with a medal around their necks.

The brackets have been expanded from 16 to 20 wrestlers in each of the 14 weights, making it even tougher to be a top-eight finisher. The Class AAA action begins at 4 p.m. with the preliminary round and first round, and is followed by consolations.

For a pair of locals, Coatesville’s Chase Stephens (145 pounds) and Downingtown East’s Wade Cummings (126), it will be a flashback for their fathers, who will be in each of their corners as coaches.

Coatesville coach Bear Stephens was a 1994 state qualifier for the Red Raiders, while Downingtown East assistant coach Darrin Cummings took second in the New York state tournament.

Wade is one of three Cougars in Hershey and is their first regional champ since Robby Fitzgerald in 2010. He is making his second trip to Hershey as a junior, and is looking to erase a 0-2 trip a year ago when he lost to a pair of medalists.

“My own experience makes it a little easier to understand that (Wade) isn’t always gonna be perfect and he’s not always gonna wrestle perfect every match,’ Darrin said. “There’s ups and downs throughout the season and we’ve all been there. I lived it first and went through the peaks and valleys and can understand more than someone who’s never stepped on the mat.’

Both Wade and Chase will have their work cut out for them to get to the podium. Wade has a winnable first round opponent in Hunter Hendricks of General McLane to set up a likely quarterfinal with Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Karam, who won the AA state title last season and has a 6-4 win over Wade in December.

“I really think if he’s on his game he can win it,’ Darrin said. “With his ability and if he goes 100 percent he has a good shot. No one in the weight class is unbeatable, and that’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. He’s put a lot of time in and has had a great year.’

Chase starts of with a prelim match against Freedom’s senior, Adam Evans. A win would then set him up with Franklin Regional’s Michael Kemerer, a three-time state runner-up. Even with a loss to Kemerer, Chase has a typically-tough, but not impossible path to a medal.

“Just to see him get on the mat is a huge accomplishment,’ Bear said. “That was his goal, and he wants to win a medal, and I want him to win, but as a sophomore getting there is a huge accomplishment. I’m very excited for him.’

Chase is one of three Red Raiders to qualify for states, which is a new school record. It is the fourth straight year Coatesville has had a representative in Hershey.

“Chase is 10-times better than I ever was and I learn a lot from him, even as his coach,’ Bear said.

Zach Dellicompagni (152) and Wesley McGuire (195) are the others from Coatesville. Dellicompagni gets the Northeast Regional champ, Kazim Bekhriyev of Scranton, in the first round. McGuire starts in the prelims and, with a win, would get Northwest champ, Trey Hartsock of Mifflin County, who was majored by Avon Grove’s Caleb Edwards last year at states.

East’s other duo is James Meyer (152) and Billy McGinley (220). Meyer begins with a challenge from Exeter’s Ethan Stever, the runner-up from the Southcentral. McGinely moves up a slot as Upper Darby’s Joshua Yeboah-Gyasi withdrew due to an injury. He has a prelim to get to Southcentral champ, Seth Janney of South Western.

West Chester Rustin has a pair of qualifiers in Brett Kaliner (106) and Costas Hatzipavlides (182). Kaliner is coming off a good regional tournament and needs to win his prelim to get to Central Dauphin’s Chris Wright, the Southcentral champ. Hatzipavlides starts with Dieruff’s Jayden Reyes in prelims, with Central Bucks East’s Evan Wilson on deck.

West Chester Henderson’s James McDonald wraps up the local contingent, and has a prelim against Pocono Mountain East’s Jeremy Candelario. The winner gets Solcanco’s Bo Spiller, who’s 37-0 and son of former Conestoga coach, Ed Spiller.

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