State Championship Preview: After forgoing freshman season, Enck primed for final run at Hershey

He’s been the starring face of Daniel Boone wrestling this winter: A senior who’s racked up wins and medals, streaking along and reaching milestones.

But Jesse Enck wasn’t always on that heady ride toward mat excellence. He recalled not participating in the sport one year, his first of high-school eligibility.

“In ninth grade, I took the year off,” Enck said. “I got burned out by sports.”

Returning to action his sophomore year, Enck accomplished more in three seasons than some high-school grapplers do in four. That’s culminating in a senior campaign which will take him back to Hershey this week in pursuit of a second state-level medal at the PIAA Championships.

Daniel Boone’s Jesse Enck, rear, works against South Western’s Tom Aumen during the first round at the South Central AAA Regional on Feb. 25 in Hershey. Enck went on to place second at 220. (Rod James – For Digital First Media)

Enck’s final go-round with the Boone mat program has been marked by a 33-1 record to date, a second straight District 3-AAA Section 1 championship and a silver medal at last weekend’s South Central AAA Regional tournament. He started out the sectional tourney by scoring the 100th victory of his scholastic career — a third-period pin of Garden Spot’s Dennis Jefferis — and continuing a season-long win streak that was ultimately halted by a two-point loss to Cedar Cliff’s Francis Duggan in their 220-pound championship duel at regionals.

“When I came back, I found I had grown a lot between ninth and 10th grades,” Enck recalled. “I was a lot stronger. I came back and wrestled better.”

Success was not long in coming.

Enck went 32-11 his sophomore year, getting as far in the post-season as sixth in the regional. He followed that with a junior campaign where he went 40-5 and placed seventh at states.

“I shocked myself. I didn’t think I’d be that good,” Jesse said.

Enck will open states against Laurel Highlands’ Ian Edenfield. The Mustang junior (29-4) won his bracket at the South West Regional.

“I kind of expected to return to states,” he said. “I’ve been training a lot and working hard. I knew I could do it.”

That effort is not lost on Blazer head coach Kevin Oswalt, who’s been at the helm of the program for Enck’s entire high-school career.

“Jesse has a strong will and a strong mind. His goal is to win, no matter who he faces,” Oswalt said. “He believes he can win. It’s a strong testament to how he can be successful.”

Enck started wrestling in elementary school. He later moved to Ohio for a time, where he further refined his skills.

“Wrestling is big there,” he noted. “There’s a lot of good competition there. It helped my confidence, wrestling good.”

During his high-school years, Enck also played for Boone’s football team. Performing as a lineman both on the offensive and defensive sides, he derived benefits that enhanced his standing in wrestling.

“It kept me in better shape,” he said. “I went out there and played as hard as I could.

Daniel Boone’s Jesse Enck reacts after a last-second win against Shippensburg’s Cameron Tinner to clinch a medal at 220 pounds last season at the PIAA Championships. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“It’s pretty good conditioning when you get only three plays off. That stuff helps your endurance in a match.”

In the field of 220-pounders in AAA, Enck is one of 14 who’ve won 30 or more bouts this winter. Among them is highly-regarded Brian Kennerly of Upper Darby, a senior riding a 34-0 record who was accorded Outstanding Wrestler honors from last weekend’s South East AAA Regional.

His one hope, though, is for a rematch with Duggan. The Colt junior, a two-time state medalist, scored a 6-4 decision on Enck in their South Central championship bout.

“I’m aiming to place higher,” Jesse said. “I’m working more, refining my stuff, sticking with what I do.

“The thing now is to not get cocky. At this point, any match could be your last.”

* * *

Enck will be one of 18 area wrestlers hitting the mats at the Giant Center Thursday. Boyertown and Owen J. Roberts boast a respective six and five state qualifiers, with Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen sporting two apiece while Pottsgrove and Methacton have single representatives.

Jakob Campbell, the Bear program’s first wrestler to qualify for four state tournaments, is also shooting to become the first to medal four times in a scholastic career. He’s coming off a championship finish in the South East AAA Regionals’ 126-pound weight class that off his fourth gold-medal showings in Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA West competition.

Boyertown’s Jakob Campbell struggles for positioning against Devin Schnupp of Warwick in a 3-2 loss in the 113-pound quarterfinal. Campbell wrestled back to clinch a second-straight medal. Campbell returns to Hershey Thursday to begin his pursuit of becoming the first Boyertown wrestler to medal four times for his scholastic career. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“I’d love to cap off my senior year with a bang,” he said. “I’m certainly not starstruck about it (Hershey).”

Campbell will be in a weight class with a number of high-caliber grapplers. Senior Spencer Lee of Franklin Regional, a three-time state champ — the last two at 120 — heads the chart with a 32-0 record. And Exeter’s Austin DeSanto, runner-up to Lee at 120 his junior season, hoists a 49-0 record in his pursuit of a third state medal.

Boyertown has two other regional champs in its field. Matt Wilde is seeking a 113-pound medal after going 2-2 at states his junior year, and Elijah Jones is in the hunt at 182 off title runs at the PAC and district tourneys.

“One more step,” Wilde said. “I feel blessed to be a state qualifier.”

“Hershey is going to be a lot better this year,” Jones added.

The rest of Boyertown’s contingent includes seniors David Campbell (120), Chris Berry (152) and Hunter Vogels (160). Campbell was a previous state qualifier in 2016, while Berry and Vogels are both making their first trips to Hershey for the individual competition.

OJR’s contingent is headed by seniors Nick Duliakas and Ryan Resnick. Duliakas heads to his first state tourney off gold-medal showings at 195 in the league, district and region while Resnick, a South East silver medalist at 160, is back at states after falling short of qualification last year.

Owen J. Roberts’ Nick Duliakas looks for an opening against Downingtown West’s Cole Zapf during a 5-2 win in the 195-pound final at the South East Regional last weekend. Duliakas enters states off gold-medal showings in the PAC, district and region. (Nate Heckenberger – For Digital First Media)

“It felt good, going to Hershey,” Duliakas said. “It’s awesome. There are a lot of emotions there.”

Luke Resnick (120), Cole Meredith (138) and Daniel Mancini (145) are all first-time state qualifiers. Luke just missed making the March trip to Hershey last year after placing fifth in the regional.

Brandon Meredith (113) and Chase Smith (182) are Spring-Ford’s representatives to states. Meredith will be looking for an upgrade on his fourth-place finish at 106 as a sophomore, and Smith is making his first Hershey visit.

UP senior Mike Modugno is making a return trip to states, the first ending in an 0-2 result. Classmate Jacob Folk is a first-time state qualifier.

Ryan Finn, who’s had just a district medal to his credit prior to his senior season, represents Pottsgrove’s first state-level grappler since his brother, Pat (Class of 2015) finished second at 285 as a senior. Ryan, wrestling out of the 170-pound class, was a South East third-place finisher off a championship finish at districts.

The local contingent is completed by Methacton’s Brendan Marion, a fifth-place regional finisher at 170. Marion moved on by virtue of a second-period fall of Pennridge’s David Blanchard in the do-or-die fifth-place bout.

Preliminary-round pairings in Class AAA will begin 4 p.m. Thursday, followed by first-round matches. First-round consolations will be staged at approximately 8:15 p.m.

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