ASTON – A lot of people in the wrestling community wondered just how good Sun Valley would be in the post-Catka era.
It was a legitimate question. Hunter and Ryan Catka set the bar pretty high.
Hunter Catka went 134-9 in his four years with the Vanguards. He was a four-time state qualifier, a four-time All-Delco, three-time Wrestler of the Year and a three-time PIAA Class 3A medalist, winning gold as a sophomore and senior and bronze as a junior. He capped his career with a 42-0 record as a senior before taking his talents to Virginia Tech.
Ryan Catka was 87-14 in his career and finished third twice at the PIAA championships. Only an injury as a sophomore prevented him from winning 100 matches and another state medal. The three-time All-Delco and the 2021 Daily Times Wrestler of the Year is a freshman at the Naval Academy
Judging by the way Sun Valley has started the season, the Vanguards are doing just fine. Sun Valley finished fourth at the Bear Duals at Boyertown, won the Howdy Duncan and Phil Carbonetta tournaments and opened Ches-Mont League American Division play with an impressive 56-9 victory over Oxford Wednesday in its first home match of the season.
“The Catkas showed us what greatness is,” junior Alexander Gamble-Williams said. “We’re trying to carry on that tradition.”
The Vanguards are 5-2 overall and ranked ninth in District 1 by Pa-Wrestling.com. Their only losses were to Easton and Garnet Valley, which is ranked fourth in District 1. Senior Shane Holefelder is ranked third at 126 pounds, and Gamble-Williams (145) and Chase Thompson (189) are honorable mention in the district rankings.
Holefelder is 14-0 after he moved up and won at 120 pounds Wednesday. Gamble-Williams has a 13-1 record. Thompson is 13-2. Brothers Daniel and Timothy Kearney have 10 wins each. Anthony Laird is 8-2 after his victory against the Hornets.
“This is probably my deepest team,” Sun Valley coach Tom Ellis said. “Every one of our wrestlers has at least five years of experience. I’ve always said that the Catkas were big for our program. They put us on the state and regional stage, and that’s something we want to continue. We want to be a factor on the regional level year in and year out.”
Gamble-Williams set the tone against the Hornets, who were missing starters Austin McMillian (132), Chris Bender (152) and Nate Vance (172). Gamble-Williams pinned Matt Blair in in the first period (1:46) to open the match.
“It’s always about setting the tone,” Gamble-Williams said. “I wanted to get everyone hyped up, get everyone going.”
Xavier Alarcon got Oxford even with a second-period pin at 152, but it was all Sun Valley after that. R.J. Barlow and Alex Alvarez followed with wins by major decision. Then Thompson beat Jeremy McKinney, 8-3, in a battle of wrestlers who are receiving votes at 189 pounds.
The win extended Thompson’s winning streak to six matches. He rallied from a 3-0 deficit. He had a reversal and an escape to tie the match, took the lead on a takedown and put it away with three near-fall points.
“That was big for me,” Thompson said. “My biggest match of the year. I knew I was going to wrestle him. Coach Tom Ellis prepared me all week for it and I was ready. I was really proud of the way I wrestled.”
From that point the Vanguards sandwiched pins by Anthony Laird (215), Ronald Weaver (285), Tim Kearney (113) and Holefelder (120) around John Deorio’s forfeit win at 106 to break the match open. David Voshel closed out the victory with a nine-second pin at 138.
“We’re getting better and better every day,” Holefelder said. “We put the work in during the offseason and it’s beginning to pay off. We have a good team and we want to get that recognition at the regional and state level.”
The word is quickly starting to spread that the Vanguards are still a team to be reckoned with.
“Tom does a great job,” said Oxford coach Tony Fabri, who is in his first season after seven years at Ridley. “He’s really brought this program a long way. They’ve got a sound team. They really gave it to us today.”
In the Central League:
Haverford 48, Springfield 24 >> Moving up to 120 pounds agrees with Cole McFarland. The All-Delco wrestler needed just 18 seconds to record his second straight pin at that weight class. He is 8-0 at 120 with seven victories by fall.
Ryan Morris (126), Eddie Davis (160) and Jon Harwood (189) also won by fall, while Brenna Kramp (132), Kyle Bell (152) and Luca Romansco (172) were victorious by major decision.
Stephen Scott (138), Rish Nasir (145) and Kannon Sanders (215) won by pin for the Cougars.
Garnet Valley 65, Penncrest 9 >> Nolan Carroll (120), Shane Layer (126), Matt Ricci (132), Daniel Husain (145), Shane Olinger (160), Jared Park (172) and Sam DiTrolio (189) all recorded first-period pins for the Jaguars. Ricci needed just 14 seconds to win his match.
Mark Emery (138) and Nicholas Mahoney (285) also won by fall for GV.
Liam Stauffer won by fall at 215 and Nikko Partsanakis pulled out a 4-1 victory over C.J. Wood at 152 to pace the Lions.
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