Catka wins first bout, Delco four survive Day 1

by Bob Grotz, Delaware County Daily Times

Posted on March 9, 2018

Article originally appeared here:

Hunter Catka won by technical fall at 220 pounds in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A state wrestling championships Thursday to earn a rematch with the only guy to beat him this season.

The Sun Valley star overwhelmed Owen Verespy of North Penn, the bout stopped at 5:43 with Catka leading 19-2 at the Giant Center.

"I was pretty happy," Catka said. "There's always something to improve on, I guess. I would've liked to finish my shots a little cleaner and could've worked on top better. I didn't turn him as much as I thought I could have or pin him."

The four-man Delaware County contingent at the tournament survived to wrestle another day.

Tommy Mahoney of Garnet Valley beat 285-pounder Thomas McKeough of Bangor, 1-0, in the preliminaries.

"I scored in the third period, I got an escape," Mahoney said. "There was about a minute, a minute and 10 seconds left."

The euphoria was short-lived. In the next round Mahoney lost by fall to Isaac Reid of Kiski Area, the undefeated top seed from the Southwest Region, in 1:00. Mahoney needs two wins in what now is a single-elimination competition to bring home a medal.

"I had a good first match, I wrestled a tough kid in my second match and lost," Mahoney said. "I got my first goal out of the way. Now I've got to come out and get my second goal and leave with something around my neck on Saturday."

Lee Holbert and John Crawford of Strath Haven weren't so fortunate in their first matches.

Holbert lost by fall at 1:19 to Michael Leyland of Roman Catholic in the preliminaries at 285.

"It was a little disappointing," Holbert said. "I came out a little flat. I wasn't expecting him to do a couple moves."

But Holbert bounced back to pin Nick Morelli of Meadville in 4:51 in the consolation round, giving Strath Haven its first state wrestling victory.

After building a 5-1 lead in the final frame, Holbert let Morelli up, then tossed him for a 7-2 advantage before securing the pin.

"That was special," Holbert said. "First ever win, first ever pin at states for Strath Haven. It just feels good."

Crawford was beaten, 5-0, by Caden Wright of Emmaus in the first round. That led to a consolation bout with Methacton's Michael Blakemore, who hurt his knee getting pinned by Angel Garcia of Mariana Bracetti.

Crawford advanced by injury default over Blakemore and takes on junior Jarrett Feeney of Dallastown in the consolations. He and Holbert are both two wins from medaling. The top eight finishers get the nod.

"Good day for Strath Haven," coach Anthony Gilliano said. "Lee really turned it on. The first period was scoreless, but he really picked it up. We always teach, wrestle six minutes and get better as you go on throughout the match. And that's exactly what he did."

No Delco wrestler was as dominant on Day 1 of states as Catka. The sophomore recorded his 30th straight victory, making him 38-1 for his rematch with freshman Nate Schon of Selinsgrove in the second round Friday. Schon dominated junior Nick Nittoli of Bangor, 11-4, in the first round.

Schon pinned Catka in 37 seconds in December.

"That match didn't go as planned last time," Catka said. "I'll be looking to come back and wrestle hard. I'm just going to wrestle the same as I've always wrestled, just pushing the pace and see what happens."

Catka lost his first match at states as a freshman. He rebounded for a win but was eliminated in his third bout. The experience helped keep him through the first day of this tournament.

"It was pretty valuable," Catka said. "Coming here last year was overwhelming and intimidating. This year I'm more confident and feel like I belong here. Having the crowd here kind of helps but sometimes it doesn't. It sort of puts more pressure on you in a way. I try not to let it get to me, though."

The plan for Catka is similar to what it will be for the Delco contingent - recharge, relax and survive to wrestle another day.

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