WEST CHESTER - Prior to the season there was talk from coaches of parity in the Ches-Mont National Division.
West Chester Henderson's performance Wednesday night likely raised some eyebrows of those who expected the division to be up in the air.
The Warriors won nine straight, eight by pin, with a technical fall sandwiched in the middle, to roll Downingtown West with a 56-21 victory in the league opener at home.
West is the reigning, two-time champs of the National, and had beaten the Warriors four straight, but Henderson took the upper hand in the division race with its first win over West since 2015.
"They really beat us up last year so it was nice to show them we got a lot better," Henderson's Sammy McMonagle said. "It sets us up with a great path by beating a good team early in the season and we need to keep improving, but I think we can be one of the top teams in the region."
The Whippets (0-1 division, 0-1 overall) lost a lot to graduation, but still had some good firepower at the top of their lineup with returning state medalist Max Hale (182 pounds), as well as Chase Mielnik (195) and Pat Cusack (220).
The dual started at 220, and Cusack made quick work to give West a 6-0 lead, but Henderson (1-0, 4-0) did everything it needed, and more, to make sure Hale and Mielnik wouldn't be able to steal a lead, late.
"I thought Henderson came ready to go," West coach Brad Breese said. "Obviously they've been preparing for this for quite some time. I thought we were ready to go but we looked really flat. Maybe that was Henderson making us look flat, but everything I thought could happen, didn't happen and (Henderson) did a great job and wrestled a great match."
After Gavin Range got Henderson on the board with a 7-1 decision at 285, West's Dom Findora (106) pushed the margin back to six with a decision of his own.
That would be about as exciting as West would make as Henderson went on a pinning tear.
"Downingtown is always the measuring stick in the Ches-Mont," Henderson coach Rob Beighley said. "I'm happy my guys responded. They were aggressive and well-prepared. I liked their mindset of going out and scoring points on offense. That's how you win matches."
"All the guys pushed the pace and I knew the score was gonna be like this if we wrestled the way we're supposed to wrestle," Killian Delaney said. "We did that and showed who's No. 1."
Connor McMonagle (138) pushed the lead to 23 with a technical fall and Bobby English (145) turned a 3-0 bout into six with a second-period pin. When the ref slammed his hand for Luke Phayre's fall, the dual was clinched with four matches to go.
For good measure, Koh Bauman (160) and Mason Baldwin (170) added first-period pins to bulge the margin to 47 before Hale and Mielnik closed out the competition with falls.
"We had a lot of guys put in time over the summer," Beighley said. "They're not household names, but guys like Bobby English and Koh Bauman, they put in a ton of time in over the summer. Nobody really knows them yet, but they're work is starting to pay off."
The Ches-Mont Championships on Saturday at West Chester Rustin will be another chance for Henderson to make a statement, and it'll be a potential stepping stone for West to bounce back from its first division loss in three years.
"Hopefully this will stoke the fire a little bit," Breese said. "I don't know if we can build something off of this and try to get a little more attitude and explosion. Those are things we need to have or this is going to happen again."