With Catkas healthy, Sun Valley off to a sizzling start

by Terry Toohey, Delaware County Daily Times

Posted on December 18, 2019

Article originally appeared here:

ASTON - If you thought Ryan Catka's night was done after he pinned Unionville's Cal Harper in 65 seconds Wednesday night, then you don't know the Catka brothers.

They never miss an opportunity to get in a little extra work, even after a 67-6 Sun Valley romp in the Ches-Mont League wrestling opener for both teams.

There was the usual cool-down jog following Catka's victory at 220 pounds. And then, after his slightly more famous big brother, Hunter, won his 285-pound match by forfeit, the Catkas headed to the wrestling room at Sun Valley to do a little more wrestling.

"We planned that beforehand, whether I had a match or not," said Hunter, the three-time All-Delco and two-time Daily Times Wrestler of the Year. "We were going to get a little extra work in and keep the sweat going."

Sun Valley coach Tom Ellis was not surprised.

"They probably came out soaked in sweat," Ellis said. "That's just the way they are. They show up early. They work out in the morning before school starts, go through a normal school day and then workout 2 ½ hours with the team after school. I wouldn't be shocked if they went home and did something else."

No word on the latter, but Ellis was right on point about the perspiration part. The Catkas were drenched in sweat when they returned to the gym some 20 minutes later.

"We need all the work we can get, especially with a big tournament coming up this weekend," Hunter said.

Hunter was referring to the Beast of the East, which takes place at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware.

Both brothers missed the celebrated tournament last year, Hunter with an ankle injury and Ryan with a torn meniscus and sprained LCL in his left knee. Hunter was able to come back and finish third at the PIAA Class 3A championships at 220 pounds. Ryan missed the entire season, save for a pair of forfeit wins in dual meet competition.

"I wanted to see if it would heal by itself, but it kept getting worse so I had it taken out," Ryan said.

Ryan was cleared before the regional tournament and could have wrestled, but he and Ellis decided against it.

"My knee was so iffy so I didn't want to risk anything else," Ryan said.

"He has much bigger aspirations so there was no reason to take a chance," Ellis said. "He ended up wrestling in freestyle states and took second there (at 182 pounds) and then went to Fargo and was one match away from All-American."

Everything Ryan did was in preparation for this season. Of course, he had a pretty good training partner to help him get back on track.

"It's awesome," said Ryan, a junior. "He's really motivating and I have the best training partner around. I'm getting the best training. I have a great coach who coaches him and I at a club, Greg Hagel. He's been a mentor of ours since eighth grade and he's been really good for us."

Ryan is healthy and wrestling better than he was when he went 26-10 as a freshman two years ago. He's 11-0; seven of his victories have been by fall and three by tech fall.

"It feels great to be back on the mat," Ryan said. "I have to give all glory to God for healing me up and allowing me to wrestle to the best of my ability."

"He looks awesome," Hunter said. "He's worked harder than anyone. He's going to be a monster."

The same can be said for Sun Valley. The Vanguards are 11-0, the best start in the nine years Ellis has been coach. Both Catka's are 11-0, as is sophomore 126-pounder Shane Holefelder. Daniel Kearney is 10-1. Alexander Gamble-Williams is 9-1, and Xain Cabalo is 8-2.

And the Vanguards are young. Of the 14 wrestlers in the lineup against Unionville, four were freshmen and three were sophomores.

"We came in and kind of knew where our guys were going to fall in the lineup," Ellis said. "We knew we were going to be a tough team. We still have a lot of expectations. We want to go to district duals, we want to finish undefeated in the regular season and we want to win a Ches-Mont championship. That's the ultimate goal. I think we finished second one year so we'll see if this is the team to do it."

Much of that success can be attributed to the leadership set by the Catka brothers.

"Absolutely," Ellis said. "Last year, there was an article that said Sun Valley could be an up-and-coming team, large talent in the room and we fell flat because we didn't have either one in the lineup. Their work ethic definitely dictates the mood in the room. It's a no-nonsense room."

In the Central League:

Upper Darby 37, Lower Merion 36 >> Arthur Odongo's 11-9 decision over Jakob Segal at 152 pounds won it for the Royals.

Patrick Kerwood (220), Mohammed Kamal (126) and Joseph O'Neill (132) all won by fall for Upper Darby. All-Delco Keito Shaw won by major decision at 120 pounds.

In nonleague action:

Haverford School 42, Academy of the New Church 27 >> The Fords won four of the last five bouts to pull away for the victory.

Benn Trucksess got it started with a pin at 170 pounds. Ian Rush scored a 6-2 decision at 195. Bill Brosko won by fall at 220 to seal the victory and Kwaku Adubofour won by forfeit at 285 to close out the victory. Jay McConnell (113) and Jac Cambell (126) were the other winners for the Fords.

Archbishop Ryan 67, Chichester 12 >> It was a rough night for the Eagles. Matt Richardson (220) and Perez Abhulimen (285) were the only winners. Richardson pinned Junior Orantes in 5:11, and Abhulimen decked Imani Bell in 2:53.

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