UWCHLAN >> The Ches-Mont League waited an extra six weeks from its normal start date to kickoff the 2021 campaign, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for West Chester Henderson junior, Brett Patton, that was nothing.
Stuck behind state medalists, Killian Delaney and Sammy McMonagle, his first two seasons, Patton is finally getting his chance.
Saturday, on the league's opening day, Patton (132 pounds) produced a 7-4 win over Downingtown East's returning state qualifier, Ryan Loraw, to add to Henderson's dominance over the Cougars and Coatesville in a tri-meet.
"It gives me a confidence boost, for sure," said Patton, who was 12-2 his first two seasons. "It gives me confidence that I'm here and that I'm one of the better wrestlers."
The consensus from the Downingtown East gym was a gratefulness for the return of wrestling, and Henderson (2-0 National Division, 2-0 overall) sent a unanimous message with a 51-12 win over the Cougars (1-1, 1-1) and a 57-14 drubbing of Coatesville (0-2, 0-2).
"It was like Christmas morning," Henderson coach Rob Beighley said. "I couldn't wait. It couldn't come fast enough. The guys put a lot of time in and worked really hard since last March, doing whatever they could do. To get to compete, I was very happy for them to showcase their improvements."
The offseason work was apparent to East coach, Joe Horvath, who saw his team lose five decisions to Henderson by three points or less.
"It was clear as day, West Chester Henderson was practicing and wrestling all summer and all fall and our guys were not," Horvath said. "And our guys paid the price."
Warrior senior, Koh Bauman (189) erased a 4-0 lead to East's returning regional champion, Matt Romanelli, with a late takedown to win, 6-5.
"I think the biggest thing was pace," Bauman said. "My pace was higher, and the biggest thing I've learned since last year is how to relax more in matches, even when they're ahead. I stayed calm and knew my pace would help me."
Hampton stymied Coatesville's Brett Fick and East's returning regional qualifier, Ray Wileczek, 3-1, each, after going 19-31 his first two seasons.
"He's getting better," Beighley said of Hampton. "Things are coming together and he's maturing and enjoying it. It was good to see him get two quality wins."
East started the day with a 46-20 win over Coatesville, but only two Cougars made it through unscathed. Keanu Manuel (120) registered a pair of pins and Bo Horvath (160) followed a technical fall with a pin.
A committee will select qualifiers for the scaled-down District 1 postseason, this winter, so garnering wins holds more weight in the regular season. Despite some slow starts, Horvath was glad to at least have that chance.
"We're really happy to be competing," Horvath said. "We feel fortunate, in that regard, but our issues are glaring and it's going to take a lot of work to repair in a shortened season."
Coatesville was shorthanded, forfeiting four weights. Nate Lucier (132), who was recently ranked No. 1 in the state at 138 by PA Power Wrestling, went 2-0 with tech falls against Loraw and Patton. Dylan McGuire (285) also went undefeated with a pair of pins.
On a day where wrestlers work masks and sat socially-distanced from teammates and cleaning the mat midway through the dual, starting their grind to Hershey was most important.
"I thought it went really well," Coatesville coach Jeff Bowyer said. "Everyone has the same handicap, wrestling with masks. We're grateful and blessed to be competing in this type of environment. I think the kids are grateful to compete and it hasn't set them back. They're happy for the opportunity to do whatever it takes to compete."