HERSHEY >> A season of wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic happened, all without hardly a glitch.
While wrestling fans look forward to the return big time tournaments and full gyms to watch competitions without masks, there is a lot to anticipate in the Ches-Mont League, as well.
Coming off arguably the best stretch in league history, the Ches-Mont now faces one its biggest transitions, ever.
This year's senior class will graduate with 19 state qualifications and nine state medals.
West Chester Henderson's Sammy McMonagle (145 pounds) reached Hershey all four seasons and won a pair of medals. Downingtown East's Keanu Manuel (120) and Coatesville's Nate Lucier (132) reached Hershey three times, with Lucier placing twice and Manuel once. Sun Valley's Ryan Catka (215) finished third in both of his trips. Kennett's Trent Kochersperger (138) and Downingtown East's Matt Romanelli (172) both placed in their second trip. West Chester East's Andrew Luke (145) and Henderson's Koh Bauman (189) are considered state qualifiers after reaching the East Super Regional, and West Chester Rustin's Jimmy King (120) found his way to Hershey as a junior.
It's been a Golden Age of sorts for Ches-mont wrestling. The league has brought home 25 state medals the last five years. The prior 10 years, dating back to when the Ches-Mont inherited the Southern Chester County League, only 26 medals were earned.
Obviously District 1 can't sniff District 7 or District 11 in the wrestling landscape, but what it lacks in top-end talent, District 1 has in quantity. Within District 1, the Suburban One has led the way, but the Ches-Mont's 12 teams trail only the Suburban One's 41 state medals from its 23 teams, the past five years.
As talented as this senior class was, their off-mat accomplishments are just as impressive. McMonagle is heading to Brown University to wrestle. Romanelli is planning to wrestle at Columbia University. Manuel and Catka will compete at the Naval Academy. Lucier is continuing his career at Binghamton University. Kochersperger is off to Kutztown University.
This class has been as impressive as it gets.
That brings us to the future. Who will carry the torch?
Downingtown West's Dom Findora (126) is the lone returning state placer in the league. He gave West a state medalist for the fifth straight season, and he should be in contention to keep that going as a senior.
There are some big shoes to fill, but fortunately, there are more resources than ever to help replenish the pond. The way wrestling clubs like Defiant, Kraken, Malvern Prep and Turks Head have grown and helped elevate wrestling in Chester County gives hope that the recent uprising by the Ches-Mont is more than just a flash in the pan.
But again, who is willing and able to continue the trend?
It's hard to gauge what Oxford brings to the table, since the Hornets weren't allowed to compete in the regular season, but junior Cannon Hershey has competed for a state medal twice and should be a threat once again.
Maybe no other team in the area has more potential in its room than Kennett. Kochersperger ended a 12-year medal drought, and the Blue Demons have some young talent like sophomore Josh Barlow (152), and freshmen Joey Wuchter (113) and John Pardo (215), as well as junior Darrale Barrett (172) who was a regional finalist.
Rustin sophomore, Marek Seaman (172), was a win away from a state medal, despite not wrestling as a freshman, in lieu of basketball. Like Seaman, Downingtown East sophomore, Bo Horvath (160), may flash on the lacrosse field, but their athleticism makes them bonafide contenders.
Fellow Cougar, Ryan Loraw (132), was a state qualifier as a freshman.
The covid-shortened season did little to help Ches-Mont wrestlers, especially in Hershey, where kids from the west who had double the competitions this season.
A normal, or at least close to normal, offseason and regular season will help, but make no mistake, COVID or not, the studs from out west or up north are working constantly.
The Ches-Mont needs those kids like West Chester East's Max Parnis (120), who puts in the time outside of school, so when the time comes for those graduated slots to be filled, next year, the league picks up where this latest stellar senior class left off.