The core message that came from the six locals who placed at the East Super Regional tournament, last Saturday, was just getting to the state podium was not enough.
Finishing top four from the super regional locked in their trips to the podium, last week.
Saturday, in the Class 3A PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey, climbing the podium is the objective. All eight contestants in each bracket have guaranteed medals, meaning someone in each bracket will go 0-3 and still walk away with an eighth-place finish.
For Downingtown East's Keanu Manuel (120 pounds) and Matt Romanelli (172), Downingtown West's Dom Findora (126), Coatesville's Nate Lucier (132), Kennett's Trent Kochersperger (138) and West Chester Henderson's Sammy McMonagle (145), getting to Hershey was no easy task, but finding wins there will be much tougher, with the lion's share of the talent coming from the West super regional.
Once again, the tournament will be split, with the 106-138-pound weight classes beginning at 8:30 a.m., and 145-285 kicking off at 12:30 p.m. The lighter guys will come back for the consolation semifinals at 4 p.m., with the finals and placing matches at 5 p.m. The bigger guys will be back with a 7 p.m. consolation semifinal round, followed by the finals/placing at 8 p.m.
Here is a glance at each local's quest for a state title:
In his third and final trip to Hershey, Manuel is getting his first state medal. He became the first Cougar to earn hardware since Wade Cummings in 2016. It wasn't exactly a pleasant feat, as he advanced after being illegally slammed on his head and neck by Bethlehem Liberty's Javien DeLeon in the East consolation semifinals. Manuel begins with West champ, Mac Church of Waynesburg Central, who took third at 106 pounds last year and is ranked No. 7 in the country by MatScouts on rofkin.com. There are no easy bouts in this bracket, but for Manuel to make any moves, he has to find a way to pull the trigger and get that takedown. In his four career losses in Hershey, Manuel has a combined three points.
Dom Findora, 126, Junior, Downingtown West, 12-1, E-2
Findora is three-for-three in trips to Hershey, and this will be the first where he leaves with a medal around his neck. That makes it five straight years a Whippet has placed at states. Findora suffered his first loss of the season last week to Bethlehem Catholic's Tyler Kasak, who's ranked No. 13 in the country at 120. That setback created a rematch against Hempfield's Ethan Berginc, who beat Findora last year on his way to a state title. Revenge would not come easy, but it would set up a likely semifinal against another former state champ, No. 12 Carter Dibert of Franklin Regional, who won it as a sophomore and took third last year. There are four returning state medalists in this bracket, and Central Mountain freshman, Luke Simcox, beat two of them a week ago. Findora has his work cut out for him, but he has the talent to do some climbing.
Nate Lucier, 132, Senior, Coatesville, 17-0, E-1
Lucier became the third two-time state medalist in school history, joining Mike Boykin and Chase Stephens. He will look to improve on his sixth-place finish a year ago, and is in position to do so as the only wrestler in his half of the bracket who has been to states before. That fact can be deceiving, however, with a pair of tough outs from the West. Lucier starts with Waynesburg junior, Colton Stoneking, and could see Hempfield junior, Briar Priest, in the semis. Both have twice the amount of matches as Lucier, this season, and have faced far tougher competition. Lucier got his first test of the year against BECA's Matt Mayer in the East final, and needed a heroic comeback to survive. The win was huge, with three former state medalists on the other side, including the favorite, Seneca Valley's Dylan Chappell, who knocked off Lucier in the semis a year ago.
Kochersperger ended the state medal drought at Kennett by reserving his spot on the podium, last week. He's the first to do so for Kennett since Kyle Bove in 2009. This is another extremely deep weight from the West and Kochersperger gets a rough matchup with Franklin Regional junior, Finn Solomon, right off the bat. Solomon reached the state finals as a freshman, but failed to make states a year ago. Kochersperger will likely need him to be in the low cycle to have a shot, after Solomon majored Waynesburg's Cole Homet, ranked No. 22 in the country, in the West final. There are five former state medalists in this bracket, but if Kochersperger wrestles with the confidence he displayed last week, good things could happen.
Sammy McMonagle, 145, Senior, West Chester Henderson, 17-1, E-1
When news broke that Waynesburg's returning state champ, Wyatt Henson, lost the West final due to an illegal slam, there was chatter that McMonagle should throw his East final to land on the opposite side of the bracket. McMonagle did not buy into those theories, and avenged a loss to Bensalem's Connor Eck. There are no places to hide in this bracket, anyway. McMonagle starts with Hempfield's Ty Linsenbigler, who took fourth and fifth in the last two state tournaments. He has a career-high eight losses this season, though, including a pair a week ago to Williamsport's Riley Bower, who Eck gets after losing to McMonagle. Henson, the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the country, will almost surely be waiting in semis, should McMonagle win his first. If he can win his first, a top-four finish is within his grasp, making him the fourth Warrior to collect two state medals.
Matt Romanelli, 172, Senior, Downingtown East, 15-4, E-4
This is the first time in East's history two wrestlers won state medals in the same season. Romanelli missed a chance to reach the finals a week ago, when La Salle's Regan Loughney came back to beat him in sudden victory. They're both on the same side, and are both underdogs, meaning, they could see each other in the first round of consolations. Romanelli drew Mifflin County's Trey Kibe, the No. 3 kid in the country and a state champ two years ago. If there is a rematch with Loughney, the five-minute consi bouts should help Romanelli, who ran out of gas after jumping out to a first-period lead. The No. 10 wrestler in the country, Luca Augustine of Waynesburg, is in this bracket, as well as Easton's now three-time state medalist, Dominic Falcone, but Romanelli is good enough on his feet to find a win or two.
Catka is the only Ches-Mont League wrestler to be ranked nationally by MatScouts, at No. 16. He's also the only favorite from the league, but was not blessed with a great draw. Belle Vernon junior, Cole Weightman, a sixth-place finisher a year ago, is Catka's first opponent, likely followed by Cumberland Valley senior, Jacob Lucas, whom Catka beat for third last year. If Catka can get through his half of the bracket, Delaware Valley's Jason Henderson could be waiting in the finals with revenge on his mind. Catka beat Henderson, 6-5, in a chippy East final. Either way, this Sun Valley's, and the Catka family's, fourth straight year with a state medalist.