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Sun Valley's Catka showing he's not a kid among men

Sun Valley’s Catka showing he’s not a kid among men; Upper Darby’s Cronin, Kennerly move on


HERSHEY >> Hunter Catka refused to go quietly Thursday night.

The Sun Valley freshman beat senior Cole Zapf of Downingtown West, 3-1, in the consolation round to advance in the PIAA Class 3A Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.

While it’s not uncommon for freshmen to reach states, they almost always get there in the lightest weight classes.

Catka is the only freshman in the five heaviest brackets from 170 pounds on. That’s one freshman out of 100 wrestlers, if you will.

“He just turned 15,” Vanguards coach Tommy Ellis said. “These guys he’s wrestling are 18, some of them are 19. They could have voted in this last election. They are young men. They have hardened bodies. They’ve matured physically and mentally, too. For him to be on the stage with them, it’s a compliment to him and his work ethic, really.”

Catka’s heart was on display in the bout with Zapf. The workout room the Vanguard rookie had installed during the summer served him well in that the only takedown of the bout, his takedown, came with 16 seconds remaining. Zapf was heartbroken. Catka lived to wrestle another group of seniors and juniors.

Thirteen of the wrestlers in Catka’s 195-pound class are seniors, including Ryan Mortimer of Garnet Valley, who pinned Dave Henninger (DuBois) in 2:20 to stay alive in the consolation bracket.

“I’m always mentally prepared and I’m not afraid of the older guys,” Catka said. “And I’ve always been big for my age. I worked all summer long — I have a workout room — because I knew the upper classmen would be coming at me all season long. I’m just giving the glory to God because he’s gotten me here.”

Catka has a huge fan in Ellis, who did a double-take after the regions.

“We figured out last week that he has six losses in his career and all six have been to state qualifiers,” Ellis said. “He’s not fazed. No one has majored him. He works hard and he wants to succeed. He puts everything he has into his craft. When he qualified for states out of the fourth spot he was upset by it. He has high expectations set upon himself. He doesn’t accept failure and it all relates to his work ethic. He’s literally willing to do whatever he has to do to be on top.”