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WRESTLING: Hatboro-Horsham, CB West, CB East each claim 2 titles at Ralph Wetzel Classic

Hatboro-Horsham's Christopher Staub on top of Harriton's Nadav Nafshi during the 147-pound final at the Ralph Wetzel Classic on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023 at Hatboro-Horsham. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)
Hatboro-Horsham’s Christopher Staub on top of Harriton’s Nadav Nafshi during the 147-pound final at the Ralph Wetzel Classic on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023 at Hatboro-Horsham. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

HORSHAM – After coming close the past two seasons, Hatboro-Horsham wrestling’s Christopher Staub finally secured the top spot on the podium at the Ralph Wetzel Classic Friday night.

Third as a sophomore in 2021 then finishing second last year, Staub claimed first place in his final try at the tournament hosted in his home gym, winning the 147-pound title with a 5-0 decision over Harriton’s Nadav Nafshi.

“There was definitely pressure but I just had to stick to what I know, I mean I’ve been doing it since I was five,” Staub said. “So it’s the same thing, same warmup. I mean, it was tough competition, state qualifier in Nadav, he’s a great wrestler but I wanted it. This is my hometown, I needed this win as a senior and it felt great.”

Staub was one of two Hatboro-Horsham wrestlers to win their weight class – freshman Dominick Morrison taking gold at 109 – while Central Bucks East and Central Bucks West also came away with a pair of first-place finishes.

“I put a lot of work in in the offseason,” said Staub, who improved to 12-2. “I worked a lot on neutral. I think that’s the start of the match, you score first, you take someone down, you’re in great position so I put a lot of work in in neutral to help me stay in these close matches. And if I can take down a state qualifier, I can wrestle with anyone.”

Pennsbury, which matched Pottsville with three tournament champions, finished atop the team standings with 189.0 points. Neshaminy was second (172.5), West Chester Henderson third (145.5) and Hatboro-Horsham fourth (143.0).

CB West sophomore Chris Dennis, who placed sixth in 114 at the PIAA Championships last season after winning the South East Regional title, picked up his second Wetzel title with a 16-0 tech fall over SCH Academy’s Sean Brett in the 135 final.

“Regional title’s good and that was a great season I had last year but job’s not finished,” Dennis said. “State championship, I just want to be the first state champion in Central Bucks West history and that’s my goal.”

Dennis capped off his tournament with consecutive tech falls. He bested Henderson’s Angus Whitaker in the semis 19-4 in 5:14 then in the final against Brett jumped out to an 11-0 lead after the first period on a takedown and four near falls.

“The biggest thing I’ve been working on in the offseason is my attacks,” said Dennis, now 12-0 this year. “I don’t really shoot that much but I tried to shoot more this time. Usually do slide-bys but I want to be more offensive because when I look at the best college wrestlers and Division I-level wrestlers, they’re very offensive, like Spencer Lee, Matt Ramos, all those guys and I just want to be like that.”

Dennis’ teammate Patrick Kelly followed with a win in the 141 final, the West junior earning a second Wetzel gold – he won as a freshman in 2021 – with a 13-2 major decision over Alife Overton of West Chester Henderson.

CB East senior Regan McCullough won 217 with a 17-1 tech fall over Carlisle’s Bradyn Jumper in 3:28. Patriots senior Joe Collins, last year’s regional champ at 285, captured a Wetzel title for the second straight season with a 16-1 tech fall over Roman Catholic’s Devin Johnson at 4:39 in the 287 final.

Morrison secured the 109 title for the hosts by pinning Pennsbury’s Brett Kean in 1:47. Morrison topped Lenape’s Eric LaGrotta in the semis by tech fall 19-3 in 3:08.

Last year, Staub reached regionals at 139 after taking first at District 1-3A South. He lost in the quarterfinals then bounced back with two wins in consolations to have two shots at advancing to states. Staub, however, lost both matches to place sixth and ended his junior campaign at 33-10.

“Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to be a state qualifier and I’ve always fell a little bit short,” Staub said. “Pressure was definitely on. I had two chances to win, I had a chance to win and I lost to (Central Bucks South’s) Jake Neill, and I had a chance to win blood round against an Owen J. Roberts kid (Mason) Karkoska and I lost again. And I think the pressure got to me there.

“So that’s just something, this is just a sport, you know – it’s fun. I just got to let loose a little more. It matters but just go and wrestling, you know – if you just leave it all out on the mat, whatever happens, happens and you just got to keep running.”

Staub reached Friday’s 147 final with a 19-2 tech fall win over Roman Catholic’s Rocco Trivelli in 3:22. Against Nafshi — who at 2023 regionals took fourth at 133 — Staub grabbed a 4-0 lead with a takedown in each of the first two periods.

“When you’re wrestling tough opponents like that, every little thing matters,” Staub said. “You have to make sure everything’s perfect. If you make a mistake, they’re going to score on that mistake. You just got to wrestle through position and that’s the biggest thing Trent (Mongillo), my coach Trent is always saying, wrestle through position, never stop wrestling.

“Even when we wrestle in neutral – I mean I think neutral and top won me that match. I was able to take him down and he wasn’t able to get up on bottom.”

Hatboro-Horsham also had two second-place finishes from Tyler Pagano and Ryan Allgeier. Pagano lost 14-10 to Appoquinimink’s Roman Kubler in the 116 final while Allgeier dropped a 9-2 decision to Pennsbury’s Kyle Von Schmidt at 123.

Cheltenham’s Rah’Miere Sanders and Corey Bradley each earned second in their respective weights. Sanders was pinned by Pennsbury’s John Luchansky at 3:02 in the 129 final while Bradley was edged 5-4 by Pottsville’s Terrell McFaland at 174.