Pennsylvania Pushes 17 Into Fargo Cadet Quarters But Suffers Big Injury

FARGO, N.D. – A day that saw Pennsylvania push 17 wrestlers into the quarterfinal round of the Cadet National Freestyle Tournament – three more than any other state – featured a difficult ending.

Sun Valley’s Hunter Catka, who was one of those 17 quarterfinalists, was injured at the very end of his 12-0 technical fall over Ohio’s Riley Tucker at 220 pounds. Catka appeared to have his toes catch in the mat on his final double-leg takedown, and barely moved after the injury. Following a long delay, his lower leg was stabilized and he was taken from the mat in a wheelchair.

“It’s always hard to see a kid get seriously hurt like that,” said Lehigh assistant Brad Dillon, who is one Team PA’s coaches and was in Catka’s corner. “He’s a tough kid, so I’m sure it’s something relatively serious. With the way that kid works, you hate to see something like that happen.”

Catka was in complete control of the match, leading 8-0. In driving Tucker out of bounds, he lifted and arched his back to get four points, but a photograph shows that his toes stayed planted while the rest of his leg moved.

“He was dominating for sure,” Dillon said. “It’s part of the sport. It happens. Right now, we’re just hoping for the best. It might not be as bad as it first appeared.”

No matter the diagnosis, it’s hard to imagine Catka – a PIAA champion as a sophomore – being able to continue when the tournament resumes on Sunday.

The other quarterfinalists from Pennsylvania are: Jacob Van Dee (88), Jackson Arrington and Rocco Welsh (100); Sheldon Seymour (106); Kurtis Phipps (113); Ryan Crookham (120); Wyatt Henson (126); Jagger Condomitti (138), Carson Manville and Caden Rogers (145); Clayton Ulrey (160); Luke Stout (170); Dorian Crosby and Kolby Franklin (195); and Jalen Stephens and Colby Whitehill (285).

Ohio, which has 14 quarterfinalists, has 37 wrestlers still alive in the tournament, compared to 35 – 34 if Catka cannot return – for Pennsylvania.

“We took a couple of Ls that really hurt,” Dillon said. “There were a couple of guys that I thought were very capable of being in the finals that didn’t place and are out on Day 1.” Some surprise early exits included PIAA State Champion Alejandro Herrera-Rondon at 113 pounds and PIAA State Finalist Brock McMillen at 120 pounds.

There also were some gutsy victories. Sheldon Seymour, a returning Fargo All-American, got hit in a headlock and nearly pinned by Indiana’s Brody Baumann, before coming back for a dominating 16-4 technical fall – one of four on the day for him at 106 pounds.

Ryan Crookham, who is considered to be the nation’s top incoming freshman, had to hang on for a 6-6 win over Missouri’s Khyler Brewer in the round of 32 at 120 pounds.

Van Dee had one of the squad’s most dramatic victories of the day at 88 pounds. He led the entire way, but Carson Nishida of Illinois, hit a headlock in the final seconds that would have given him the victory, but Van Dee rolled through the headlock for an 11-9 victory.

“This tournament’s good,” Dillon said. “These are the best kids in the country. Without a doubt, you’re going to have matches where you have to grind it out.”

Dillon knows that Sunday’s quarterfinal round, which begins at 10 a.m. Eastern, and the semifinals, which start at 5:30 Eastern, will determine if Pennsylvania heads into the final day with a chance to capture the team title.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do if we’re going to win this thing,” he said. “The biggest wrestling is yet to come. We have a heck of a group, and they’ve worked hard.”

Bringing the team title back to the Keystone State is important to Dillon.

“The big thing is keeping these guys hungry and to continue to get Ws for Pennsylvania,” he said. “I’m from here, I love it here, and I’m just looking forward to it.”

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