In terms of wrestling competition, Chance Babb firmly believes in the mindset "more is better."
Like every other high-school wrestler in Pennsylvania, Babb went through a 2020-21 season significantly reduced and altered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting sports. By week's end he'll have wrestled more than double the matches he did a year ago.
To be sure, there were some significant moments for the Boyertown senior one year ago: A bronze medal from the District 1-AAA South tournament, a second at the South East AAA Regional and eighth-place PIAA medallion at 138 pounds. Understandably, for the final go-round in his scholastic mat career, Babb has higher aspirations.
"Last year was off," he said following a practice for the weekend's District 1-AAA North competition. "It's not what I was used to."
Participation in a number of off-season tournaments, and an expanded number of matches this winter, have Babb primed to step up on the medal podium the next three weeks. That starts Saturday when he and his Boyertown teammates compete in the District 1 Class AAA North tournament at Perkiomen Valley.
One of the area's winningest grapplers (32-6), his regular season was highlighted by a PAC individual championship at 152, a gold-medal outing at the Gov. Mifflin Holiday tournament and a sixth at the "Escape The Rock" tournament - one known for attracting an elite number of competitors.
With 3½ weeks since the Bears' last on-mat action - a Feb. 2 non-league dual that served as the team's Senior Night - Babb spent considerable time fine-tuning his game.
"I watched film, looking for things to improve ... little things," he said. "The coaches pick our brains for things needing improvement."
One area in which Babb has impressed head coach Tony Haley is what he describes as "scrambling ability." It's a function of constant movement and action to get control of an opponent and prevent him from exercising a similar measure of control.
"When somebody has it, you know," Haley said. "It's something you develop on your own. It's a combination of athleticism and wrestling numerous matches."
A confident mindset is another of Babb's strengths. He goes into the post-season firm in the belief a higher level of achievement will occur.
"I go into every match looking to wrestle my match," he said. "I'm making the push to get higher on the podium."
"He's a great kid ... a great wrestler," Haley added. "When Chance wants to go, he's one of the best in the state. We saw the best, and he's right up there with them."
Another storyline in Babb's postseason is pursuit of a personal milestone. He currently stands three wins away from the 100 mark for his career, a plateau he is targeting this weekend.
"I knew coming in the number of wins I needed," he said. "It will be pretty cool to get it."
He will become one of the approximately three dozen Bears who've achieved that milestone, a list headed by 2010 graduate Alex Pellicciotti (170) and 2016 alumnus Gregg Harvey (168). They rank 5-6 on a chart numbering in excess of 150.
The district's North field shows three returning district-level champions in Perk Valley's Kelly Kakos and Spring-Ford's Cole Smith and Dominic Ortlip.
Kakos (31-3) won the North's 132-pound weight class on the way to scoring an eighth-place medal at states last winter. He and teammate Grant Euker (189) were the lone PAC wrestlers in the North; a season-ending injury this season, however, will preclude Euker from defending his title.
Cole Smith (25-2) and Ortlip (25-9) won titles in the 2021 District 1-AAA South competition: Smith at 106, Ortlip at 113. They were instrumental parts of a Ram squad which, headed by graduated state champion Joey Milano and runner-up Jack McGill, won team titles at the district and Southeast AAA Regional tourneys prior to placing sixth at the PIAA Class AAA competition.
Smith is up to 113, and Ortlip 120. Smith was a PAC champion, joined by teammates Quinn Smith (126) and Ryan Lepore (145) in leading the Rams to their high team finish in the regular season this year.
The 2021 district brackets were part of a COVID-impacted reconfiguration that split nine participating PAC schools between the North and South tournaments. This year, the PAC has the dominant number of teams (11) in 1-AAA North, returning to the form of the 2019-20 tournament alignment, that has them joined by Conestoga, Great Valley, Radnor and Souderton.
District 1/12-AA Tournament
He's been a prominent face of Pope John Paul II wrestling in his two years as a member of the program.
This weekend, Alan Alexander is shooting to expand his high-school résumé when he leads the Golden Panthers' contingent to Archbishop Ryan for the combined Class AA tournament meshing Districts 1 and 12.
Transferring from Boyertown after his sophomore (2019-20) school year, Alexander had some significant achievements during his COVID-impacted junior season. He was a district champion and regional bronze medalist in prelude to the sixth-place medal he claimed at the PIAA Class AA competition in Hershey.
Alexander's final scholastic season was headed by a PAC individual championship at 160, a gold medal at the Cedar Crest Invitational, seconds at tournaments hosted by Hatboro-Horsham and William Tennent and a third at Brandywine Heights. He puts his 19-5 record on the line opening against Ryan junior Colin Alloway.
Another PJP senior, Nick Togno (18-10) faces Springfield Township's Quadire Eberhardt in the opening round at 138. At 106, sophomore Brady Pires (16-13) starts out against Springfield's Cameron Caputo.
The Panthers' other contestants are freshmen Cole Dimitri (5-1) at 113, Gianni Ponzio at 120 and Kiernan Myers at 132, and sophomore Gabe Zambrano at 189.
PJP will be in a 10-school field that includes Archbishop Carroll, Archbishop Ryan, Belmont Charter, Bristol, Church Farm School, Conwell-Egan, Devon Prep, Faith Christian Ac. and Springfield Twp. Conwell-Egan is the district's defending team champion from 2021, with the Golden Panthers fourth of the six competing teams.
South Central AAA Regional
Fresh from a solid showing in last weekend's District 3-AAA (Section 1) tournament, Daniel Boone is looking to maintain its dominating stance when it travels to York County for the South Central AAA Regional competition at Spring Grove.
Of their six district medalists, the Blazers had a quartet of weight-class champions: Brothers J.T. and Tucker Hogan, Dean Houser and Gavin Richard. They're joined by runner-up Brett Marchiano and Nolan Stephen Brown in a bid to qualify for the PIAA Class AAA tournament in Hershey two weeks from now.
Tucker Hogan (36-1) pinned his way through the 172-pound bracket on the way to being accorded Outstanding Wrestler honors. The sophomore's opening regional bout will be against junior Robbie Sterner, the District 4 fourth seed from South Western who sports a 23-8 record.
J.T., in turn, won gold at 152 with a 6-4 sudden-victory verdict in the finals. The Boone senior (25-1), who reached the 100-win plateau for his scholastic career several weeks ago, faces Red Lion senior Tristan Brennamen (26-10), another District 4 fourth seed, at 152.
Houser (34-2) debuts at 106 against Carlisle freshman Garrett Pedrick (21-16), fourth seed from District 3's Section 3 competition. Richard (31-9) squares off against Dallastown junior Damian Key (25-14), another fourth seed from District 4.
Rounding out the first-day's action will be junior Marchiano (17-13) facing Red Lion sophomore Kyle Deisley (29-7), District 4's third seed at 138; and bronze-medalist junior Brown (19-10) against Waynesboro senior Bodie Rouzer (22-10), the District 4 runner-up.
Kelvin Griffin scored one banner finish last weekend on his "victory tour" through prep school's 2022 season-ending tournament run.
Now, the Hill School senior is looking for an encore to his Pa. Independent Schools (PAIS) championship with a similar finish at the national level.
Griffin (27-6) heads his team's six-man contingent heading to Upper Marlboro, Md. for the National Prep competition this weekend. He's in the Hill's trio of finalists from the Pa. Independent Schools Wrestling Tournament, and the leader in the group's bid to score medals.
Joining Griffin at nationals will be Colby Isabelle (160) and Zak Zindle (170), both of whom were silver medalists in their respective brackets; PAISWT bronze-medal finishers Robert Pavlek (120) and Hunter Sloan (126); and fifth-place Luke Cawley (285).