By NATE HECKENBERGER
EXTON -- Clay McKee raised the bar last winter for Westtown, becoming the school's first prep school All-American since 1995.
It was evident, Saturday, that those around him have upped their levels of competitiveness, too.
McKee started the championship run at the Church Farm Invitational, winning the 170-pound bracket, and teammates Ethan Fye (182 pounds), Eric Ekas (195) and Manny Vilmatelo (220) followed with titles.
Church Farm finished sixth in the team standings, with Logan Elvin its highest place-finisher at 220 pounds.
Westtown placed second, 30 points behind Chichester, with Luke Neal (138) a champion, as well.
"We have some weaknesses down low, but we're pretty good in our upper weights,' Westtown coach Jay Farrow said. "It's a shame we don't have a 113-pounder, but really, from 138 on up, we're really solid.'
McKee, who finished eighth at prep nationals as a junior, needed all two minutes of the first period to pin Germantown Friends' Gabe Buyske-Friedberg in the finals for his third fall on the day.
"I just listen to my coaches,' McKee said. "They deserve most of the credit. I do what they tell me to do and it works out. This year there's a lot more people motivated to do well at prep nationals and I wouldn't be surprised if you see three or four kids do well there this year. It's exciting.'
Fye followed, using a takedown and a reversal against Kirk Cherneskie of Pope John Paul II for a 4-1 decision to claim his crown.
"Ethan Fye is someone people shouldn't ever underestimate,' Farrow said. "I have high hopes for him at states and nationals. He's kind of under the radar.'
Ekas was the next Quaker to assert his will, using a headlock to pin Luke Genetti of Pope John Paul II with 18 seconds left in the first period.
"Eric is an undersized 195,' Farrow said. "He only weighs about 183 pounds, but he does all the grunt work for us, wrestling guys heavier than him. It was very rewarding to see him win.'
The double-local 220-pound final was back and forth, and by the time it was over it took the refs, the scorekeeper and Farrow a few minutes to figure out the correct score.
In the end, Vilmatelo walked away a 10-9 winner over Elvin. Vilmatelo had Elvin on his back, giving him a sizeable lead early in the third period, but Elvin rolled his way on top, nearly pinning Vilmatelo in the waning seconds of the bout.
"I positioned myself that I could look at the clock,' Vilmatelo said. "I saw there were about 15 seconds left and I started counting down in my head. I knew I shoulda had the win.'
It took til 138 for Westtown to get it's first champ, but Neal was up to the challenge. Erasing two deficits, Neal used superior conditioning to eventually earn a third-period fall.
"I was really, very impressed by Luke Neal,' Farrow said. "He's been wrestling better and better and put the time in in the offseason. He's a very promising wrestler.'
Westtown's sixth finalist, Habeeb Onitri (152), lost to Calvary Christian's Rich Cerebe, arguably the best wrestler in the tournament.
Charlie Newbold (132), Scott Crowe (120) and Randy Saloe (285) took third for Westtown, while Jake Scully (106) and Andrew Raymond (160) finished fourth. Jake Chien (145) placed fifth.
For Church Farm, Chaz Price (195) and Tristan Spivey (285) earned fourth-place finishes, while Ced Moise (182) took fifth. Richard Martinez (113), Eric Velazeo (120) and Nuri James (170) took sixth for the Griffins.