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Davidheiser Wins National Title; One of Five All-Americans

In 2001, Dave Hoffman ’01 stood atop the podium at the National Prep Wrestling Tournament having won his second National Prep title in three years. 

Twenty years later, Hill Wrestling was still awaiting its next National Prep champion. 

The wait is over.

Kade Davidheiser ’23 won the 113-pound weight class at the 2021 National Prep Open, held on May 2-3 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. to become Hill’s first National Prep champion since Hoffman.  Davidheiser is one of five Blues grapplers to earn All-American status by way of a top-eight finish: Kelvin Griffin ’22 was runner-up at 138, Sam Beckett ’22 finished third at 152, Hunter Sloan ’23 was fourth at 106, and Colby Isabelle ’23 took fifth at 160.

Hoffman, who returned to his high school alma mater as head coach in 2018, had high praise for his team members and their navigation of the season and school year.

“I'm really proud of this group of guys and their willingness to stay here at Hill this year and stick it out,” Hoffman said.  “We knew that we had a young team, so when we lost the ability to compete, our focus immediately shifted to skill development.  It's amazing how important perspective is; if you think losing competition is the end of the world, you're probably right.  Instead, if you seek out the positives and focus on the things that you can control, you take what seems to be a setback or negative situation and turn it into a catalyst for positive change that molds and shapes you, and that setback becomes the best thing that's ever happened in your life.  We did a book study together over the LRP where we read and discussed The Obstacle Is The Way, and the entire book revolved around these types of situations. I truly think it made a difference in our season and our overall approach to the last year.”

For Davidheiser, winning a National Prep title carries even more meaning as his father, Kurt, won a National Prep title for Hill in 1989.  The Davidheiser’s become the second father-son duo in program history to both be National Prep champions, joining Max ’53 and Mark ’78 Pearson.

“To have this father-son bond is a great thing and hopefully my brother will soon be able to share it, as well,” Davidheiser said.  “For me to be a national champion is only a small sliver of what I hope to achieve, and while it an amazing feeling, I am only a sophomore and have two more years to compete and try to win another.”    

“I'm really excited for Kade and his family - Kade now gets to have his picture on the Wall of Champions not too far from his father Kurt's picture,” Hoffman added. 

The road to the 2021 National Prep Tournament did not come without its challenges; at one point, it appeared that road would not be open at all.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many prep programs cancelled winter seasons entirely or held them in a limited capacity.  Additionally, Lehigh University closed use of its athletics facilities to all non-university functions, including the National Prep Tournament.   

The Hill School held a Low-Residency Program (LRP) in January and February, in which the only students permitted on campus were invited winter varsity athletes.  During the LRP, students participated in an H-Term course and mornings were dedicated to academics, and then athletics practices took place in the afternoon.  Hill’s wrestlers trained throughout the winter and competed in one match against Kiski School, all while hoping that a solution would arise for a new National Prep venue. 

In March, it was announced that the event would take place at Mohegan Sun Arena in early May.  Wrestling team members who wished to participate in the tournament opted to transition to remote learning for the duration of the Spring Term, allowing them to train for the event and compete in available weekend tournaments.

 

Typically, wrestlers from Pennsylvania must place in the top-six of their weight class at the Pennsylvania Independent School Wrestling Tournament (PAISWT) to quality for National Preps.  Because there was no PAISWT – or similar qualification events in other states – this year, the National Prep Tournament was open entry. 

A group of 10 grapplers traveled to Wilkes-Barre to compete in the tournament.  Five wrestlers – Davidheiser, Griffin, Beckett, Sloan, and Isabelle – qualified for the second day, with Davidheiser and Griffin both advancing to the championship bout seeking to end Hill’s drought. 

In his final first-day bout, Davidheiser won a tightly contested, 4-3 decision over Wyoming Seminary’s Logan Rozynski.  He then scored a 2-1 decision over third-seed Bryce Arbogast of Benedictine Catholic in the semifinal to advance to the final, where he squared off against Kiski School’s Sulaymin Bah, an explosive wrestler who had just upset top-seed Tommy Link of Malvern Prep in the other semifinal.  Saving his best wrestling of the weekend for the final, Davidheiser registered a 9-4 decision to earn a national title.

Griffin advanced to the final courtesy of four pins, where he met Blair Academy’s Shayne Van Ness, the top-ranked 138-pound wrestler in the country.  Although he battled valiantly, Griffin could not overcome Van Ness and settled for second place. 

With all five of the team’s National Prep All-Americans returning next year, Hoffman is optimistic about the team’s prospects for continued success. 

“As a new(er) head coach, getting that first one is always the hardest, but with all of these guys returning next year, I don't think we will be waiting another 20 years to crown our next one.  That's the beauty of winning; it creates a level of expectation amongst the group that winning titles is the standard.  Winning is contagious and titles create more titles.”

Crowning a national champion and placing five team members on the podium is the culmination of a 2020-21 school year and season team members will not soon forget.