I sympathize with the OP.
While I have not read all of this thread, I don’t think anyone has mentioned the upcoming Supreme Court decision that will make discriminating on the basis of race in college admissions illegal.
He is an Asian kid. As a group they are discriminated against. It is likely has has parents (1st gen) who will not go for dramatically lowering his academic sights or going to community college
It is for this reason, I think it is absolutely the right thing to take a year off and try again.
In addition to that, the OP needs to get a better independent college counselor, broaden his scope of schools (some reasonable safeties), and find a way to draw more attention to his passion for classics.
Instead of a family friend, he needs to get a college counselor who is experienced with Asian students. We as a people have experienced this form of discrimination for years, and while it may be officially illegal by next year, there are ways to play this game to minimize the negative effects.
One of these ways is to be strong in non-stem areas. His passion for the classics is perfect for that. As classics departments around the country are starving for enrollment, getting a candidate who want to major in these departments/graduate with a degree are rare/sought after compared to all the Asian kids who want to major in CS or Econ. His essays and recommendations need to focus on this kind of uniqueness.
The focus on DEI has made many if not all of the Ivys very hard for Asian kids to get into, however there is a list of great schools who care more about getting the top students regardless of their identity. Think UChicago, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, etc. These are the top schools of the next generation.
He should pick a few top schools, but broaden his search (and include in state flagships)
He also needs to play the first gen card more strongly.
All of the above could have been handled by a competent independent college counselor.
The OP has worked too hard to give up and take what he has been given this year. Next year has a whole different set of circumstances and with a little work, he can/will be successful.
While the moderators have reminded me that race and admission are not allowed to be discussed on threads that are not specific to the race topic, I believe my post directly addresses the OPs question, and in light on the Supreme Court ruling this summer is relevant and worthy of consideration. Any censorship of this sort of contribution to this topic is reflective of the shrinking level of free speech on college campuses and the websites that support them.