The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

High School Sports

January 26, 2014

Berlin puts five in final round to win Thomas tournament

BEDFORD — Berlin Brothersvalley sent five wrestlers to championship matches Saturday at the Thomas Subaru Tournament at Bedford Area High School.

Even though the Mountaineers only had one champion – Joe Swank at 120 pounds – the round served as a victory lap of sorts with Berlin Brothersvalley easily outdistancing the field to take the team title with 205 points. Chestnut Ridge followed with 156 points.

Burrell was third with 155 points.

“It was a good weekend for us,” Mountaineers coach Jason Cornell said. “We’ve been looking forward to this tournament all season. It’s one of those tournaments on the list. We’ve never won it as a team before. We’ve had a lot of tremendous teams come through Berlin over the years. To accomplish what we did today by the margins we did, is awesome for the program.”

Swank outgunned Tri-Valley’s Caleb Bordner 10–7 to claim the crown at 120.

The remainder of finals bouts didn’t carry the theme as Swank’s win, but the Mountaineers had more than made their statement by that point.

At 145, Chestnut Ridge’s Trent Crouse scored a takedown with 6 seconds remaining in the first overtime period to edge out Braden Fochtman 4-2. Crouse worked a pair of escapes into a 2–all tie with Fochtman before controlling him throughout the third, necessitating the extra frame.

Steve Edwards of Burrell broke a 2–all tie with four of the last five points of the 152-pound bout on his way to a 6–3 win over Berlin Brothersvalley’s Taylor Cahill.

South Fayette’s J.J. Walker’s quick overtime takedown at 160 gave him the title over Berlin Brothersvalley’s Bryce Fochtman with a 4-2 decision. 

West Branch’s Buzzy Maines dispatched of Stew Trulick in the 220 final, opening a 6-1 lead in the second before scoring a pinfall over the Mountaineers grappler at 2:31.

The strength of Berlin Brothersvalley’s victory came thanks to sending all 14 wrestlers into Saturday and placing nine wrestlers on the podium when the dust had settled.

“What we did was put 14 into Day 2,” Cornell said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened. Not many teams can say they’ve ever done that. Says a lot of the kids and their work ethic. To place nine kids down here is awesome.”

For Chestnut Ridge, the Thomas tournament showed where the Lions stand with the postseason looming.

“It’s an extremely tough tournament,” Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “We had four in the finals, only one winner; you’d like a little more than that, but it’s a good weekend. Coming in second at a tournament of this prestige, obviously the boys did pretty well.”

Crouse claimed Chestnut Ridge’s lone title at 145.

Tri–Valley’s Sammy Hepler used a flourish of scoring during the second period on his way to whitewashing Chestnut Ridge’s Aaron Burkett by an 11–0 major decision in the 106–pound final.

Bedford’s Garrett Thomas traded late points with Chestnut Ridge’s Derrick Claar after two scoreless periods, working his way to a 6-4 decision at 138.

“It’s pretty good,” Thomas said. “Second year in a row beating a Ridge kid makes it a little better.”

Lazor, who has watched Thomas as a rival grappler to his squad for years, expressed respect for him following the tourney.

“I’ll tell anyone who asks me that Thomas is one of my favorite D5 wrestlers,” Lazor said. “I really like how he goes at it. We always have some battles with him and we’ve yet to get him and there’s a reason for that. He always finishes his matches strong.”

Meyersdale’s Gavin Berkley decisioned Conner Buttry 7-1 at 195 to end the Lions’ day in the championship round.

Bedford’s Jon Gabriel worked a pair of takedowns and a third period reversal into a wide enough margin to dispatch Central’s Brock Biddle by a 12–2 major decision, giving the tournament hosts a spot at the top of the podium at 113.

A takedown and backpoints in the third period from Mike Carr helped the South Fayette wrestler score a 6–2 upset decision over Bedford’s Ryan Easter, who was ranked first in the state at 132 pounds, according to PA Power Rankings.

John Demaske of Jefferson–Morgan turned a pair of double–leg takedowns and an escape into a five–point lead, which held as he topped Richland’s Adam George 5–0 at 126.

Jefferson–Morgan’s Bill Bowlen took the title at 170 while Jared Beckwith captured top billing at 195.

Al Beattie’s overtime win over Mount Union’s Nik Smith closed the evening while giving Burrell its second titleholder.

Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune–Democrat. He can be followed on Twitter at


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