The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 23, 2014

Chestnut Ridge holds off Berlin for district title

WINDBER — Officially, the District 5 Class AA wrestling tournament is not the Chestnut Ridge Invitational at Windber Area High School.

It’s only felt that way in recent years.

Chestnut Ridge tallied 189 points to hold off Berlin Brothersvalley (174.5 points) and Bedford (148) in the chase for its third straight team title.

The Lions advanced eight wrestlers to next weekend’s PIAA southwest regional tournament at Cambria County War Memorial Arena with four carrying District 5’s banner as champions.

“They’re stepping up and really working hard,” Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “They’re working together, trying to improve. Each year we just keep striving to get better.” 

Berlin Brothersvalley, which had three champions, advanced six to the regional tournament with six from Bedford and five each from Meyersdale and Somerset.

North Star (three) and Conemaugh Township (one) will also send grapplers to the War Memorial.

The Lions opened the championship round in style, using Aaron Burkett’s 16-0 technical fall victory in the 106-pound final over Somerset’s Quinn Cole in 3:55.

Derrick Claar decisioned Bedford’s Garret Thomas 5-3 at 138 with Trent Crouse following at 145 with a 4-2 win over Berlin’s Braden Fochtman.

Austin Buttry’s 3-1 extra-time win over Everett’s Devin Reed at 285 gave the Lions their fourth champion and put one of the squad’s leader’s on top of a podium for the first time.

“Austin’s been a great leader for us,” Lazor said. “He really strives and pushes our kids. Great to see him on top of the podium. It’s the first time he’s actually won a tournament, as good as a wrestler that he’s been, he’s been close but has never won one.” 

Crouse, who downed Fochtman for the third time this season, was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

Chestnut Ridge also took second at 113, where Bedford’s Jonathan Gabriel won by technical fall over the Lions’ Blake Dunlap, and at 182 where Meyersdale’s Gavin Berkley decisioned Conner Buttry 7-1.

Dustin Ickes (120) and Colby Hillegass (160) won consolation finals to earn the district’s third spot in the regional tournament.

“It feels amazing to show how far this program has been able to step since Coach Lazor came in,” Austin Buttry said. “He’s just a great coach. To win three district titles, especially with the powers of Berlin and Bedford, it’s just shows how much of a team we are to fight for each other.”   

The day didn’t fully belong to the the Lions, not when a new member joined the district’s four-time champions club and another earned his 100th career win in the semifinals.

Working a 4-2 decision out of Meyersdale’s Tanner Hetrick, Bedford’s Ryan Easter won his fourth District 5 crown.

Easter was a champion at 103 in 2011, 113 in 2012 and at 120 last year.

“It feels great,” Easter said. “It’s going to sink in later ... Everything’s as stepping stone. This week is to build for next week, next week for states. You just keep getting better even though it’s the end of the season, you can still get better every day.”

Easter was one of three Bisons to win their weight class and among the six that will move on to Johnstown next weekend.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a four-timer in our program,” Bedford coach Brian Creps said. “He’s really worked hard to achieve his goals and this is just one of the goals he’s had since he’s come up.” 

Gabriel and Easter were joined in Bedford’s gold rush by Jake Warren, who edged Northern Bedford’s Jared Helsley at 126. The Bisons’ Kyle Mehle (second at 120), Thomas (second at 138) and Chance Williams (third at 182) also moved on.

“We’re looking forward to to wrestling well,” Creps said. “Trying to get as many guys through to states as we can, because that’s always one of the biggest goals of our program is to get as mant through as we can.” 

On his way to the final at 132, Hetrick decisioned Chestnut Ridge’s Sam Shank to pick up his 100th career win. Berkley and Ty Smith, a winner by fall over North Star’s Kevin Horner at 220, won Meyersdale’s titles while Seth Deist (145), Chris Hutzell (160) and Hetrick advanced.   

The Mountaineers, who also finished second to the Lions in the District 5 team tournament, saw champions in Joe Swank at 120, Taylor Cahill at 152 and Bryce Fochtman at 160. Swank won by technical fall over Mehle, Cahill pinned North Star’s Tevin Mostoller and Fochtman edged Hutzell to earn Berlin’s titles.

Braden Fochtman (145), Toby Cahill (195), Nate Zanoni (220) and Anthony Collins (285) also advance.

Landon Lohr’s championship at 170 highlighted Somerset’s weekend. Austin Hemminger (132), Jon Fabian (138) and Logan Eller (195) join Cole and Lohr as Golden Eagle qualifiers.

Dillion Charlton’s third-place victory at 170 allowed him to join fellow Cougars Mostoller and Horner.

Kody Ofsanko’s win over Berlin’s E.J. Custer in the 126 consolation final earned him an extra weekend of action.   

Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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