The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 2, 2014

Richland wrestler rebounds

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Dominant district: There have been complaints from local wrestling fans over the past few years about the fact that District 7 gets seven regional qualifiers while District 6 gets four and District 5 gets three.

But the WPIAL flexed its muscles again on Saturday, as District 7 wrestlers won 11 of the 14 titles. Burrell captured the team championship with 98 points. Jefferson-Morgan, South Fayette and Valley – all District 7 schools – claimed the next three spots.

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Holding out HOPE: James Bennett, a 195-pounder from Hyndman, won the lone title for a District 5 team.

But Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said it wasn’t as bad as it looked for District 5, which had 14 qualifiers.

“That’s more than usual,” he said. “We’ve been hitting seven, eight, nine (qualifiers). So the numbers are up. There’s a lot of fourths and fifths in there where we’d, obviously, like to have a couple more up top. But we’re going to have to take a lot of the blame for that. Us and Berlin, two of the better teams (and) Bedford – we were supposed to have the guys do what I’m talking about and we didn’t. We’re going to have to shoulder a lot of the blame. But overall, I think District 5 is sending a good number.”

Chestnut Ridge’s qualifiers are Aaron Burkett (106), Conner Buttry (182) and Austin Buttry (285).

Bedford can send Gabriel, Ryan Easter (132), Garrett Thomas (138) to the state tournament and the Bisons finished fifth in the team standings. Chance Williams finished sixth at 182 pounds.

“When you get four placewinners, that moves you up in the standings pretty well,” Bedford coach Brian Creps said. “Ryan and Garrett wrestled really well. They had good tournaments, were able to get third.”

Meyersdale’s Gavin Berkley took third at 182 pounds to give District 5 another qualifier.

District 6 didn’t do much better in the producing champions, as Central Cambria’s Max Murin (106) and Penns Valley’s Corey Hazel (170) are its only champions.

Other local District 6 wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament are: Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff (106), Forest Hills’ Triston Law (120), Penn Cambria’s Nolan Link (106) and United’s Tyler Oliver (195).

Eric Knopsnyder covers wrestling for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/eric_knopsnyder.

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