When wrestling fans from Bedford and Chestnut Ridge sit down with family and friends to eat and unwrap presents over Christmas, it will be done in a nice, friendly and festive manner.
Tonight, however, when they sit down, those fans will stand a line long way before the doors of Bedford's gymnasium doors open to scream, stomp their feet, sweat and react to everything in front of them.
As someone who'd like to see more of that around here, it's a beautiful thing to watch.
The backyard rivals enter with perfect records. Bedford is 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Mirror rankings. Chestnut Ridge is 4-0 after rallying to beat Northern Bedford, 36-34, Thursday and is third in the rankings.
Those wrestlers who can handle the pressure this dual meet regularly places on the combatants will have the upper hand. Most of the wrestlers already have experience with it because the super-charged atmosphere starts with the junior high match that precedes the high school meet.
"After several years, you get used to the craziness," Bedford coach Brian Creps said. "Tuesday night will bring a lot of people in the gym. They're undefeated, and we've wrestled well so far. It's always good to see how you stack up against a local team."
"That's a real fun match," Bedford senior 130-pounder Devin Cook said. "When you run out onto the mat, it's so loud it sounds like a leaf blower going off in your ear. It's real exciting, and in that match anything can happen. We have a big advantage, but the Ridge match is always way more intense. I've always wrestled good under pressure. I like it like that."
Shortly after the Lions beat Northern Bedford, talk in the locker room turned to Bedford. They could finally focus on the Bisons, who came from behind in the semifinals of last year's District 5 Dual Meet Championships to win, 31-29.
"We're looking forward to it," Ridge first-year coach Greg Lazor said. "The motto we have in the room is 'Enjoy the battle.' Enjoy that you have the capability of going out there and fighting a little war for six minutes."
Wrestling fans would love to see that kind of atmosphere more often. Back in the day, you would find that a lot, but because of decreasing roster sizes, atmospheres like you see for the Bedford-Ridge match are very uncommon.
Tonight, though, will be an early Christmas present for wrestling fans tied in a gnarled, sweat-covered bow.
Altoona continues progress
I was surprised to see that Altoona had edged out Huntingdon for the Zeigler Chevrolet Tournament team title by 1.5 points on Saturday. Then again, I shouldn't have been that surprised.
The Mountain Lions have been on a steady rise the last few years, and second-year coach Joel Gilbert is a good man to have in the cockpit on that rise.
Gilbert is a no-nonsense kind of guy who knows the way to get to the top is to wrestle with the best. He dropped the Steel Valley Duals, where the Lions went 5-0 last season, because it did nothing to get his team prepared for what they had to face later in the season. So, the Lions wrestled in the Sheetz Holiday Classic, where they finished fifth.
Gilbert got a boost when junior Chris McCarthy returned to the lineup and won the 140-pound title at the Altoona Fieldhouse by going 5-0.
With only two tournaments under their belts, it will be interesting to see how the Lions do in dual meets the rest of the season. Their first match is tonight at Bald Eagle Area, which has come back to the pack after many years on top.
Altoona's first match in January is on the third at Bedford. The Lions should be competitive in that one and with the rest of the teams on the schedule.