With 27 teams in a small gymnasium, the Thomas Subaru Tournament can be two long days for those participating. But it can be even longer for those not ready for the quality of competition they're facing in the tournament.
The bulk of the teams that make up the tournament are from District 5, 6 and 7, which gives it a little Southwest Regional feel, but there's also Newport from District 3, Tri-Valley from District 11 and Northern Garrett from Maryland.
The top five teams in the Mirror rankings - Huntingdon, Claysburg-Kimmel, Bedford, Northern Bedford and Chestnut Ridge plus Penn Cambria - were battling for the team title. In the end, Somerset, which has moved over to District 5 this season, won the team title.
There's also the unknown of somewhat scary feeling of facing somebody you know nothing about. I was impressed with the toughness of Tri-Valley, which finished seventh in the team standings.
Two of its wrestlers, sophomore Ty Schoffstall and junior Sam Scheib, handed C-K's Cole Claar and Corey Aungst their first losses in the finals, and sophomore Blake Bowman challenged Tyrone's Garbinsky in the 135-pound finals.
"You've got 27 teams, and you've got high-caliber teams," Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer said. "They're's Claysburg, Huntingdon, and obviously Somerset is a young team coming around. I'm very happy to be here with that group."
"It's tough, and that's why we come," Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut said. "In my opinion, it's regional level quality competition. Before the postseason, that's what you want to do to get your kids prepared for that stuff."
Bedford, which had won four straight team titles, found the tournament particularly difficult, going 0-for-3 in the finals and finishing sixth.
"A lot of it is the caliber of competition," Bedford coach Brian Creps said. "There's 27 teams here, and there's guys who can beat you if you're not ready to go.
The teams and wrestlers who were battling for the top spot this year will likely be doing it for some time to come.
"This is a young tournament, and it's going to be tougher," Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. "There are a lot of young studs here. Somerset is real young. Tri Valley's studs are young. We have some young guys. Bedford has some of those young guns. There's a lot of young talent, and this tournament is going to be very difficult in the near future."
While finals bouts at good tournaments can often be intense and emotional, sometimes some humor brings smiles to the weary faces of the wrestlers.
Such was the case with the finals bout between Garbinsky and Bowman. With Garbinsky winning 5-0 late in the bout, the wrestlers were getting set for a re-start when Bowman said something to Garbinsky, who started laughing.
"He asked me if I could let him up so he could score one point on me," Garbinsky said.
Garbinsky nearly did release him, but he changed his mind and rode Bowman out for the shutout.
"I was going to let him up," he said, "but I looked over to my dad and he shook his head. I better listen to him."
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org