Brian Creps had the greenest team he's ever had in his seven years as Bedford's head coach. He entered the postseason with four freshmen and seven sophomores in his lineup, which doesn't bode well normally for successful seasons.
For a little over a month Creps and the Bisons watched as Huntingdon and Claysburg-Kimmel jockeyed for position in the top two spots in the Mirror team rankings.
C-K took over the top spot briefly after it beat Bedford, 36-33, knocking the Bisons from the No. 1 spot for the first time in over four years. Huntingdon beat C-K twice, at the Richland Duals and at the District 6 Duals, but as that was going on, Bedford was getting more experienced and healthier.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bedford’s Brian Creps has a stranglehold on the Mirror Coach of the Year award, earning it the last five seasons.
"There were a lot of different challenges," Creps said. "We had a lot of new wrestlers that were wrestling for the first time, and it took about a month or so for the kids to start responding a little bit to the new competition. Once they started to do that, they really started to wrestle well."
Bedford won its fourth straight District 5 Duals while Huntingdon was beating C-K for the District 6 Duals title. All of them qualified for the PIAA Team Duals, and the young Bisons showed how far they had come, beating the second-ranked Bulldogs, 36-30, and the top-ranked Bearcats, 28-27, in back-to-back matches in Hershey before falling to Towanda, 34-29, in the consolation semifinals.
"The kids had a really good year," Creps said. "They came on strong at the end. We were able to avenge our loss against Claysburg from early in the year, and I was just real proud of the way they wrestled.
Mirror coaches of the year
2008-09 Brian CrepsBedford
2005-06Jim ClarkChestnut Ridge
2002-03Jan ClarkNorthern Bedford
2001-02Doug FogelPenn Cambria
1992-93Tom VauxCentral Cambria
1990-91Harry MurphyCambria Heights
1989-90Harry MurphyCambria Heights
1987-88Jan ClarkTussey Mountain
Jan ClarkTussey Mountain
1983-84Jan ClarkTussey Mountain
"With the younger kids, you don't know how they're going to respond. At the first couple big meets we wrestled, we didn't respond the way we would liked to have. As the season went on, we got better at responding in the big situations. That shows the maturity of the team as we went through."
Because Creps directed the Bisons to a 15-5 record and a second-half surge with wins over C-K and Huntingdon with less experience and less talent than in previous years, he has been named the Mirror's Coach of the Year for the fifth straight season. The five COYs puts him in a tie for the most in the 28 years of the honor with retiring Northern Bedford coach Jan Clark, who won three at Tussey Mountain, one at Central and another at NBC.
The Bisons' run of three District 5 Tournament titles was stopped by Northern Bedford, and they only qualified two wrestlers, Ryan Easter (103) and Brian Gibbons (171) to the PIAA Championships, and Easter took fifth there.
The Bisons, who earned the program's 700th win with a 54-15 win over Cambria Heights Jan. 6, were more equipped for the dual meet season because they lacked the stars from previous seasons.
"We had a lot of steady wrestlers," said Creps, who is quick to laud assistant coaches Sam Carroll and Joel Easter and junior high coach Rob Ripple. "In the years to come, as those guys improve, I think we'll be built for tournaments. Hopefully, you gain the experience you need for this year and push it through to next year."
This year had more candidates for Coach of the Year than in another year. Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut, who was voted District 6 Class AA Coach of the Year after his team went 23-2, and C-K coach Dave Marko, whose team went 23-4 and qualified five wrestlers to the PIAA Championships, were in the running.
Clark, whose team was hampered for most of the season with injuries, should also get a tip of the cap for NBC's tournament run.
"Going into districts, we were just trying to get everybody through," Creps said. "We had more injuries at districts, and we just couldn't seem to hold it together through the season with our injuries. Dave Frederick being out injured at heavyweight didn't help us. Northern got their guys back, and they were able to win the districts. They had a really nice team, and they proved it at districts."
Gibbons and Easter were ranked No. 1 from the start of the rankings to the end and were named first-team all-stars. Gibbons, one of only two seniors in the lineup at the start of districts, said Creps, who has a career record of 105-24, means a lot to the team.
"In my four years of high school. Coach Creps has been there for me in a lot of different ways," he said. "Whether it was in school with schoolwork, wrestling or football, it doesn't matter. He's always been a great guy and an excellent coach."