When I was trying to figure out how close the Bedford-Chestnut Ridge rematch would be prior to Saturday's District 5 Team Duals starting, I thought it would be a lot closer than the first time the rivals wrestled - a 59-16 Bedford rout on Dec. 22.
In the rematch, the teams battled nerves, familiarity, pressure, surprises, lineup moves and, of course, each other to send the dual meet outcome down to the last bout. In that bout, Bedford's Michael Brett beat Dan Albright, 8-6, in a matchup of Thomas Subaru Tournament champions to give the Bisons a 29-24 win.
I didn't know it would be that close.
Dual meets like that are tough on the nerves of respective teams and fans, but they're good for wrestling, and they've been happening a lot this season within District 5. In District 6, many of the matches involve multiple forfeits that lead to blowouts or high-scoring dual meets.
Ridge coach Greg Lazor and the rest of the Lions should be commended for closing a significant gap that separated the teams, who are the top two in the Mirror rankings, in the first match. The rematch is more what the teams are used to in this series.
Part of that is many of the Lions dropping one and sometimes two weights from the first matchup. Colby Hillegass weighed in at 132 and wrestled at 138 the first time. The second time he was at 120. Nobody outside of the Ridge program could have seen Austin Buttry dropping from 238 in the Richland Duals to 220 for Saturday's action.
But the Lions' improvement goes beyond weight loss. Kyle Winegardner was pinned by Tanner Williams with a second left in the second period the first time. The second time, Williams, down to 145 last week for the first time, earned a 2-1 win.
The one-point win was one of three the Bisons came out on top of in the match. Jacob Krupa beat Luke Fochtman, 2-1, in a 285-pound bout wrestled by 220-pounders. Dylan Evans captured a 7-6 win over Matt Dull at 170.
Ridge also got a one-point win by freshman Trent Crouse, who made it two in a row over returning state placewinner Ryan Easter. It's probably safe to say these two will be battling again in the individual district tournament, and it will be tight and well wrestled.
The Bisons were able to withstand Ridge's upset bid because of their balance, the coaching of Brian Creps and his talented staff and the fact they've been in close meets en route to a 15-0 record.
Heck, they needed Josiah Koontz's 5-2 win over Berlin Brothersvalley's Trace Heffner at 160 pounds in the Duals quarterfinals to clinch a 34-31 win. They also own a 35-32 win over District 5 foe Somerset the day before the Thomas Tournament and a 34-31 win over North Star in the first match of the season.
It's that kind of handling of pressure that will serve the Bisons well down the road. They could start reaping the rewards this week in the PIAA Duals, where they'll open with District 2 champion Western Wayne at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center. A win there and they'd face either District 7 champ Burrell or District 11 runner-up Pen Argyl on Friday.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.