The dual meet season was one of the more competitive ones within District 5 in a long time. Bedford survived battles with Somerset and North Star during the regular season and Chestnut Ridge and Berlin Brothersvalley to win the District 5 Duals.
This weekend, the focus of all the teams turns to individuals in the District 5 Tournament. But, the Bisons, Ridge, Somerset and Berlin will also keep an eye on the team standings, with the No. 1 team position possibly changing hands a few times over two days.
Bedford's chances took a hit at the PIAA Duals when 145-pounder Tanner Williams broke his hand and will miss the postseason.
"Somerset is looking very tough," Bedford coach Brian Creps said. "They have eight kids seeded in the top three and a returning third-place winner that is a fifth seed [Landon Lohr]. They have seven returning regional qualifiers. Chestnut Ridge has seven kids seeded in the top three. This will be a very interesting tournament."
"I think the district is loaded this year," Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. "It is going to be awesome, with some very nice bouts on Friday. I think Somerset, Bedford and us are the frontrunners, but with all the quality teams this year, you got to keep your eyes on everyone."
The tournament begins at 2 p.m. Friday at Windber High School with the preliminaries. That's three hours earlier than it usually starts. A quarterfinal round will follow at around 6, and the first day ends with a consolation round. Wrestling resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday with the semifinals. The consolation finals are set for 6 p.m., and the championship finals will follow at 7.
The top three at each weight class qualify for next week's Southwest Regional Tournament.
For the record, Bedford has six wrestlers seeded in the top three, including top seeds Ryan Easter (113), Michael Brett (182) and district runner-up Jacob Krupa (220).
"If we wrestle well and some of our mid-level kids catch on fire, we will be there at the end," Creps said. "We pride ourselves on our mid-level kids being pretty good and being able to rise to the occasion."
That Easter, a returning district champion, is the top seed, and Ridge's Trent Crouse is the second seed, might have raised some eyebrows. Crouse defeated Easter twice this season, and Crouse is ranked ahead of Easter in the Mirror rankings and in the statewide Off The Mat rankings.
"Easter is a great wrestler and had a couple of nice wins at state duals that put his points out of reach to challenge for the number one spot," Lazor said. "So, Easter is deserving, although I would really like the number one spot in this weight. Any argument we could use for Crouse getting number one, NBC could use for [Mason] Replogle [a third seed]. So, it is fair."
We'll, we are not looking too far ahead," Creps said. "[Conemaugh Township's Kody] Ofsanko is a tough wrestler, and Replogle has pinned Crouse this season. So, Ryan has to be ready for everyone."
Ridge has top seeds in Derrick Claar (106), Shane Pfaunmiller (126), Tyler Dibert (170) and Dan Albright (195). Dibert is a two-time district champion, and Pfaunmiller is a returning champ. Bedford's Toby Brett is seeded second behind Pfaunmiller.
"I think both have a chance to repeat," Lazor said. "Dibert probably has a better chance due to Pfaunmiller's weight class being more difficult. Both guys have to be prepared and be mentally ready. If we are going to give ourselves a chance for the team title, those guys are going to have to lead the way."
Northern Bedford top-seeded 285-pounder Quinton Hixson is also going for his third title. To do it, though, he might have to beat Somerset's Jake Hayman, who gave Hixson his only loss, in the finals. Hayman will likely wrestle Ridge's third-seeded Austin Buttry in the semifinals.
Buttry, who dropped to 220 late in the season but has moved back up, pinned Hayman at the Richland Duals but has lost to him twice since.
"We need to worry about the quarters first, then, hopefully, we get another shot at him," Lazor said. "I am sure it will be another exciting match. Buttry has been working on a few things in the room he is eager to try."
Northern Bedford's Matt Sollenberger won a district title at 140 last season, but he's seeded second to Somerset's Michael Sutton at 160. NBC's Cody Guyer (106) and Damian Corle (132) are also seeded second.
NBC's Replogle (third seed) and Drew Gartland (second seed at 138) are returning runners-up, as is Bedford's Garrett Thomas (third seed at 120).
North's Star's two-time state champion and three-time district champion Nick Roberts (120) is a top seed, as is Conemaugh Township's Tanner Cahill (145) and Cory Berchick (152) and Meyersdale's Stephen McKenzie (132).
"We are very excited," Creps said. "Our individuals are looking forward to wrestling some local wrestlers. We spent much of our season wrestling in the LHAC and out of the area for tournaments. So, this will be fun and different."