To win matches against some of the best teams in the state and work their way though the PIAA Duals, teams will have to survive close meets.
While Chestnut Ridge, ranked second in the state in last week's Off The Mat rankings, has blitzed its way though the season for the most part, scoring 50 or more points 14 times, the Lions have had some close matches that could help them with nailbiters in the PIAA Duals, which begins Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Ridge begins its first state tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday against 20th-ranked District 4 runner-up Benton. The winner of that first-round match will face either third-ranked District 3 champ Boiling Springs, eighth-ranked District 9 runner-up Brookville or 16th-ranked District 10 third-placer Saegertown at noon on Friday. Brookville wrestles Saegertown in Monday's preliminary round.
Fifth-ranked Reynolds, seventh-ranked South Fayette and ninth-ranked West Branch are also on Ridge's side of the bracket. Top-ranked Bethlehem Catholic, which has won the last two PIAA Duals, is, mercifully, in the other bracket.
The two most obvious matches that have helped the Lions get ready for the intensity in Hershey are the Bedford meets. Ridge won the first one, 39-32, and the second, 34-30, on Saturday in the District 5 Duals championship.
The Lions' lone loss was a 31-30 setback to Class AAA Chambersburg, the District 3 runner-up to Central Dauphin, at the Dale Bock Duals. They also have beaten Bermudian Springs (37-24) at the Bock Duals, Berlin Brothersvalley (43-19 and 45-20) and, with many reserves in the lineup, State College (42-29) at the Bock Duals.
"It's nice to get in battles and say 'Hey, we've got to win here. We've got to suck it up here. We've got to battle here,' " Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. "That's what it's going to be like [at states]. We've seen a few of the people we're going to see down there already. We've seen some nice dual meets this yer. So, hopefully, a couple dual meets we've had will us out."
The Lions won't be going to Hershey just for the experience - although that could help them in the postseason. When they break the team huddle, they say "state champs." It's a lofty goal, but it's one that Lazor set when he started coaching Ridge five years ago.
"That's your goal," Lazor said. "If your goal isn't to be the best, then you're not trying as hard as you can. We're just trying to get that as a common goal throughout the community. Our little guys do the same thing."
"I'm ready to go, and I know my team is too," said Ridge senior 195-pounder Dan Albright, whose win over Michael Brett was one of the keys against Bedford. "I think we'll do really well down there."
Glendale knows criteria
Most wrestling fans don't know the tiebreaker criteria for tied dual meets because it rarely comes up, but Glendale and its followers should know it by heart now.
The Vikings were in two straight tiebreaker matches, against Marion Center on Jan. 24 and Bellwood-Antis on Jan. 31. The Vikes lost to Marion Center, 43-42, on Criteria H, which is most first takedowns, and they beat B-A, 40-39, on Criteria E, most six-point wins
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.