NEW PARIS - There was some talk within District 5 before Friday night that Berlin Brothersvalley might have been better than district power Chestnut Ridge this year.
The addition of Conemaugh Township transfers Taylor Cahill, a returning state qualifier, and freshman Toby Cahill to go with returning state qualifiers Braden and Bryce Fochtman had seemingly given the Mountaineers the edge.
Who knows what will happen down the road, but the Lions proved they're still the team to beat in the district at Richard Fisher Gymnasium by taking it to Berlin early, winning the third period, charging out to a 27-6 lead and beating the Mountaineers, 39-25.
"You hear a lot about Berlin being the best, and they very well could be by the end. We'll find out," said Ridge coach Greg Lazor, whose team wrestled in the rugged Powerade Tournament. "But the boys take that to heart. The boys had a very successful year last year, and they feel they have a pretty strong team this year."
"We used [the Berlin is better talk] as motivation to work harder, get better, wrestle our hardest and show them we're still better," senior Ben Clark said.
Clark set the tone for the meet in the first bout at 170. Berlin's Trevor Moore led 9-2 in the second period, but Clark, who came in with a 2-5 record, reversed him to his back and got the fall in 3:43, causing the Ridge bench and the home crowd to erupt in celebration.
"I think it excited the team," Clark said, "and it made them pumped to go out there and wrestle hard."
"That was huge," Lazor said. "Ben Clark is kind of a newer wrestler for us. He's scrapping, battling and getting better every week. It was a great momentum swing for us and kind of a balloon deflater for them."
After Kyle Winegardner earned a 5-0 win over Shane Pepper at 182, Conner Buttry caused the Lions (8-1) again to leap to their feet. Buttry moved up from 182 to 195 and was tied, 2-2, with Toby Cahill entering the third period. But, Buttry reversed Cahill to his back and pinned him in 4:30.
"We knew that would be a tough match for Conner," Lazor said, "but Conner has been wrestling excellent. He looked great at Powerade and the [Towanda] dual tournament, but to get that pin was a nice surprise."
Berlin picked up its first win when Stewart Trulick pinned Jonathan Heming in 59 seconds at 220, but the Lions returned to their pinning ways in the next two bouts.
Ridge 285-pounder Austin Buttry led Anthony Collins, 7-0, in the second period when he slipped in a half nelson and decked the Mountaineer in 3:28. Ridge 106-pounder Aaron Burkett used the same move to put away Kyle Boyce in 1:06, giving his team a 27-6 lead.
Berlin (2-1) won the next two bouts, including Joe Swank's 9-6 victory over Blake Dunlap at 113, but Ridge began pulling away again.
Freshman Morgan Deremer fell behind Berlin's E.J. Custer, 5-2, in the first period at 126, but Deremer worked his way back with an escape before the first-period buzzer and a reversal in the second to tie the score. Custer escaped, but Deremer took him down with 3.5 seconds left. Deremer used a punishing ride in the third period to control Custer and preserve a 7-6 win.
"He's making less mistakes and staying in better position," Lazor said of Deremer, "and it's starting to pay off for him. He came up with a big win against a very experienced wrestler."
By the time the 132-pounders took the mat, the towel Lazor keeps with him during matches was torn to pieces.
"It was an exciting match," Lazor said smiling. "Yeah, I don't even know how it happens sometimes. I look down at the end, and it's not a towel anymore."
Sam Shank also fell behind early, 2-0, to Kane McKenzie, but Shank reversed in the second, escaped in the third and notched a takedown to win, 5-2.
Derrick Claar salted the win away when he pinned Storm McDonald with a second left on the first-period clock, making the score 39-13 with three bouts to go - all of which Berlin swept, including a 6-5 Taylor Cahill win over Trent Crouse at 152.
"I hope this is a momentum builder," Lazor said. "We didn't finish the Powerade like we normally finish a tournament, but hopefully they see the progress and benefits of wrestling a tournament like that. This is a big match, big win. We've got a lot of tough matches coming up."
170-Clark, CR, pinned Moore, 3:43; 182-Winegardner, CR, dec. Pepper, 5-0; 195-C. Buttry, CR, pinned To. Cahill, 4:30; 220-Trulick, BB, pinned Heming, :59; 285-A. Buttry, CR, pinned Collins, 3:28; 106-Burkett, CR, pinned Boyce, 1:06; 113-DeArmitt, BB, dec. Dunlap, 9-6.
120-Swank, BB, maj. dec. Ickes, 13-1; 126-Deremer, CR, dec. Custer, 7-6; 132-Shank, CR, dec. McKenzie, 5-2; 138-Claar, CR, pinned McDonald, 1:59; 145-Bra. Fochtman, BB, dec. Hillegass, 3-1; 152-Ta. Cahill, BB, dec. Crouse, 6-5; 160-Bry. Fochtman, BB, pinned McGill, 2:53.
Records: Berlin Brothersvalley (2-1); Chestnut Ridge (8-1).
JV winners: Hobson, CR; Dunn, CR.