Irwin: LHAC tournament turned into confusing mess

The Laurel Highlands Conference Wrestling Tournament seemed like a good idea for the longest time.

All the wrestling teams from the conference, including Bedford, Cambria Heights, Central Cambria and Penn Cambria, getting together for the first LHAC tournament at Bedford High School in somewhat of a mini-Thomas Tournament.

Yep, good idea. Right up until a few days before Saturday’s tournament date. That’s when it all went downhill and led to the cancellation of the tournament.

There was, and still is, a lot of confusion about what led to the tournament being canceled. Essentially, the mess boiled down to these facts:

* The tournament had to be voted on by the District 6 Committee.

* Nobody on the committee can remember seeing the tournament on the agenda or voting on it.

* Nobody involved in the tournament knows whose responsibility it was to take the idea to District 6.

* Teams were under the assumption that because it was a conference tournament, it didn’t count toward the 22-point scheduling maximum.

The downfall began on Wednesday when Westmont Hilltop coach Matt Beaujon emailed Penn Cambria coach Todd Niebauer about not seeing the tournament in the District 6 Committee minutes and whether it counted as a point or not.

“It got me thinking about why it wasn’t in the District 6 minutes,” Niebauer said. “I mentioned it to my principal [William Marshall], who is on the District 6 committee, and he said ‘You should call [District 6 Committee Chairman] Dave Crumrine.’ He called my principal back and said he didn’t remember it [being on the agenda].

“I talked to [former Forest Hills coach] Jim Bowser and he was very upset. He was one of the people who submitted the idea to the Laurel Highlands, and he was asking ‘Was I supposed to take it to District 6?’ But I don’t have a clue who is responsible. It’s a very weird circumstance, and the timing was terrible.”

Asked who should have presented the tournament to District 6, Crumrine said the athletic directors. Did it have to be voted on? Would the tournament have cost the teams at least a point even though that’s not the case in other sports? Well, that’s where the picture gets fuzzier.

“In the past, the committee didn’t see a league championship with individual champions in wrestling as the same as a championship game in basketball,” said Crumrine, who is the principal at Central High School. “I don’t know what they’d do now. If they had asked the district committee, then the committee could have agreed to it. They didn’t do that. The whole thing is unfortunate.”

Especially for Bedford, which had spent about $1,300 in preparation for the tournament. The school had spent about $1,000 for medals and awards, referees and workers. The Bedford Mat Club had spent about $300 in food and drinks, which it will actually still be able to use at the Thomas Tournament on Jan. 25-26.

“It was not a happy time at Bedford,” Bedford coach Brian Creps said. “We had awards and officials. It was a pretty big deal. The tournament was scheduled last April. The Laurel Highlands Conference asked us to set it up. From there, we’ve been working on it. It was on the schedule of everybody in the Laurel Highlands. Nobody really checked on it. Nobody really wants to come clean with who was at fault.”

Despite his frustration, Creps understands the problem of another point creating havoc on the schedule.

“I don’t blame any school for not wanting to mess up the competition points,” Creps said.

“I emailed Brian and told him I was sorry about how this happened, but it’s better to find out now than before districts and have our wrestlers declared ineligible.”

For Creps, it was just another blow to his schedule. His team had to pull out of the Dec. 27 Boiling Springs Tournament because of the recent snowstorms. The Dec. 21 Westmont Hilltop match was snowed out, and the Dec. 13 Richland match was moved to Jan. 23 because of the Rams’ football run though the playoffs.

When he found out about the latest snafu, he called Everett coach Rob Ripple and asked if there was an opening in Saturday’s Bloody Run Duals. About two hours later, as Bedford was traveling to Central Cambria for a dual meet, Ripple called him back and said the Bisons could wrestle in the Duals.

“It’s been hectic for us,” Creps said.

Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.