Commentary: Balance should lift Ridge

It’s been another sterling season for Chestnut Ridge and Bedford, who have finished first and second in the Thomas Subaru Tournament and in the District 5 Duals.

The battle rages on this weekend at the District 5 Tournament, and neither coach is willing to pick their own team as the favorites to win it all. Bedford coach Brian Creps is giving the edge to Ridge, and Ridge coach Greg Lazor says Bedford is the favorite.

I’m picking Ridge in my postseason picks because the Lions have too much balance, but it will be close, and like the Thomas Tournament, the Bisons will have more champs.

In fact, the Bisons should have more champs than anybody in the tournament. It says here Bedford will have five of the predicted nine area champions. Jonathan Gabriel (106 pounds), Ryan Easter (120), Garrett Thomas (126), Toby Brett (138) and Tanner Williams (152) should all win titles for the Bisons, and Michael Brett (182) should make the finals.

Ridge should have a couple champs in Bradie Bollman (160), who doesn’t appear to be the favorite at the weight, and Tyler Dibert (170), who will win his fourth district title.

When it came to pick a pre-tournament Outstanding Wrestler, I hesitated. Will it be Dibert, who is about to pull off something no Ridge wrestler has done since 1961? Will it be Northern Bedford’s unbeaten Drew Gartland (145)? Gartland is in possibly the toughest weight and could face a two-time district champ in Conemaugh Township’s Tanner Cahill in the finals.

It could be Bollman, who would surprise some with a win over Berlin Brothersvalley’s Bryce Fochtman in the finals.

In the end, I went with Dibert. It will be hard not to pick a four-time champ as the OW.

Tussey Mountain 285-pounder Mitchell Hall should also take home a title from the Windber gymnasium, but it won’t be easy. The Thomas finals bout with Ridge’s Austin Buttry was a pretty good one, and the pick here in Hall over Buttry.

Ridge, in fact, will have five other finalists in Aaron Burket (106), Derrick Claar (120), Trent Crouse (126), Dan Albright (195) and Brad Winegardner (220).

Thomas-Crouse III should be a doozy. Their early-season bout was a thing of beauty with all of the flurries, and they combined for 20 points in the Thomas finals. Thomas has won both bouts against Crouse, who had to face Easter in last year’s finals.

The bouts at 126 and 285 will be two of five matchups of area wrestlers in the final, including Gabriel and Burkett, Easter and Claar, Brett and Northern Bedford’s Damian Corle.

In the end, District 5 will send its best to the Southwest Regional Tournament, where it will look to overcome the sting of last year, when it was supposed to shine.

Here’s the rest of my picks. Enjoy.

106 POUNDS: Finalists: Jonathan Gabriel, Bedford vs. Aaron Burkett, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Gabriel. Comment: Everett’s Dalton Klotz will try to play spoiler against Burkett in the semifinals.

113 POUNDS: Finalists: Bill Charlton, Meyersdale vs. Jake Warren, Bedford. Champion: Charlton. Comment: If Warren and Dunlap meet in semis, it will be Warren’s third different Ridge opponent this season.

120 POUNDS: Finalists: Ryan Easter, Bedford vs. Derrick Claar, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Easter. Comment: Third-seeded Claar and Berlin’s second-seeded Swank have split, but I’m giving the edge to Claar in semis.

126 POUNDS: Finalists: Garrett Thomas, Bedford vs. Trent Crouse, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Thomas. Comment: Crouse should be able to survive big semifinal against Meyersdale’s Day.

132 POUNDS: Finalists: Chris Miller, Berlin Brothersvalley vs. Tanner Hetrick, Meyersdale. Champion: Miller. Comment: I’m tempted to pick NBC’s third-seeded Replogle to make the finals, but second-seeded Hetrick beat him earlier, 4-1.

138 POUNDS: Finalists: Toby Brett, Bedford vs. Damian Corle, Northern Bedford. Champion: Brett. Comment: Corle has pinned North Star’s third-seeded Mostoller twice, so he should make finals.

145 POUNDS: Finalists: Drew Gartland, Northern Bedford vs. Tanner Cahill, Conemaugh Township. Champion: Gartland. Comment: This was a rugged weight at the Thomas Tournament, and it is again.

152 POUNDS: Finalists: Tanner Williams, Bedford vs. Taylor Cahill, Conemaugh Township. Champion: Williams. Comment: Ridge’s Conner Buttry will look to play spoiler against Cahill in semis.

160 POUNDS: Finalists: Bryce Fochtman, Berlin Brothersvalley vs. Bradie Bollman, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Bollman. Comment: Going out on a limb at this deep weight class. Hope it doesn’t snap off.

170 POUNDS: Finalists: Tyler Dibert, Chestnut Ridge vs. Bill Dunbar, Meyersdale. Champion: Dibert. Comment: Not sure where Bedford’s Grimes will be seeded after the late move up, but he has split with Dunbar, so it’s possible the move could work.

182 POUNDS: Finalists: Gavin Berkley, Meyersdale vs. Michael Brett, Bedford. Champion: Berkley. Comment: Berkley was pretty impressive in Thomas Tournament. Also, I wonder what Hydman’s Merkel’s favorite move is.

195 POUNDS: Finalists: Jacob Nickelson, Somerset vs. Dan Albright, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Nickelson. Comment: Nickelson beat Albright, 7-4, in the Thomas Tournament finals.

220 POUNDS: Finalists: James Bennett, Hyndman vs. Brad Winegardner. Champion: Bennett. Comment: Can the “Little Engine that could” keep going? Winegardner will have a big semifinal against either North Star’s Albright or Bedford’s Williams.

285 POUNDS: Finalists: Mitchell Hall, Tussey Mountain vs. Austin Buttry, Chestnut Ridge. Champion: Hall. Comment: If Hall wrestles like he did at the Thomas, especially in the finals against Buttry, he’ll be tough to beat.

OUTSTANDING WRESTLER: Tyler Dibert, Chestnut Ridge.

TEAM CHAMPION: Chestnut Ridge. Comment: Ridge won the Thomas Subaru Tournament without a champion, but, the team race will be close again.

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