Ridge, Bedford to battle at D5 mat event

He’s been waiting for awhile for the postseason to arrive, and now that it has, Chestnut Ridge’s Tyler Dibert is ready to put his name in the history books.

Dibert is vying for his fourth District 5 title. It’s a rare feat, and it’s even rarer for a Ridge wrestler to accomplish. The program hasn’t had a four-timer since Lester McLucas won titles from 1958 to 1961.

Dibert, the top seed at 170 pounds, has a lot of confidence going into the tournament.

“I feel pretty good,” Dibert said. “Obviously, I have to wrestle well to win it, but I don’t think there’s much danger of not winning it. Since the state duals, this has been what I’ve been looking forward to. My favorite time of the year has always been the individual tournaments.”

Dibert, who is 32-4 and is the school record holder in career wins with 129, doesn’t expect to feel much pressure in going for his fourth title.

“If I put pressure on myself and make it more than it is, then I won’t wrestle to the best of my ability,” he said.

“He’s been in a lot of big tournaments, and I would hope the pressure would not get to him,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “I think he’s excited. In the long run, he has bigger goals in mind. I think he’s shooting for a state medal more than anything.”

The tournament begins at 2 p.m. Friday at Windber High School with the preliminaries. A quarterfinal round will follow at around 3:30, which is much earlier than usual, and the first day ends with a consolation round at around 6:30. 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.

Dibert will also look to help Ridge amass points so it can win its second straight district team title. The Lions won two tight battles with Bedford, including in the District 5 Duals championship, and came out ahead of the Bisons in the Thomas Subaru Tournament. Expect Berlin Brothersvalley, which finished fourth at Thomas, to be among the leaders.

“That would be awesome,” Dibert said of Ridge winning the team title. “Obviously, I want our team to do well. For me to get my fourth at the same time we win the title would be one heck of a weekend.”

Ridge has returning champions in Derrick Claar (120) and Dan Albright (195) and a runner-up in Trent Crouse (126). The Lions have six No. 2 seeds in Aaron Burkett (106), Crouse, Bradie Bollman (160), Albright, Brad Winegardner (220) and Austin Buttry (285).

“The team race will be interesting,” Bedford coach Brian Creps said. “Ridge has a bunch of high seeds, and we have a bunch of high seeds. Berlin has eight or nine guys who could get through. Ridge would have the edge, but that’s why you wrestle in this thing. We have some guys who are like caged lions right now. They’re tired of beating each other up in practice. They’ll be ready.”

“I think it’s going to be real tight,” Lazor said. “Bedford is looking real tough. They have lot of wrestlers who can reach the finals. [Creps] is trying to motivate his boys [by saying Ridge has the edge], and I think I can motivate mine. In a small tournament like this, the semis are a lot of extra points. We’re going to have to match them the best way we can.”

Creps also has possible future four-timer in his lineup. Junior 120-pounder Ryan Easter (28-1) is a two-time champion and a top seed. Teammates Jonathan Gabriel (106), Garrett Thomas (126), Toby Brett (138) and Tanner Williams (152) are also top seeds. Jake Warren (113) is a second seed.

Brett is a returning champion, while Thomas and second-seeded Michael Brett (182) finished second last season. Williams missed the postseason last year with an injury.

“Tanner comes into practice with a big smile on his face,” Creps said. “He’s real excited to wrestle in the district tournament.”

Williams was the big name who missed last year’s tournament with an injury. This year, it’s Northern Bedford’s Eric Grace, who won a Thomas Subaru title at 220 pounds and is second in the Mirror rankings, but he’s out after he twisted his knee on Feb. 5 against North Star. Grace, a star baseball player, will go through physical therapy for the MCL injury and not have surgery.

“That was a little bit of a disappointment,” NBC coach Brian Dutchcot said. “He was having a real nice year. After the Thomas Tournament, he was excited to be out for the sport, and it looked like it would set a tone for him. Unfortunately, this injury happened at the worst time of the year. The bad thing is it’s his senior year.

“I think the baseball aspect was on his mind. That’s his No. 1 sport, and that’s his decision. If he doesn’t want to risk it, then I understand.”

While that is disappointing, Dutchcot has the only unbeaten regular starter left in the district and area in 145-pounder Drew Gartland (26-0), a returning champion who is the top seed at a very rugged weight. Conemaugh Township’s two-time champion Tanner Cahill is the second seed at the weight. Gartland, by the way, has 99 career wins.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Dutchcot said. “I think the title at the Thomas Tournament put him over the edge as far as confidence is concerned. I think he’s mentally ready for the challenge. 145 is real deep.”

The other two in Northern Bedford’s Big 3 – Mason Replogle (132) and Damian Corle (138) – are seeded third and second, respectively. Corle took second last season, while Replogle was third.

“We’re excited,” Dutchcot said. “We had an impressive win against North Star, and the kids looked better against Philipsburg. I think our three guys in the middle will have success.”

Notes: Tussey Mountain’s Mitchell Hall is the top seed at 285. … Creps said Wednesday night that Caleb Grimes, initially seeded fifth at 160, where’s he’s been most the season, is moving up to 170. It’s not clear where he’ll be seeded. … Berlin and Meyersdale have two No. 1 seeds apiece.