Easter wins 4th mat title

WINDBER – For Bedford Area High School senior Ryan Easter, the fourth time was a charm.

Easter won his fourth District 5 wrestling championship Saturday at Windber Area High School, logging a 4-2 victory over Meyersdale’s Tanner Hetrick in the 132-pound title match.

Easter, a PIAA Class AA state runner-up last year, became Bedford’s first four-time district champion since Eric Gibbons accomplished the feat back in 2002.

“I wrestled a little tight,” said Easter, who scored an escape and takedown in the second period to take command. “I know that everybody I wrestle now is going to be giving me their best. I knew I had to go out there and stay focused.

“It feels good to be part of an elite group,” Easter added. “Words can’t describe it. Probably 10 years from now, I’ll be sitting at home and it will finally sink in.”

For as momentous as the accomplishment of winning four district titles is, Easter has an even bigger goal in mind winning the state championship that eluded him last year.

Easter, who will compete in Division I wrestling for Bloomsburg University next season, reached the PIAA Class AA state championship match at 119 but lost by major decision to Bethlehem Catholic’s Darian Cruz, who is now wrestling at Lehigh University.

“Cruz is really tough, and I was kind of overwhelmed against him last year,” Easter said. “This year, I have nothing to lose. I want to go for first.”

First place has become customary for Easter in the district tournament.

“This was a great match for him,” Bedford coach Brian Creps said. “With all the pressure he [faced] going for his fourth district championship, this was a pretty big deal.”

Easter will be one of 20 area wrestlers advancing to next weekend’s Southwest AA Regional Tournament in Johnstown, and will be one of eight individual champs. Other Bedford champs included Jonathan Gabriel (113 pounds), Jake Warren (126), and Garrett Thomas (138).

Chestnut Ridge, which captured its third District 5 team title, also boasted four individual champs in Aaron Burkett (106), Derrick Claar (138), Trent Crouse (145), and Austin Buttry (285).

Ridge coach Greg Lazor was named the District 5 coach of the year, and was all smiles about the Lions’ third team championship.

“It’s absolutely a great feeling,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said of the third team title. “You always strive to win districts, and our boys are really excited about winning three in a row.”

Ridge, whose 189 team points put the Lions ahead of second-place Berlin Brothersvalley (174), moved a total of eight wrestlers to the regional, including district runners-up Blake Dunlap (113) and Conner Buttry (182).

Bedford moved six to the regional, including sixth-seeded runner-up Kyle Mehle (120) and Garrett Thomas (138).

“Our kids went out and wrestled as tough as they could,” Creps said. “I’m really pleased with them.”

Northern Bedford advanced four to the regional, including district runners-up Jared Helsley (126) and Lucas Kolinchak (170).

“I think our kids wrestled really great this weekend,” Northern Bedford coach Brian Dutchcot said. “We have a young team, and we got a lot of experience here.”

Everett will move on 285-pounder Devin Reed, who finished second, losing to Ridge’s Austin Buttry, 3-1 in overtime in the championship match.

Ridge boasted the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler in Crouse, whose overtime takedown earned him a 4-2 victory over Berlin Brothersvalley’s Braden Fochtman in the 145-pound title match.

Ridge’s Claar used a takedown with one second left to upend Bedford’s Thomas, 5-3, for the 138-pound title, while Ridge’s Burkett scored a 16-0, 3:55 technical fall over Somerset’s Quinn Cole at 106.

“It feels good to win this year after finishing second in the same weight class here last year,” Burkett said.

Bedford’s Gabriel won the 113-pound championship match by technical fall, 19-4, in 5:09 over Ridge’s Dunlap.

“I just wanted to go out there, be aggressive, and try to score a lot of points,” Gabriel said.

In the 126-pound title match, Bedford’s Warren, a senior, grabbed a 4-0 second-period lead and made it stand up for a 4-3 win over Northern Bedford’s Helsley.

“It always feels good to win a district championship, but especially in my senior year,” Warren said.

Ridge’s Conner Buttry dropped a 7-1 championship decision to Meyersdale’s Gavin Berkey at 182, and Northern Bedford’s Kolinchak was decisioned, 5-2 by Somerset’s Landon Lohr for the 170-pound title.

Six area wrestlers advanced to the regional as third-place finishers. Third-place finishers were Northern Bedford’s Zach Clark (106 pounds) and Trey Childers (113), Chestnut Ridge’s Dustin Ickes (120) and Colby Hillegass (160), Bedford’s Chance Williams (182), and Tussey Mountain’s Quinn Barnett (152).

In the third-place matches, Ridge’s Ickes punched out a 4-2 win over North Star’s Colton Gennett at 120 pounds, while the Lions’ Hillegass used a takedown at the edge of the mat in overtime to defeat Somerset’s Mike Laue, 4-2.

Bedford’s Williams used an overtime takedown to top Berlin Brothersvalley’s Shane Pepper, 3-1 at 182, and Barnett became Tussey Mountain’s lone regional representative by using a third-period takedown to top Northern Bedford’s Chris Eichelberger, 4-2 at 152.

Northern Bedford’s Clark took third at 106 with a 4-2 overtime victory over Bedford’s Noah Baughman, and Childers outlasted Everett’s Dalton Klotz, 7-6 in the third-place bout at 113.

Chestnut Ridge’s Sam Shank (120), Kyle Winegardner (170), and Shane Davis (220), along with Bedford’s Toby Brett (145), also reached the consolation finals but lost.

Meet notes: Elected into the District 5 Wrestling Hall of Fame Saturday were former Tussey Mountain wrestling standout Jeff Husick, former North Star coach Dennis Leyman, and former Berlin Brothersvalley coach Rick Lorson.