Ridge holding favorite’s role

PIAA 2A Regional Wrestling

Chestnut Ridge won its first Southwest Regional Class 2A Tournament title in 2015. Since then, the Lions have finished second to Huntingdon by eight points in 2016 and by three points to Bishop McCort last season.

Ridge enters this year’s tournament as one of the favorites to win a team title. The Lions crowned eight champions and qualified 13 wrestlers to the regional tournament.

Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy, which had four District 6 champs and eight qualifiers, will likely battle the Lions for the top spot.

“We’ll try to do what we can do,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “Each kid will go out there and do the best they can, try to place as high as they can, pick up as many bonus points as we can along the way.

“There’s a couple teams out there that are going to be real tough to beat. Saint Joe’s jumps in my mind. They don’t have the solid lineup from top to bottom as a lot of the top teams do, but what they have in the middle and below is quite phenomenal, so they’re going to be tough to beat.”

The tournament, which returns to IUP’s Ed Frey Arena at the Kovalchick Convention Center & Athletic Complex, begins at 2 p.m. Friday on four mats. The quarterfinals and a round of consolations follow at 5:45 p.m.. The tournament resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday with the second round of consolations, and the semifinals and third round of consys will follow at noon.

The championship finals and the fifth and third-place bouts are set for 5:45. The top six at each weight class qualify for states again this year. There are 16 wrestlers at every weight, with the top seven from District 7, the top six from District 6 and the top three from District 5 at those weights.

“It’s always exciting,” Lazor said. “It’s a big step to get to Hershey. When you combine District 7 and 6 with 5, there’s different numbers of teams throughout the districts, but they all have their strengths and techniques, so it’s a tough tournament. It’s been one of the toughest regionals in the state for quite some time, and I wouldn’t expect anything different.”

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Huntingdon coach Jon Mykut, who had three runners-up and five qualifiers at the District 6 Tournament. “The goal here is to get as many guys as we can to the state tournament. Our guys are kind of chomping at the bit and are ready to get after it on Friday and see if they can punch their tickets.”

There will be 51 area qualifiers competing in the tournament, and most of them are hoping to somehow qualify for the PIAA Championships.

Included in that number are Ridge’s champions: Kai Burkett (106), Nathan Holderbaum (113), Cody Brown (132), returning state and regional champion Justin McCoy (152), returning regional runner-up and state placer Jared McGill (160), Levi Hobson (170), Austin Crouse (182) and Dalton Seace (285).

Lazor and Mykut were asked if they set a number of qualifiers they’d like to get through.

“It’s so weird,” Lazor said. “As coaches, we sit there and discuss it. I’ll say I have two guys that definitely should get out. They’ve been out before and they’ve medaled before. Then I’ve got the whole rest of the team that is right on that level that definitely can if they have good days. We could go from two to eight or so if everyone wrestles their best.”

“I’d like to get five through,” Mykut said with a laugh. “I think it’s certainly possible. Our guys have wrestled well all year long, and I would expect them to do that this weekend.”

One finals bout that could be very tight is between McCoy and Frazier’s Thayne Lawrence (23-1), who are ranked first and second, respectively, in the PA Power Rankings. Lawrence dropped a 5-2 decision to Central Cambria’s eventual two-time state champ Max Murin in the 138-pound finals last year.

“It’s going to be an exciting match,” Lazor said. “Lawrence proved himself last year against Max. He proved himself last year by taking third when it was all said and done. We’ll keep studying him and see what we can do and hopefully come out on top.”

McGill, who is 38-0, isn’t the only undefeated wrestler at his weight. West Branch’s District 6 champion Derek Yingling is 32-0, in the bottom bracket and a possible opponent for McGill.

“McGill got a tough draw,” Lazor said. “He got a couple decent boys from D6 that got upset in his bracket. He’s got a tough road ahead of him, and he’s going to have to wrestle well and stay in good position. I like McGill’s chances with anybody he wrestles. He’s a quality kid.”

Huntingdon’s Landon Fisher, who finished second along with teammates Izac Benson (132) and Alex Mykut (195) at the district tournament, is a returning regional runner-up. He’ll likely have to get through Derry Area’s Dominic DeLuca, who was ranked No. 1 when Fisher pinned him at the PIAA Duals. And then there’s a possible rematch with Bishop McCort’s Anthony Walters, who beat Fisher, 9-4, in the district finals.

“Landon has wrestled great all year-long,” Mykut said. “Walters moving up caused a little roadblock on his way to achieving some of his goals, but he’s going to have to adjust some things. His goal is to get to the top of the medals stand at Hershey, so he’s going to have to get through Walters to get there.”