McCoy has good shot at history

By Todd Irwin

Chestnut Ridge’s Justin McCoy has been setting school records and reaching new milestones throughout his career, and now he’s set to go where no other Ridge wrestler has gone.

If the returning state champion wins a District 5 Tournament title on Saturday, and it would take a huge effort by anybody else to deny him of that feat, he’ll become only the third Ridge wrestler to win four district titles, joining Tyler Dibert (2010-13) and Lester McClucas (1958-61).

“That’s going to be pretty cool,” McCoy said earlier in the week. “It is something that I’ve wanted, but it’s not something that I really looked forward to. It might happen, so I’m pretty excited about that. It would be cool to go to the district tournament later in life and see my name in the book.”

“It’s funny, when he was coming in as a freshman and winning the first one and maybe the second one, you think the kid has a chance to do something really special,” Ridge coach Greg Lazor said. “And now he goes into the district tournament, you hope he makes the finals and wrestles his best. If he’s doing that, he’s going to be tough to beat. The work he did prior to this gave him this opportunity, so now he just needs to stay the course.”

McCoy’s quest for four titles begins on Saturday morning. The wrestling begins at 9 a.m. with the preliminaries. The quarterfinals will follow at 9:30, and the semifinals and consolations will follow that round. The championship finals and consolation finals are set for 5 p.m. As always, the top three at every weight advance to the Southwest Regional Tournament.

McCoy is one of Ridge’s seven No. 1 seeds. Kai Burkett (106), Nathan Holderbaum (113), Cody Brown (132), Jared McGill (160), Levi Hobson (170) and returning district runner-up Austin Crouse (182) are the Lions’ other top seeds. Ridge’s Gryphon Callihan (120), Duane Knisely (195) and Dalton Seace (285) are No. 2 seeds.

“I honestly didn’t know how many we had,” Lazor said of the No. 1 seeds. “I know we had a bunch of boys do some good things coming back from last year, and they set themselves up in a good position to hopefully have some success.”

McGill, who is 35-0, is vying for his third district title, and he’ll be in a position to match McCoy’s feat next season.

“I expect him to keep doing what he’s been doing,” Lazor said. “He’s been opening up on his feet with a lot of takedowns, which is great for him and gives him a whole new arsenal in his scoring. I expect him to remain strong on top and be one of the best wrestlers in the state on bottom.”

If all seven come through and win titles, that would set a program record. The Lions set a new school mark by winning six titles in 2015.

“That would be a good day, of course,” Lazor said with a laugh. “I don’t know what the record is, but we have a chance to do some damage and have some fun if the boys wrestle up to par. Maybe we’ll set a new standard.”

Asked how many he was looking to qualify for the regional tournament, Lazor said 11 or 12. They’ve qualified 11 wrestlers twice, in 2015 and last season.

No matter how many they get through, the Lions are a heavy favorite to claim their seventh straight team title. They already hold the District 5 record for consecutive team titles with six.

“We’ve got a nice little streak going, and we’d like to keep it going,” Lazor said. “Now that the duals are over, we set our sights on the next goal, and the next goal is to win another district title. Hopefully the boys show up and do what they’re capable of and keep the ball rolling.”

Everett’s Garret Cornell (126), a returning District 5 champion, is the area’s other No. 1 seed. His teammate, Liam Flaherty (138), is a returning champ, but he’s seeded second behind Berlin Brothersvalley’s Tristan Pugh, a district runner-up last season.

“I like their chances,” Everett coach Rob Ripple said. “With Liam’s injuries he had, he’s definitely starting to get back on track. Garret has been in the zone all year. We’ve just got to stay focused and do one match at a time. That’s the way we coach them.”

There are four other area No. 2 seeds in Northern Bedford’s Alex Fouse (152) and Tristin Guyer (160), Tussey Mountain’s Brady Villa (126) and Bedford’s Nathan Gabriel (145)

Ridge’s Scott Miller (138) is a returning runner-up, but he’s seeded third. Everett’s Macen Akers (145) is a returning runner-up, and he’s seeded third.

The District 5 Tournament is the launching point for wrestlers who want to win medals throughout the postseason.

“We preach to the kids all year this is why you work your tails off, for this time of the year,” Ripple said. “I think a lot of the boys are definitely ready for it. They’re anxious and ready to get to the next level.”