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Looking for an edge: District 5 titles keep on motivating Ridge

Mirror file photo Chestnut Ridge’s Kai Burkett (top) is the No. 1 seed at 113 pounds this weekend for the Lions.

The trophy case at Chestnut Ridge keeps getting filled with PIAA Duals and District 5 championship trophies.

The Lions are coming off of their third straight third-place finish at the PIAA Duals. With eight No. 1 seeds, they enter Saturday’s District 5 Tournament as a virtual lock to win their ninth straight team title.

Ridge wins every year, so the question is does the team even talk about the team title?

“Yes, absolutely,” Ridge coach Josh Deputy said. “In essence, that’s what keeps these kids going. They’re going to fight for each other way more than they’re going to fight for themselves. That’s just the way it is. I have the best coaching staff. Everyone is on the same page, and I think that bleeds over to the kids.”

The Lions qualified 12 wrestlers to the Southwest Regional last year after advancing a program-record 13 in 2018. Deputy said would like to get all 14 of his wrestlers through to the regional this time.

“I expect them all to make the trip to regionals,” he said. “That will never change with me. There’s no reason that any of them can’t go.”

The tournament has been moved from UPJ to Richland High School. It begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday with the preliminaries. The quarterfinals will follow at around 10:30, and the semifinals and consolations will follow that round. The consolation finals are set for 6 p.m., and the championship finals will start around 7.

The top three are every weight class advance to the regional tournament next week at IUP.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” Deputy said. “We came out of the State Duals healthy. We’re cleaning up some technique this week that we saw at State Duals, which always gives us a good gauge with some guys wrestling some tougher competition at the end of the year.”

The Lions have No. 1 seeds in Calan Bollman (106), Kai Burkett (113), Nathan Holderbaum (120), Ross Dull (126), Kaleb Miller (132), Daniel Moore (160), returning district runner-up Seth Holderbaum (182) and Duane Knisely (220).

“It just shows we wrestle a tough schedule and compete against the best,” Deputy said of his top seeds.

Bedford’s Kaden Cassidy (138) and Northern Bedford’s Colby Imler (170) are also No. 1 seeds.

Burkett, a junior, and senior Nathan Holderbaum are going for their third titles, while seniors Knisely and Cassidy are aiming for their second titles.

Burkett, a regional runner-up and state tournament fifth-placer last season, is 31-4 heading into the district tournament.

“I expect big things from Kai,” Deputy said. “He’s that consistent kid. He’s our silent leader. He puts in lots of work. I expect him to have a big postseason because he’s earned it. We’ll see what lies ahead for him.”

Knisely, a returning regional runner-up, is 33-3 with 16 pins as he rides a wave of momentum into the postseason.

“Duane has a great State Duals. His loss at Brookville refocused him, and it got him moving in the right direction. He’s been on fire ever since then.”

Cassidy is the last area wrestler with an undefeated record, entering the tournament with a 27-0 mark and 19 technical falls.

“We’re really excited the postseason is here,” Bedford coach Joel Easter said. “As for Cassidy, I know he is ready. He is injury-free and he is mentally and physically ready to make a run at a state title. Kaden will be tested at the district tournament. We have been preaching to him one match at a time.”

The 138-pound weight class is loaded, with Berlin Brothersvalley’s second-seeded Tyler Coddington (10-2), Northern Bedford’s returning champion and third-seeded Ian Sherlock (26-6) and Ridge’s fourth-seeded Trevor Weyandt (23-12) making up the weight. Barring something happening to Cassidy, one of those guys won’t qualify for regionals.

“138 is going to be fun at District 5,” Deputy said. “There are four good kids there, and obviously Kaden is the man right now. Trevor is going to have to wrestle tough and hopefully he can sneak in there somewhere.”

Tussey Mountain has three No. 2 seeds in Trevor Husick (106), Hunter Horton (126) and Matt Watkins (285). Husick, a returning district runner-up, has been out of the Titans’ lineup with a wrist injury. Horton is also a returning runner-up.

Everett’s Lane Younker (132) and Logan Propst (220) are No. 2 seeds, as is Bedford’s Ashton Dull (195).

Ridge’s third-seeded Gryphon Callihan is a returning runner-up. Some of the Lions who aren’t seeded in the top two have the potential to make the finals.

Ridge’s Luke Moore (25-12) is seeded third at 152, but he could join his brother, Daniel, in the finals. They both placed third last season.

“I expect big things from those two,” Deputy said. “I’m in their ears every day, all the time. They need to make that progression this year. We’ve been working on some things, and hopefully they’re ready to go and can get to Hershey.”

Whatever the wrestlers are seeded, it’s the start of a postseason road that could take them all the way to Hershey.

“We’ve got the focus back to individuals, and they’re not ready to be done,” Deputy said. “It’s a long season, but they seem ready to go.”

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