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Ridge wrestlers should feel right at home at Giant Center

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The state’s best teams begin wrestling in the PIAA Duals on Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Some teams who are unfamiliar with the event and the arena will be intimidated, and it will show.

For Chestnut Ridge, though, the Giant Center is almost like being in Fisher Gymnasium.

Fresh off of its eighth straight District 6 Duals title, Ridge begins wrestling in the PIAA Duals against District 7 runner-up Burgettstown at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Eight straight titles means the Lions have made eight straight appearances in the PIAA Duals. During that run, they finished second in 2015, third the last two years and fourth in 2013.

They know the pressures of the Duals and what it takes to beat really good teams. Don’t be surprised if they place in the top four again.

Under first-year coach Josh Deputy, the Lions have picked up right where they left off when Greg Lazor was leading them. They are 14-1, have scored 59 or more points 10 times and have recorded three shutouts. Their only loss was to perennial power Reynolds, 35-29, at the Ultimate Duals.

If the Lions win their first match, their quarterfinal match will be Friday. District 6 runner-up Westmont Hilltop and District 10 third-placer General McLane wrestled Monday night in a wrestle-in, with the winner facing District 3 champ Hamburg Thursday. The winner of the Hamburg match wrestles Ridge.

District 9 champ Brookville and District 4 champ Southern Columbia are also on Ridge’s side. Southern Columbia has been a thorn in Ridge’s side the last two years, beating the Lions in the semifinals both years.

Reynolds has won the last three PIAA Duals titles, including a 31-23 win over Southern Columbia in 2019. Reynolds is ranked No. 1 by PA Power Wrestling, while Southern Columbia is second.

The Lions are ranked fourth, just behind Notre Dame-Green Pond, which finished second to Saucon Valley in District 11. Notre Dame, Reynolds and Saucon Valley are all in the same bracket.

Nittany Lions hang tough

I wasn’t surprised that Penn State lost to Iowa on Friday night, but I was surprised by how well the Nittany Lions wrestled.

The second-ranked Lions, who have endured injuries and lineup changes the whole season, lost, 19-17, to the top-ranked Hawkeyes. PSU led for most of the meet, but Iowa’s stud 285-pounder Tony Cassioppi beat Seth Nevills, 7-0, to give the Hawkeyes the win.

Not many expected Roman Bravo-Young to win by injury default over Austin DeSanto, Vincenzo Joseph to avenge two earlier losses to Alex Marinelli, 7-5, and Aaron Brooks to dominate Abe Assad, 7-3.

I certainly didn’t expect Michael Kemerer to put on a takedown clinic in an 11-6 win over Mark Hall.

The Hawkeyes, who usually have five Pennsylvania guys in their lineup, were without Central Cambria two-time state champ Max Murin, who has been battling hamstring issues lately.

Match to benefit veterans

Bellwood-Antis hosts rival Tyrone tonight in a makeup match. The teams are using the match to raise funds for the Freedom Riders to benefit military veterans.

Bellwood coach Tim Andrekovich also said both teams sold black and blue brawl t-shirts, are taking donations and holding a 50/50. The elementary programs will wrestle before the junior high match.

Todd Irwin can be reached at tirwin@altoonamirror.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @ToddIrwin1.

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