NEW PARIS – Chestnut Ridge proved on Tuesday night just how big the gap is between the Lions’ wrestling team and the rest of District 5.
In what was supposed to be its biggest test in the district, coach Greg Lazor’s team won 12 of 14 matches – picking up bonus points in eight of them – in a 58-6 victory over North Star.
“We wrestled really well,” Lazor said. “We were in a lot of tight matches.”
The Lions (5-0) are No. 4 in the PIAA Class AA, according to PA Power Wrestling’s dual meet rankings. They have outscored their opponents 324-33 this season, and the 14-2 Cougars, who are No. 14 in the rankings, look to be Chestnut Ridge’s strongest competition in District 5 Class AA.
It didn’t look that way Tuesday night.
Duane Knisely got things going for Chestnut Ridge with a 4-2 overtime victory over Mason Augustine at 220 pounds.
“I was real excited to see Knisely pull out a victory against a kid that beat him last year,” Lazor said. “He’s having a great year for us.”
After Dalton Seace picked up a fall at heavyweight, the lineup turned over, but the momentum didn’t.
Chestnut Ridge freshman Kai Burkett scored a 5-2 victory at 106 pounds over Eli Brougher, who was a regional qualifier last season.
“Burkett had a nice win against their ‘6-pounder, who’s probably one of the higher-ranked ‘6-pounders in the district,” Lazor said.
North Star got on the board at 113, as Jacob Blough improved to 15-0 on the season, but it wasn’t easy. Blough scored just before the buzzer for a 10-8 victory over Nathan Holderbaum.
“That was one of the bright spots tonight,” North Star coach Tim Rosa said. “He got an escape and a takedown in the final 10 seconds to win it. It was a pretty gutty performance by him. He battled to get back in it. We were really proud of what he did tonight.”
Blough’s victory made the team score 12-3. It never got any closer.
Chestnut Ridge won the next nine bouts to pull away.
Caleb Holderbaum picked up a 7-4 decision over Austin Hribar before Gryphon Callihan and Seth Harbaugh scored back-to-back falls. Cody Brown’s major decision at 145 extended the lead to 31-3.
“I thought Harbaugh and Brown both wrestled really good matches against solid kids,” Lazor said. “They controlled the matches. I was very happy with their efforts today.”
Scott Miller won by decision at 145, and Jarod Pfaunmiller’s pin at 152 made it 40-3.
Rosa said his wrestlers seemed a bit shellshocked after the slow start.
“That kind of set us back, but we need to rebound,” he said.
“It’s a team sport, but it’s also individual. Kids need to learn to bounce back. You need to take care of what you can control, and we didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”
The Cougars forfeited to state champion Justin McCoy at 160. Jared McGill and Levi Hobson each delivered first-period falls to close out Chestnut Ridge’s scoring.
North Star was without standouts Keaton Furry and Alec Supanick, who Rosa said were battling injuries.
“Things kind of snowballed on us here in the last week,” Rosa said. “I’m not going to make excuses, though. It doesn’t make a different in that match in the end.”
North Star won the final bout, as Hunter Tremain jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on his way to an 8-2 victory over Austin Crouse at 195 pounds.
The Lions have captured the past five District 5 dual-meet titles, and they should host the event again as the top seed, which pleases Lazor.
“We have a great fan base,” he said. “North Star also has a great fan base. They get into the match. It was an exciting match tonight. There was a lot brought up about the matchup (of state-ranked teams). They love to come into the gym and support it.”
Chestnut Ridge travels to Portage on Wednesday night and will face some of the state’s top teams at the Ultimate Duals on Saturday.
“At times, you get so excited to wrestle Reynolds and Borokville and Burrell, but we try to stay grounded,” Lazor said.