HERSHEY – Greg Lazor has coached in some of the biggest matches in Chestnut Ridge’s storied wrestling history – including state finals appearances for individuals and teams – but Saturday’s third-place finish at the PIAA Class AA Team Wrestling Championships ranks up there with any of them.
“This is one of my more special weekends of my wrestling career because, honestly, I didn’t know if we had to the guns to do it,” Lazor said at the Giant Center. “To come down and not only do it, but do it in the fashion that we did, this is probably one of my favorite weekends of all time.”
The Lions (16-1) outscored their competition by a cumulative score of 202-120 over the course of the event, and that could have been even more lopsided had the Lions not forfeited a few matches when dual-meet victories were assured.
“If we got any place I was going to be happy, to be honest with you,” Lazor said.
“We had some real good improvements in some weight classes throughout the year, but they wrestled above my expectations, by far. The boys battled their hearts out. They went at it all week long. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Jared McGill, the top-ranked 170-pounder in the state, went 5-0 for the Lions, but the Pitt recruit was quick to praise his teammates.
“Everyone fought this weekend,” McGill said. “Everyone battled for bonus points – both for and against. That was huge. We won a lot of close matches here this weekend on heart. I’m very proud of the team.
“We wrestled well.”
The Lions didn’t seem to have any kind of hangover effects from Friday night’s 34-31 loss to Southern Columbia, as they opened the day by beating Burrell 32-29.
The dual wasn’t nearly that close, as the Lions built a 32-6 lead before closing out the dual with a backup and two forfeits.
McGill, Austin Crouse, Duane Knisely, Dalton Seace and Kai Burkett delivered bonus-point victories.
Freshman Ross Dull upset state-ranked Trent Valovchik at 120 pounds, and Nathan Holderbaum avenged a Thomas tournament loss to Nick Salerno during a run of five Chestnut Ridge straight victories in the dual.
Dull, along with fellow freshmen Trevor Weyandt and twins Luke and Daniel Moore, continued to pile up key wins for the Lions, as they have over the second half of the season.
“The younger guys bought into it, scoring a lot of points out there,” McGill said.
“The Moore brothers, Trevor Weyandt, Ross Dull again this weekend. That kid’s tough.”
Chestnut Ridge beat Brookville 46-18 in the consolation final, with McGill, Knisely, Dull, Gryphon Callihan, Weyandt and Baltzer Bollman getting pins.
Weyandt trailed 10-4 in the closing seconds of his match with Cabe Park, but Weyandt hit a headlock and pinned Park with 11 seconds remaining.
It was a victory that was emblematic of the way the Lions wrestled at the duals.
“They take a lot of pride in themselves in outworking people and wanting it more than people and being a tighter team,” Lazor said. “When you get that ball rolling, and these guys were fighting for each other – the young guys, they didn’t know any better. They just went out and did it.”
Eric Knopsnyder covers wrestling for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Eric_Knopsnyder. Read his blog at papowerwrestling.com.