Chestnut Ridge vs. Westmont Hilltop – Jan. 21, 2020

Chestnut Ridge’s Ross Dull (right) looks for a takedown against Westmont Hilltop’s Tanner Kushner during their 126-pound bout on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at Chestnut Ridge High School. 

NEW PARIS – Kai Burkett and his Chestnut Ridge teammates didn’t want their dual meet with Westmont Hilltop to require such a dramatic finish, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the moment.

Burkett’s pin lifted the Lions to a 34-33 victory in a battle of two of the top teams in Class AA and also clinched the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference title.

The Lions (11-1, 9-0 in LHAC), who are ranked fifth in the state by PA Power Wrestling, needed falls in the final two bouts, and Calan Bollman and Burkett delivered them.

“I felt that we were in good shape,” said Burkett, who was a state medalist last season. 

“That’s not the way we wanted to end the match, but I was confident that we could still pull it out.”

First, Bollman pinned Sean Wilks in 56 seconds, then Burkett shouldered Dorian Hanley in 58 seconds to create a decibel level not heard at the Chestnut Ridge gym in years – mostly because the Lions have rarely been tested by local teams.

“I stood up and everyone was going crazy,” Burkett said. “It was something I’ve never experienced before.”

It was also something that Josh Deputy hadn’t experienced before – at least not as a head coach. After six years as an assistant with the Lions, Deputy had his closest dual as a head coach – and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

“That’s what high school wrestling is about,” Deputy said. “I told the boys afterward, that’s why it’s the best sport in the world – you don’t get that moment anywhere else but in a wrestling match.

“It’s lots of fun,” Deputy said. “Obviously, I didn’t want it to be like that, but we’ll take it. Hat’s off to Westmont. They came after us.”

The Hilltoppers (8-2, 8-2) trailed 16-3 before Noah Korenoski beat Luke Moore 5-2 at 152 pounds. Twins Hudson and Hunter Holbay followed with two falls to give Westmont the lead. Hudson pinned Baltzer Bollman at 160, and Hunter’s headlock of Daniel Moore at 170 really got the visiting fans buzzing.

Mason Muto scored 6 seconds into overtime to beat Seth Holderbaum at 182 pounds, and Tanner Dluhos hit another headlock for a fall over Dominick Claar to put the Hilltoppers up 27-16.

Chestnut Ridge’s Duane Knisely stopped the run by pinning Noah Gresh at 220 pounds, but heavyweight Max Yonko stretched the lead again with a fall over Noah Smith to set up the late-dual drama.

“We refocused this week and concentrated on some of the fundamental stuff that we need to do as a team,” said Westmont coach Matt Beaujon, whose Hilltoppers are ranked 13th in the state. “Basically, what it came down to was fighting for each other. 

“And I thought that that’s what happened here tonight. We fought for each other. We ended up on the short end of it, but this was a knock-down, drag-out, back-alley fight. And I’m proud of the boys.”

Chestnut Ridge’s Nate Holderbaum started the dual with a 12-1 victory over Luke Benner at 120 pounds, and Ross Dull followed with what turned out to be a big fall over Tanner Kushner at 126.

Dull led 2-0 in the third period, but took Kushner down, then chinned him back for a pin.

“It’s huge,” Deputy said of the pin. “But, with Ross, anymore, I expect it. … Ross is the real deal and I think a lot of people are going to find that out.”

Conner Polacek got Westmont on the board with a 5-2 victory over Kaleb Miller, but the Lions responded with Trevor Weyandt’s 7-2 win over Roy Dunn and Gryphon Callihan’s 5-0 decision over Zane Blackburn.

“We took them to the brink and came up a little short, but I’m proud of the effort the boys put in,” Beaujon said.

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