The Chestnut Ridge and United High School wrestling teams will enter Thursday’s PIAA dual-meet tournament on opposite ends of the spectrum.
By making its 11th consecutive appearance, Chestnut Ridge is quite accustomed to performing inside Giant Center in Hershey.
United will make its debut as a team in the first round at 2 p.m. Thursday. Only 16 teams in Class 2A are left in the tournament. On Saturday, the Lions defeated Penns Valley (32-27) and Huntingdon (33-30) to win their first District 6 duals championship.
After taking some time to enjoy the moment over the weekend, United (20-0) is focused on continuing its roar in Hershey.
“We certainly took some time over the weekend to celebrate that milestone for the program,” United coach Josh Henning said. “The first day back to practice, I erased the district bracket off our board in the wrestling room. We got to start focusing on what is ahead of us now.”
After recording a 64-9 victory at Bellwood-Antis on Monday, United has centered its sights on the state tournament.
“Practices have pretty much been business as usual,” Henning said. “We work on the areas that we saw we had problems from the district duals.
“We’ve been pushing the pace, and trying to get the most out of our workouts before we head to Hershey.”
United will face District 11 runner-up and 17-2 Saucon Valley, which defeated Bishop McDevitt 41-34 in Monday’s preliminary match, in Thursday’s first round. Henning said his grapplers are beyond excited to compete inside Giant Center.
“The team is definitely excited for the opportunity to wrestle in Hershey,” Henning said. “Two of our guys wrestled there last year, so they have the experience. Most of the team, at some point, wrestled at states in the youth or junior high Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling or Keystone tournaments. They’ve wrestled in big arenas before. Some of our guys have competed in other varsity sports at the state level as well. The team walked right into Penns Valley last weekend for the district semis and finals and didn’t show any signs of butterflies. Overall, I think the team is mentally tough and prepared for the challenge.”
United boasts eight wrestlers with 20 or more victories this season. The No. 4-seeded Lions knocked off the top two seeds in District 6 on Saturday.
“We have a great group of hard-working kids that have grown up and stuck together through the years,” Henning said. “As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron. They also are fully committed to the team. They all work together well and help each other improve. When one is on the mat, the entire bench is cheering for them.”
Freshman Josef Garshnick (114 pounds) leads United with a 31-2 record and 17 falls.
Sophomores Gideon Bracken (121) is 27-3 with 11 pins and Colton Henning (127) 26-4 with 11 falls.
Juniors Caden McCully (152, 21-11), 2022 District 6 champion Jacob Sombronski (107, 21-1) and Zach Travis (172, 24-9) and sophomores Sawyer McGinnis (215, 21-11) and Noah Pisarik (145, 23-8) are United’s other wrestlers with at least 20 triumphs this season.
United has done its homework on Saucon Valley.
“We were returning home from a dual when we got word that Saucon Valley had won their match,” Josh Henning said. “We were literally watching videos of their matches on that bus ride. Today’s technology certainly helps us learn about teams from across the state. We can research wrestlers through previous matchups, YouTube videos and online newspapers. We are definitely doing our homework to prepare as best we can for them.”
The winner of the Saucon Valley-United match will face the victor of either District 7 champion Burgettstown or District 2 winner Honesdale on Friday.
Saucon Valley has four grapplers with 30 or more victories this season. Senior Jacob Jones is 33-4 this season with an 138-23 career mark, which includes a 2022 PIAA runner-up finish and 2021 fourth-place medalist. Senior Tyler Pfizenmayer has 105 career triumphs, and senior Liam Scrivanich is 36-4 this season. Sophomore Aiden Grogg is 32-5, while classmate Jackson Albert is 29-9 with 20 pins. Sophomore Cole Hubert is 30-8 and finished fourth in the state in 2022 at 106.
Chestnut Ridge (14-2) is no stranger to competing inside Giant Center. The Lions earned bronze medals in the duals tournament in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022.
The Bedford County squad will face District 3 runner-up West Perry (15-2) at 2 p.m. Thursday. The winner of the match will face the victor of either District 4 champion Warrior Run or District 10 runner-up Fort LeBoeuf on Friday.
Chestnut Ridge boasts seven wrestlers with 21 or more wins and three have at least 25 triumphs. Freshman Dominic Deputy (107, 14 falls) and senior Brock Holderbaum (121, 15 pins) both have 27 victories.
Senior Kobi Burkett (127) is 25-6. Senior Calan Bollman (145) is 23-8 with an 127-26 career mark, which includes three District 5 titles and a 2020 PIAA silver and 2022 fifth-place medal. Senior Sam Albright (152) has 22 victories, and junior Alex Crist (172) has 21 wins this season. Sophomore Easton Mull (114) has 61 career victories.
West Perry has three wrestlers with 25 or more wins. Senior Nolen Zeigler is 25-5 with an 112-43 career mark. He finished in eighth place at the 2021 PIAA championships. Sophomores Tyler Morrison (30-5) and Jackson Rush (27-3 with 14 pins) are key grapplers in the lineup. Senior Justice Hockenberry-Folk is 23-4 this season with an 115-51 career mark.
Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.
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