Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bedford seeking new leader

   Earlier this week, Bedford wrestling coach Brian Creps resigned after 14 seasons of leading the Bisons program.
   Creps posted an overall record of 182-63, with eight Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference championships. Bedford also won five straight District 5 Dual Meet titles from 2008-12.
   Bedford placed fourth in the Class AA Duals in 2009, becoming the first D5 team to medal in the event up to that point. Creps also coached a number of standout individuals, including four-time state placer Ryan Easter, and 2015 state champion Jonathan Gabriel.
   Creps is underrated as a coach in my opinion. I believe he knew the strengths and weaknesses of his wrestlers as well as anyone, and his really good Bedford teams found ways to win matches where they were at least a slight underdog before the first whistle blew.
   A pair of examples of that come from the state duals. In 2008, Bedford’s first dual was against Shady Side Academy, a team that featured Dane Johnson, Matthew Cunningham, Roman San Doval, Geoff Alexander, and Frank Martellotti.
   Bedford’s Devin Cook scored the key win, 4-3 over Martellotti, to push the Bisons to a 34-32 upset. Bedford then beat Towanda to reach the semifinals against Bermuduan Springs. The locals fell just short there, but it helped pave the way to that 2009 fourth-place effort.
   In 2012, the Bisons pulled out a 30-29 quarterfinal victory against Pen Argyl despite strategically forfeiting to state medalists Matt Williams and Mike Racciato. With Bedford leading 21-12, Creps opted against an Easter-Williams battle and forfeited to the Green Knights. After Williams had his hand raised, he threw his headgear in disgust at not getting to wrestle Easter, and that cost Pen Argyl a team point. As the remainder of the match played out, the Bisons would lead by seven points at the end, and it was an easy call to forfeit to Racciato with no danger of losing the dual.
   Unfortunately, Bedford’s program has fallen on hard times in the past few years, without a state qualifier in either 2017 or 2018. But I would still think that the position should draw plenty of interest.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

McCoy's career something to cherish

   Simply put, Justin McCoy's high school wrestling career is well...maybe that not simply put.
   Yes, the final result in today's state championship bouts didn't produce the perfect ending, but that should do nothing to dampen what the Chestnut Ridge star accomplished in four short years.
   Here's a brief glimpse at the numbers:
   * Career Record of 167-18
   * Four-time District 5 champion
   * Two-time Southwest Regional champion
   * 2017 state champion (145 pounds)
   Furthermore, McCoy's the first wrestler from Chestnut Ridge to win four state medals, and only the third from Bedford County schools to do so. Northern Bedford's Jan Clark, who won three titles in the late 1970's, and Bedford's Ryan Easter (2011-14) are the only others.
   All of that puts McCoy in very exclusive company. Along the way of this 45-2 senior season, he smashed through both his school and District 5 win records. Aaron Burkett held Ridge's previous mark at 152, while North Star's Chris Lascari had 154 victories and had been the D5 leader for a number of years.
   The four-time district champions is a who's who list of local wrestlers, while there's only been six other state champions from the county. (Northern Bedford's aforementioned Clark, Bedford's John Heacock, Ron Hamilton, and Jonathan Gabriel, Chestnut Ridge's Gary Pfahler, and Everett's Paul Clark)
   McCoy also bookended his scholastic career by helping the Lions to two of their three state team medals, second place in the Class AA Duals in 2015 and third place a month ago.
   "My career at Chestnut Ridge is one I will never forget," he said earlier tonight. "Not only the success that I've had has made it great, but being with my teammates and the success we've had had made it even better. I'm so thankful for all the people who have helped me in my career, and thankful that God gave me these opportunities."
   Personally, my opinion was that McCoy's career took a turning point two years ago at the state tournament, when he lost in the quarterfinals against Cole Wetzel of Boiling Springs and went on to place seventh at 138 pounds. That's not to say at all that his first two seasons in a varsity uniform were bad in any way. You can't say that about someone who was already a two-time state medalist and well on his way to becoming one of the area's all-time greats.
   I just think it made him work that much harder to achieve his ultimate dream, that state championship. And I think he knew what he needed to work on.
   Even though I departed the Bedford Gazette in the first week of the wrestling season last year, so I didn't get to cover him as much in person, the moments I got to watch McCoy and the chats I had with him told me there was going to be different results over the final two seasons.
   Obviously, those results were different. Always a very technically sound wrestler, I saw a much more aggressive McCoy than ever. He was determined to dominate opponents from the neutral position, and go harder after bonus points when he was on top.
   Come Hershey last year, the bottom line was that McCoy was not only able to win, he was ready to win. He was down early to Bishop McDevitt's John Pipa in the 145-pound final, but scored five points in the second period of his 5-2 victory for the championship. That aggressiveness showed in putting Pipa on his back for the winning points.
   This year, more of the same. And he added a tournament title early in the season at the King of the Mountain. McCoy was strong throughout the winter, and he walked into the Giant Center on Thursday with a 42-1 record. And in his first three bouts in his final high school event, McCoy posted a pair of 11-1 major decisions and a win by injury default. That set up a regional final rematch with Frazier sophomore Thayne Lawrence, with the gold medal on the line.
   McCoy won that regional final two weeks ago by a 10-1 count. This one was far different, though. Let's give Lawrence, an 8-1 winner, all the credit for that. We've seen plenty of regional rematches in state finals before, but not very often one where a lopsided score one way turns completely around.
   "What was different this time was I just didn't start the match well," said McCoy. "If I get a takedown in the first period, I can get on a roll. I wasn't able to do that and I was fighting back the whole match."
   While I laud Lawrence for what he did this afternoon, I give a big thumbs up to McCoy as well - for his entire career. The University of Virginia is getting a really great wrestler, but it's also getting a really great person.
   "In college, I want to be the best I can be, be a multiple-time NCAA All-American and a champion," he said. "I'm looking forward to trying to reach my goals and make many more memories with my new teammates."
   I started hearing about Justin McCoy years before he was at the high school level. And in the blink of an eye, he's moving on to his next challenge.
   A blink of an eye, but wow, what a blink it was.

Cornell, McGill earn third-place medals

   Garret Cornell and Jared McGill closed out the state tournament this weekend with a lot in common.
   Both of them placed third in their respective Class AA brackets, each doing so with strong finishes after disappointing losses. And both have next year to improve their position on the podium.
   Everett's Cornell won his first medal in three trips to the Giant Center in Hershey. The junior 126-pounder won four straight consolation bouts after dropping a 5-2 quarterfinal decision against Saucon Valley's Josh Jones. Included in that run were a pair of overtime wins, the latter of which a 5-3 victory over Cambridge Springs' Tye Varndell to place third at the weight.
   Cornell is the highest Everett placewinner at the PIAA Tournament since Paul Clark won the program's lone state title to date in 1983. He also is the first Warrior to finish in the top four since Travis Karns in 1989.
   "It feels really good to finally get on the podium this year," said Cornell, who went 39-4 for the season. "A lot of hard work has paid off. I feel that I improved this year both mentally and on my feet. My coaching staff and practice partners were a big help to me."
   While Cornell was in the same weight class as eventual four-time champion Gavin Teasdale, McGill was labeled as one of the pre-tournament favorites at 160.
   And the Chestnut Ridge junior served notice early in the event why that was the case. Unbeaten heading into the tournament, McGill knocked off returning state champion Creighton Edsell, 4-2, in Friday's quarterfinals. But an early deficit against Port Allegany's Jacob Kallenborn was too much to overcome in the semifinals, which ended 8-7 and dashed the local's dream of gold this time around.
   Still, McGill persevered by winning by major decision in the consolation semifinals, and then pinning Wyalusing's Edsell in the third-place bout. Kallenborn lost to Northwestern Lehigh's Caleb Clymer in the finals.
   McGill will go into his senior season with three state medals (6th, 4th, 3rd) and posted a record this year of 46-1. Should he reach the medal stand again, he'll join teammate Justin McCoy as Chestnut Ridge's only four-time state placewinners.
   "It feels good to come back and finish third," he said. "It's not what I was working for all year, but sometimes things don't go how you want them to. It was important to me to finish strong because I wanted to prove to everyone that I was the best in the bracket."
   Cornell and McGill are also both looking forward to what lies ahead.
   "I just need to work on relaxing if I'm losing a match," said McGill. "The semifinal was the first time I was losing all year. It stinks that I got caught on my back, but things happen, and I want to work on coming back if that happens."
   "My goals for next year are to finish higher on the podium, and break my school's win record," said Cornell, who also eclipsed the 100-win mark in the state tournament.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

McCoy leads local state contingent

   It seems as if every time Justin McCoy’s name is mentioned when it comes to high school wrestling, it’s about breaking records and creating more history.
   That’s the case when you’ve had a career as great as the Chestnut Ridge senior has, and one last terrific moment could be in store this weekend at the PIAA Championships in Hershey.
   If McCoy repeats as a Class AA state champion - at 152 pound this year after winning 145 last March - he’ll be the first two-time champ at Chestnut Ridge, and only the second from the county and fifth from District 5 to ever win more than one state title.
   District 5 doesn’t always get the notoriety of some of the larger areas in the state, but it has a rich wrestling tradition. So what McCoy’s on the doorstep of accomplishing is really something to savor.
   Heading into Thursday’s opening round at the Giant Center, McCoy stands at 164-17 in his career, already a four-time district champion and two-time regional winner. That win total is also the new District 5 record.
   By the way, McCoy’s fan base grew by one in the last week as his sister Brooke and her husband welcomed a son into the world. A picture posted by the family on social media showed four baby onesies, one of which says on it “When I grow up, I want to wrestle like my uncle”.
   Time will obviously tell whether his nephew will follow his footsteps to the mat, but little Luke certainly won’t have to look past his uncle for a better role model.

McGill among favorites at 160
   McCoy’s Chestnut Ridge teammate Jared McGill would like nothing less than claiming his first state title. Having finished fourth at 170 last year, the undefeated junior decided to drop a weight this time around to go after the top prize.
   His physicality and mat wrestling ability makes McGill especially dangerous. He’ll be one to watch this weekend, but will face a tough task in a presumed Friday quarterfinal with returning champion Creighton Edsell of Wyalusing. Edsell suffered his first loss of the season in the regional finals.
   The other county wrestlers who qualified are Chestnut Ridge’s Levi Hobson (170) and Austin Crouse (182), Everett’s Garret Cornell (126), and Tussey Mountain’s Brady Villa (126). Cornell is a two-time qualifier, while the other three are making their first trip.
   Best of luck to all!

Class AA Champion Picks
106 - Pat Demark, Trinity
113 - Beau Bayless, Reynolds
120 - Jaret Lane, Southern Columbia
126 - Gavin Teasdale, Jefferson-Morgan
132 - Joe Klock, Muncy
138 - Cole Matthews, Reynolds
145 - Kollin Myers, Boiling Springs
152 - Justin McCoy, Chestnut Ridge
160 - Jared McGill, Chestnut Ridge 
170 - Edmond Ruth, Susquehanna Township
182 - Cody Mulligan, Saegertown
195 - Gavin Hoffman, Montoursville
220 - Anthony Walters, Bishop McCort
285 - Dan Scheib, Tri-Valley

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lions claim third in Hershey

   It was another special weekend for Chestnut Ridge in Hershey.
   Special, because competing at the Giant Center, the PIAA's grand stage for these events, is an accomplishment in itself.
   Special, since a win that was so elusive for years was finally theirs early Friday afternoon.
   And oh so special, because the Lions came home with their third medal in the last six years.
   Chestnut Ridge secured it with a 31-27 victory over Harbor Creek in the consolation semifinals, before beating Muncy 39-22 to finish in third place in the Class AA state duals.
   The Lions placed fourth in their first-ever trip in 2013, and were the tournament's runner-up two years later. After two years of near misses, the District 5 power can now hang another banner in its home gymnasium.
   Seniors Seth Harbaugh and Scotty Miller didn't take long to mention the word 'team' in celebrating a medal.
   "I'm just so happy how the team performed, and how we overcame the tough loss (30-27 to Southern Columbia) in the semifinals," said Harbaugh. "It feels great."
   "I love my team," added Miller. "We are a family, and I'm glad to be a part of this experience with them."
   Helping pave the way was a hard-fought 35-27 quarterfinal win over state duals nemesis Boiling Springs, who was 5-0 against Chestnut Ridge on the floor of the Giant Center. Tied at 27 with two bouts remaining, state champion Justin McCoy rolled up a technical fall before Brodie Harbaugh scored a decision to exorcise demons of the past.
   That put the Lions in the semifinals for the second time in history (2015), going up against Southern Columbia. The District 4 champions were a little too much and went on to give defending champion Reynolds all it could handle in a 30-25 title match.
   Chestnut Ridge's third medal gives District 5 four team placewinners in the 20-year history of the event. Bedford owns the other one, having finished fourth in 2009.
   "It feels good to finally come through as a team," said junior and two-time individual state placer Jared McGill. "I've been on two previous teams that were so close to getting that medal but fell short. The guys really stepped it up and I'm proud of everyone.
   "I also want to give a shoutout to our fans for coming down to cheer us on."
   While the Lions will lose a number of seniors, headlined by McCoy, they'll have McGill and a host of experience back. That will include state placewinner Kaden Cassidy, who had his sophomore season cut short due to a hand injury. And as the varsity squad was winning another state medal, Chestnut Ridge also won another Mountain Conference junior high tournament championship, putting seven wrestlers into the finals with two champions.

State Duals Tidbits
- I had posted on social media after the win over Boiling Springs that Chestnut Ridge was 13-7 overall at the state duals. That was an error on my part as I had missed one year of results. To date including this season now, the Lions are 17-10 in Hershey.

- Reynolds repeated as Class AA champion for the second time (2006 and 07) and won its fifth title in history.

- According to Williamsport Sun-Gazette writer Mitch Rupert, Muncy's fourth-place effort is the first team medal by a Lycoming County school. Coupled with Southern Columbia's finals appearance, it's the first time two District 4 teams have placed in the same season.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

#KeatonStrong, D5 Duals Wrap-up

   The wrestling community comes together like no other.
   That was again the case over the past few days after word spread that North Star's Keaton Furry underwent brain surgery hours after competing with his teammates in the District 5 Duals on Saturday at Chestnut Ridge.
   Eric Knopsnyder has a story in today's Tribune-Democrat regarding the surgery and the prognosis for Furry, which is optimistic at this point. Doctors removed a cyst, which does not appear to be cancerous.
   That is wonderful news. Since the news broke, there were countless well wishes and prayers posted on social media, with many using the hashtag #KeatonStrong on Twitter. 
   Again, it's so great to see everyone come together, no matter what team you're on or root for, in times like these. My best to Keaton, his family, and the North Star community.

Lions roar again in D5 Duals
   I covered the District Duals at Ridge for the Tribune-Democrat, and led with the premise of the seniors on the Lions' team leading the way, as they have generally in the past.
   In this case, every one of the seniors that took the mat in Saturday's 63-12 finals win over North Star won their bout. 
   Seth Harbaugh was one of them, as he used two takedowns and a reversal in his 6-1 decision over Furry at 126 pounds.
   I spoke with Harbaugh afterward, and he was very happy to contribute and keep Chestnut Ridge's streak of District 5 Duals championships alive (now six).
   "Wrestling's an individual sport, but it's a team sport as well," he said. "It's nice to get the ball rolling as a team. One guy goes out and gets it done, and that makes all of us want to do the same thing. It's a great feeling."
   Chestnut Ridge will be looking to finish in the medals for the third time in six trips to Hershey when the first round begins on Thursday. The Lions meet Derry in a 4 p.m. matchup.
   "We've always broke out of our huddles with (1, 2, 3...) state champs!," said Harbaugh. "We really believe we can become state champs. It's something we work hard at in the practice room all year and we really want to do it."

Bubblers on the horizon, again
   Not to get ahead of ourselves, but should Chestnut Ridge and Boiling Springs win first-round duals on Thursday, guess what the Friday quarterfinal on Mat 3 will look like?
   Yep, Chestnut Ridge vs. Boiling Springs. The District 3 champions are back at the Giant Center after a one-year hiatus, and they'll be looking to win their third medal in the last four seasons.
   And their control over the Lions in these state matches is well-known. While none of them have been blowouts, Boiling Springs is 5-0 against Chestnut Ridge. 
   The Bubblers won in the quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014, the final in 2015, and twice two years ago.
   Certainly, Chestnut Ridge coach Greg Lazor will or already has been discussing that with his team.

State Duals medal predictions
Class AA
Champion - Reynolds
Runner-up - Southern Columbia
Third Place - Chestnut Ridge
Fourth Place - Brookville

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Second state title chances motivating McCoy

   FISHERTOWN - Despite already owning a state championship and numerous other accolades, Justin McCoy isn't completely satisfied with his high school wrestling career just yet.
   That's great news for fans and followers of Chestnut Ridge's star 152-pounder, not so good news for opponents.
   McCoy got another step closer to more history during today's District 5 Dual Meet championship as he tied former teammate Aaron Burkett for the school record with 152 career wins. McCoy is 30-1 this season and 152-17 overall, and he sits only two victories behind ex-North Star wrestler Chris Lascari for the all-time mark in District 5.
   "When I first started my varsity career, I wasn't thinking about that," McCoy said after a 63-12 win over North Star for the district team title. "I just wanted to have fun and do my best each match. It's just kind of come along the way. It's an honor to be up there on that list."
   To echo his words, McCoy has certainly done his best each time out. He already has his name listed three times on banners in the Richard W. Fisher Gymnasium, symbolizing his trio of state medals (6th in 2015, 7th in 2016, and 1st in 2017). Should he take the podium again next month in Hershey, McCoy will become the first Chestnut Ridge wrestler to win four individual state medals.
   Furthermore, if the senior repeats as state champion, he'll be only the second multiple time PIAA winner from Bedford County. Northern Bedford legend Jan Clark won three straight state championships in the late 1970's and is the only local wrestler to own more than one gold medal.
   McCoy, a strong athlete in three sports (football and baseball also), hasn't rested on his prior accomplishments, and he's also taken advantage of Chestnut Ridge's strong schedule that includes the King of the Mountain and PowerAde tournaments in December.
   "I definitely worked on moving my feet more, and getting faster," the University of Virginia recruit said. "I've focused on being more physical, and non-stop moving the whole time. That's one thing that can really get you to the next level. You see that in (Penn State's) Jason Nolf.
   "I've been wrestling pretty well and I think I'm in a good spot right now. I just want to give my best effort each match and hopefully the wins will come with it."
   Before focus shifts to the individual season, Chestnut Ridge is hoping to earn its third state team medal in six trips to the Giant Center. The Lions haven't done so since a memorable run to the Class AA finals in 2015, a year in which McCoy was a freshman 120-pounder.
   "That was so fun and one of the best years of my life," he said. "We came out today and wrestled really well, and I think if we can continue to do that and get guys to step up and give us more energy, we'll have a great chance."

   NOTE: I covered the District 5 Duals for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. My story on that will be available in Sunday's edition and on