Boyertown Bears Wrestling

Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic recap for District 1

by Nate Heckenberger,

Posted on December 29, 2022

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BETHLEHEM >> A lot is expected of Quakertown this wrestling season, but after a couple close losses in dual meets to open the season, a fitting trip to Bethlehem finally helped shine some of that star power for the potent Panthers.

At the Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic, Quakertown finished highest of the seven District 1 entrants, placing sixth, which was the Panthers' highest finish since 2008 when they took fifth. Collin Gaj (145 pounds) and Calvin Lachman (215) gave Quakertown its first champs since Shane Leister in 2005.

Lachman, who was seeded fifth, used a pin and major decision to reach Thursday's semifinals, where he edged Kennett's John Pardo, 7-5 in sudden victory. In the finals, Lachman went with what got him and there and found a single leg takedown to the left side to defeat Wilson (West Lawn's) Ryan McMillian, 3-1, in the waning seconds.

"I was the No. 5 seed, but I didn't doubt myself for a minute," Lachman said. "I knew I could get to the top of the podium."

Quakertown's Mason Ziegler (121) had the win of the semifinals, riding out Delaware Valley's Zach Jacaruso in ultimate tiebreaker, to upset the returning state champ. Bethlehem Freedom's CJ Horvath used a late takedown to cool Ziegler off in the finals, 6-5.

Zach Borzio (160) and Isaac Williams (114) took fourth for the Panthers, but no one was more dominant than Gaj, who worked three falls on his way to the finals. Against Emmaus' Marco Alabanese, Gaj kept his foot on the pedal and rolled to 14-4 major decision.

Coming off a fourth-place PIAA finish as a freshman, Gaj looked far from content.

"Last year there were a lot of good things, but also a lot of bad," Gaj said. "I learned a lot about myself and who I am as a wrestler. There's always someone else out there and I'm just chasing down whoever's in front of me."

Council Rock South finished one spot behind Quakertown, with four place-winners. Gavin Cole surprised many as not only the highest placer for the Golden Hawks, but their only champ.

Making his debut at 152, with the recent two-pound allowance, Cole followed up a pair of falls and a major decision on Wednesday with convincing wins on day two.

In the semis, Cole defeated Easton's James Geiger and used a late takedown to upend another District 11 foe, Ryan Santiago of Bethlehem Liberty, in the finals.

Cole entered the tournament with a career record of 31-24, but he knew those scars as a freshman would pay off down the road.

"Council Rock South always has the toughest schedule and I knew those losses would help," Cole said. "If I just had a lot of easy wins, I wouldn't be here."

Bekhruz Sadriddinov (160) reached the finals, but he wound up on the wrong end of a scramble with Northampton's Dagen Condomitti and lost by fall. Ben Brillhart (139) won four straight in the consolation bracket and he and Connor Lenahan (107) walked away with third-place plaques.

Kennett had the most medalists (six) from District 1, but left a bit disappointed with an 11th-place finish.

Blake Boyer (127), Pardo and Bailey Shindle (285) started day two in the semifinals, but were bumped to the consi bracket. Pardo and Shindle bounced back with a win but settled for fourth-place finishes. Boyer and Tyler Maiers (152) wound up in sixth, and Kane Lengel (133) and Michael Pepe (145) closed out their tournaments with seventh-place medals.

The Blue Demons' quantity of hardware showed their progression, but improving on the quality is the next step of the process as Kennett hopes to rise the District 1 ranks.

"If you're just gauging how we did, based on our results, we didn't do as well as we wanted," Kennett coach Kevin Reigel said. "If you gauge it on learning some things and growing and getting better, we absolutely did that, but it was a tough lesson."

Spring-Ford, who was without Quinn Smith, placed 18th out of 32 teams, with just two medalists.

Cole Smith reached the 114-pound final, but gave up a late takedown and fell to Wilson (West Lawn's) McKaden Speece, 4-3. Anthony Attilio (160) took sixth.

Boyertown was two spots behind their PAC rivals, but got three to the podium.

Luke Heimbach (114) and Gavin Sheridan (127) lost their semi bouts, but responded with two straight wins to take third. Heimbach edged Williams, 1-0, in the consi final, while Sheridan outlasted Easton's Benjamin Fanelli, 4-1, in tiebreaker.

"It was really important," Sheridan said. "It shows my heart, coming back from a tough match. Hopefully it shows people my ability to battle back and shows people my love for this sport."

Beck Babb (139) ended up in eighth place for Boyertown.

Garnet Valley and North Penn had one placer, apiece. Ethan Bliss took seventh at 133 for the Jaguars, while North Penn's Devon Pinkett placed seventh at 285.

Nazareth won the team title, using a major decision by Sean Kinney (285) in the last final of the night to slip past Easton by 2.5 points. Horvath was voted Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament after defeated Northampton's Carson Wagner in semis and Ziegler for the title.

You can contact Nate via email or @nheckenberger on Twitter.

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