Boyertown Bears Wrestling

Slow cooking suits first-time champs Boyertown's Gardner, Owen J. Roberts' Davidheiser

by Austin Hertzog, Pottstown Mercury

Posted on February 28, 2023

Article originally appeared here:

The journey to the top of the podium comes in different forms for different wrestlers. Different times, too.

For some fortunate ones, they're an instant hit. Just look at last Saturday's District 1 Class 3A North tournament at Perkiomen Valley when Perkiomen Valley's Max Tancini and Owen J. Roberts' Dean Bechtold, both freshmen, became rookie sectional champions.

Then there were the ones whose times had already come - and still are. There were five repeat champions at the North tournament: three-time sectional champ Cole Smith of Spring-Ford, Spring-Ford's Quinn Smith, Boyertown's Gavin Sheridan, Conestoga's Hayden McLellan and Owen J. Roberts' Dillon Bechtold.

Finally, there were two who couldn't have dreamed of a repeat. A year ago they were faces in the crowd, a couple juniors with losing records and barely a passing thought of gold medals.

But there, alongside the other 11 weight-class winners, were Boyertown senior Cooper Gardner and Owen J. Roberts senior Skylur Davidheiser, proof that not every wrestler receives microwave instructions. The slow-cooker method is great, too.

Gardner dramatically won the 285-pound title with a 3-2 tiebreaker victory, quite the shift from his junior season when he was 2-8 and didn't earn a spot at sectionals.

Gardner is 27-11 this winter, splitting time between 215 and 285. He's found more success at heavyweight where he is 15-3, which allowed him to enter as the top seed in a relatively open 285-pound bracket.

"Everywhere I saw had me first in this tournament and I wanted to live up to expectations. I like being under pressure - my whole career I've been under pressure," Gardner said. "I really like that and that's what got me through this tournament and that's what got me first (place)."

The pressure was just percolating in previous years, waiting to reach time and release the steam valve.

"Freshman and sophomore year, I didn't wrestle any varsity. Last year I went 2-8," Gardner said. "I feel like I've been under pressure that whole time."

Under pressure is a perfect way to describe what Gardner navigated in the semifinals and finals when he worked matching 3-2 tiebreaker wins over Spring-Ford's Connor Hudak and Owen J. Roberts' Christian Gregory, respectively.

"I saw an opportunity there at the end," Gardner said of the final against Gregory. "He was holding me there two inches out of bounds and realized, 'Wait, I can actually get points off this!' I got one, then another one. That just felt amazing there at the end, truly."

Gardner passes the credit to the Boyertown coaching staff for his transformation.

"Honestly, it's my coaches," he said. "They are the biggest contributor to my success and who I've become as a wrestler. Last year I didn't have the right mindset. But they've helped me put that mindset right. I wasn't confident in my shots, wasn't confident in anything in my game. But I went to every practice during the summer, every tournament I could, getting extra practice and that's really propelled me to the success I've had this year."

For Davidheiser, there are others with greater name recognition in the Wildcats lineup but his contribution was integral in Owen J. Roberts winning the North team title over PAC champion Spring-Ford.

Davidheiser entered as the No. 3 seed and was the lone champ at PV required a first-round match but he came through with style with four pins, including a first-period drop of Radnor's Arik Behar in the final.

He too endured three years of limited success - 0-2 as a freshman, 1-2 as a sophomore, 7-11 as a junior with a sixth-place finish at sectionals - before his senior breakthrough. He is 23-11 with a PAC and sectional championship to his credit.

"The last couple years I've battled some injuries with my knees and this year's been better," Davidheiser said. "My knee has been acting up the last couple weeks so I've been resting, icing, and doing my best to stay healthy."

He wasn't top seed at PACs but placed first. He wasn't top seed at the North tournament but placed first.

"Seeds don't faze me. Anything can happen in a match," he said.

Considering the trajectories of Gardner and Davidheiser, anything can happen in a career, too.

[ return to previous page ]

  Copyright © 2024, Boyertown Area Wrestling Association