Boyertown >> The District 1 Duals put a team's depth on trial.
There's no hiding behind a star, no escaping the 13 occasions each team has to lay it on the line, whether they are sending out a multi-time state qualifier or a freshman without a varsity win to his name.
The beauty is that both are competing for the same prize, and in some cases, like for Boyertown Thursday night, both can give their team the same big contribution.
Two-time PAC champion Gavin Sheridan kicked off the Bears' crucial finishing push and freshman Logan Oakes won his first varsity match to give Boyertown the lead for good with two matches remaining in an eventual 33-27 victory over No. 12 seed Downingtown West in the first round of the District 1 Class 3A Duals Thursday night at Boyertown.
Boyertown (12-6), the No. 5 seed, advances to the quarterfinals where it will face familiar foe Spring-Ford when the tournament resumes Saturday, Feb. 4 at Upper Dublin. No. 4 seed Spring-Ford topped Conestoga 35-23 Thursday.
"I thought there was going to be a lot of close matches, but it ended up with pins, pins and more pins, but that's what we needed it to be," said Sheridan. "I'm really proud of all the guys that stepped up and did their job. That's what makes us a good team all around. We just have to carry that into the next round."
It was a far more favorable result from a Boyertown perspective compared to 2022 when the Bears fell to Central Bucks East 31-30 on a tiebreaker.
"Everybody on the team was hoping to get this win because last year we lost by a team point. I knew everybody was ready to go, ready to get a win and get to the next round," said sophomore Brody Coleman. "We're really excited to be going on."
Boyertown won seven of 13 matches, including the two closest decisions, Mike Kelleher edging Quinn Rock 6-5 in the opener at 189 as well as Sonny Mash's 5-4 decision over Levi Richmond at 127.
Those close contests felt ever more significant at match's end to Downingtown West coach Brad Breese.
"We came up here thinking we could win. I thought it was going to be tight," he said. "I thought it could possibly come down to a tiebreaker. We had some matches that were close that we didn't get, matches that we knew could go either way. 89 and 27 were both winnable matches for us and they just got away from us. But our kids battled hard. Boyertown is a gritty, gritty team and you'd better be ready to fight against them."
The Whippets led from Mason Hale's pin at 215 (6-3) through the third-to-last match when Jordan Barry got a pin at 145 for a 24-21 D-West lead. Other Whippet winners in the run were Troy Mach (decision at 285), Brayden Sigle (pin at 107) and Nick Bournazel (decision at 133).
The Bears closed stronger, pinning in three of the final five matches, beginning with Sheridan's first-period pin at 139 and followed at 152 when Oakes leveled Wesley Steiger to put them up 27-24.
Sheridan, a junior, improved to 29-2 (second-highest win total in the Pioneer Athletic Conference) and entered after winning the 133-pound title at PACs last weekend. He bumped up to 139 for the first time but came through with flying colors.
"I was feeling good. I knew this was a big one for my team so I wanted to go out and get big points, securing the fall and that's exactly what I did," he said. "I knew I could do it. I can go any weight and hang with anybody, that was the mindset going in. It felt really good to be able to do that for my team."
Oakes, who entered 0-5 in his varsity career, got some encouragement prematch from Sheridan.
"I told him before the match, 'This is what the hard work is for. I see you going in the room, I work with you and it's coming, it's there. Just believe in yourself, wrestle hard, have some fun and go scrap.'
"His first win came at the right time for us. It was perfect."
Junior Ryder Gehris followed with a pin at 160 for an insurmountable 33-24 lead with one match to go.
Coleman (10-5) impressed for Boyertown at 114 pounds with a 15-1 major of Chase Sigle, who entered with an 18-10 record. A sophomore, Coleman reached the 114 final at the PAC Championships last weekend but settled for silver via forfeit to three-time champ Cole Smith.
He was fueled Thursday by finally getting the chance to compete in district duals.
"I was nervous going into my match, but I was really hype. It was my first district dual because last year I had a forfeit," he said. "I was ready to go and I just kept it going, kept scoring."
Coleman's win was followed by a tech fall from Luke Heimbach at 121 and Mash's close one at 127.
Boyertown had its PAC dual with Owen J. Roberts postponed the night before due to the inclement weather. It is next in action on Senior Night on Feb. 1 when it hosts Perkiomen Valley.
Next up for Downingtown West is a Ches-Mont matchup with Avon Grove on Feb. 1 ahead of what will likely be a battle for the Ches-Mont title at fellow league unbeaten West Chester Henerson on Feb. 8.
"We match up with them real well. Henderson's really tough in the middle. We'll be ready for that," said Breese.