Ridgway wrestling head coach Gary Gerber may not have come out on the winning side but the presence of Elker alumni, family and friends still made Tuesday night a special night for the retiring coach.
Brookville won the dual 32-30 over the Elkers at Ridgway Area High School as Gerber coached in front of the home fans for a final time.
Prior to the varsity dual, athletic director Manny Barbazzeni spoke about some of Gerber's coaching accomplishments and then presented Gerber with a plaque commemorating the event. Ridgway mayor Dr. Guillermo Udarbe and Ridgway Borough Council president Nina Stolberg also presented Gerber with a plaque from the borough.
"I felt so good," Gerber said after the dual. "It's so nice to know you're appreciated. I've seen so many people I haven't seen at matches in a long time. Just to talk to them, to see their families, see their kids. It's a great experience. It took my breath away, it just meant so much to me. A thank you from the people you've been working with for so long, that means more than money to me.
"I was real pleased having all the former wrestlers here and people's kind words, it meant a lot to me," Gerber said. "For the kids to top it off with a real good wrestling performance. It just made my day."
Gerber enjoyed the challenge of wrestling Brookville to close out the home slate.
"It was exciting, it was a great match," Gerber said. "They're a great team. Their kids are such good kids. There are two good teams battling hard until the end. We got a break at the weigh-ins, one of their boys didn't make weight. We couldn't quite capitalize on it. We'll see where it goes from here. I'm really proud of the job our guys did. They gave everything they had, no one held back."
The dual started at 132 pounds as senior Corey Bush took on Jimmy Miller. Bush was in control for most of the bout. In the third period, Bush led 14-1 after a takedown. Bush let Miller up for an escape and then immediately took the Brookville wrestler down again. The same combination worked for a second time as Bush won via technical fall 18-3 in a time of 5:51.
Brookville returned the favor in the 138-pound bout as Brock Zacherl won an 18-2 technical fall for the Raiders over Dakota Dahler of Ridgway in a time of 4:15.
Ridgway picked up a win at 145 pounds as Steve Mitchell was able to upend Brodie Zacherl with an 8-7 decision. Brodie Zacherl initially took down Mitchell for a 2-0 lead. Mitchell escaped to halve the margin and then added four more points for a 5-2 lead. Brodie took down Mitchell with 48 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. After a Mitchell escape, Brodie earned his third takedown of the bout to tie the match at 6-all entering the third period.
Brodie Zacherl escaped to start the third period but a takedown by Mitchell with 53 seconds left put the Ridgway senior ahead for good for an 8-7 decision and an 8-5 team lead for the Elkers.
Slade Horner won Ridgway's second straight match with a 7-1 decision over Zach Vroman. After a scoreless first period, Horner escaped in the second period for a 1-0 lead. Vroman returned the favor 30 seconds into the third period to square the bout at 1-all. Horner then scored a decisive takedown and two sets of two back points for the 7-1 decision.
"I knew there were a lot of close matches," Gerber said. "I was real pleased that we had those matches. I knew it was going to come down right to the very end."
Kyle Caggiano had little trouble in a 14-3 major decision over Taylor Cudworth of Brookville in the 160-pound bout. Caggiano led 6-2 after the first period and then began to pull away with a series of takedowns and back points for the four team points, putting Ridgway up 15-5 in the team score.
Brookville's Brett Smith answered for Brookville with a pinfall over Dalton Sheasley in 1:37 in the 170-pound bout.
Ridgway would answer the Raiders back in the 182-pound bout as Jake Himes took a 5-1 decision over Tyler Dombrowski. Himes took down Dombrowski with 29 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 lead. The two wrestlers exchanged escapes before a late takedown by Himes gave the Ridgway senior a cushion and a 5-1 win.
Logan Stout would cut into the Ridgway team lead with a 6-3 decision over Seth Stahl in the 195-pound bout. After a scoreless first period, Stahl let Stout up from the bottom position on the second-period restart to make the score 1-0. Stahl took down Stout for a 2-1 lead. Stout was let up again to put both wrestlers back on their feet with the bout tied at 2-all. In the third period, Stout got the go-ahead takedown for a 4-2 lead en route to the 6-3 decision.
Another close match occurred at 220 pounds as Chad Quail of Ridgway took on Jacob Cieleski of Brookville. After a scoreless first period, the difference in the bout came in the second period as Cieleski was able to escape from the down position for a 1-0 lead. Quail was unable to do the same in the third period as Cieleski took the 1-0 decision. Ridgway led 18-17 in the team score after the 220-pound bout.
The Elkers earned bonus points in the 285-pound bout as Chris Woods was able to pin Nathan Nosker in a time of 3:43. The bonus points were needed as Ridgway knew they would be forfeiting at 106 pounds to Devin Joiner.
"That's our fault. We don't field a full team and they did," Gerber said. "They earned it. That's part of the game too."
In a rematch from last season's deciding bout at the district duals, Brady Mineweaser of Brookville was able to garner an 8-7 decision over Cody Stahl. Stahl was off to a hot start with a 5-0 lead in the first period after a takedown and three back points. Mineweaser was able to rally and tie the bout at 6-all entering the third period before taking down Stahl with just over a minute left. Stahl escaped with a few seconds left and both wrestlers were on their feet with the bout in the balance. Stahl was unable to get any more points as Brookville took the team lead by a 26-24 margin with two bouts left.
The Raiders clinched the dual in the next bout at 120 pounds as Trey Constable pinned Tad Pierce in 58 seconds left for a 32-24 lead.
"I was real pleased with their performance technically," Gerber said. "They did a great job. This is against some of the best wrestlers in the state. They've wrestled one of the toughest schedules I've ever seen. That's why they're good. To wrestle right with them, I'm really proud of the job they did."
Brett Himes won by injury default over Cole Clever of Brookville in 3:19 to finish the evening.
The two teams now focus on the District 9 Team Duals which will be Saturday at DuBois Area High School. Brookville wrestles Smethport at 11 a.m. in the semifinal match in Class AA. The winner there faces Ridgway at approximately 2 p.m. in the championship match.
"We have to see what we can come up with and take another shot at them," Gerber said. "The Brookville and Ridgway rivalry has made District 9 better, made us better, made them better. I'm just so glad to be a part of it. They could have had the schedule with an easier match. I didn't want to end with an easy match, I wanted to end with Brookville. It's a rivalry of respect from both programs because we both work so hard."