The Ridgway wrestling banquet usually occurs to celebrate the accomplishments of the team from the recently completed season.
This year's banquet also honored the career of retiring Ridgway wrestling head coach Gary Gerber as it was a time to reflect on his many career highlights Friday night at Aiello Cafe.
"It has been an honor and a privilege to coach this team for all these years," Gerber said. "There are some people in Ridgway that have more money than I do but I am the richest man in Ridgway. I have memories that go back for years."
Gerber expressed his appreciation to his wife, Sandy and his family.
"I probably took a lot of time away from them because I was out doing wrestling," Gerber said.
He spoke about all of his assistant coaches Gerber has had since he took over as the head coach in 1983.
"My assistant coaches through the years have been phenomenal," Gerber said. "There have been a lot of them. I've enjoyed working with all of them. This year's group with the young coaches just brought the enthusiasm back to me."
Gerber expressed more appreciation to school administration, athletic directors and workers at school who helped him with paperwork. Gerber coached his entire career at Ridgway and calls it home.
"People ask me why I didn't coach at college or maybe a bigger school," Gerber said. "There was once a chance at State College. Ridgway's a great place to raise a family. Kids in this town know how to work. They're not afraid to work, they push each other hard. You can't pass up an opportunity like Ridgway. I stayed here my entire career, I would never leave. It's home."
Gerber spoke of the qualities of the sport of wrestling and the need to improve a weakness.
"You can't blame a teammate, you can't hide, you go out all by yourself," Gerber said. "If you have a flaw, they're going to see it. You have to learn to get better. You can't stay the same or everyone will pass you by. This year's team was a great example of that, they all improved. I see that continuing next year. You keep going, you keep pushing and you can make it happen."
Gerber was given a standing ovation at the end of the night. Longtime assistant coach Rick Leitzel spoke of the early struggles with the team.
"On a personal note, I want to [acknowledge] Gary for all our years together," Leitzel said. "When we first started, we didn't have a wrestling room. When we started, we didn't know if we could get a kid through districts. We were 14th of the 15 teams and now we're a monster. We've had a lot of good times together."
Ridgway wrestling historian Bob Imhof remembered rivalries with a few schools.
"Going to all the tournaments, all the battles with Spencerport, N.Y. at the Jamestown Tournament," Imhof said. "The tremendous battles with Bald Eagle-Nittany. We have a winning record against them historically. They're a part of Central Mountain High School in Lock Haven now."
Imhof said he feels grateful to be a part of the program with Gerber.
"I'd like to congratulate Gary on an amazingly successful career," Imhof said. "He now ranks among one of the highest winning percentages in this state which is quite an honor in and of itself. It's a great note of his time, his effort and all the hard work that he and his assistants have put in over the past few years."
Leitzel gave Gerber a shirt which had some of Gerber's coaching accomplishments on it. It highlighted his 107 district champions, 28 regional champions and his 434-94 dual record.