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The Ridgway wrestling program was honored with a banquet held Friday night at Aiello Cafe in Ridgway.
Corey Bush was given a plaque commemorating his induction into the Ridgway Wrestling Hall of Fame as he was a 3-time state placewinner. He also won the Bruno Iorfido Memorial Outstanding Wrestler Award.
"He's a coach's dream," Gerber said. "A pleasure to coach, a hard worker. He kept himself under control and worked hard. He is a tremendous kid to coach, he listens. He knew he wanted to be successful from the first time he stepped on the mat in ninth grade and he made it happen."
Jake Himes won the $500 Dr. David Johe Scholarship Award and was a co-winner of the Leadership Award.
"I have enjoyed every minute coaching him," Ridgway varsity head coach Gary Gerber said. "He was more than a little successful. He's one of the hardest workers I know. He's a great kid."
Kyle Caggiano was another co-winner of that award.
"He has one of the best work ethics I've ever seen," Gerber said. "This year, it paid off with a trip to Hershey. I was so proud of him to get that trip. He's been a joy to work with."
Slade Horner was the third of the three co-winners of the Leadership Award. Steve Mitchell was named as the Coach's Award recipient.
"He's someone there on a daily basis, he works hard, puts team first," Gerber said. He is a good all-around person. Someone you would like your own kids to be like."
Cortland Smith won the Scholar-Athlete Award.
"He's a hard worker, he's dedicated, he's there all the time," Gerber said. "He's going to play a major role on next year's team."
"I think this has to be one of the hardest things to be," Gerber said. "To be an athlete and spend that much time, especially in a sport like wrestling where we work a lot and work hard, to go home and get your schoolwork done."
Zac McKnight was a co-winner of the Most Improved Award with Chad Quail. Gerber spoke about McKnight's potential entering his senior year.
"He's been given a gift and is so physically talented, I don't think he knows how talented he is," Gerber said. "He kept showing improvement each match. He started beating really good kids. After regionals, I told him to take his bracket and scratch out all the seniors because next year they won't be there. If he keeps working, he'll place high enough to go to Hershey next year."
Gerber said Quail kept surprising everyone around the team.
"Time and time again, he amazed us," Gerber said. "He had a record we did not expect. He's always working, always there. He had one of the most successful seasons on the team."
Chris Woods won the Best First-Year Varsity Wrestler Award.
"We took this long run one day. The big guys can take a shortcut and cut the mileage off," Gerber said. "I told him to cut across, he refused. I think it paid off for him in the long run."
Brett Himes won the Hardest Worker Award.
"He works so hard, he makes me tired watching him," Gerber said. "He constantly tries to improve. He wrestled 152 last year, he wrestled 126 this year."
Tad Pierce won the Most Exciting Wrestler Award.
"Every year, he comes up with a big match at a big time or a performance that is just unbelievable," Gerber said. "He is unique in the way that he wrestles."
Sam Delhunty won the JV Wrestler of the Year Award.
"He came back and did a tremendous job wrestling way over his weight," Gerber said. "He's got the strength, he's got the tenacity. He's a powerful young man, he's getting stronger every day. I've seen him in the weight room a few times already. He's going to be a name to remember, he's got a very bright future."
Gerber also said John Bogacki will be getting a plaque for all of his work he has done with the banquet.
Gerber gave a brief review of the season.
"We had a good group of kids who worked hard," Gerber said. "When it came time to put it on the line on the mat, these kids stepped it up. What people don't realize, when you look at our lineup, we had four kids wrestling 20 pounds under their weight. That's very difficult to do because wrestling is a sport where size is everything. Through tremendous strength and a lot of mental toughness, they did a great job for us. It's a season that I'll remember for a long time."
Gerber spoke about Tyler Himes, a newcomer to the team.
"He's new to the sport of wrestling," Gerber said. "He came into practice and was simply amazing. He worked hard and continued to improve. We were proud to have him as part of the team."
Gerber is optimistic about John Wildnauer and his role next year.
"He is one of the most powerful and intense kids in the room," Gerber said. "He's fun to be around. I think he's going to play a big role on next year's team."
Cody Stahl is a wrestler Gerber thinks can have a great season next year.
"Every year, this young man does things that amaze us," Gerber said. "We remember him from getting the pin that took the district title away from Brookville. This year, every time I mention his name, I hear 'Is that the kid that beat (Kane wrestler Cody)Blankenship?' Not only did he beat him, he pinned him. He has a ton of potential. If he wants, he can be in Hershey because he's that good. I enjoy working with him, I enjoy having him in the room. If he ever decides to be as good as he can be, the rest of District 9 better look out."
D.J. Pontious was a wrestler who Gerber said worked hard.
"What a joy it is to have him in the room," Gerber said. "He's a hard worker. If he misses a day, he makes up the work without even asking. He's a very powerful young man, he's going to play a big role on next year's team. He's very bright."
Gerber said Dalton Sheasley did a great job being a team player.
"Because of our lack of big men, we shifted all over," Gerber said. "There were times he was getting bumped out of the lineup and the first words out of his mouth were 'Whatever the team needs, Coach. Do what you got to do.' As a head coach, I can't tell you how much that means. He's strong, he's powerful and he's smart. He can be as good as he wants to me."
Gerber was excited with the tenacity shown by Seth Stahl.
"He is the most dangerous wrestler I've ever coached. If there's still three seconds left, there's still time to throw a headlock," Gerber said. "He was exciting and fun to be around. He set a standard for explosiveness that won't be touched for years to come."
Gerber was impressed with the character shown by Trevor Delhunty.
"He was there all the time. He showed a lot of character after his injury," Gerber said. "We went to Jamestown. He didn't travel with the team because he was injured but he showed up to support his friends. I think that says a lot about the young man. He never complained. I was proud to have him on the team for all these years."
Gerber was impressed with how Dakota Dahler came back after a serious shoulder injury to wrestle.
"Who he wrestled was the who's who of District 9 wrestling," Gerber said. "He hung in there, did a great job and even moved up to 152 at districts for us. It's been fun being his coach."
Gerber introduced his assistant coaches. He spoke of longtime assistant Rick Leitzel and his work in all areas of the program.
"He's at every level. He walks into that room and has the respect of every kid in that room," Gerber said. "He knows how to push these kids, he's a straight shooter. I've enjoyed being with him for a long, long time."
Dave Fordoski was a newcomer to the coaching staff this season.
"This coach has a passion for the sport," Gerber said. "I know his dad (former St. Marys wrestling head coach Wayne Fordoski) well, I coached against him for many years. He came into our room and the kids instantly took to him. He's the kind of coach that goes to nationals, has a season pass for Penn State wrestling. When the videos came out for District 10, he brought them in for the kids to see. Just a tremendous addition to our staff."
Another newcomer was Manny Barbazzeni and Gerber liked how he improves the wrestlers.
"There's so much good I can say about him," Gerber said. "When I saw how he worked with the kids. He pushes them hard. He makes them better."
The willingness of assistant coach Clint Stout to help the wrestlers was appreciated by Gerber.
"He is there for the kids when school is canceled, on Saturday nights, whenever they need him," Gerber said. "He's just a tremendous asset."
Gerber spoke of the dedication from assistant coach Greg Bush.
"What a dedicated man," Gerber said. "He does whatever we need whenever we need it and usually before I can think of it."
Overall, Gerber said he is quite impressed with the young coaches.
"I am so impressed with my coaching staff that I can't even put it into words," Gerber said. "It might be one of my most satisfying seasons I've ever had seeing how these guys work with these kids."