I cannot say my faith was restored, because doing so would indicate I’d lost faith in the first place. What I can say is Monday’s District 3 Team Championship thriller between Gettysburg and Central Dauphin did wonders for restoring my belief that nothing compares to the wrestling postseason.

To be fair, the regular season was unlike any I’ve seen since I began covering the sport nearly 25 years ago. As a creature of habit I normally arrive way too early when covering a match. So much so that I take in all of the middle school match that precedes varsity action. Can’t help it, I just like to get there early, get situated and get ready for what is about to unfold.

I also like to arrive early because in some cases, it’s the only way to get a good seat. We’ve been blessed to have a rich history of high school wrestling here in Adams County with memorable teams, wrestlers and matches that have helped put our little neck of the woods on the grapplin’ map. Along with that we’ve had some spectacular dual meets where crowds began arriving three or four hours prior to doors being opened. (See: Bermudian vs. Biglerville for about a decade).

With those images stored in my memory banks, it was nearly surreal when I pulled into the parking lot at Bermudian a few weeks ago for a dandy of a dual meet between the Eagles and fellow 2A power Northern Lebanon. My truck was one of just a few vehicles in the parking lot. There were also plenty of good seats available thanks to COVID protocols that schools must strictly adhere to in order to hold matches.

I watched from a second-floor window as the Eagles and Vikings battled to the last bout, with the visitors taking home a narrow victory. Afterward, both NL head coach Rusty Wallace Jr. and Berm boss Dave McCollum lamented the lack of fans.

A packed house would have added that special sauce that makes matches like that instant classics.

A few weeks later I stood matside as Gettysburg and Cumberland Valley went down to the wire, with both teams fighting and clawing for every precious point. Gettysburg was just a bit better than its guest, topping the Eagles 25-24 to kick off the Warrior Duals.

Again, without raucous fans who would have been losing their minds as the nip-tuck match swung back and forth. Being in the thick of it when folks from both sides of the gym are screaming their lungs out is a holy experience for those of us who revere the sport.

With all of that said, my hopes were lifted on Monday afternoon when Chris Haines took his undefeated team to Central Dauphin to rumble with the unbeaten Rams for a D3-3A championship. The setting was the same: no spectators, no cheerleaders, no fanfare.

But what the gym at CD had in spades was wrestlers willing to give all for victory. Kid after kid spilled their guts out on the mat. Heads butted, blood flowed and tanks were emptied on both sides. Nothing was left on the table, just the way it should have been.

After all, a district title and a spot in the state team tournament were the prizes, so why hold back?

Even in falling behind by a dozen points through three bouts, Gettysburg showed grit. At one point, Tyler Withers trailed 13-0 and was in danger of yielding a technical fall against dazzling freshman Ryan Garvick. But then he fought like a tiger.

Withers rallied back and closed to within 15-10, saving precious bonus points.

Three bouts later, Nathan Ridgley shook off a shot to the face that appeared to leave him dazed. The Warrior senior dug deep and delivered a pin to bring Gburg to within three points. Classmate Max Gourley followed with a gutsy decision over state-ranked Timmy Smith at 189 to level things.

For a match to be a classic it needs a memorable upset, and two followed. Sam Rodriguez shut down previously-unbeaten Nathaniel Mosey at 215, whipping the big Ram around like a rag doll. The win put the Warriors on top, but only for a moment.

CD’s Ben Stewart fearlessly stepped into an upper-body lock with talented Gettysburg heavyweight Trevor Gallagher. The lock meant one thing: someone was getting tossed to their back.

And Stewart did the tossing.

His pin was just what CD needed to slow the Warrior train and put the seven-time district champs back in front.

But Gettysburg wasn’t done. Reed Miller put on a front-headlock clinic in a 10-4 decision at 106, which was matched by a Ram decision in the ensuing bout.

At 120, senior Montana DeLawder bludgeoned Dallas Schorr for four straight minutes from the top position. Several times DeLawder was close to turning Schorr, whose job was clearly to avoid yielding bonus points. Had fans been in attendance, there almost certainly would have been a shower of boos and calls for stalling from Gburg supporters. But Schorr did his job and only lost 4-2.

State placer Matt Repos needed nearly all six minutes to wrangle a major decision from Jake Fetrow at 126, giving his Rams a 25-21 lead heading into the climatic bout.

And that is the most necessary component of any classic: a winner-take-all finale.

Sophomore Dalton Redden was tasked with registering at least a major decision, which would have tied the match and ultimately given the Warriors their second straight title. Redden heated up Michael Beers early and often, hitting three takedowns as he built a 6-2 lead. But Beers realized he had an opportunity to play hero as well, and he took it.

Late in the second period, Beers countered Redden to his back in a massive swing of fortunes. The riveting sequence brought the Rams to their feet and gave Beers all he needed to carry the day. He went on to win 11-8 over Redden, cementing a 28-21 victory

The Rams, D3 champs for the eighth time, lifted Beers onto their shoulders after he sprinted off the mat.

It was a terrific match from all sides, it just happened to take place during a season in which folks weren’t allowed in the building to watch it.

What that match reminded me was that even as we head into an individual postseason that will be void of fans and all the energy they bring to a tournament, memories will be made. Champions will be crowned. And I’ll appreciate having the opportunity to be there and share what I see with our readers.

Contact Josh Martin at jmartin@gettysburgtimes.com. Follow on Twitter at @JoshMartin33

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