The “When Sports Were Played” for today takes us back to Feb. 20, 1991, when Bentworth juggled its lineup and found the right combination to beat Chartiers-Houston and win the WPIAL Class AA wrestling team championship.
HEIDELBERG – Fifteen years ago, the goal for the Bentworth High School wrestling was simply not to be shut out by the opponent.
That modest approach, put in place by the only coach the program has known, Tom Teagarden, is just a memory now. To fully appreciate how far the Bearcats have progressed was to see them reach an emotional and physical peak Wednesday night at Chartiers Valley High School.
Bentworth capped a remarkable dual season with a 34-30 victory over Chartiers-Houston in the WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament championship. It is the Bearcats’ first wrestling championship and first WPIAL crown.
Bentworth finished the season with a 17-1 record and won its last 16 matches. By whipping the Bucs, the Bearcats avenged their only loss – a 33-32 decision in mid-December.
While the contribution and effort of the Bentworth wrestlers was undeniable, it was Teagarden who took center stage in the finals.
The former state champion from McGuffey shook up his lineup, dropping a number of his wrestlers one weight class, and in some cases two, to maximize points and the Bearcats’ chances for victory.
“It’s a combination of the moves and that the boys wrestled a hell of a match,” Teagarden said. “We were as emotional as we’ve been all year, probably as emotional as any Bentworth team has been.”
Teagarden dropped Keith Lehman from 119 to 112, Tim Woods from 140-145 to 135, Ken Holman from 152 to 145 and Kelly Shriner from 171 to 161.
Of all the shuffling, Lehman was Teagarden’s trump card. A week ago, Teagarden didn’t think Lehman would be available to him as a 112-pounder. But Lehman managed to make the weight.
And what followed was more stunning and crippling than the Bucs could have ever believed.
Lehman shocked C-H’s Mac Simms, scoring five points in the bout’s first 48 seconds. He then jolted the Bucs late in the period when he took Simms down and pinned him suddenly with a half nelson.
“There’s no question 122 set the tone for them,” said Chartiers-Houston coach Ed Vorhes.
“We just decided, for us to win against them, we had to have Keith at 112,” Teagarden said. “We felt Keith could do well against him and I told him we needed at least four points.”
“Coach Teagarden told me what we needed,” said Lehman. “He told me it was the key bout. Everybody had to do his job.”
C-H’s Todd Porter (103) and Dan Figgins (119) sandwiched Lehman’s victory with a technical fall and major decision over Mike Berchin and Jason Selvoski, respectively. The Bucs’ 9-6 advantage was wiped away quickly and convincingly.
Bentworth captured four straight bouts and six of the next seven to hold a commanding 34-15 lead.
Chad Zrimsek started the run with a fall in 1:05 over Dave Porter at 125. Rob Weinzen pinned Matt Garboski in 2:41 at 130. Tim Woods earned a 9-0 major decision over Mike Matalik at 135 and Albert Thomas pinned Jim Spingola in 4:22 at 140.
“Getting pinned at 112 and 125 was real devastating,” Vorhes said. “They just had great desire and tenacity. Bentworth wasn’t going to be denied.”
After C-H’s Mike Moze pinned Ken Holman in 4:40, the Bearcats clinched the title when Jason Ivcic defeated Derek Blough 7-4 at 152 and Kelly Shriner decisioned Bob Gostic 7-1 at 160.
Shriner weighed in at 171 but weighed just 160 pounds – a fact that went virtually unnoticed by everyone but Teagarden. “I don’t think they figured that,” he said.
“The big thing was they made a lot of moves,” Vorhes said. “Tom moved kids all over the place. And he brought a tough lineup.”
Chartiers-Houston (17-3) had won 12 straight. The Bucs made the final score close as Mike Marcischak scored a 15-4 decision over Jason Kadash at 171; Mike Bogush pinned Brian Beinhauer in 1:19 at 189 and heavyweight Cory Walker won by default over Dave Magera.
“This is just incredible,” said Teagarden. “I’m real proud of all the boys. It was just so emotional.”