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Quakertown, Faith wrestlers “Escape the Rock” with titles

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Collin Gaj has something to prove.

Entering the prestigious Escape the Rock tournament at Council Rock South High School last weekend, the Quakertown sophomore took his presumed lack of respect from seeding officials personally.

He responded with a first-place finish in his 145-pound bracket, and helped his teammates to an 11th-place finish in the 53-team field of the tournament, regarded as one of the best in the country.

Faith Christian also had a banner tournament with an overall fourth-place finish. Freshman Adam Waters captured the 172-pound bracket, and sophomore Gauge Botero was second at 121 pounds.

Council Rock South junior 160-pounder Bekhruz Sadriddinov was the runner-up in the 160-pound class. His team finished 17th overall.

Gaj, who is ranked seventh nationally, knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

“I knew it was going to be a grind, but that’s what I have trained for,” said Gaj, who has a 22-0 record with 14 falls. “I got the sixth seed, which I felt was almost disrespectful, but my coaches helped me stay focused by reminding me that seeding doesn’t matter. You have to beat the best guys to win.

“I avenged two losses from last year during this tournament from last year, so I was proud of myself for getting those two losses back and turning them into wins.”

Quakertown head coach Kurt Handel was impressed with his overall team’s showing. Junior Mason Ziegler (121) and senior Calvin Lachman (215) both finished third in their respective weight classes.

Gaj set a new standard for the Panthers’ program.

“Collin was our first champion in the tournament,” noted Handel. “Our previous highest finisher was a semifinalist. “To have Collin finish first and two guys finish third made it a big day for our program.

“It was as good a field as it has ever been. This is one of the best tournaments in the country. Collin was determined and his weight class had five of the top 15 kids in the country. All three of them did a tremendous job. They’re all hard workers, and it has paid off for them.”

Handel noted the contributions of senior 152-pounder Zach Borzio, junior 114-pounder Issac Williams, sophomore 172-pounder Dylan Fenstermacher, and freshman 128-pounder Logan Pfistner, who all helped shape their overall finish.

“Those were the unheralded guys,” said Handel. “They all got some wins for us that helped the team.

Faith Christian head coach Ben Clymer was proud of his team that performed its best despite their circumstances.

“It was a good tourney,” he said. “Some guys are still beat up or getting healthy. The guys that competed did well, but some of those guys have to get tougher. We’re feeling midseason bumps and bruises which are typical, but they will only get worse in the postseason.

“Adam wrestled with the poise of a senior and came through in the finals. Gauge is banged up, but got some good wins and did well to place second.”

Sadriddinov, a regional champion last season who has a 21-5 record this season, understands patience will be key down the stretch.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty good weekend,” he said. “I am definitely not satisfied, and it really stings that I didn’t get the belt in the finals. But my coaches all say it’s part of the process, and it’s about practicing for March.

“I know that we will all work in the room to get ready for the big weeks in March.”

CR South head coach Brad Silimperi was pleased with Sadriddinov’s showing.

“Bek wrestled fantastic and he overturned a prior loss,” said Silimperi. “He really wrestled well on top, instead of just riding, looking to turn people, and scoring points on top. He had a huge pin in the semifinals, and he is wrestling well overall right now.”

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