Cedar Crest wrestling duo enjoying unbeaten run
Wrestling isn't a high-profile sport at Cedar Crest, but Barry Breidegan and Jarell Howard-Griffin are gaining notoriety anyway with their unbeaten records as the postseason nears.
Barry Breidegan and Jarell Howard-Griffin are classmates, friends, teammates and practice partners on the Cedar Crest wrestling team.
They also have something else in common: They've yet to be beaten in the 2015-16 season.
Oh, and one other thing: Because of that fact, the two are managing to raise the profile of a Cedar Crest program that has struggled mightily for dual meet wins in recent years.
This year, the Falcons stand at 1-12 overall and 0-5 in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League as of Monday night. As that record indicates, they're not the best team in the L-L by a long shot.
But they do have two of the leagues's best individual competitors in 15-0 senior 182-pounder Howard-Griffin, and 23-0 152-pound competitor and fellow 12th-grader Breidegan.
"To me, it's a leadership thing," said Breidegan said last week of what it means to the program to have two undefeated members of the starting lineup. "It's showing the team we can still win individually even though we fall short in dual meets."
"They look up to us more on the team and try to get up to our level," Howard-Griffin noted. "We try to work with them and show them what they're doing wrong."
That mindset is an invaluable resource for Cedar Crest coach Barry Spohn as he tries to build a successful program at a school that has traditionally enjoyed more winter sports success on the basketball court and in the swimming pool than on the wrestling mat.
"It makes you feel good," Spohn said. "We haven't had a lot of team success but it proves that wrestlers here at Cedar Crest can be successful. Obviously, if you don't have somebody doing that, it's hard to prove that to the other guys. It kinda sets a good model for those guys. These guys practice the right way, and if other guys pay attention and follow that it's really gonna benefit them."
The two have reached their current level of performance in distinctly different ways. Breidegan, a wrestling lifer picked up the sport at age 3 and is the more technically sound of the two, according to Spohn. Howard-Griffin, meanwhile, only began wrestling in 9th grade and has reached his heights in part by being blessed with more athletic gifts than Breidegan.
But they also share quite a bit, including a burning desire to perfect their skills and find their way to the state tournament for the first time this season.
Their quest for postseason riches begins this weekend at the Lancaster-Lebanon League Tournament, but both are hoping the L-L event is merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
"I want to win leagues this year and make it to the state tournament," Breidegan said. "To me, it would mean all my hard work paid off in the seasons before. I'm not gonna stop now, I'm gonna finish it with a bang, being on the podium."
"I just want to make it to the state tournament," Howard-Griffin echoed. "If I made it there, I'd think to myself that everybody else made it, so I can continue to win and make it even farther."
If their dreams are realized, they'll have the other to thank for it after countless hours of pushing each other to greater heights in practice.
"We work on it together," Breidegan said. "But we do compete against each other in stuff like how many take-downs can we finish with in a season and some small things. Never our wins, though.
"Once we start practicing, it's hard to beat one another because we know what we're doing. We gotta always come up with new things, new angles to take down each other."
"He helps me get my speed up and he makes me have to think more about what I'm gonna do," Howard-Griffin said, " instead of just muscling the other kids around."
As for the future, Breidegan would like to wrestle in college - Kutztown is on his radar at the moment - while Howard-Griffin is undecided about wrestling after high school.
The here and now, though, is something both plan to attack with maximum intensity and focus. With no regrets planned.
"Since it's our last year we might as well give it all or nothing," Breidegan said. "We don't have another year in it. There's no excuses to make this year."
And, at least so far, no losses to take, either.