It seemed like just a friendly invite when Ernie Yates showed up at his old stomping ground, Berwick High School, for the annual Berwick Duals.
The longtime coach of the program accepted an invitation from first-year coach Paul Ervin to watch his old team in action. As the event was wrapping up, Yates walked down to the floor from the bleachers and went to thank Ervin and assistant coach Kevin Laubach Sr. and say goodbye.
“I wanted to avoid being intrusive because Paul will do his thing,” said Yates, who sat in the bleachers with his family.
But as he was ready to leave, he learned something was up.
“Kevin said, ‘You can’t leave,’ ” Yates said.
That’s because Yates was about to be honored. It was announced a few moments later that the event, which Yates had been such an important piece of, would be named after him from now on — The Ernie Yates Berwick Duals.
Yates also received a plaque commemorating the event.
“It was very much a surprise to me,” Yates said. “Paul is a great, young guy and I appreciate him for doing that.”
The event in the middle of December was the only time Yates has been at Berwick since retiring last spring. But he sees striking similarities to the current program and when he took over more than 25 years ago as an up-and-coming young mentor who eventually led the Bulldogs to supremacy.
“I told Paul how coaching is and he’s going to get better … and Berwick wrestling will get better incrementally. I really believe that,” Yates said. “I feel real secure that under Paul Ervin’s leadership that Berwick wrestling will be getting better.”
When Crestwood shocked Dallas last week in a WVC Division I dual, the Comets also put a clamp on the longest losing streak in the division at seven. It was their first win since topping Berwick nearly two years ago to end the 2012 divisional slate.
That leaves the longest such streak in the division belonging to Berwick and Coughlin, both at two. Berwick’s dates back to a setback at the end of last season to Valley West, while the Crusaders are 0-2 in the current campaign.
Wyoming Valley West, which has won two straight D-I titles, has the longest win streak in the entire conference with 15 consecutive divisional wins and hasn’t lost since its first dual of the 2011-12 season to Coughlin.
Over in Division II, two-time defending champion Lake-Lehman hasn’t lost in nearly three years, riding a 14-match winning streak. The Black Knights’ last defeat was Feb. 8, 2011 — the last divisional dual of that season — to Meyers, that season’s division champ.
Nanticoke holds the unwanted distinction of the longest active losing streak in the conference, having dropped 11 straight divisional meets. The Trojans’ last win in the division came Jan. 11, 2012, against GAR.
A wild ride ahead
Crestwood’s win over Dallas also has big implications in the division — especially if the Comets can pull off a bigger upset tonight at Wyoming Valley West.
While that is by no means out of the question, it seems more realistic that the Comets have thrown a wrench into the race for second place in the division. And with it, the No. 2 seed from the conference for the upcoming District 2 Class 3A Duals Tournament to be held Feb. 1 at the Kingston Armory.
Here’s a few notes about the complexity of the division race still ahead:
• The Mountaineers (1-3) have the most losses out of the seven teams so far this season with three. But they can still mathematically finish in second.
• There are 19 duals remaining between the six teams vying for second place, meaning any of them can accomplish the feat.
• In addition to facing Crestwood tonight, Valley West still has to go to Berwick to wrap up the divisional slate. With Berwick (0-1) only wrestling once so far in the division, it can still pull off the improbable task of winning the division and claiming the No. 1 seed.
It’s GameDay for Sem
Coming off a very tight second-place finish at the NWCA Final Four Festival, Wyoming Seminary won’t take a break from tough competition. In fact, the Blue Knights head to a historic venue this weekend in what will be a college atmosphere.
Seminary will wrestle at The Palestra Friday night against Bergen Catholic, a New Jersey power, prior to the college dual between Penn and Binghamton.
The next day, the famed venue in Philadelphia will be the host of ESPN’s College GameDay program prior to a Big Five men’s basketball doubleheader as Temple plays La Salle at noon, followed by Penn taking on St. Joe’s at 7 p.m. Sem won’t be around for the hoops hoopla because it will be at the Parker Duals in Massachusetts on Saturday.
Worth the drive
There are no WVC teams competing at the Escape the Rock Tournament this weekend at Council Rock South High School. In fact, Delaware Valley is the only District 2 team competing at the event famous for giving out championship belts to the winners.
But there’s another attraction at this weekend’s event, as Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs will make a special guest appearance Sunday night for the finals, which are set to begin at 4 p.m. Burroughs is a graduate of Winslow Township High School in New Jersey, which is about an hour drive to Council Rock South.
CRS is in the Philadelphia area and is about a two-hour drive from Wilkes-Barre.