Champions crowned

AMHERST – After nearly four hours of championship-round wrestling Sunday at the University at Buffalo, two Fredonia Hillbillie wrestlers punched their ticket into the New York State Public high School Athletic Association state wrestling championships.

Fredonia’s Chris Saden and Zach Buckley each went undefeated at the state qualifier Sunday.

At 170-pounds, Buckley was dominant all day. The No. 1 seed used two pins to get into the finals. Once there, Buckley took down No. 3 seed James Carr of Randolph, 18-3, for the technical fall.

“Total domination,” Fredonia coach Alex Conti said of Buckley. “He wrestled a fantastic tournament He is the real deal. I hope he is ready to rumble at the states. If he doesn’t let his nerves get in the way, he can do some damage. He has been hitting his stride since the second weekend. He works out with guys and you can’t expect anything but great things.”

Meanwhile, Saden was equally impressive at 220. Saden, a No. 3 seed, used a pin in the quarterfinals and a 4-2 decision in the semifinals to advance to the finals. There, he earned a 5:35 pin over No. 5 seed Brian Kerwin for his ticket to Albany.

“He has put in his time and a lot of effort,” Conti said. “He has had the opportunity to work with Matt Booth of Cattaraugus-Little Valley and it has really paid off. Matt is a great partner for him. It has paid dividends for Chris.

“If you get a chance to pin someone in the finals of a state qualifier, it’s pretty exciting,” Conti noted. “It also takes a lot of pressure off the coach.”

Unfortunately for Fredonia, Jude Gardner and Dakota Gardner lost in the championship round.

At 126, Falconer’s Branden Muntz pulled off the upset as the No. 2 seed downed No. 1 seed Dakota Gardner, 2-0.

Muntz scored a takedown in the opening round and the lead stood the rest of the way.

“Branden wrestled a very smart match,” Falconer coach Drew Wilcox said. “I am super proud of him and he deserves it.” Dakota is a tough kid. I think both guys will get on the podium in Albany in two weeks. Branden has been focused all day.”

Muntz, a senior, made it to the NYSPHSAA championships as a freshman. After a two-year absence from the Times Union Center, the Golden Falcon wrestler is determined to make his trip down I-90 a memorable one.

“He has been there and seen it,” Wilcox noted. “He has his sights set on the finals and he is definitely capable of doing it. If he wrestles like he did today, it’s a strong possibility.”

As for Gardner, despite the loss, he should be able to make the tournament on a wild card as he is a 2012 state finalist and is now 41-1 on the season.

“I’m all for a loss now,” Conti said. “I can name three state champions who lost in the finals of the qualifier last year. As long as he gets to the show, anything can happen. Maybe it will remind him there is work to be done.”

Meanwhile, Jude Gardner lost in the finals at 145 to No. 1 seed Drew Hull of Roy-Hart, 1-0.

After a scoreless first period, Hull began the second period from the bottom position and escaped. It proved to be the winning point of the match as Gardner could not do the same thing in the third period.

“Jude did a nice job,” Conti said. “Hopefully we wrestle Drew Hull in the finals of states. Drew Hull is the real deal. He took second at states last year and I think he will be the man to beat this year. Hopefully we get a chance to battle with him in the finals.

“I believe Jude will also get a wild card,” Conti noted.

Meanwhile, Conti also feels Tyler Cassidy has a chance at a wild card after taking third place.

“He came through and took third in a huge wrestleback win,” Conti said. “He is a senior and he has been wrestling a long time. Hopefully he gets there. It’s always tough to come back with two wins after a loss, so good for him.”