ALBANY – Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner, Jude Gardner, Tyler Cassidy and Maple Grove’s Brad Bihler had enjoyable afternoons Saturday at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships at the Times Union Center.
All four wrestlers won their first two matches and are in today’s semifinals.
Dakota Gardner used a 10-1 major decision to defeat Cortland’s Zach Alexander (Section 3) in the first round and in the quarterfinals, Gardner was victorious with a 4-3 decision over Ryan Snow of Section 3’s General Brown. Gardner had a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a late rally by Snow to earn the victory and a spot in today’s semifinals against No. 7 Jake Nicholson, who knocked off No. 2 seed Laken Cook.
“Dakota wrestled a very, very good match,” Fredonia coach Alex Conti said. “He had two tough kids today. We beat the third seed. I was pleased with him. If wrestles tough, good things will happen.”
At 132, Fredonia’s Tyler Cassidy pinned Sean Cramsie of Section 9 New Paltz in just :39. In his second match, he rallied past Saranac’s Austin Latulip (Section 7), 3-2.
For his efforts Friday, Cassidy gets the honors of trying to knock off arguably the state’s best wrestler in Cheektowaga’s Renaldo Spencer-Rodriquez today in the semifinals.
“Tyler Cassidy had an exceptional day,” Conti said. “That second win was a big match. He is a place finisher now and you can’t take that away.”
Fredonia’s Jude Gardner also had first-round success as he took care of Letchworth’s Austin Hedges (Section 5), 8-2. He made sure he would once again place this year with a 7-2 victory over returning state qualifier Matt Dillon of Nanuet in the quarterfinals.
Gardner will now face Drew Hull of Roy-Hart today in the semifinals. Hull has defeated Gardner three times this season one pin and two decisions with a 1-0 decision.
“Jude was the tightest one in the group,” Conti noted. “He went out there with a lot of expectations he placed on himself. I am glad he made the semis. Maybe now he can loosen up a little bit against the No. 1 guy in Drew Hull who has beaten us three times already this year. He is the real deal. He is going to Virginia on a wrestling scholarship.”
Bihler was very impressive as he earned two upsets to advance to the semifinals. In the opening match, he handled No. 5 seed Putnam Valley’s Noah Kelvas (Section 3) with a 15-0 technical fall. In the next round, Bihler continued his dominance as he knocked off the No. 4 seed, Austin Trombley, of Section 7’s Northern Adirondack.
The two victories ensure Bihler of placing at the tournament something no other Red Dragon wrestler has done since Josh Micek in 2009.
“I am very happy,” Maple Grove coach Trevor Delahoy said. “He is wrestling at a state level. He went out and dominated his first match. He didn’t seem nervous at all. He went out and just wrestled.”
By 3:30 p.m., Bihler was done for the day and able to get ready for today’s semifinals where he battles No. 1 seed Luis Weierbach.
“Hopefully we can keep him focused,” Delahoy said. “It’s a huge advantage. He gets to go home, check his weight, do what he needs to do to get his weight down. He also needs to get a lot of rest, a lot of rest. We need to start focus again.”
At 99 pounds, Southwestern’s Ryan Hetrick started his quest off for a state title in fashion with a 10-0 victory over Section 1’s James Bathon of Pleasantville. However, in the quarterfinals, Hetrick lost a tough 3-2 overtime decision to Matteo Devincenzo to put him in the wrestlebacks.
“Winning the first match was huge because you don’t drop to wrestlebacks,” Southwestern coach Mark Arnold said. “He looked solid. In his second match, there were things we could have done differently.”
Also at 99, Falconer’s Kyle Blake fell to Mexico’s Theo Powers of Section 3 in his first match. In the wrestlebacks, Blake pinned Taylor Benson of Section 9 Red Hook to set up a match with Hetrick, with the loser going home.
After a scoreless first period, Blake began the second period on the bottom position and escaped :24 into the period for a 1-0 advantage. With both wrestlers on their feet, Blake and Hetrick each attempted takedowns but could not score the two points.
In th final period, Hetrick began on bottom position and just like Blakke did, Hetrick escaped to tie the score 1-all with 1:45 left. That’s the way the score would be the rest of the period as the match went into overtime.
When it was all said and done, Hetrick won in the fourth overtime also known as the ultimate tiebreaker.
“That’s the fourth time those two have faced each other and it comes down to the final point every time,” Arnold noted. “We knew that was going to happen. Over the years, I bet they have wrestled 25 times and they are always matches like that. They know each other’s moves.
“If he wins in the morning, he is guaranteed a place finish,” Arnold added of Hetrick. “He is going to be focused and I think he will be ready.”
“He wrestled pretty well,” Falconer coach Drew Wilcox said of Blake. “He lost to two quality kids. Hetrick was one point better than us tonight. He is going on and hopefully he places. It’s tough to beat the same kid by a point over and over. My hats off to Hetrick. He is going on and we aren’t.”
Also at 126, Falconer’s Brandon Muntz blanked Hunter Hulse of Section 9’s Stony Brook, 4-0. In the quarterfinals, Muntz fell to Nick Forget of Section 7’s Peru, 2-1. In the wrestlebacks Muntz took a 2-0 lead after the first period against Zach Alexander and held off a push from Section 3’s wrestler from Cortland for a 5-2 victory and a chance to place at least sixth today.
“I tought Muntz has wrestled real well,” Wilcox noted. “We were five seconds away from probably being in the semifinals. We are one win away from getting a medal and that’s what we are here for. After his loss, he took some time and refocused and wrestled a smart match against a tough kid in Alexander. Brandon is a senior and wants a medal and he is five minutes away from getting one.”
At 170, Fredonia’s Zach Buckley escaped the first round with a 6-2 decision over Jeff Day of Section 5’s Letchworth, in a match which could have gone either way.
However, in the quarterfinals, a questionable call in the first period set the tone as Buckley fell to Troy Seymour of Peru, 5-2. It was Buckley’s first loss of the season.
In the wrestlebacks, Buckley was the victim of another questionable call as he fell to John Messenger of Section 1 Putnam Valley, 7-6. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Buckley appeared to have a two-point reversal. However, the official did not award Buckley the points as the clock struck zero.
“I thought he had a bad call in the quarterfinal match,” Conti said. “It didn’t cost him the match, but wrestled differently after that call. I wish that would have been different. In the wrestlebacks, he had that match in his grasp, but wrestling is a funny sport. I thought the call at the end could have gone either way. That’s a heartbreaker. I love Zach. He is great to have around. He is a great kid. I know he didn’t want his season to end like that. I was very confident he was going to get a medal.”
Frewsburg’s Austin Lynn used a 7-0 decision to defeat Alex Cole of Section 10’s Ogdensburg Free Academy at 182, but fell to No. 1 seed Zack Zupan, 16-5 in the quarterfinals. In the wrestlebacks, Lynn faced Logan Laflamme of Section 3’s South Jefferson, and won 3-1 in overtime.
“Austin did a good job today,” Frewsburg coach Cory Spicer said. “He won his first match pretty handedly. The kid in the second match was defending state champion. He knew from here on out, he was going to put it all on the line. He wrestled his butt off today. He was doing stuff he hasn’t done all season.”
At 195, Salamanca’s Dusty Lewis pinned Christian Gioia of Petridis in just 1:19. In the quarterfinals, he had a solid performance, but fell to No. 1 seed, Bryce Mazurowski of Avon, 12-11.
Mazurowski has only allowed four points on him all season.
“It was a really tough loss,” Salamanca coach Rich Morton said. “That was a great match against a great kid. It’s a heartbreaker to lose it, but we were in it and kept it close. I think it built some confidence for (today).”
In the wrestlebacks, Lewis pinned Christopher Baglivi of Section 12’s Mattituck in the final minute of the match. Lewis still has the chance to place today.
Finally, at 220, Fredonia’s Chris Saden opened with a victory over Mike Mandigo with a 1:45 pin. In the quarterfinals, he lost to Zack Bacon of Section 5’s Hornell. In the wrestlebacks, he rallied in the final minute to defeat Jesse Corcoran, 7-5.
“Christian ran into a beast in his quarterfinal match,” Conti noted. “He was definitely out-manned. His last match was a good match though. It’s a shame he didn’t open up earlier.
“Getting on the podium is the key here,” Conti concluded. “That’s what we are here for and that’s what they deserve. We will see what (today) brings. Win, lose, or draw, we have nothing to be ashamed about.”