VERGENNES — Second-place finishes for Middlebury senior Gabe Laberge and Vergennes senior T.J. Simpson highlighted local teams’ efforts at this past weekend’s Vermont high school championship wrestling meet, which Vergennes Union High School hosted on Friday and Saturday.
Laberge lost a 4-3 decision in the 195-pound final to Mount Anthony’s Brandon Marcoux-Schaff that MUHS Coach Ethan Raymond called “heartbreaking,” while Simpson, who won his 182-pound semifinal match with a dramatic late takedown and pin, fell to MAU’s Austin Price, 17-8, in his final.
The Tigers earned the best team finish of area schools, taking sixth out of 24 teams with 91 points. Seniors Tyler LaPlant at 220 and Chris Wright at 285 each finished third, junior Jakob Trautwein was fourth at 182, and freshman Nate Gebo took fifth at 106.
MAU, of course, won its 26th straight title — the Patriots won eight of 14 weight classes, and their 324-point total more than tripled that of second-place St. Johnsbury (107).
Bellows Falls (99.50), Mount Mansfield (96.5) and Champlain Valley (91.5) followed in a close race for the other positions. After Middlebury came Essex (88), and then Vergennes (71) in eighth.
Five of the seven Commodore wrestlers placed. Freshman Ethan Reardon took fourth at 106, outdueling a couple of regular-season defeats to the Tigers’ Gebo in the process; senior Dylan Lorrain at 285 and freshman Ryan Paquin at 160 each finished fifth; and freshman Jeb Hodsden earned sixth at 132.
OV, led by two sophomore fifth-place finishers, Jacob Scarborough at 120 and Adam Sherwin at 220, took 16th with 20 points. Coach Steve Mitchell said he was pleased that his team, entirely composed of freshmen and sophomores, stayed the course — none became discouraged and left the program this winter while facing older, more accomplished wrestlers week after week. Mitchell also said a good group of middle-school wrestlers gives reason for optimism.
Mount Abe, led by senior Mike Wetzel, fourth at 170 pounds, finished 18th with 15 points. The team, according to Coach Pete Lossmann, recently parted ways with its other most accomplished senior wrestler. Lossmann was happy to see Wetzel, who was seeded entering the tournament, perform up to expectations.
After Laberge, seeded second, breezed with a first-period pin over Rutland’s Shane Warner in his opening match, he faced a battle with MMU’s third-seeded John Sirois in the 195 semi. The two had split two close matches in the regular season.
After a scoreless first period, Laberge started in the down position to open the second and quickly earned an escape point that was the only score of the second two minutes. Leading by 1-0, Laberge then controlled Sirois from the top for the entire active third period, narrowly missing shoulder points a couple times and then barely holding on during an escape attempt by Sirois as time expired with the 1-0 score intact.
In the final vs. Marcoux-Schaff, the MAU wrestler earned first- and second-period takedowns, with Laberge countering again with an escape from the down position to open the second period. Laberge trailed, 4-1, entering the third and started on top. Raymond said Laberge narrowly missed earning shoulder points twice, and Marcoux-Schaff started “clamming up” to prevent Laberge from scoring from on top.
The official twice awarded Laberge points because his opponent was stalling, but it was not enough to prevent Marcoux-Schaff from holding on for a 4-3 victory. VUHS coach Nate Kittredge said on Sunday in discussing the match that the “right wrestler doesn’t always win.”
Raymond said Laberge, who recently won the 100th match of his outstanding career, should be proud of his effort over the weekend.
“He left everything on the mat,” Raymond said. “I was happy with the way he wrestled.”
Laberge also won the tournament’s individual sportsmanship award.
Raymond praised his entire team, especially citing the wrestlers who worked hard to earn team points in the consolation rounds after their initial losses. He also noted how close the Tigers were to second place despite fielding a small team.
“The competition for second through sixth was real close, and we were right there with them, and we and Bellows Falls were the only teams without full rosters,” Raymond said. “All our guys wrestled real well.”
Kittredge, likewise, noted that five out seven wrestlers who competed for VUHS reached the podium this past weekend — the only exceptions were sophomore Erik Eisenhower, who was injured in his first 195-pound match, and senior first-year wrestler Jordan Grant, who lost twice at 170.
“That’s what I tell the kids. If you give me 100 percent, you’ll place in the states,” he said. “In the end, I was very pleased with what I had.”
Simpson is also relatively new to the sport, having joined the program as a junior. Kittredge said nerves might have gotten to him in the six-hour wait between the semifinal and final.
“I think if he wrestled him again it would be a lot closer match,” he said.
In the semi, Simpson was tied with Rutland’s Pat Pfenning, 2-2, with 40 seconds to go in the third and scored a two-point takedown. With Pfenning working to tie the score with a reversal as time wore down, Simpson suddenly turned and pinned him at 0:09. Kitttredge said that effort is more typical of what he has come to expect from Simpson.
“I’m very pleased with T.J.,” he said. “Being a second-year wrestler, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
By virtue of their top-three finishes, Laberge, LaPlant, Wright and Simpson are all eligible to compete at this weekend’s New England tournament, which will be held in Providence, R.I.
Also competing this past weekend were:
• At 106, OV’s Dillon McDougall, who lost twice.
• At 113, Mount Abe’s Joshua Roy, who compiled a 1-2 record, and the Tigers’ Kyle Desabrais, who compiled a 1-2 record that included his second varsity win.
• At 132, OV’s Evan Perry and Mount Abe’s Josh Russin, both of whom went 0-2.
• At 160, the Tigers’ Nick Beauchamp, who went 0-2.
• At 170, OV’s M.J. Dennis, who went 0-2.
• At 182, OV’s Nate Doty, who went 0-2.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.