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Tigers host VUHS, Mt. Abe wrestlers as state meet nears

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School wrestling team on Tuesday hosted a four-way meet with Vergennes, Mount Abraham and North Country that served as a late-season tune-up with the state championship event looming at Vergennes Union High School on Feb. 22 and 23.
All three of the county coaches have wrestlers they believe can reach the podium in Vergennes, many of whom had a chance to show their stuff in the dozen matches that were contested on Tuesday.
First-year coach Ethan Raymond saw his MUHS team sweep the dual meets, 26-22 over VUHS, 41-24 over Mount Abe, and 41-0 over NCU, including the many forfeited weight classes.
More importantly, Raymond said, he saw the Tigers wrestle well.
“Tonight, I’d say was the best we’ve wrestled all season,” Raymond said. “Our goal was to slowly build up and increase our intensity as the season starts to come to a close. And we’re three weeks from states and the guys are starting to peak at the right time.”
He has the highest hopes for four Tiger wrestlers in the higher weight classes: Senior Tyler LaPlant at 220, senior Gabe LaBerge at 195, junior Jakob Trautwein at 182, and senior Chris Wright — who has just returned to the mat — at 285.
“Tyler and Gabe, both should be top three and qualify for New Englands … I think Jake Trautwein at 182 should be right up in there,” Raymond said. “Chris Wright is a heavyweight we just got back … and he’s a very promising heavyweight. He should definitely place at states.”
Another MUHS contender, senior 170-pounder Skyler Shute, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, according to Raymond, who said he felt “awful” for a wrestler who reached the podium in 2012.
LaBerge won twice by first-period pin on Tuesday, against NCU’s Zachary Hawkins and the Commodores’ Greg McGrath. LaPlant pinned a teammate in an exhibition bout, while Wright lost by pin to another promising wrestler who is returning to the mat, VUHS senior Dylan Lorrain.
Trautwein lost to VUHS senior T.J. Simpson in one of the night’s two best matches, 5-3, on a third-period takedown in the final 15 seconds.
Both Raymond and VUHS coach Nate Kittredge were happy with their wrestlers after that match.
“In that match Jakob wrestled very well. It was just a few little things,” Raymond said. “Jake needs to keep him in the center of the mat against a good wrestler like T.J. Simpson.”
Kittredge said Simpson started out the season at 160, but hit a growth spurt and has fared well at both 170 and 182, and will compete at a heavier weight at the state meet.
The evening’s other most dramatic match pitted two promising 106-pound freshmen, Nate Gebo from MUHS and Ethan Reardon from VUHS. Gebo broke a 4-4 tie with a takedown at 0:40 of the third period and rode out the competitive win.
“(Gebo) comes out sometimes a little slow, and it takes him a while to build into the match. But tonight he came out right off the whistle,” Raymond said. “He went out there and beat a kid he lost to a couple weeks ago, and it was one of the reasons we won the dual.”
Kittredge’s VUHS squad defeated Mount Abe, 36-16, and NCU, 42-6. Like Raymond, Kittredge focused more on the big picture. He has a number of top wrestlers, like Lorrain, just returning from injury. Others include sophomore Luke Stinchfield and freshman Ryan Paquin, and possibly sophomore Erik Eisenhower, although his status for the state meet remains uncertain.
Kittredge said those wrestlers, like Simpson, could do well when the Commodores host on Feb. 22 and 23.
“We have a situation where a lot of my really good kids got hurt,” Kittredge said. “But … they’re all seeming to come back right now. We’ve got two, three weeks before states and it’s probably good timing for that. Hopefully they stay healthy and push hard and they stay healthy for states. They’ll probably go in unseeded, not ranked where they should be, but in the end it comes down to how good you are that day, anyway.”
Mount Abe coach Pete Lossman’s team — which defeated NCU, 18-6, on Tuesday — has been hit hard by injuries and other issues. But he is optimistic about the state-meet prospects for senior T.J. George, who has compiled a 24-10 record at 152 pounds; senior Mike Wetzel, who has moved up to 182 and is 18-7; and sophomore Josh Roy at 112.
“Mike and T.J. both are ranked fifth or sixth and Josh is just out the outside edge, so anything can happen,” Lossman said. “We’re hoping for the better.”
Wetzel and Roy were ill on Tuesday, and the Eagle highlight came in George’s only match. He moved up to 160 and scored an 18-3 technical fall over Commodore Jordan Grant.
Tuesday’s matches were scheduled to allow wrestlers time to rest between matches, rather than lining up the teams to square off against each other one at a time. Youth matches were also added, and MUHS assistant Jon Ashley said the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department is still open to youths interested in signing up for youth wrestling. (He said those interested may email him at ashley@gmavt.net for more information.)
In other contested matches:
•  At 126 pounds, James Whitley, MUHS, earned a 15-0 technical fall over McKenzie Steele, NCU. Whitley, another promising MUHS freshman, will miss the state meet.
•  At 285, Walter Odell, MUHS, earned a 17-0 technical fall over Gary Brown, Mount Abe.
•  At 130, Jeb Hodsden, VUHS, pinned Josh Russin, Mount Abe, in 1:56.
•  At 132, Steele, NCU, defeated Andrew Cloutier, Mount Abe, 7-3.
•  At 195, McGrath, VUHS, pinned Hawkins, NCU, in 1:17.
•  At 285, Lorrain, VUHS, pinned Brown, Mount Abe, in 1:37.
•  At 132, Whitley, MUHS, defeated Hodsden, VUHS, 9-3.
•  At 170, Paquin, VUHS, pinned Asa Vessa, MUHS, in 1:39 in an exhibition match.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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