Locals excel as MUHS hosts state wrestling

MIDDLEBURY — Sixteen Vergennes, Middlebury, Otter Valley and Mount Abraham union high school wrestlers earned top-six finishes at this weekend’s state championship meet, which was hosted by MUHS and apparently smoothly operated by school officials.
Three of those local athletes reached finals, but were denied titles in their last bout: MUHS junior Nathan Gebo at 113 pounds, OV sophomore Tyson Cram at 132, and VUHS sophomore Brandon Cousino at 170. Middlebury junior Nick Beauchamp joined those three finalists in qualifying to compete at the upcoming New England championship tournament by taking third at 195 pounds.
VUHS, despite fielding only seven wrestlers, earned the best local team finish, taking fourth with 89 points behind Mount Anthony, which won its 27th straight title with 319.5 points. St. Johnsbury (206.5) and Mount Mansfield (118) followed in second and third, respectively. MUHS (77.5) took sixth, OV (41) was 11th, and Mount Abe (6) was 18th.
COMMODORE JUNIOR RYAN Paquin flips upside down to avoid a pin at the hands of Kyle Records of Bellows Falls Saturday in Middlebury. Paquin ended up with a fourth-place finish at 182 pounds. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Among area wrestlers, Cousino came closest to a title. After winning a dramatic overtime semifinal, 3-1, with a two-point extra-period takedown of Mount Anthony’s Vincent Pagan, Cousino met Spaulding’s highly regarded Sam Kuckuk in the final. Cousino had earned a narrow win over Kuckuk earlier in February, but this time Kuckuk prevailed, 5-1, in a tactical match.
Also reaching semifinals for VUHS were:
•  Sophomore Kyle Kingsley at 113 pounds. Kingsley settled for fourth with a 1-2 record with one win by pin.
•  Sophomore Trevon Smith at 126. Smith took fourth with a 2-2 mark that included two pins.
•  Junior Jeb Hodsden at 152. Hodsden finished fifth with a 2-2 record and two pins.
•  Junior Ryan Paquin at 182. Paquin took fourth with a 3-2 record and three pins.
Junior Ethan Reardon also placed for VUHS, taking fifth at 132 with a 3-2 record and a pin. Senior Luke Stinchfield rounded out the Commodore contingent, going 1-2 and scoring points with a pin at 138.
VUHS coach Nate Kittredge was pleased to see his team place fourth with the seven wrestlers, and to see all of them perform to their capabilities.
“We entered seven kids, and five made the semis,” Kittredge said. “I told the kids if you give me 100 percent, I can put you on the podium, top six in the state. It’s not something I like to guarantee kids, but that’s what it is if they train hard.”
Gebo, who two weeks before at the NVAC tournament had earned his 100th career victory, made short work of his first two foes in reaching the 113 final with pins in the first and early second periods, respectively. But he ran into MAU buzz saw Calvin Call in the final and, like Call’s semifinal foe, VUHS’s Kingsley, was pinned quickly.
Beauchamp lost only to 195-pound champion Tyler Mattison, his semifinal foe. He compiled a 3-1 record with a pin to earn third place and become the area’s fourth qualifier for the New England championships.
Tiger junior James Whitley took fifth at 138 despite not being seeded, winning his first two matches by pin before losing a tough, 6-2 decision in his semifinal. He then lost his first consolation match before bouncing back to win by pin in his fifth-place match.
Also reaching a semifinal for MUHS was freshman Tyler Hotte at 220. Hotte ended up taking fourth with a 2-2 record that included two pins.
Two Tiger freshmen placed sixth, Ben Murray at 120 and David Many at 145, while senior Benn Lussier at 285, freshman Dustin Davio at 126, and junior Kyle Desabrais at 132 came up short.
Cram provided the highlight for the three-strong contingent of OV wrestlers. After a quarterfinal pin, Cram faced Trevor Haskins of Mount Mansfield in a back-and-forth semifinal. Haskins led entering the third period, 4-3, but Cram took the lead by muscling Haskins to the mat for a takedown with 40 seconds to go and riding out the tense rest of the match.
Unfortunately, Cram had no answer for MAU’s Dylan LaFountain in the final, although he became the first LaFountain foe to avoid a pin in a technical fall setback.
Also reaching a semifinal for OV was sophomore Greg Whitney at 195 pounds. Whitney finished fourth with a 2-2 record, with both wins by pin.
Also reaching the podium for OV, making the small team three-for-three in that department, was junior Nate Doty, who was fifth at 220 with a 1-2 record.
OV assistant coach Cole Mason said the young OV team has been learning fast, and he is optimistic the team’s ranks will swell again.
“The kids’ success this weekend … has been their willingness to buy in and do what we asked them to do,” Mason said. “These kids have done everything we’ve asked. They’ve come in and busted their tail every day. And the word’s getting out. Kids are getting more interested in it. I think we’ll see a lot more out of the woodwork. We’ve got some solid middle school kids coming up.”
Coach Steve Mitchell credits Mason, a former college wrestler, and fellow assistant and former OV standout Jesse Bilodeau as well as the Otters themselves for setting the tone.
“It’s just a good thing all the way around for the school and the kids,” Mitchell said.
An even smaller contingent of Mount Abe wrestlers competed. Sophomore Dylan Little capped off a solid season by taking sixth at 152 with a 1-3 record, while senior teammate Josh Russin went 0-2 at 132.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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