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Tiger, OV, Eagle wrestlers all excel at MUHS tournament

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School wrestlers won three titles at the Tigers’ own Hubie Wagner Invitational Tournament last week, while Otter Valley captured two first-place finishes and young wrestlers from the resurgent Mount Abraham team earned two second-place results.
Tiger senior 145-pounder James Whitley not only reached his first-ever tournament final, but also won it, 4-3, with a late takedown against top-seeded Collin O’Brien of Watervliet, N.Y. O’Brien entered the final with a 77-19 record and six straight pins, four in the first period.
Whitley’s win in the final and his five straight pins in earlier matches earned him the nod as the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler — officials said the balloting was overwhelming in Whitley’s favor.
Also winning for the Tigers were senior 113-pounder Nate Gebo, who held serve as a top seed with six pins in seven matches and won his second Hubie Wagner title, and senior Nick Beauchamp, who stormed through the 220-pound bracket as a No. 4 seed with five pins in seven matches and in the final pinned No. 3 seed Sam Gebo of BFA-St. Albans, an opponent he had lost to four times and who was undefeated this winter.
   MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School senior Nate Gebo gains the upper hand on Mount Abraham’s Dawson Lamore during the Hubie Wagner Tournament in Middlebury last week. Gebo won the 113-pound weight class with five pins in six wins.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Two other Tigers reached finals, both for the first time, before settling for second-place finishes: senior Kyle Desabrais at 152 and sophomore Dustin Davio at 132.
The Tigers finished third as a team with 206 points, trailing only New York squads Shaker (268) and Watervliet (232). Mount Abe (107) took sixth as the No. 2 Vermont team, while OV (71) finished eighth among 16 teams. The tournament was smaller than usual, as some teams that typically compete, such as Vergennes and Champlain Valley, chose not to enter, and Tuesday’s bad weather led Bellows Falls and Mill River to cancel.
Beauchamp said the Tigers were thrilled with the team and individual finishes in what was still a tough tournament, results he credited to the Tigers’ focus on conditioning and fundamentals and to team chemistry. 
“All of our wrestlers did really well. We had a lot of good competition coming in from out of state. We had a lot of guys from in state,” Beauchamp said. “Everyone was supporting each other, and I think that helped everyone feed off each other. There was a lot of good energy.”
For OV, junior 138-pounder Tyson Cram picked up four pins in five matches on the way to the title as a top seed. Senior Nate Doty gave the Otters their second crown after starting out as the No. 5 seed at 285. Twice Doty defeated top-seeded Austin Reed of Granville, once in the round robin phase and then again in the championship match, 3-0.
In a dramatic final, Doty earned all his points in the first period and then spent all of the remaining four minutes with Reed riding him, repeatedly fighting off the larger Reed’s attempts to turn him onto his back for at least 3 points to tie the match or a potential winning pin.
For Mount Abe, freshman Roman Mayer at 120 and sophomore Ben Murray at 126 each took second, easily rolling to finals before falling to older, more experienced Shaker wrestlers.
All the coaches were happy not only with the performances of their top wrestlers, but also with many of the other athletes who either reached the podium, won matches, or simply showed progress.
MUHS coach Ethan Raymond said the Tigers’ hard work and focus on details is beginning to pay off. 
“The guys for the last weeks have really been pushing themselves hard in the practice room, working on pushing the fundamentals, basic positioning, staying in good position and capitalizing on other kids’ mistakes when they lose their fundamentals,” Raymond said. “And it’s just starting to transition on the mat.”
He was especially happy with Whitley’s breakthrough. Raymond said Whitley has always had the skills, but had to eliminate a tendency to make mistakes in close matches, which he has done with more focus and analysis, and to have greater faith in his ability.
“It’s little adjustments 90 percent of the time wrestlers can make to get them above what they were. And confidence,” Raymond said. “He just needed to believe in himself.”
As well as the Tigers’ five finalists, freshman Justin Jackson took fourth at 126 pounds as a No. 11 seed and sophomore Joe Whitley finished third at 138 as a No. 7 seed.
Raymond believes the Tigers can build on the results.
“We can plateau, or we can keep climbing,” Raymond said. “We’ve got practice this Sunday. Hopefully they’ll come in and be ready to work real hard. That will be my first indication which way we’re going to go, the attitude in practice. Which I think will be a good one.”
OV coach Cole Mason said his team leaders set the tone.
“Our two captains came here and won. They came and did what we’ve been preaching, so that’s great,” Mason said. “And then we had a lot of positive things from our other guys, so that’s great. It’s something to build on.”
Mason described what he has been asking from his wrestlers: “Just hard work, offense, scoring. Sitting back and waiting for somebody to shoot isn’t going to win the matches. If you’re scoring you’re going to win. On our feet, going after the legs. On the bottom, moving. On the top, going side-to-side and trying to turn them the whole time. Just trying to go over all three areas and trying to get us to work hard.”
Mason said he saw progress from his other wrestlers in those areas.
“It was a very positive two days overall,” he said.
As well as its second-place finishers, Mount Abe saw junior Dylan Little take third at 160 by winning his final match with a sudden reversal and pin while trailing late in the third period, and junior Donavan Lamore took fourth at 106 with a pair of pins.
   EAGLE DYLAN LITTLE holds an advantage over Shaker’s Spencer Clements in the 160-pound weight class at last week’s Hubie Wagner Invitational wrestling tournament in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Other Eagles picked up at least one win, and Coach Pete Lossman said the team, which has almost tripled in size from a year ago, continues to be on the upswing thanks to team chemistry and work ethic.
 “Overall, we’re really excited. What we’re seeing is every tournament we’re improving,” Lossman said. “Every day in practice I see it, and it’s showing on the mat.”
Even in losses, the Eagles appear to be wrestling hard and showing heart. Lossman gave at least some of the credit to the competitive attitudes of Murray and Mayer.
“That’s coming from a couple of new guys, Ben and Roman, who just never quit. These other kids are seeing it and picking up on it. It’s contagious, I think,” Lossman said. “I’m just really excited about what’s happening out there.”
COMPLETE LOCAL RESULTS
• 106: 4. Lamore, MAU, 2-2.
• 113. 1. Gebo, MUHS, 7-0. Also: Daniel Whitney, OV, 1-3, and Dawson Lamore, MAU, 1-4.
• 120: 2. Mayer, MAU, 4-1.
• 126: 2. Murray, MAU, 6-1. Also: A.J. Campbell, MUHS, Gary Conant, MAU, and Jacob White, OV, all 2-3.
• 132: 2. Davio, MUHS, 3-2. Also: Christian Little, MAU, 1-4.
• 138: 1. Cram, OV, 5-0; 3. Joe Whitley, MUHS, 3-2.
• 145: 1. James Whitley, MUHS, 6-0. Also: Josh Hardy, MAU, 1-4.
• 152: 2. Desabrais, MUHS, 4-1.
• 160: 5. D. Little, MAU, 3-2. Also: Alex Sheldrick, MUHS, 0-2.
• 170: Kevin Pearsall, MAU, 2-2, and Josh Beayon, OV, 1-2.
• 195: Hailey Trayah, MAU, 0-4.
• 220: 1. Beauchamp, MUHS, 7-0. Also: Ryan Durfee, MAU, 0-5.
• 285: 1. Doty, OV, 5-0. Also: Joe Langevin, MUHS, 1-2.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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