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Wrestlers from Vergennes, Mount Abe and OV claim state titles

VERGENNES — Three area high school wrestlers, senior Brandon Cousino of Vergennes, senior Tyson Cram of Otter Valley and sophomore Roman Mayer of Mount Abraham, earned state championships this past weekend at Vergennes Union High School.
Cousino won at 182 pounds for the second straight season, Cram moved up from fourth place at 138 pounds in 2016 to win at 145 pounds on Saturday night, and Mayer — who was voted the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler — improved from third place at 120 pounds last year as a freshman to stand atop the 120 podium this time around. Mayer became the first Eagle champion since Jesse Coleman in 1997.
Middlebury junior Dustin Davio also enjoyed a fine tournament, outperforming his No. 3 seed to take second place at 138 pounds, while Mount Abe senior Ben Murray and sophomore Kevin Pearsall earned third-place finishes at 126 and 182, respectively.
All six earned the chance to compete this weekend in the New England tournament in Rhode Island, where Cousino will be looking to improve on his sixth-place finish in 2016.
Mount Anthony coasted to its 28th straight team title, picking up 289.5 points after placing wrestlers in the semifinals in every weight class and winning five individual crowns. Following were Essex (172), Champlain Valley (152.5), St. Johnsbury (112) and the rejuvenated Mount Abe program in fifth (82).
That strong finish helped Mount Abe first-year head coach Nick Mayer, who watched his son Roman win a championship, earn recognition from his peers as Vermont Varsity Wrestling Coach of the Year for his work in recruiting wrestlers to a program that had dwindled to just a handful of competitors in recent years.
Because of injuries and illness, only six Eagles, less than half the team, competed this past weekend, and five of them earned top-six finishes.
“Saturday night turned into a truly epic night for Mount Abe,” Nick Mayer said. “In an intense event like the state championships, you dream of things like this happening.”
OV (42 points) took 10th, and MUHS (40) was 11th. Both those teams saw some adversity, too: Coach Ethan Raymond said before the event his MUHS team lost two wrestlers to injury and one to academics. VUHS, another team that has dealt with attrition this winter, took 13th with 28 points, all from Cousino, who added to his hardware collection by earning the tournament’s sportsmanship award.
Performing in front of his home crowd, Cousino remained undefeated in Vermont for the second straight year and improved his record this season to 38-1 (he avenged his only loss, to a two-time New Hampshire champ) and career mark to 171-27, with 113 pins, 30 this winter.
All three of Cousino’s matches as he steamrolled to the title were by first-period pin, including over Pearsall in the semifinal and in the final over Mount Anthony’s Andre Wright (who entered with a 40-5 record).
   MOUNT ABRAHAM’s ROMAN Mayer, the 120-pound champ, was voted Outstanding Wrestler at the Vermont State Meet on Saturday.
Independent photo/Andy Kirkaldy
Likewise, Mayer (50-6 this season) was also undefeated against Vermont competition, according to Nick Mayer, although he had not enjoyed the same success against New York and New England competition as Cousino.
But he fared about as well on Friday and Saturday, winning his first match in 31 seconds and his semifinal by second-period pin vs. No. 3 seed Noah Bonning of Essex before facing top-seeded defending champion Keenan Taylor of Mt. Anthony in the final.
Taylor pinned Mayer in the 2016 New England tournament, but the two had not met this winter, while Taylor was also undefeated in Vermont, according to Nick Mayer. Taylor took a 6-0 lead in the first before Mayer scored a reversal to make it 6-2. In the second period Mayer came on strong to cut into Taylor’s lead with a reversal and then a takedown Mayer then turned into a winning pin at 3:32.
Mayer became the first Eagle wrestler to be the state meet’s outstanding wrestler since Carl Boss in 1975.
Cram (37-6) faced two major hurdles as the No. 3 seed at 145. Before he reached the final he had to get past Mount Mansfield’s No. 2 seed Colby Giroux, who according to OV Coach Cole Mason had dealt Cram two of his six losses. But Cram picked up early takedown and reversal points in a tactical semifinal and cruised to a 6-3 victory. Waiting in the final was top-seeded Dakota Peters, and in a more action-packed match Cram edged Peters, 11-10, for the crown.
Davio (33-9) also entered as the No. 3 seed at 138 and could not knock off CVU top seed Jarett Legg in the final, losing by technical fall. But he wrestled a smart match vs. No. 2 Keegan Coon of Mt. Anthony in the semifinal. Raymond said Coon is an aggressive wrestler with a high work rate, but that Davio could win if he kept his poise and took advantage of Coon’s tendency to make mistakes. Davio built a lead and then did just that, pinning Coon early in the third round.
Murray finished with a 3-1 record at 126, winning his third-place match vs. St. Johnsbury’s Wilder Hudson, 5-2. He lost a highly competitive semifinal to Spaulding’s Jon Lucey, 6-4, on a takedown with 15 seconds to go with the score knotted at 4-4. “Ben wrestled his heart out,” said Nick Mayer.
Like everybody else at 182, Pearsall (49-12) could do little with Cousino, picking up his fifth loss of the winter to his local rival, whom no doubt he will wish well as he moves onto a college career. But against the rest of the field, Pearsall earned two pins and then a 5-1 decision over Essex wrestler Danyeh Gutema in the third-place match.
Also placing for Mount Abe was sophomore Gary Conant, fifth at 132 with a 2-2 mark, and senior co-captain Dylan Little, sixth with a 3-3 record at 170 pounds, one of the toughest and most populated weight classes. “Given how competitive his bracket was I feel that he wrestled extremely well,” Coach Mayer said.
   OTTER SENIOR TYSON Cram won the 145 pound title at Saturday’s state wrestling championships in Vergennes. Cram is seen here winning his semifinal against Mt. Mansfield’s Colby Giroux.
Independent photo/Andy Kirkaldy
The final Eagle wrestler, junior co-captain Christian Little, came up empty at 138 pounds.
For OV, sophomore Josh Beayon reached the podium in that challenging 170-pound class, taking fourth with a 4-2 record. Two other Otter wrestlers, sophomores Daniel Whitney and Jacob White at 126 and 132, respectively, also competed.
For MUHS, junior Joe Whitley took fifth in the crowded 152-pound field with a 4-2 record, while sophomore Justin Jackson was sixth at 126 with a 1-3 mark as three Tigers in all reached the podium.
Senior Troy Provencher also competed for VUHS at 132 pounds.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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