Tiger & Eagle wrestlers claim four titles at MUHS tourney; teams tie for third

MIDDLEBURY — Two Middlebury Union High School and two Mount Abraham wrestlers won weight class crowns at last week’s annual Hubie Wagner Invitational, hosted by the Tigers.
Winning for MUHS were senior Joe Whitley at 160 pounds and senior Dustin Davio at 132 pounds.
Taking titles for the Eagles were senior Ben Murray at 126 pounds and junior Kevin Pearsall at 182 pounds. Pearsall earned his 100th career win during the tournament.
All four dominated their weight classes — the closest match any had was Pearsall’s 7-3 victory in his final.
Their efforts helped the Tigers and Eagles tie for third place in the 14-team tournament with 97 points. Points were scored in the round-robin format for wins, technical falls and pins as well as placing in the top four.
Wrestles from Granville, N.Y., dominated, winning five weight classes and filling the podium to earn 217.5 points. Springfield (113.5) took second, and Fair Haven (93) was fifth, with Sam Worthing winning at 113 and Gable Shadduck second at 170.
The young Vergennes team was 12th with 30 points, all scored by freshmen, including Aidan Gebo’s third-place finish at 113.
The Tigers finished tied for third despite fielding only four wrestlers: Tiger senior Justin Jackson took third at 138 and sophomore Michael Whitley was fourth at 106 as all four reached the podium.
Coach Ethan Raymond was pleased that all four met expectations entering the event, and the team exceeded his hopes. 
“I was hoping for top eight, so it was a real pleasant surprise,” Raymond said. “They definitely all rose to the challenge and met what their seeds were.”
He praised the tactical maturity of his two weight class winners. For example, Raymond said, Joe Whitley faced a “scrappy” wrestler in the final who is best at making things happen in scrambles, and Whitley wrestled carefully and patiently piled up points in his 9-1 win, while Davio did get caught a couple times in his 20-9 win in the final but “stayed calm” and got out of trouble.
“It was nice to see out of Dustin and Joe that they could go to that next level, wrestling not just with good technique, but thinking strategy on the mat,” Raymond said.
Jackson and Michael Whitley were not happy after semifinal losses, Raymond said, but each came back and wrestled well in their next matches.
“They were real aggressive, real focused. That was the big thing I wanted to see out of them, that they could come back from a tough loss and refocus their energy,” Raymond said. 
The Eagles earned their third-place tie despite fielding a split-squad. Two of their wrestlers, sophomore Roman Mayer, a state champion a year ago, and Gary Conant, a state place-winner last winter, went to test their mettle at a competitive tournament in Lowell, Mass.
Three Eagles placed fourth, junior Ryan Durfee at 285 and sophomores Dawson Phillips at 126 and John Bent at 145.
Assistant Pete Lossman, filling in for Coach Nick Mayer, said things went well.
“We had a couple matches that should have gone the other way, but overall we’re pretty happy,” Lossman said. “Especially with Ben and Kevin.”
In Lowell, Mayer won three matches, two by pin, on Friday to reach Saturday’s semifinal round, but showed up on Saturday 0.4 pound over his 132-pound weight and had to sit out. Conant dropped a pair of matches at 138 on Friday and was eliminated.
Mayer said the trip was worth it.
“Wrestling at that caliber can do nothing but make you better,”
Mayer said the winter is going well for the Eagles. Roman Mayer also recently earned his 100th win, and the Eagles also two weeks ago picked up what is believed to be their first-ever dual-meet victory over Champlain Valley.
“Overall for the team every day I just feel like we’re having a stronger and stronger team,” Mayer said. “The season is coming along nicely, and I’m looking forward to some more tough events to get some of these guys who are starting to come into it nicely to get some more experience.” 
   COMMODORE FRESHMAN DOMINIC Kandzior earns a first-round pin against Winnisquam’s Dalton Stender last Thursday in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
VUHS Coach Nate Kittredge has seen his team’s numbers bounce back this winter with an infusion of young wrestlers, all of whom have stuck it out, and he is happy to be busier at tournaments like Middlebury’s.
“We’re moving in the right direction. I like where I’m at. I still have my numbers, haven’t lost anybody,” Kittredge said. “It’s good to go from one mat to the next.”
With six wrestlers posting wins last week, he sees progress. 
“The best way for me to compare it is the Granville tournament to this one. We were dead last. The kids are moving forward in the right direction,” Kittredge said. “We’re still young. A lot of the mistakes we’re making are basic. We’re in a lot of the matches, but we make a couple errors and it’s costing us. I keep telling myself we’ve got nine freshmen, and that’s a good thing. Don’t worry about the small things right now.”
He also praised the Middlebury tournament and its round-robin format, which gives wrestlers more action and experience than most other tournaments.
“I might have a kid who won one match, but he had five attempts, he had five matches. That’s huge. That’s why we come here. There are definitely some other options, but this is where we like to be,” Kittredge said. “It’s a really good tournament.”
The championship wrestlers’ records were: 
•  Murray went 6-0 with five pins at 126 pounds and defeated Carlos Medranos-Garcia, 9-1, in the final.
•  Davio went 5-0 with two pins and a technical fall at 132 and defeated Granville’s Christian Burnes in the final, 20-9.
•  Joe Whitley steamrolled eight opponents, six by pin, at 160 and defeated Cole O’Connor of Burr & Burton in the final, 9-1.
•  Pearsall went 6-0 with five pins at 182 and defeated Matt Lapachelle of Springfield, 7-3, in the final.
The podium finishers and their records were:
•  Michael Whitley was fourth at 106 with a 2-3 record and two pins.
•  Gebo, third at 113 with a 2-2 record and two pins.
•  Phillips was fourth at 126 with a 2-3 record and two pins.
•  Jackson was third at 138 with a 6-1 record and five pins. Jackson lost his semifinal by a late pin.
•  Bent was fourth at 145 with a 2-3 record and two pins.
•  Durfee was fourth at 285 with a 3-3 record and three pins.
Also winning matches and scoring points for Mount Abe were junior Matt Cota, 5-3 with three pins at 160, and freshman Nate Lavoie, 3-2 with two pins at 160. Other competitors for the Eagles were senior Kyle Beatty at 182, and sophomores Parker Gero at 120, Colby Pierro at 138 and Justice Green at 160.
Also winning matches and scoring points for VUHS were five freshmen: Jeremiah Moulton, 2-3 with two pins at 126; Zach Botala, 2-3 with two pins at 138; Trevor Hallock, 3-3 with two pins at 138; Barret Barrows, 1-4 with a pin at 160; and Dominick Kandzior, 1-3 with a pin at 182. Also competing for VUHS were junior Sarah Rathbun at 145, and freshmen Gabriel Payne-Vinick at 195 and Connor Pouliot at 220.
Harwood’s Sully O’Hara, who upset Shattuck at 170 pounds, was voted the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].     THREE LOCAL WINNERS at the Hubie Wagner Invitational stand with their champion’s t-shirts; Eagle senior Ben Murray at 126 pounds, left, and MUHS seniors Joe Whitley at 160 pounds and Dustin Davio at 132 pounds.
Independent photo/Andy Kirkaldy

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