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Olean’s Bierfeldt brings the crowd to its feet

Zach Bierfeldt’s last six years of wrestling practices, meets and tournaments had all come down to just 10 seconds. The Olean senior was tied against Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner with that much time remaining in the 152-pound weight class final and a ticket to states on the line.

Bierfeldt said he thought to himself: Why not win it in the most spectacular way possible?

He did just that – taking Gardner down to the mat as time expired. Bierfeldt then pumped his fist in the air, screamed at the top of his lungs and jumped into the arms of his coaches as the crowd in Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex cheered the loudest it would the entire night.

Bierfeldt, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, and 14 other wrestlers received automatic bids to the state meet after victories at the Section VI Division II state-qualifying tournament Saturday. The wrestlers will compete at the Times Union Center in Albany on Feb. 26-27.

Bierfeldt’s victory was the first championship round of the night after an all-day tournament.

“That was everything I’ve ever put into the sport,” said an out-of-breath Bierfeldt after the match. “I will never forget this for the rest of my life.”

Olean head coach Mike O’Connor called it the “pinnacle” for his senior wrestler, who qualifies for states for the second year in a row. “And he did it in probably the most exciting way possible,” O’Connor said.

Senior Kellen Devlin of Amherst was dominant again Saturday despite wrestling at a higher weight class than the one in which he’s won two state championships previously.

Devlin, a two-time defending state champ in the 126-pound weight class, won the 132-pound final by technical fall. He’s bumped around different weight classes this season, depending on what the Tigers have needed.

“I have the mentality that no matter what weight I go in at, it’s my weight,” said Devlin, who has already signed with North Carolina State for this fall. “For whatever weight I go in, I’m still going to dominate.”

Alden senior Lyle Grant will go to the state meet for the first time after a 10-2 victory in the 170-pound final. He said he had “a bit of a chip” on his shoulder after losing in the tournament semifinal the past two years.

“Now that it’s over, you walk off the mat with your hand being raised, it’s definitely a big relief,” Grant said.

Other notable performances Saturday were turned in by Tonawanda’s Zach Braddell, who had a technical fall victory in the 106-pound final; Brad Bihler of Maple Grove, who had a major decision win in the 138-pound final; and Laith Alsous of Lockport, who won the heavyweight championship by pin fall.

Medina got two wrestlers to the state meet, with Joe Velez winning the 126-pound final and Charles Beach winning the 220-pound final. AJ Putt defeated his Maple Grove teammate, Shane Hetrick, in the 113-pound final.

Also victorious were Fredonia eighth-grader Dalton Gardner in the 99-pound final, Maple Grove’s Ryan Hetrick in the 120-pound final, Olean’s Jordan Kayes in the 145-pound final, Royalton-Hartland’s Cameron Swick in the 160-pound final, Jake Peru of Falconer in the 182-pound final and Newfane’s Jake Kubala in the 195-pound final.

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