ALBANY − Four of the eight Section VI wrestlers who made it to state championship matches Saturday night went home as winners.
And there sure were some good stories out of the group at Times Union Center.
The featured champ was certainly Kellen Devlin of Amherst, who won a third state title — the first from Section VI to do that since 2003 and the first to win them in a row.
“As long as I just stay loose, I got it,” Devlin said after his 132-pound (Division II) outcome. “People put a lot of pressure on themselves here. I just had to relax.”
Devlin kept getting stronger as the tournament went on. He won his first-round match, 10-0, followed up, 13-2, and then had a semifinals pin Saturday morning. His last match produced a 9-0 outcome against Ryan O’Rourke of Adirondack (Section III).
Devlin, who is headed to North Carolina State, last lost at states in the quarterfinals his freshman year.
“I told myself get back here and don’t lose again. I accomplished that,” Devlin said after finishing this year with just one loss — to the 132-pound champion from Division I.
Accomplishment wasn’t just his, though.
Bradley Bihler of Maple Grove (138, Division II) hung on for a 4-3 win. He took a late stalling point, but that hardly mattered as he became the first state champion in school history. He celebrated by waving to the crowd, cherishing his first championship after previously finishing third, fourth and sixth. He defeated Tanner Cook of Central Valley Academy (Section III).
“It was a big crowd, but I shut it all out and did what I had to do,” he said.
So did Cameron Swick of Royalton-Hartland, who was easily one of the tournament’s more unlikely stories.
He ousted No. 1 seed Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George) in the semifinals by a point before a 4-1 title win against Shawn Mosca (Carle Place/Wheatley, Section VIII).
“I got what’s mine, and that’s that,” Swick said.
He didn’t make states as a freshman or sophomore. His junior year, he went just 7-1 after suffering a broken leg while playing basketball — on the way up to a dunk.
Saturday, he found himself triumphantly laying on his back, his hands covering his face in a mix of joy and disbelief.
“Now I’m 35-0, a state champ,” Swick said. “I actually started crying with about seven seconds left. I knew he wasn’t going to get me. I don’t know. I don’t like to cry, but I couldn’t help it.”
Jake Peru of Falconer wrapped up the Section VI success with a 182-pound title (Division II). His takedown with 1:10 left produced a 5-2 lead, which held up in a match constantly delayed by opponent Ian Chedzoy (Watkins Glen, Section IV) having blood on him.
“It made it feel like it was dragging on forever. But it was exciting,” Peru said. “Once you’re out there, it’s just wrestling.”
He had faced bigger waits, though. Peru finished third in sectionals the past three years.
“I always was stuck behind guys who placed quite high here,” he said.
Peru had an escape early in the third period to break the tie.
The area also had four runner-up finishes.
Dakota Gardner of Fredonia (152, Division II) was the top seed but fell to No. 2 Kobe Garrehy (Maine-Endwell, Section IV), 8-3.
Lyle Grant from Alden (170, Division II) was pinned in the third period by defending state champion Alex Herringshaw (Holland Patent, Section III).
Troy Keller from North Tonawanda lost, 4-0, in the 145-pound final (Division I) to top seed Frankie Gissendanner, who became a two-time state champ out of Penfield (Section V).
Frederick Eckles of Lake Shore fell at 132 to Vito Arujau (Syosset, Section VIII), who advanced through the tournament with three technical falls before taking the final, 19-6.