By Jason Franchuk
Special to The News
ALBANY – For as busy as he was, Laith Alsous could hear his mom, Safa, screaming encouragement to him from the front row of seats at the Times Union Center.
She was who Alsous ran to quickly after winning Section VI’s only wrestling state championship in three tries. The Lewiston-Porter heavyweight hugged his coaches, then stormed right for the railing after a 3-2 win against Jacob Morrison of Unatego (Section IV).
“When you’ve worked your whole life to achieve a goal, and you finally get it – it’s the greatest feeling in the world. So I’m just taking it all in right now,” said Alsous, a senior who finished fourth here last year and didn’t qualify as a sophomore.
It took until the very last match of the night – even after the Division I heavyweight final ended – to get a Section VI title.
The words coming out of every other local wrestler were basically, “next year.”
In a Division I 113-pound final Justin McDougald of Niagara Wheatfield put up a strong fight before falling to Greg Diakomihalis (Hilton, Section V), 9-5.
That was followed by Hector Colom of Fredonia falling, 7-3, in a 132-pound title match (Division II) to Dane Heberlein of Alexander-V. Both local wrestlers simply fell short against top seeds.
“Hector lost to a guy that’s now a three-time state champion,” Fredonia coach Joe Santilli said. “But I think we can grow from this experience and really move forward.”
McDougald is just a freshman and Colom has a year left – very bright signs in an otherwise disappointing weekend.
“We had really tough draws section-wide Friday,” Santilli said, alluding to the first round and quarterfinals.
Section VI placed a dozen wrestlers in the semifinals but needed extra matches to get to respective six-placement podiums. The area was complemented by three third-place finishes.
Matt Cicco of Niagara Wheatfield (182, Division I) ousted Joe Franzese (John Glenn-XI), 3-1, in the senior’s final match. Also, at 160 (Division II), Cameron Page from Falconer defeated Caleb Beach (South Jefferson-III), 2-1.
Tyler Smith of Pioneer (195, Division II) also took third place. He lost by technical fall in his semifinal but recorded two one-point wins in wrestlebacks.
Phil Calandra (138, Division II) from Depew took fourth, along with Dylan Ingrao of Falconer (145, Division II).
Alsous was the No. 3 seed going into the tournament and squeaked through to the finals with a 7-6 win earlier in the day.
Against Morrison, Alsous trailed, 1-0, entering the third period but quickly scored an escape point. The pivotal moment came with 1:10 left. Morrison went in hard for a takedown. Alsous deftly sidestepped and then landed himself on top. He allowed an escape point with 55 seconds, then hung on for dear life – with his mother alternating between screaming and covering her eyes.
Her son’s actions said she needn’t have worried.
“I just knew how to manipulate the match so it would go my way,” Alsous said.