When Falconer lost in a tiebreaker in the finals of last year’s inaugural Section VI Dual Team Championships, it left the team with a sour taste.
At this year’s team championship competition on Saturday at Lancaster, the Golden Falcons left nothing in doubt.
Fourth-seeded Falconer dominated the Division II title match, rolling past sixth-seed Akron-Alden, 64-11, to advance to the state’s first-ever dual meet championships Jan. 27 at SRC Arena in Syracuse.
“We thought we had a shot to win this thing and when we got to the final, the kids let it all hang out there,” Falconer coach Drew Wilcox said. “I think they remembered last year and used it as motivation so they didn’t end up feeling that way again.”
In Division I, the host team and top-seed Lancaster, which features eight seniors who were in their final bout in the team’s gym, earned a decisive 39-23 win over No. 2 Grand Island to earn a place at states next Saturday. Lancaster defeated Niagara Wheatfield, last year’s champion, in the semifinals, then took down a Grand Island team it only beat 37-35 earlier in the season.
“We were real confident coming in. A lot of other people didn’t think we could pull it off but our kids just showed up in an even bigger way than I thought they would,” Lancaster coach Ron Lorenz said. “As coaches, we get them ready, but they have to show up and wrestle and they did.”
One of the best matches of the evening happened in the Division II final, where Dan Torres came back from an early 5-0 deficit – and trailed 9-6 in the last minute of the third period – to earn a hard-fought 11-9 overtime victory over Robbie PeQueen. The Akron-Alden senior came into the match as intense as a wrestler can be.
“(PeQueen) is a great competitor. You’ve just got to keep your composure in that situation,” said Torres, who went unbeaten in three matches Saturday. “As a team, the guys got their weight down and one of our guys came back from injury and the lineup we imagined having started falling into place, which really helped.”
Wilcox said the two wrestlers will probably be battling it out again at the Section VI Division II Championships.
“Dan doesn’t get tired because he puts so much hard work in,” Wilcox said. “He was down early but still believed, kept going at it and found a way to win in overtime. It took Dan a minute to match his (opponent’s) intensity but after that he was fine.”
Earning wins for Falconer were, by pin, Nick Saeger at 138, Jordan Dustin at 145, Dylan Ingrao at 152, Robbie Penhollow at 170, Corey Keefe at 220 and Chase Johnson at 285. Winners by decision were Hunter Teboe (4-3) at 120 and Jimmy Kramer (8-0) at 132, and by forfeit, Dillon Hokanson at 195, Brodie Little at 99 and Brayden Newman at 106. Kramer, Ingrao, Penhollow and Keefe all went unbeaten for the day.
For Akron-Alden, Thomas Fischer won 10-6 at 126, Jacob Sarow won 9-6 at 170 and Josh Cummings won by forfeit at 113.
After Lancaster took an early 24-0 lead, Grand Island showed its strength in the middle and upper weights, winning four straight matches from 160 to 195 to cut the lead to seven, but the Legends finished with wins in four of the last five matches.
“They’re very strong from 160 to 195, so we knew we couldn’t run with them there, but our job was to keep the team scores down and our kids did that amazingly,” Lorenz said. “We were very confident that it wouldn’t be a problem. Our kids are great; we move them around like crazy to just make sure we fill our lineup and they don’t say a word.”
Lancaster winners by pin were Jake Harry at 120, Logan Prescott at 138 and Parker Rozler at 113. Legends winning by decision included Nick Barberio (5-4) at 126, Josh Jelonek (8-4) at 132, Dan Empfield (7-5) at 145, Ryan Stencel (6-0) at 152, David Gaca (3-2) at 220, Joe Andreessen (10-3) at 285 and Myles Gronowski (5-3 in overtime) at 99. Gronowski had lost to the same opponent, Brian Bielic, twice this season. Finishing unbeaten for the Legends on the day were Rozler, Harry, Barberio, Stencel and Andreessen.
“Everyone wrestled way better than the first time we wrestled them,” said Harry, who bumped up a weight class against Grand Island. “We knew we had to get better from that first match so that we could put them away. Not every (weight class) went the way we thought but we were able to pick up each other’s slack.”
Grand Island winners included Jack Randle by pin at 106; Jay Breeden, 14-6, at 160; Dan Emblidge, 7-3, at 170; Connor Kenney, 11-1, at 182; and Blake Bielec, by pin at 195.
Taking third place was last year’s Division II champion Pioneer, which beat Iroquois, 42-37, in the runner-up match, and for third in Divison I, Niagara Wheatfield won, 61-15, over Frontier, the eighth seed which had upset Clarence to advance.
Sixteen teams competed Saturday, with eight in each division, and for the first time a state berth was on the line.
“It’s pretty awesome. I told the kids that it’s something you’ll always say, ‘You represented Section VI at the first state dual meet championships,’” Wilcox said. “We’re looking forward to it.”