NORTH TONAWANDA – Three seconds doesn't seem like enough time to turn almost certain defeat into a stunning victory.
Three seconds was all Williamsville North's Vinny Catanzaro needed to pull out a comeback win and experience what it's like to be a Section VI wrestling champion for the first time.
The Spartans senior scored the two-point takedown of his life in the waning seconds of his 138-pound match against Niagara Wheatfield's Jake DeWolf to earn a dramatic 4-3 triumph Saturday night in the Division I (large schools) championship/state qualifier tournament at North Tonawanda High School.
Saturday's champions earned berths into the state tournament Feb. 23-24 at Times Union Center in Albany.
Off a restart, Catanzaro grabbed a retreating DeWolf and took him to the mat before the final horn sounded to earn the points needed to not only secure the victory but also Catanzaro's first trip to the state tournament.
"I was working all season for this moment," said Catanzaro, who lost in the 132-pound final by two points last season. "I was looking at the scoreboard and thinking with that much time left just find a way to get it done."
He did by taking what DeWolf gave him. DeWolf tried to back away, but it didn't work.
"He backed up and I just threw him on his back," Catanzaro said. Being a champion "is everything. I've worked my whole life to wrestle and go to the state tournament before I graduate."
"We preach finding a way," third-year North coach Mark Lewandowski said. "He's a senior and a leader for us and he found a way."
So too did Catanzaro's teammate Cam Walter at 195 via 4-3 verdict. Walter survived an attempt by Blake Bielec of Grand Island in the closing seconds to earn points off a near fall.
"He was close," said Walter, who's 28-5 on the season. "I had to get off my back as quick as I could and hope the referee didn’t count any back points."
The titles in wrestling are believed to be the first for North since John Freda in 2014.
While Williamsville North wrestlers had a nice day, so too did the Niagara Frontier League. Competitors from NFL squads placed first in eight of the 15 weight classes.
Niagara Wheatfield led the charge by crowning four champions, including the McDougald brothers Justin and Warren.
Justin won his third straight Section VI title by blanking Clarence's Anthony Corigliano, 13-0, at 132. While winning sectionals felt like business as usual for McDougald, a runner-up at states last year at 113, he felt happier seeing seventh-grade teammate Colin Coughenour capture his first Section VI crown at 99 pounds.
Coughenour defeated Grand Island's Brian Bielec 11-5, an opponent he lost to last week during the Class A Tournament. Coughenour had way more energy during Saturday's rematch than last week when he was fatigued from the running he had to do the day of the tournament to make weight to compete as he was .6 pounds over the 99-pound limit.
"This week I ate a whole bunch of good food," Coughenour said, who's kind of surprised he won as a No. 3 seed. "I'm just happy I was able to come out here and give it my all."
Warren McDougald won his third sectional title by dispatching Seth MacTavish of Jamestown, 12-4. His win came two matches after cousin Willie McDougald of Niagara Falls won via technical fall over Wolverines teammate Josh McCoy at 132 for his third championship.
"It's a normal business day, another day on the job," Justin McDougald said of the family's success at sectionals.
While NW's DeWolf lost in tough fashion, his defeat inspired Josh Thibeault to go out there and win for him and himself at 160 pounds. Thibeault won his first sectional title via ultimate rideout, 3-2, in overtime over Grand Island's Jay Breeden. Thibeault extended the match by earning an escape point in an earlier overtime period. Then he hung on for dear life.
North Tonawanda's Ty Bartolomei earned a 4-0 win at 106 pounds to capture his first sectional title. Grand Island's Dan Emblidge (170) and Connor Kenney (182) earned wins via decision.
Lancaster crowned three champions: Parker Rozler (113), Ryan Stencel (152) and Joe Andreessen (220).
Senior Calik Kennedy of Amherst at 285 recorded the only pinfall victory of the finals with 1:44 left in the third period to secure his first title.
Clarence's Aiden Rabideau won the 120-pound title via disqualification. Radideau suffered what appeared to be a lower back injury after being accidentally slammed to the mat by his opponent.
"He drove and got a good double leg on the kid and turned him a little too forcefully," Section VI co-chairman Israel Martinez said of the illegal move. "You really have to control how you bring him down."
Story topics: Aiden Rabideau/ Calik Kennedy/ Cam Walter/ Colin Coughenour/ Connor Kenney/ Dan Emblidge/ Division I/ Israel Martinez/ Joe Andreessen/ Josh Thibeault/ Justin McDougald/ Parker Rozler/ Ryan Stencel/ Section VI wrestling/ Ty Bartolomei/ Vinny Catanzaro/ Warren McDougald/ Willie McDougald