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Niagara-Wheatfield gets bid for state wrestling dual meet championships

The Niagara-Wheatfield wrestling team received an at-large entry to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Dual Meet Championships during a seeding conference call on Sunday.

Olean and Falconer automatically qualified for next weekend’s tournament in Syracuse as the top seeds for the Section VI Dual Meet Championships that were canceled Saturday due to weather.

Section VI also applied for Pioneer to receive an at-large entry, but the Panthers came up short in the points-based selection system, Section VI co-chairman Israel Martinez said.

Niagara-Wheatfield, ranked No. 1 in Western New York and 15th in the state among large schools, is the second overall seed in the 12-team Division I bracket. Olean, ranked sixth locally and unranked in the state, is unseeded in the Division I tournament.

Seeding for the state meet is based in part on current team members’ success from last season, which benefitted the Falcons’ at-large candidacy, Martinez said. Brothers Justin and Warren McDougald placed in the top three at the state championship meet. Josh Thibeault and Collin Coughenour were also sectional champions.

McDougald cousins set standard for family, wrestling in Niagara Wheatfield

Olean earned the No. 1 seed for the Section VI tournament by virtue of its 20-0 record in dual matches. Clarence was tied in the points standings but not undefeated. Niagara-Wheatfield was one point behind, having competed at fewer duals during the season in favor of better competition at individual tournaments.

Falconer is unseeded in the Division II bracket. Last year’s Section VI champion is currently ranked third in the state among large schools. Falconer beat Niagara-Wheatfield in team scoring at the 38th Niagara Frontier Officials Association Classic that drew several of the top-ranked large and small schools.

Pioneer won the Section VI Division II championship in 2017 and entered this year’s tournament as the No. 7 small school in the New York State Sportswriters Association rankings.

Cold Spring Harbor from Section XI earned the lone wild card spot for the state duals.

Anticipating dangerous travel conditions for several participating teams, Section VI officials decided to cancel its team tournament on Friday afternoon and did not have time to reschedule the event prior to Sunday’s seeding meeting.

“It was the first time that we’ve had a sectional event canceled that I can remember,” Martinez said. “And I’ve been doing this since 1990.”

The points system was used to determine the automatic qualifiers for the state tournament because “it protects the integrity of the committee,” Martinez said. “It prevents any kind of potential political argument about who the top seed is.”

Martinez said the section will explore the possibility of holding future team championships earlier in the season to allow for a makeup date.

“If you have something for this too early, you run into kids not having enough contests to be eligible,” Martinez said. “But looking at the previous weekend in January wouldn’t hurt.”

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