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St. Mary's Ash brothers win wrestling titles; St. Joe's nabs team title

By Mike Petro, Special to the News

Even after finishing off his first All-Catholic wrestling title, St. Mary’s senior Matt Ash had some unfinished business.

Ash paced the sidelines as he cheered on four additional Lancers in the finals after him, including his twin brother, Zach, during Sunday’s All-Catholic Championships at Canisius High School. Matt Ash had already outlasted St. Francis’ Liam Edwards, 13-8, to win the 126-pound division and improve to 46-4 on the season.

He was also named Wrestler of the Year in the Monsignor Martin and Most Outstanding Wrestler at the All-Catholic meet. He credited pushing himself in the offseason, working with wrestlers like Edwards and his brother at Bison Wrestling Club.

“Zach and I are happy with the way things went today,” said Matt Ash, who watched as his brother won 13-4 over St. Joe’s Dalas Jackson at 132. “I wanted it so bad for him and everybody. I’ve been like this the entire day and my voice is a little bit raspy by now.”

As a team, St. Joe’s still ruled the day, winning a sixth straight All-Catholic title, finishing with 276 points to beat out St. Francis (239), Canisius (195), St. Mary’s (179) and Gow (101). St. Joe’s had five champions and advanced nine wrestlers to the finals. Canisius went 5 for 6 in the finals, with the team’s only loss coming in a match that featured a pair of Crusaders. The Catholic High School Athletic Association State Tournament will take place Feb. 15-16.

“As long as we keep competing hard with each other, I think we can keep winning the league and with our top guys, I’d like to see us try to win the state tournament,” said first-year St. Joe’s coach Brad Devlin, whose team won the regular season division title for the second time in the past four seasons.

St. Joe’s was led by three-time All-Catholic champion Ronnie Jones, who moved up to 182 and cruised to a title in the final with a pin of St. Francis’ Kimal Clark in the first period. Devlin said Jones doesn’t take any days off and his desire to pin his opponent is unmatched.

“I was just trying to do my job, same thing as everyone else on the team,” said the junior, who took second in the state Catholic tournament last year. “The goal is to win at states this year.”

The Marauders had a pair of repeat All-Catholic champions in Luke Sheehan (113), who beat St. Francis’ Charles Webb by pin, and Ben Parish (160), who earned a 13-4 victory over St. Francis’ Shane Roberts. Also for St. Joe’s, Tom Blum won at 152 with a pin of St. Mary’s Sam Mickel.

In the only rematch from last year’s finals, Canisius sophomore Cody Franklin avenged a loss to Gow’s Max Carrier with an 8-5 victory at 138. After losing to Carrier twice by first-round pins in 2019, including in the 132-pound final, Franklin beat him twice this season, including in a grueling final.

“I wanted to last with him until the third period and tire him out and then capitalize,” Franklin said. “I worked harder this season and came back this year with a different mindset.”

Canisius’ other champions won by pin, including Luke Brydges (120), who defeated St. Francis’ Abe Kassem; Barry Kolby (138), over St. Mary’s Griffin Dempsey; Joseph Dixon (170), who beat teammate Zach Taylor; and Braydon Vandenberg (195), over St. Joe’s Aidan Wright.

In the finals’ biggest upset, St. Francis senior Austin Hill prevented Caleb Lesswing from winning a third straight All-Catholic title at 285 with a pin 1:54 into the first period. While most looked on in shock, Hill, who is in his first year of wrestling, was the least surprised. He said he felt he was the biggest and strongest wrestler in the weight class.

“I was expecting that exactly how it happened,” said Hill, who lost to Lesswing by pin in the regular season. “I listened well to my coaches and went out there and tried to bully him and I think I did that.”

He was one of two champions for the Red Raiders as Nick Siler defeated Gow’s Jerrison Chen, 6-3, at 106. Also, for St. Mary’s, Tom Moss won at 220 with a pin of St. Joe’s Joe Juncewicz.

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