Monday January 28, 2013

ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Coming into the Ken Baker Classic, the Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling team seemed confident that a repeat was in the cards after its close win a year ago.

But there's a new team in town as the combined squad of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George had six finalists and three champions to dethrone the runner-up Panthers on Saturday.

HL/LG scored 169 points to beat Hoosick Falls' 149. Schuylerville and Salem tied for third at 140 with Ballston Spa fifth with 115.

"The kids wrestled tough and we want to focus on next week," said Hoosick Falls coach Landon Nelson, alluding to the Class C sectional championships. "Tough matches, that's what we're looking for."

The Panthers had four finalists and three champions -- Colby Davendonis at 132, Billy Pine at 170 and Brad Burns at 182. Bryan Sherman lost a tight 5-3 decision against Nathaniel Palmer at 145.

Hoosick Falls 106-pounder Luis Weierbach, undefeated at 27-0 coming into the Classic, was scratched Saturday morning due to illness. Three other Panthers were also out.

"It took another champ out of the lineup," Nelson said. "It shows the importance to our team just how important, how vital, every wrestler is. When it comes down to 15 or 20 points, one person can make a difference and two definitely make a difference."

The War Eagles' champions included 106-pounder Gideon Jardine, who scored the fastest pin of the tournament in the final with a six-second fall over Whitehall's Austin Rich, Patrick Barber (195) and Adam Agresta (285).

"We wanted to win as a team," Burns said. "[Having] Luis out hurt us. We had four finalists and three champs. We're really coming along at the end of the year and peaking when we're supposed to."

Davendonis pinned his way through the first three matches, reaching the finals after a second-period fall of Granville's Damian Duffy.

In the final, he faced Wasaren League foe Logan Brunick from Tamarac.

After a scoreless first period, Brunick scored an escape for the lead. Davendonis got a takedown as the buzzer sounded but the referee waved it off. Davendonis wasn't deterred, escaping in the first 10 seconds of the final period to tie the match, then finally scoring a takedown with 43 seconds to go.

"I was wrestling my style, trying to stay focused," Davendonis said. "The takedown was the big turning point, I [felt like] he was giving up at the end. Once I got that, it was awesome."

Davendonis improved to 24-5 on the season.

"Colby wanted it bad," Nelson said. "He told me before the match he beat the kid last year, so [he could] do it again."

Pine, after a slow start to the season with a broken hand, won all three matches by fall, including a first-period pin of Salem's Kyle Eastman in the final. In control, he rolled Eastman on his back and scored his 15th win of the season against two defeats.

Burns followed at 182 pounds and had a battle against HL-LG's Tom Clark in the final. The senior hit two takedowns in the first period using a single-leg move. Clark started to defend against the move and even scored a reversal after blocking a shot.

In the third period, down two, Clark looked for his own takedown but Burns held him off for his fourth straight Classic title and 112th career victory.

"I was a little sick before and trying to stay warm. I wanted to work my shots, that's where I feel the best, on my feet," Burns said. "He was good at defending the single leg. He had big legs, hard to get in on there, [even though I] took him down once or twice. I look forward to meeting at sectionals."

Bryan Sherman was second at 145 after winning last year's 138-pound championship. Against Palmer, who was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for the upper weights, Sherman scored an escape to take the early lead, but Palmer worked for a takedown at the end of the second period. Up 3-1 in the third, Palmer was penalized for stalling, but Sherman (30-4) couldn't find the answer in the waning seconds.

The second-place finish was secured in the wrestlebacks. Mike Matatt at 138 and Garrett Wright at 160 came back for thirds after losing in the semifinals. At 113, Nolan Foster, another loser in the semifinals, finished fourth after a 6-2 loss to Voorheesville's Triston Welton in the consolation finals.

"They did a good job of wrestling back and got five matches," Nelson said. "That's what we need going into the Class C tournament at home next week."

Other champions included Schuylerville's Anthony Cardinuto (99), Ballston Spa's Tyler Barnes (113) and Troy Mackey (152), Salem's Carter Merecki (120) and Daniel VanDyk (126), Whitehall's John Diekel (138), Granville's Brad Perry (160) and Berne-Knox-Westerlo's Joe Sprung (220).

Like Burns, Merecki won his fourth Classic in a row. Sprung repeated as the 220-pound champion.

Cambridge was 15th with 24 points. Patrick Scheuer was the top competitor for the Indians, going 3-2 at 195 pounds.