HOOSICK, N.Y. - To a man, this championship might have been the sweetest yet for the Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling team.
Using crucial wrestlebacks and five individual champions - including four straight from 152 to 182 pounds, the Panthers outdistanced Corinth, 236-218, to take their second straight Division II, Class 2 (Class C) title, this one on their home mats.
Watervliet was third with 141.5, Granville was fourth with 137 and Tamarac was fifth with 125 points.
"The most exciting thing was that all [our wrestlers] placed," said Hoosick Falls coach Landon Nelson. "Up until finals, we were ahead by about 12 points and the wrestlebacks is what got us there. Every guy that dug deep in the wrestlebacks was really what pushed us ahead. We were comfortable because of the finals, but Corinth was there the whole day."
The top four place-finishers travel to Glens Falls for the small-school sectionals next week. Hoosick Falls will send 11 of its 12 varsity wrestlers
Along with the finalists, Hoosick Falls also had four wrestlers fight back for third-place: Nick Schrom at 120 pounds, Tyler Randall at 126, Colby Davendonis at 132 and Mike Mattat at 138. Nolan Foster (113) was fourth.
Davendonis lost his first match to Tamarac's Logan Brunick - an opponent he beat at the Ken Baker Classic - but then scored three wins in a row, including a pin over No. 2 seed Adam Erno from Mechanicville and then a 6-3 decision in the third-place match over Granville's Damian Duffy.
"All those kids are hard-noses, you can rely on them in the wrestlebacks," Nelson said. "A lot of teams lose motivation [through the season], but our guys haven't done that."
The Panthers showed why they are one of the premier teams in the area with the five title-winners, the most of the tournament. In the finals, Hoosick Falls junior Luis Weierbach started the championship streak at 106 pounds with a first-period pin of Galway's Nick Riccio.
After being sick and missing the Ken Baker Classic last week, Weierbach remained unbeaten at 29-0 this season and won his third straight Class C championship.
"Going into the match, I knew he was tough, but I knew that the work we put in in the [wrestling] room and as hard as I go, no one's going to beat me," Weierbach said. "I'm so thankful. It's a great payoff."
Then, starting at 152 pounds, the Panthers pounced.
Facing Fonda-Fultonville's Ryan Park, Bryan Sherman, moving up a weight class from his usual 145-pound spot, came in on fire, scoring an early takedown for the lead. In the second, he escaped from bottom, then got another takedown for a 5-1 lead. Park halved the deficit with a reversal, but Sherman, now 32-4 this season, held on for the win.
"He's the type of kid that wins match before he comes out," Nelson said. "He came out fired up and ready to go."
At 160, Hoosick Falls' Garrett Wright gave the Panthers a massive boost with a win over top-seeded Brad Perry from Granville. The two split the season series, one of Perry's three losses coming into the tournament.
Perry took the advantage from the opening whistle with a takedown, but Wright cut the deficit in half with an escape. Starting down in the second, Wright escaped again to tie the match at 2-2. In the third, Wright gained control for another two points and the lead. Perry made it 4-3 with 43 seconds left, but Wright held on through two restarts for the Class C title.
"That was the most exciting match for me," Nelson said. "We knew it would be a one- or two-point match. We made some small adjustments based on [Perry's] style of wrestling."
Wright, a sophomore, said the win was not an upset.
"I just wanted to stay in and give myself a chance," Wright said. "He pinned me last week so it was sweet revenge. It means a lot to do it at home, in front of the home crowd. I was pumped."
Billy Pine and Brad Burns continued their stellar seasons, each scoring falls in their respective finals. Pine faced off against Watervliet's Frank Capone and after taking a 4-1 lead to the second period, Pine caught Capone and used an overhook to throw the senior onto his back.
Burns took even less time in his final, pinning Tamarac's Zeby Gokey in 1:13 to improve to 30-3 this season and win his third straight Class C title.
"They're so comfortable being in the finals, it's like any other dual meet," Nelson said. "I told the guys before the finals there's no coincidence that all the guys that wrestle [together] in practice [are here]."
Shane Barss was a surprise finalist, coming into the tournament with a 5-14 mark. After a thrilling semifinal match against Corinth's Mike Baker that Barss won with 12 seconds left, the sophomore was pinned by Watervliet's Zeby Romano.
The Tomahawks had seven finalists, most coming in the lower weights. Three Corinth wrestlers from 113 to 126 each lost in the final, leaving the door open for the Panthers.
Last year, Hoosick Falls finished runner-up at the sectional tournament and Nelson said he's hoping to take the next step in the journey.
"Our goal is to win, we were second last year and we want to build on the goals every year," Nelson said. "We have to work hard this year and anything can happen. They just need to embrace the moment and keep pushing."