Click photo to enlarge
<b> (Austin Danforth) </b>
 (Austin Danforth)
(Austin Danforth)
Friday February 22, 2013

ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

BENNINGTON -- The Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling team is poised to reach its 25th straight championship in a row this weekend with nine of their 14 wrestlers receiving top seeds for the Vermont state tournament.

Troy Gassaway (113 pounds), Dylan LaFountain (120), Kyle Fletcher (126), Miguel Calixto (132), Bailey Willard (138), Tyler Mattison (170), Austin Price (182), Brandon Marcoux-Schaefer (195) and Jesse Webb (285) have all earned their way to the top of the bracket.

"The nine top seeds have earned it either through head-to-head [matchups] in Vermont or comparable scores against common opponents," said MAU coach Scott Legacy. "But we told the kids that you might be the top seed but you find the toughest opponent right away.

"Everyone is 0-0 at this time of the year and you have to approach each match separately."

Calixto and Webb are looking to continue unbeaten seasons. Calixto comes into the tournament 52-0 after winning his 200th career match two weeks ago, while Webb is 46-0 in the heavyweight division.

Many of the brackets are deep, past the MAU wrestlers. At 160 pounds, Damon Young is the second seed behind Fair Haven's Jordan Felion. Felion is 38-2 this year and beat Young head-to-head. The third seed is Champlain Valley Union senior Connor Brown, coming into the tournament 35-4.

"Records dont matter when you get to states, it's 0-0," said Young, who finished the regular season 29-12 after missing time with an injury. "I'm looking forward to wrestling [Brown], I faced him on the first day back from being injured. I put him to his back and coasted the rest of the way, but I was out of shape mentally, it shouldn't have been that close."

At 182, Price has also been injured this year, but tops the bracket with a 23-3 record. The top six seeds all have at least 18 wins.

"I'm not surprised to see Austin as the top seed, he won at the Chelmsford (Mass.) tournament and was second in Rochester, N.Y.," Legacy said.

Because of the timing of his injury, Price hasn't wrestled any in-state opponents.

"Last year I was the two seed and finished second, it's a confidence boost to be the first seed," Price said.

The sophomore Mattison also has a brutal bracket. He's had close matches with the second and third seeds, Harwood's Kaegan Pearsall and CVU's Grant Poston, this season. He also reached the finals of the Lowell Holidays and the Meuthen tournament.

"The tougher the bracket, the better we wrestle," Legacy said. "I'm excited. That's what prepares you for New Englands, you definitely don't get prepared with a cakewalk [bracket].

Marcoux-Schaefer (45-7) and Jack Luciano (42-10) have tough roads at 195 and 220 pounds, respectively. Marcoux-Schaefer beat No. 2 seed Gabe Laberge from Middlebury and No. 3 John Sirois from Mount Mansfield but the pair come into the tournament with 32 wins apiece.

"Brandon has to wrestle the same way he has all season relying on his skill and conditioning," Legacy said.

The top five seeds in Luciano's bracket all have more than 20 wins.

Non-MAU top seeds include Mount Mansfield's Ben Bliss at 106 pounds, Bellows Falls-Hartford's Nolan Viens at 145, St. Johnsbury's Dylan Shattuck at 152, Felion at 160 and Harwood's Kyle Streeter at 220 pounds.

Bliss and Streeter enter the tournament unbeaten, while Viens comes in at 32-1.

"Ben Bliss has a phenomenal year and Streeter is a very good wrestler," Legacy said. "Viens is a great athlete, he plays football at Hartford and his one loss was a 2-1 loss to a Connecticut kid that won [the] double L [class]. They've worked hard to get where they are."

Legacy said he feels the team is ready because they've faced top competition from throughout New England this year.

"I remind our kids that Danbury won the Class LL in Connecticut and we beat them. We beat New Milford, the [Class] L champ, twice and Ledyard, the [Class] M champ. We saw all three Massachusetts champs too. We've been through the wars this year."

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what happens on the mats at Vergennes.

"Everyone is wrestling amazing right now," Price said. "This year is better than last year. The competition throughout the year helps, we wrestle quality competition and that gets us ready for these last two weeks."