Monday February 25, 2013
Assistant Sports Editor
Theirs is a lonely brand of success. The pride of a community, the scourge of a state, only a Mount Anthony Union High School wrestler knows what it feels like to bear the burden.
Winning comes with the territory. Championships are expected. But one thing was notable for its absence when the Patriots collected the program's national-record 25th consecutive state crown on Saturday night in Vergennes.
"We just find it disrespectful," said senior Kyle Fletcher, who won his second state championship at 126 pounds Saturday. "I don't want to be that cocky guy, you know? I don't want to be that guy that over-celebrates or something."
It's a refreshing, composed display of sportsmanship for a group of teenagers in the middle of a hostile gym with championships at stake.
It's also a means of self-preservation.
"We talk about any celebration that we have, having it in private or on the bus when we're coming back, joking around and goofing around, trying to keep it behind the scenes," said coach Scott Legacy. "Years and years ago, if our kids did get a little happy it seemed like, ‘Oh, they're rubbing it in our face.'"
To outsiders, a Mount Anthony wrestler celebrating a state title for what it was would look like a wide receiver celebrating a 3-yard completion to the sideline on second-and-2.
"They'd hate us just as much as they do right now, if not more," Fletcher said. "Vermont does not like us."
So, what did the Patriots' winning reactions look like Saturday?
The first champion, sophomore Tyler Mattison at 170, unclasped his headgear and held a fist pump and looked to his teammates after the referee raised his hand for victory.
Senior Miguel Calixto, after going to 55-0 on the season at 132 pounds, barely looked up.
Junior Jesse Webb seconds from his third heavyweight championship, grinned into the mat when he rolled his opponent onto his back for a first-period pin.
Sophomore Dylan LaFountain, also a first-time champion at 120, raised a sheepish index finger when summoned by the referee. The gesture would have likely failed to hail a taxi.
"I think it shows a lot of maturity," Fletcher said. "He's only a sophomore and he has a long road ahead of him.
"I remember last year when I won my first state title I did the same thing. It didn't feel any different than any other tournament," Fletcher said. "It was just another match to me."
"Some of them do kind of wave to the crowd a little or to their parents, but it's very nonchalant," Legacy said. "We often wonder how it would be received the other way."
Instead, the Patriots saved their emotions for when the gym had cleared, the pictures taken, and it was time to leave.
"It wasn't until we got outside," Legacy said. "Once we got into the parking lot, they let it out. They put the windows down and were yelling out of the bus, ‘We got 25!'"
It's not for everyone. But it's there for them.
"If you had to choose which side to be on, a lot of people would rather be on our side," Legacy said.
Their one blow-out celebration, a tradition shared by other Mount Anthony championship teams, is the victory parade through Bennington with fire trucks leading and trailing a yellow school bus.
And how does that sound?
Appropriately loud -- a once-a-year excuse to go wild.
Fire engines blaring across town. Wrestlers and coaches at full throat with the windows down.
The chance to vent.
"It's definitely a lot of fun to let it out on the bus," senior Brandon Marcoux-Schaefer said Sunday after the parade. "I love doing it every year. Been doing it for four years straight."
Keen on bringing home the program's seventh New England crown in a week, it's something the Patriots would like to do again soon. One more raucous send-off for the seniors.
"This is it until next weekend," Marcoux-Schaefer said. "Next weekend will be even bigger."