Colby Davendonis competes at 160 pounds against Whitehall. Davendonis and the rest of the Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling team look to win its third
Colby Davendonis competes at 160 pounds against Whitehall. Davendonis and the rest of the Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling team look to win its third Class C title in a row. (Banner file)
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- As two-time defending Class C champions, the Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling team has a giant target on its back as this year's Division II, Class 2 tournament starts on Saturday at Granville High School.

To go for the three-peat, the Panthers will have to grind it out, said Hoosick Falls coach Landon Nelson.

"The goal is to keep the crown and keep the ball rolling," Nelson said. "Having that target on us has provided a lot of ambition for our guys."

Seven wrestlers in the lineup for Nelson have more than 20 wins, something that speaks to the quality of schedule for the Panthers this season.

"Every match they learn something, win or lose, and they make adjustments accordingly," Nelson said. "We got on the mat a lot of times this year and that's helped us fine-tune our skills."

Senior Luis Weierbach comes into the tournament at 33-4, looking to repeat his magical 2012 season with a repeat state title, this time at 120 pounds. This year, Weierbach has 113-pound sophomore Nolan Foster pacing him in the wrestling room. Foster is 31-4 and looks to return to the sectional final.

"Nolan and Luis are as intense as it gets, they are on a different level on the mat," Nelson said. "When they drill, it looks the same as others going live. Nolan knows where he's at and he's pumped heading into the postseason."

Weierbach, who has won at least 30 matches three seasons in a row, has been working with some of the heavier wrestlers to tune him up for the strength of the 120-pounders.

"They've been pushing him through the meat grinder," Nelson said. His only defeat this year against Section II competition came against unbeaten Matt Morris of Albany Academy, a 1-0 loss.

The middle weights are strong for the Panthers as well. At 138 pounds, Mike Mattat comes into the tournament at 28-10. A couple of those losses were to Salem's Carter Merecki -- both 1-0 matches. Merecki is a two-time placer at the state tournament.

"Mike could get in there, he lost to Merecki and beat [Granville's Nathaniel] Palmer," Nelson said. "He's a dark horse with the potential to do it."

Nelson mentioned seniors Tom Peabody and Tyler Rondeau as two who could surprise in tough weight classes.

Another Panther primed for a good Class C tournament is 170-pounder Garrett Wright. Wright comes into Saturday at 23-10 and has been strong of late.

Others with 20 wins include Colby Davendonis (21-8) at 160, Derek Bird (20-16) at 182 and Shane Barss (21-15) at 195.

Individually, the top 4 place finishers in each weight class go to the small-school tournament at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Feb. 15 and 16.

"We're looking for guys to place in the top 4, those guys are the key," Nelson said. "We could have five champions and not win the tournament, but we could have two or three and have the others step up and take it. That's what will win us a championship."

The road will be tough for the Panthers, as Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George drops to the C's from CC. Other schools expected to make nice runs in the tournament include Corinth, Granville, Fonda-Fultonville and Watervliet. The rest of the schools are Cairo-Durham, Coxsackie-Athens, Greenville, Mechanicville, Taconic Hills, Tamarac and Voorheesville.

There's some extra fire as well. Former Panthers wrestler Steve Colvin was killed in a ski accident earlier this week and to honor him, the Panthers will wear last year's singlets.

"Our seniors now were freshmen when Steve was a senior," Nelson said. "They're wrestling for Steve."