Click photo to enlarge
<B>Mount Anthony Union High School senior Bailey Willard, left, shoots a double-leg takedown during his first round match with Champlain Valley Union&rsquo;s Cooper Bolduc. Willard, the No. 5 seed at 138 pounds, upset No. 4 seed Johnny Perreault in the quarterfinals and joined his other 13 teammates in the semifinal as the Patriots have a huge lead in the team score aiming for their 26th straight state crown. </B>

BENNINGTON -- According to Mount Anthony Union High School wrestling coach Scott Legacy, everything had "gone to plan" on the first day of the Vermont state wrestling tournament at MAUHS on Friday.

The Patriots had zero losses and all 14 wrestlers moved on to the semifinals on Saturday, taking a huge lead and leaving everyone else fighting for the runner-up spot.

"We still got a ways to go, but if everything goes the way we want, we'll make it through the first step of getting everyone to place," Legacy said. "We got rid of the first day jitters and we're looking forward to having Bennington people here tomorrow."

After Day 1, MAU has 134 team points, well ahead of Bellows Falls-Hartford in second at 64 and Mount Mansfield in third at 53. Mill River (50.5) and Vergennes (48) round out the top five.

Eight Patriots had two falls in their first two matches: Taber Watson at 126, Dylan LaFountain at 132, Noble Shaler at 152, Jacob Woodside at 160, Damon Young at 170, Austin Price at 182, Jack Luciano at 220 and Jesse Webb at 285.

Watson, a late addition in the final weeks of the season over senior Rachel Hale after winning a wrestle-off, won his first match over Mount Abraham's Joshua Roy, then his quarterfinal over Otter Valley's Neiko Desabrias to reach the semifinal in an extremely tough bracket.

"He's wrestling within himself and the bright lights didn't hurt him," Legacy said. "He's got another match in front of him, he's our man there and he's wrestled like it.


Advertisement

"

All of the pins for Shaler, Price, Woodside and Luciano came in under a minute, including the fastest pin of the tournament so far in 9 seconds for Shaler against CVU's Alex D'Amico. Luciano won both his matches in a combined 48 seconds -- the third fastest behind St. J's Dylan Shattuck and Brendon Kendall of Bellows Falls-Hartford.

The most exciting match for the Patriots was at 138 pounds in the quarterfinals, as senior and No. 5 seed Bailey Willard took on St. Johnsbury's Johnny Perreault, the 4-seed. Willard lost to Perreault earlier in the year and he took that into the match, scoring a takedown early for a 2-0 lead. Perreault escaped to halve the deficit and late in the third period tried to seize the advantage and the win, but Willard wouldn't be denied.

The senior restarted with 11 seconds, scrambled and came out on top as the buzzer sounded on a 2-1 win.

"It's huge for him, he got rid of a demon he was wrestling with, and now he's got a chance where anything can happen," Legacy said. "If you want to be a state champ, you have to beat them all."

Willard said his gameplan was to go out and just wrestle, not think about it.

"I had fun with it, sometimes I wrestle with my mind," Willard said. "So I ignored it all and let it flow."

Willard will have another match in the semifinal against another opponent he's lost to -- Mill River's Zach Allen.

"I've had ups and downs all year, I want it so bad right now," Willard said. "It's great to see everyone wrestling to their full potential, peaking at the right time."

***

Burr and Burton Academy is 12th after Day 1 with 16.5 points. None of the Bulldogs reached the semifinal, but a few remain in the wrestlebacks for Saturday, including Sean Armstrong at 126 pounds, Bjorn Boutin at 132, Chris Pouk at 160, Wyatt O'Connor at 195 and Russell Johnson at 220.