NORTH CLARENDON — After 12 seniors — nearly his entire varsity roster — graduated after last season, Mount Anthony wrestling coach Scott Legacy had no idea was what to come in 2016 with a bunch of younger wrestlers and only a few returners.
Then add the fact that Legacy announced halfway through the season that 2016 would be his last at MAU, as he will continue his coaching career at Castleton University, and the unknowns continued to pile up.
The team made a pact to continue the streak and win Legacy's last Vermont state tournament and they made good on it, cruising to Mount Anthony's 28th straight Vermont state championship on Saturday.
"I didn't know what we would get this year. It's truly amazing to see how they wrestled this weekend and overall it was just an amazing run," Legacy said soon after the trophy presentation. "In the finals, they looked relaxed and focused. Everything hasn't set in, but the tradition of MAU wrestling came through. Guys are here that haven't watched us wrestle in a while, [and they said] it's good to see we can still win in overtime or with 20 seconds left."
Seven Patriots won individual state titles and five others finished in the top three, qualifying for next weekend's New England tournament in Providence, Rhode Island.
Champions included Tyson Sauer at 106, Ashdin Schaefer at 113, Keenan Taylor at 120, Calvin Call at 126, Tyler Raetz at 138, Austin Prendergast at 170 and Dakota King at 195.
Schaefer won all four of his matches by fall over the weekend, including the final over St. Johnsbury's Isaac Hahr in 23 seconds.
Raetz won all three of his matches by pin as well, including a pin at 4:56 over Mount Mansfield's Bryce Bernandine.
At 195 pounds, King improved to 53-7 on the year with a 5-2 decision over CVU's Kienan Kittredge to become the third MAU champion. After a scoreless first period, King escaped early in the period and gained a takedown for a 3-0 lead. King then rode out Kittredge in the second period and scored another takedown in the third period to secure the win.
"Dakota has had a very impresive season, only seven losses this year coming off the JV last year," Legacy said. "And Tyler Raetz won a tough weight class against a 3-time finalist."
Taylor topped Middlebury's Nate Gebo at 120 pounds with a 7-0 decision in the final. After a couple takedowns early, Taylor rode out the senior for his first state title.
"Keenan has been on fire and he's handled the bigger stage," Legacy said. "You can see the maturity develop. There was lots of coaching at the beginning of the year, as the year went along, he wasn't a freshman, just a varsity wrestler."
Pendergast won arguably one of the best matches in the finals at 170, a 3-1 overtime win over CVU's Tyler Griggs. After a scoreless first period, Griggs scored an escape with 12 seconds left in the second, fighting from the bottom the entire two minutes. Pendergast started down in the third, escaped in the first 15 seconds to tie the match at 1-1, then went through four restarts in the final minute to send the match to overtime. In the extra session, Pendergast sprawled to avoid a shot, then gained control for the victory.
Tyson Sauer rolled at 106 pounds, scoring a 12-3 major decision in the final against Essex's Ben Stewart. Sauer took a 6-1 lead into the third period, scored a reversal after starting on bottom and cruising to his first state championship.
"I am very happy with what I have been able to accomplish this season," Sauer said. "I set high goals for myself coming into high school and I just keep my focus on working hard to achieve them the best I can."
The final victory made Sauer 61-8 this season.
"We have a couple of freshmen that won state titles, and that shows there's a big time future here," Legacy said.
The final champion of the night was Call, who won all his matches during the weekend by fall, the final one in 22 seconds over MMU freshman Colby Giroux.
"Taking home a state championship every year lately has been a huge thing for the school and I am proud to have been apart of it for these past four years," Call said. "This year some people thought we wouldn't win states, but we proved that through our hard work and determination that were still the top dog in the state."
Two Patriots finished runner-up, including AJ Wright in the first final of the night at 182, losing by fall to Brandon Cousino, who is undefeated at 45-0 this season. The other second place finish came from Sebastian Rocher, a 3-0 decision loser to Middlebury's Nick Beauchamp.
Four others wrestled back for third after semifinal losses, including Zach Sauer at 152, Tyler Burgess at 160 and Calvin Hayford at 285, to qualify for New Englands. Chris Mayer came back for fourth, a 4-3 loser in the placement match at 145 pounds.
"Guys wrestling back for New Englands was big," Legacy said. "They struggled with it a little, because they wanted the gold medals, but now they have another chance. Chris came up short, a freshman wrestling a senior. I couldn't be happier."
Now Legacy finishes his career with the Patriots after next Friday and Saturday's New England tournament.
"I'm extremely happy, when we made the announcement in December [about starting a program at Castleton], I was awful damn nervous," Legacy said. "I didn't want it to affect the kids, that it was just business as usual, I didn't want anyone to think I was cashing it in. I was nostalgic during this one, I never would have dreamed, starting with six kids in 1985-86, winning the first one in 1989, that it would be 28 straight."