VIRGINIA BEACH — The Mount Anthony and Catamount Wrestling Club will return to Vermont from the National High School Coaches Association national tournament with a pair of All-Americans.
MAU sophomore Calvin Hayford was second at 285 pounds, while Catamount's Keegan Coon was eighth at 142 pounds in the middle school tournament.
Each grade level has its own tournament, except for the middle school event, which includes students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Hayford won the first four matches in his championship bracket, three by pinfall. He started with a pin of Georgia's Evan Fields in the opening round, then a 9-6 decision over New York state's Andrew Fenner, out of Section IX's Minisink Valley.
In the quarterfinal, Hayford continued to roll with a pin of Pennsylvania's Tim McCauley in 3:58, then also took out Tennessee's Jacob Coppenger with 15 seconds left in the semifinal to become the first MAU wrestler to reach the final since Jesse Webb won the sophomore title in 2012.
"Calvin wrestled calm, he didn't seem as nervous as he was at states and New Englands," said MAU coach Brian Coon. "He was down five in the quarterfinals and he could have given up on himself, but he believed he would win the match."
In the final against Oklahoma's Brey Walker — the top seed in the bracket and the freshman champion at 285 pounds last season — Hayford was taken down and pinned in 1:25.
"That kid is different than most," said Coon, talking about Walker committing to play football at Oklahoma State already as a sophomore. "We saw him at practice [before the tournament] and we thought he was a coach or one of the college wrestlers [from Old Dominion]. It's a tough draw. But [Calvin's] confidence will keep growing [after this performance]."
Coon lost his opening match to Pennsylvania's Caden Wright — a Pop and Flo champion last year — 3-0 and headed into the wrestlebacks. He won his next three matches, one by pin and two by 6-0 decisions before reaching the consolation quarterfinal against Ohio's Ben Vanadin, when he lost 4-2. In the All-American match against Ohio's Trevor Franks, Coon had a front headlock to gain control but ended up on his back and lost 6-0 to finish in eighth place.
"Keegan wrestled unbelievably, very confident," said Coach Coon. "He wrestled in an all-star tournament recently and I think that gave him momentum coming down here. But he had a national champ right off the bat and went with him the entire match."
Four other wrestlers finished one win short of the placement round, including Chris Mayer at 145 in the freshman tournament, Ashdin Schaefer at 113 in the junior tournament, Sam Wilkins at 154 and Tanner King at 230 in the middle school tournament.
Mayer won his first three matches of the tournament, allowing only one point in three decisions. In the quarterfinal, he lost to Florida's Todd Perry by tech fall and in the placement match, lost a razor-thin 3-1 decision to New Jersey's AJ Lonski.
"This is the second year in a row that Chris has gotten to the placement match," Coon said. "He's wrestled really well and this year, he went against juniors and seniors all year, so he got to prove himself against his own class."
Schaefer was 4-2 in his weight class, with his only two losses to the No. 2 seed, a 5-0 decision, and a 2-0 loss to the No. 1 seed in the placement match.
Coon said because of a mixup, Schaefer didn't have a chance to prepare for his placement match.
"He had dominated a lot of this tournament, he has to know he's right there," Coon said.
Wilkins lost in overtime, 2-0, to the top seed in his bracket, while King lost his opening match to the No. 2 seed in his before coming back.
Other wrestlers to win more than one match included Tyson Sauer (3-2 at freshmen 106), Tyler Raetz (2-2 at senior 132), Jack Ware (2-2 at middle school 95), Gaige Crandall (2-2 at MS 112) and Adam Frost (3-2 at MS 112)
"Tyson wrestled really well, was very offensive and made a couple little mistakes and [his opponent] made him pay for every one," Coon said. "In the wrestlebacks, he had to wrestle three times in a hour and a half, so I think he lost a little bit of steam near the end."
The rest of the competitors included Keenan Taylor (1-2), Gage McLaughlin (0-2), Tyler Burgess (1-2), Colin Crowley (0-2), Dylan Ross (1-2), Austin Prendergast (0-2), Sebastian Rocher (1-2), Landon Davis (0-2), Hayden Rabideau (1-2), Kyle Hurley (0-2), Christian Burdick (0-2), Logan Sprague (0-2), Payton Sharby (0-2), Stephen Brillon (0-2) and John Decker (0-2).
"The kids were very aggressive and went after it," Coon said. "They are buying in and wrestling really hard. The kids all battled and I was impressed with how many kids were in position to place. They never got overpowered."