Another year, another title: Webb's fourth Vermont title leads record-setting day for Mount Anthony wrestling
BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School senior Jesse Webb jogged to the center of the mat to have his hand raised for the 227th time in his varsity wrestling career.
He then shook hands with Mount Mansfield coach Harley Brown after pinning the Cougars' Dalton Hallock in the 285-pound final of the Vermont state tournament.
After that, he walked to the scorer's table to put his glasses back on, like every other match he's ever wrestled. But this one was different -- very different.
Webb became only the eighth wrestler ever in the state of Vermont to win four state championships, leading Mount Anthony to its largest point total in tournament history and cruising to the 26th state crown in a row on Saturday night.
"It's pretty awesome, something I've been expecting for a while, so I was happy that it finally happened," said Webb, who was overwhelmingly chosen as the outstanding wrestler.
All of Webb's matches in the tournament ended by fall in the first period, finishing off with his pin of Hallock in 65 seconds. The match was over in a flash, with Webb picking up his opponent and slamming him to the mat, then forcing Hallock to turn onto his back for the fall.
"I just wanted to dominate and pin him as quick as I could," Webb said. "I just went out there -- I could tell off the bat he was terrified -- I wanted to take him down and stick him as fast as possible, show people what Mount Anthony wrestling is all about."
With the victory, Webb improves to 58-0 this season heading into next week's New England tournament, a crown he earned as a junior for the first time last year.
"Basically in eighth grade, we saw his hunger and the desire he had for wrestling and we were about 99.9 percent saw this is what we would get," said MAU coach Scott Legacy. "It's not typical from a heavyweight, but it's always been about his passion and drive. I don't think he imagined this, but as it became more of a reality, we knew this day would come."
The day belonged to the rest of the Patriots as well as six others would become champions en route to scoring a record 336.5 team points, breaking the record set in 2001-02. Bellows Falls-Hartford came in second with 155.5 points, while Mount Mansfield -- the only other team to have more than one champion in Bryce Bernadine and Dan Bliss -- was third with 133.5. St. Johnsbury and Vergennes rounded out the top five. Thirteen Patriots qualified for New Englands.
"A lot of it came down to pins and getting bonus points," Legacy said. Pins are worth two extra points during a tournament to the team's score and out of 50 matches, Mount Anthony had 34 pins. "We're a pinning team, so we have the opportunity to score a lot in a tournament. We've had more champs before, but there's something about this team's ability to get bonus points.".
Senior Tyler Mattison was the first to earn the crown with a first-period pin over Kienan Kittredge from Champlain Valley at 195 points. Mattison, now a two-time champion, was aggressive out of the gate, scoring a takedown and three near-fall points before finally finishing off the Redhawks sophomore.
The next MAU champion was sophomore Tyler Raetz at 113, who topped Bellows Falls-Hartford's Austin Viens 4-0 in the final.
Earlier in the season, Viens got the better of Raetz in a 3-2 decision, but in the rematch Raetz took an early lead with a first-period takedown. Starting down in the second, Raetz escaped for another point, then got another via penalty. In the third, Raetz rode out the Terrier junior to win his first championship and improve to 52-8.
"Tyler got beat by Viens a couple weeks ago,but he studied video and his was one of a few [matches] we turned [around]," Legacy said. "Tyler wrestled within himself and stayed aggressive, it's a huge win for him."
Dylan LaFountain was the next champ at 132 pounds, rolling through the tournament with two pins and two technical falls, including a 15-0 rout in the final over St. Johnsbury's James Degesse.
LaFountain got the upper hand early and scored a takedown and six back points for an 8-0 lead and poured it on from there as the crowd chanted his name for his second state crown.
"I just needed to block out all the distractions, focus on one thing and that's winning," LaFountain said. "I was nervous at first, but we've been in this situation before with a big crowd."
Legacy said his goal was to slow the junior down.
"You can make it happen but you can't force it because that's when you can make a mistake," Legacy said. "He slowed it in the third period, got the two sets of back points that was much cleaner than the others, it was huge he made those adjustments."
The next three champions all kept their undefeated seasons alive, with Austin Price at 182, Webb at 285 and Troy Gassaway at 120 remaining unblemished.
Price jumped out to a 7-2 lead and looked poised to cruise to another victory over Middlebury's Jakob Trautwein, an opponent Price had tech falled earlier this season.
But Trautwein fought back, scoring a reversal early in the third to pull within 7-4, then getting a point from a stalling call to make it 7-5, but Price held on to improve to 57-0 and win another title.
Gassaway went into his final against a familiar opponent in Mount Mansfield's Ben Bliss after each had tech falled in the semifinal. The junior, who is nearing 200 wins for his career, scoring takedowns in all three periods to finish off a 7-1 win for his third title in three tries.
"It might have been in their mind," Legacy said, referring to the perfect record. "I think now that they are at the next level, the zero doesn't matter, everyone at New Englands is a champion. They survived the weekend, but that's one of the things we'll talk about at practice this week.
The final champion of the night for the Patriots was Jack Luciano at 220 pounds, who topped Middlebury's Chris Gobbi in a 9-4 decision. Luciano was strong from the neutral position, scoring takedowns nearly at will to finally stand atop the podium after a third-place finish in 2012 and a runner-up in 2013.
Six other Patriots were finalists, including Darren Ruiz-Sauer at 145, Damon Young at 170, Noble Shaler at 152, Jacob Woodside at 160, Taber Watson at 126 and Calvin Call at 106 pounds.
Ruiz-Sauer battled an undefeated Nolan Viens from Bellows Falls-Hartford and came out on the short end of a 6-0 score. The title was the second straight for the senior Terrier.
Young and CVU's Grant Poston went to the third period with Poston up 4-3 and with 30 seconds left, the match was stopped as Poston dealt with an apparent shoulder injury. After the delay, Poston fought off Young, sliding to control and the winning reversal with seconds left. Young finished runner-up for the second year in a row.
Shaler lost in a 13-3 major decision to St. Johnsbury's Dylan Shattuck at 152 -- Shattuck's second straight title. Woodside lost to Vergennes' Kaegan Pearsall 10-1 in a major decision and Watson was beaten by Bernadine 8-4 in a match that was up for grabs throughout.
In the last finals matchup, Calvin Call and Dan Bliss went to overtime after Call was down 5-0 in the first period and came back to tie it at 5. In OT, neither Bliss or Call seemed to have control of the other but when Bliss came up with 19 seconds left, the referee gave him a takedown and a championship.
"Calvin took a shot and got in there and tried to break him down, but [Bliss] put him in a cradle from the front," Legacy said. "I think he didn't want to put himself in a bad spot. It's a judgment call."
The only weight class without a Patriot in the final, 138, had Mill River's Zach Allen win his second straight title over John Stawinski from Essex. MAU's Bailey Willard finished fourth.
With the first task complete, the Patriots look toward Providence, R.I., for the New England tournament, coming in as the defending champions.
"Obviously for this team [winning New Englands] is the goal," Legacy said. "They'll pick us as the favorites, but Danbury, Springfield Central and Bishop Hendricken will be only three of the teams to challenge. It'll be a dogfight, we have to place 4 or 5 and get as many points as possible."
The usually humble Webb was more blunt.
"Going into this season, we just didn't want to be New England champs, we want to be the best team ever," Webb said. "We wanted to show complete dominance [tonight] and I think we did that."
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