MAU wrestling reloads for another NE run

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BENNINGTON — Two New England place-finishers from the Mount Anthony wrestling team from a year ago return to get the Patriots back to the top of the region.

Led by Sam Wilkins, who won the New England title at 195 pounds back in March, and Keegan Coon, a sixth-place finisher at 145, Mount Anthony has a good balance of youth and experience that will suit them well this season.

Mount Anthony coach Brian Coon said he feels Wilkins will thrive and stay hungry, even after winning the regional crown.

"Sam doesn't look at it like that," Coon said. "That's why he was able to win at New Englands, he doesn't carry that type of pressure into matches. It's not about wins and losses with him, it's about going out and wrestling hard. He has fun doing it."

Wilkins won more than 50 matches, including perfect runs at states and New Englands, and only lost once.

"He has the same approach as last year coming into this year and he knows his main competitors are back as well," Coon said. "That keeps you down to earth because there's a lot of good wrestlers [at that weight]."

Keegan Coon was over 50 wins as well as the middleweights will be strong, including Keegan Coon, Keenan Taylor and Gage McLaughlin at 138, 145 and 152.

"All of those guys are going at it every day in the room, there's no let up with any of them," Coon said, including Adam Frost at 170 pounds. "None of those guys want to give up a takedown, they don't want to get beat, they want to be the best in the room."

Wilkins, Coon, Taylor and McLaughlin are the elder statesmen of the group and Coon said because of how hard they go in practice, they've been invaluable in the wrestling room, especially with some of the younger guys on the team.

"They are just going to continue to make each other better, they will practice together all year long," Coon said.

Four starters graduated, including Tyler Burgess, who finished fourth at New Englands at 152.

A pair of spots to fill come at the heavy weights, as Colin Crowley (220) and Calvin Hayford (285) both graduated. In their place, will be Chris Mayer at 220 and freshman Hayden Gaudette at 285.

"Chris is going to be a small 220-pounder, but he has such a motor," Coon said. "He's so strong, he snaps everybody down. He's got the strength and doesn't get tired, which is good for him. He wrestles a big guy style too, so I think he'll be OK."

Gaudette has been in the program for years.

"His dad [Frank] has been around wrestling his whole life, and Hayden's literally been around [the program] his entire life," Coon said. "He knows how to battle, it's about conditioning, even if you're not the biggest guy. He's going to grow a lot this year and he already has in practice. But he'll have to learn on the job."

Last year, the Patriots won their 30th consecutive Vermont crown and finished second by three points at the New England tournament.

Most of the low weights are new guys to the varsity. Landon Davis, Sam Blackman and Kyle Hurley are all freshmen, who project to be starters at 106, 120 and 126 pounds, respectively. Sophomores Christian Burdick (113) and Jack Ware (132) will get their first extended run in the varsity lineup.

"That's the good part, it's perfect timing to have those young guys in the lineup," Coon said. "You have the right guys showing them the right way, the older guys are teaching. They're getting beat up in practice a little bit, they aren't the main guy anymore like middle school."

The Patriots have a bear of a schedule in the beginning of the season. They start at the Wrangle in the Plains on Saturday, a New York state event that brings in teams from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Then they travel on Dec. 12 to Springfield Central (Mass.) for the annual City vs. Country match before returning home to Kates Gym on Dec. 14 to host Noble, Maine in a 7 p.m. match.

Other big events include the Lowell Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27-28, the Mount Anthony tournament on January 5, the annual matchup against Danbury, Conn., on Jan. 14 (at home) and Senior Night on Feb. 1 against Bishop Hendricken, R.I.

The state tournament is at Essex High School on Feb 22 and 23 and the New England tournament is in Providence, R.I. on March 1 and 2.

Varsity lineup: Landon Davis, Christian Burdick, Sam Blackman, Kyle Hurley, Jack Ware, Keenan Taylor, Keegan Coon, Gage McLaughlin, Stephen Brillon, Adam Frost, Logan Sprague, Sam Wilkins, Chris Mayer, Hayden Gaudette.


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