Mount Anthony rides seven champions to 30th straight crown

BRANDON — It's time to change the street signs.

Seven Mount Anthony wrestlers won individual state championships — including five weight classes in a row — as the Patriots rolled to its 30th consecutive Vermont state championship at Otter Valley Union High School on Saturday night.

The Patriots clinched the 30th straight crown during the semifinal on the strength of nine finalists. They racked up 274.5 points, outdistancing a strong Essex team who finished second with 168 points. All 13 MAU competitors placed in the top six and scored team points.

"I think it took a total team effort to get there," said MAU coach Brian Coon, winning his second championship as the head coach. "I think a lot of guys wrestled even better they I expected, which is always good at state tournament time."

St. Johnsbury finished third as a team with 120.5 points, while Mount Abraham was a very stout fourth with 105.5 points. Spaulding led a very tight second half of the top 10 with 69 points in fifth, followed by Champlain Valley, Milton, Mount Mansfield, Fair Haven and Rutland finishing out the top 10.

Individual champions for the Patriots were Keenan Taylor at 126 pounds, Noah Call at 132 pounds, Gage McLaughlin at 138 pounds, Keegan Coon at 145, Tyler Burgess at 152, Sam Wilkins at 195 and Calvin Hayford at 285 pounds.

"This group is special because I've been coaching all these guys since they were little," Coon said. "It's still hard for me to believe some of these guys are juniors and seniors. I've been coaching Tyler [Burgess] since he was five. These guys have put so much work to get where they are, they deserve everything they get."

Chris Mayer (182 pounds) and Colin Crowley (220 pounds) were runner-up for the Patriots and two others — Adam Osha at 160 and Julian Granger at 120 — each placed third overall to qualify for next week's New England tournament.

Stephen Brillon (170) and Brodie Krawczyk (113) were fourth and sixth, respectively.

Wilkins was the first Mount Anthony champion, going for his second straight after an upset of Essex's Seth Carney last year. This season, he was surprising no one as the No. 1 seed and a record of 48-2.

"Sam does everything he can to win every match," Coon said. "It might not look pretty, but he always finds a way to win the tough matches."

After a scoreless first period against Spaulding senior Ryan Walbridge, Wilkins took control, first gaining a point on a penalty and then an escape to take a 2-0 lead. Wilkins doubled his lead in the final second of the second period for a 4-0 lead.

Walbridge escaped early in the period to get on the board, but Wilkins blasted the double-leg takedown to make it a five-point lead.

With the victory, he becomes a two-time state champion and the sophomore remains in contention to become a four-time state champion.

"Honestly, it still hasn't hit me yet," said Wilkins talking about 10 minutes after the end of the tournament. "I'm getting there, I'm a two-time champion. This is crazy. It's been what we've working for our whole lives and for me to have the opportunity is insane."

The next Mount Anthony champion was Keenan Taylor at 126 pounds, facing Essex's Calvin Leo. Leo, the No. 3 seed, upset Mount Abe's Ben Murray in the semifinal to advance to the final.

Taylor, coming into the championship match at 45-2, was just as dominant in the final as the rest of the tournament. He pinned his first two opponents in less than 70 seconds and Leo was no different in the final, getting taken down and put to his back for the fall at 1 minute, 8 seconds.

Taylor, after a runner-up finish in 2017 and a championship in 2016, won his second state championship.

The third Patriot wrestler to win a title was Keegan Coon at 145 with a pin of Spaulding's Hunter Quero in 3:30.

Coon, who came into the final at 46-4 overall, got the upper hand in the first period with a takedown and near fall to grab a 4-0 lead into the second period. Coon kept up the pressure in the second, escaping for a 5-0 advantage and getting another takedown before sticking the junior Quero with 30 seconds left.

For the sophomore, it was his first state title after a third-place finish at 138 pounds in 2017.

In a match that pitted state champion versus state champion, Noah Call was the one who repeated, winning again after his 113-pound title in 2017.

He had a terrific battle with Mount Abe's Roman Mayer, himself the 2017 state champion at 120 and a three-time New England qualifier.

Call, battling some sickness, jumped off the whistle super aggressive, roaring out to a 12-2 lead with three takedowns and a pair of 3-point near falls. Call scored the first two takedowns of the second period to make it 16-3 and many expected a tech fall to come.

But Call tired and Mayer kept fighting, eventually gaining a reversal to trail 16-6 heading to the third period. Nearly out of gas in the third, Call was penalized twice for stalling, giving up one point each time, but the big lead to start was too much for Mayer to overcome in a 16-8 win.

"He's been puking from the flu," Coon said. "It's hard to go out there when you don't feel well and have to wrestle high-level [competition]."

In one of the more exciting finals, Mount Anthony's Calvin Hayford met St. Johnsbury's Hunter Ladd in a rematch of last year's heavyweight final, a 4-0 win for Ladd.

This year, however, Hayford turned the table on Ladd with a 4-2 win in sudden victory to avenge the 2017 loss and win a coveted state title for the first time.

Hayford, coming into the final at 48-1 overall, came out aggressive, with both he and Ladd each looking for any advantage.

After a scoreless opening period, Hayford started in the down position and escaped to gain a 1-0 lead, but he couldn't find any more offense and went to the third up by one.

Ladd chose down in the third period and as the time wound down, he scored a reversal to go ahead 2-1. On the next exchange, Hayford escaped again to tie the match at 2-2 and send it to sudden victory.

"I just know I've lost to him on technicalities before," said Hayford, a commit to wrestle for Division I Campbell University next year. "I needed to keep it clean, simple and I knew I'd have to take him down. If I got the takedown, I would win the match.

In the one-minute extra session, Hayford went for the takedown and it paid off as he put Ladd on the ground for the two points as the Mount Anthony fan section roared their approval.

"What went through my mind is that we won the flip [choice of position] so we'll win the match," Coon said. "We knew Calvin could [escape]. But Calvin went for it and he wasn't going to leave it to the referees to decide. That shows a lot."

Mount Anthony wrestlers won championships in the final two matches of the evening. At 138, McLaughlin ripped through his bracket, barely wrestling more than a period's worth of time over his four bouts. In the final, facing Lake Region's Josh Roberts, McLaughlin sunk in his signature cradle for a pin in 31 seconds to reach the top of the podium after a heartbreaking 6-5 defeat in last year's 132-pound final.

"He was incredible this weekend," Coon said.

In the last match of the night, Tyler Burgess successfully defended his 152-pound title with a 3-0 win over CVU's Justin Bissonette. Burgess wrestled smartly in the final, trying to find the best way to face the Redhawk senior, who missed part of the season.

After a scoreless first period, Burgess was the first to score on a takedown in the second period to take the lead. In the third period, Burgess escaped to earn a third point, keeping Bissonette off the board over the entire six minutes to repeat as champion.

In the tournament, Burgess won by pin, an 18-1 tech fall and a 3-0 decision.

Mayer and Crowley were runner-up at 182 and 220, respectively. Mayer, who was fourth last year at 145, lost a nail-biter, 3-2, to Essex's James Danis, the 2017 runner-up at 152 pounds.

Danis took the early lead with a takedown in the first period and then escaped early in the second for a 3-0 lead.

In the third, Mayer started down and immediately got away to get on the board. He nearly had the tying takedown with less than a minute left, but the referee said the wrestlers were out of bounds. Mayer kept up the pace, forcing the referee to call a stalling on Danis for a 1-point penalty with less than 10 seconds to go, but Mayer couldn't find another point and lost 3-2.

At 220, Crowley faced an undefeated Nick Johnson from Milton in the final. Both wrestlers pinned their way to the championship match and while Crowley came out strong, Johnson weathered the early storm and ended up sinking in a cradle to pin Crowley in 33 seconds.

Johnson, a surprise New England champion at 220 last year, remained perfect at 48-0, while Crowley lost only his third match of the season against 48 wins.

Two more Patriots wrestled back for third place to qualify for the New England tournament. At 160, Adam Osha lost in the semifinals to Rutland's Dakota Peters, falling back into the consolation bracket, but he won the next two matches, a 5-2 decision over Middlebury's Joe Whitley and a pin in 1:08 over Mount Mansfield's Matthew Wixon to finish third.

Osha, wrestling last season for Randolph, was third last season for the Ghosts.

At 120 pounds, MAU's Julian Granger also came back for third place. Granger, the No. 4 seed, won his opening round match against Burr and Burton's Bailey Pinsonneault before losing in a 11-3 major decision to eventual champ Noah Bonning from Essex.

Moving into the consolation bracket, Granger beat Vergennes' Jerimiah Moulton in 2:30 to advance to the third-place match against Mount Abe's Parker Gero, who came back to finish fourth after started the tournament unseeded.

But in the third-place match with a berth to the regional championship on the line, Granger got the better of Gero, 4-2, to qualify for New Englands as a freshman.

At 170, No. 7 seed Stephen Brillon lost his opener to eventual runner-up Colby Giroux of Mount Mansfield, but won the next two matches against Fair Haven's Gable Shaddock, the No. 6 seed and Harwood's Sully O'Hara, the No. 5 seed, to move into the third-place match against Otter Valley's Josh Beayon. Beayon the No. 3 seed, scored a very late takedown in the first period to take the lead and eventually topped Brillon, 3-1, as the MAU junior ended up fourth.

Essex had four state champions, a terrific showing for the Hornets. Ben Stewart won the 106-pound title with a pin, while Noah Bonning finished first at 120 with a fall as well. Jack Carney scored two near-fall points in the final seconds of the 170-pound final for a 9-7 victory over Colby Giroux of Mount Mansfield and James Danis topped Mayer 3-2 at 182 pounds.

Other non-Mount Anthony champions included St. Johnsbury's Hunter Verge at 113 pounds, who kept his undefeated season going with a pin of Lucas Saunders. Rutland's Dakota Peters upset No. 1 seed Seth Carney at 160 pounds for a 9-6 win in the opening finals match of the evening and Milton's Nick Johnson, a New England champion last year, kept his perfect season alive with a pin of Crowley in the championship match.

Burr and Burton had a handful of strong individual accomplishments as well, with Kendra Beavin finishing fourth at 106 pounds, Kole Blanchard fifth at 145 after a 7-1 win over Vergennes' Sara Rathburn in the placement round.

Cole O'Connor placed sixth at 160 after a 2-3 tournament and Nick Williams was sixth at 170, losing two of his matches against O'Hara and the other against Beayon, 9-7. Bailey Pinsonneault and Joe McNealus did not place.


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