Patriots look to score 30th straight title
The Patriots are aiming for their 30th straight Vermont state championship, continuing a run that started in 1989, a generation ago.
But while MAU are the favorites, it'll take some work to hold up the state plaque one more time.
"The guys have done the work to get to celebrate the 30th [championship], but we still have a lot of work to do," said coach Brian Coon. "There are at least two or three good teams in Vermont this year. St. Johnsbury will be very good, Essex only lost a couple guys off their starting lineup from a year ago, so you know they're hungry. It's not a foregone conclusion. Guys have to show up and we'll have to do the right things."
There's a handful of new wrestlers, but most of the lineup have at least a couple of years of varsity experience.
Graduation losses include Ashdin Schaefer and Sebastian Rocher, each a state champ as a senior. But three of the five return in Tyler Burgess, Sam Wilkins and Noah Call.
Burgess will wrestle at 152 pounds after a sixth place finish at regionals, while Call will be at 120 after winning states and placing sixth at New Englands at 113 pounds. Wilkins, after winning the 160-pound title as a freshman, bumps up three weight classes to 195.
"Sam's body hasn't stopped growing, it's incredible. He doesn't have a lot of fat, he's muscular at 195, so it's a good weight for him," Coon said. "He's athletic and strong and he'll continue to grow. He was strong at 160 last year and he's not worrying about cutting weight. It'll be the same at 195 this year. He's strong enough to roll with the bigger guys."
Burgess will miss the team's opening tournament in Colonie, N.Y., with a concussion, but should be back soon. Call will also miss the opening meet.
Joining Wilkins in the upper weights are Chris Mayer at 182, Colin Crowley at 220 and Calvin Hayford at 285. On Tuesday at practice, that group, along with backup Blake Carey at 220, were getting after it, testing each other's conditioning as the first tournament nears.
"All those guys are working their butts off and pushing each other," Coon said. "Colin might be the wild card this year. He has the ability to beat the top wrestlers in New England, he can go with anybody. He might be down 10-0 in a match, but he never stops working."
Hayford was second at states last year, one match short of placing at New Englands and at Junior Nationals, and the Division I commit looks to go out on top.
"I think it helps Calvin that he has the college thing figured out," said Coon of his heavyweight, who signed his National Letter of Intent to attend Campbell University. "He doesn't have to worry about it, he can just go out and wrestle."
Many of the middleweights have established wrestlers, including Keenan Taylor at 126, Gage McLaughlin at 138 and Keegan Coon at 145.
New guys coming up to fill spots include Adam Frost at 132 pounds and Stephen Brillon at 170.
"Adam and Stephen were around all summer as well," Coon said. "Adam was the odd man out between guys like Gage and Keegan and Keenan. There's always a lot of middleweights, so they need to stay sharp with the guys behind them."
At the smallest weights, there are three new faces, all freshmen. Jordan Ross will be at 99 pounds for tournaments that need a 99-pounder, like Friday's at Colonie. Julian Granger will wrestle at 106 and Brodie Krawczyk in his first year, is slotted in at 113.
"All those guys will be in the mix," Coon said. "Julian's already a seasoned wrestler, he's capable of making some noise at 106. All those guys have done a ton of work over the summer, even the younger kids. It'll be the first time in the varsity lineup, but they've already wrestled in varsity events all summer, which is the benefit of doing the Thousand Islands Duals and Lake Placid. They get that experience before it actually counts on their record."
MAU will also have Adam Osha, a former Randolph wrestler, on the squad, set to wrestle at 160 or 170 pounds. Randolph dropped their varsity program this season and Osha wrestled throughout the summer at Catamount, and he's expected to fight for a state crown. Osha was third last season at 152.
"Tyler [Burgess] and Adam, they go at it being close in weight," Coon said. "They have the ability to go hard, but not take it personal. They set the example in practice and they prove what works."
So how does Coon feel about the opportunity to bring a 30th straight Vermont title back to Bennington?
"To me, it's about Mount Anthony, [former coach] Scott Legacy, this town and these kids," Coon said. "I don't see it as mine. One of the biggest things, for the train to keep on rolling, is that the alumni come in to give back, and I think that makes us different than any other sport."
On Tuesday, alums including Bernie Barriere, Tyler Raetz and Jimmy Zupko were in the room, giving guys instruction to polish their game.
"They work with the guys, just like they had alums working with them," Coon said. "It's a great thing."
Projected varsity roster: Jordan Ross, Julian Granger, Brodie Krawczyk, Noah Call, Keenan Taylor, Adam Frost, Gage McLaughlin, Keegan Coon, Tyler Burgess, Adam Osha, Stephen Brillon, Chris Mayer, Sam Wilkins, Colin Crowley, Calvin Hayford.
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