Wilkins leads six champions as Mount Anthony wins 32nd straight title
BENNINGTON — With the team race the tightest it had been in at least a decade, the Mount Anthony wrestling team needed someone to stay calm when the pressure was at its highest.
That person came in the form of Sam Wilkins, who was the first of six Mount Anthony champions on the night and who became the 10th person to win four Vermont state titles.
His win at 195 pounds propelled the Patriots to its 32nd state championship in a row, finishing up with 278 team points to Essex's 254.
"Winning those clutch matches is why you train all that time," said Mount Anthony coach Brian Coon. "They put themselves in that situation with the work they put in during the offseason."
It was the closest margin of victory since the 2008-09 season, when MAU topped Spaulding by 13 points.
Wilkins was the third finals bout of the night with the random weights and the first two — 145 pounds and 132 pounds — ended up with Mount Anthony wrestlers Aaron Johnson and Kyle Hurley in nail-biting defeats to Essex's Luke Williams and Fair Haven's Sam Worthing, respectively.
Wilkins came in with a calm approach and pinned Essex's Kam Cyr in the second period and became the 10th four-time state champion.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," said Wilkins on Saturday night of his fourth championship. "It's really awesome, I'm so thankful for everyone who has helped me through everything, they've been pushing me since I was five years old for this moment."
"A lot of people in that situation, knowing we needed the momentum to change there, it wasn't a better person to have out there than Sam," Brian Coon said. "The pressure was on and when push came to shove, we knew he could get bonus points (for the pin)."
Mount Anthony and Essex battled back-and-forth for the top spot and heading into the finals, the Patriots led by eight points. Having eight finalists to Essex's seven, it would be a matter of who could come up when the lights were brightest and MAU did, winning six individual crowns to the Hornets' three.
"We've been training hard all year," said senior Keegan Coon, who won his third championship. "We were right where we wanted to be. Our best guys were in the finals and we were ready and prepared to go."
Along with Wilkins, other Mount Anthony champions included Coon at 138 pounds, Hayden Gaudette at 285, Landon Davis at 120, Adam Frost at 160 and Stephen Brillon at 152 pounds.
"I don't think a lot before my matches," Wilkins said. "It's worked for me so I don't freak out in the big moments, I can stay calm and I trust my training. That's why we do this every day."
The next two finals matches, at 285 and 152, both went into the Mount Anthony column.
At heavyweight, Gaudette got a pair of takedowns in the third period against Spaulding's Coltan Perkins to win 5-2 for his second straight state crown.
"It's harder to wrestle someone you've wrestled [before] because they get used to your style," Gaudette said. "But being at home, I had the advantage and overcame it."
The next champion for the Patriots was a first-time winner in Stephen Brillon. Facing Fair Haven's Dylan Lee, the match was tied 1-1 halfway through the third period after Lee escaped from the bottom position. About 20 seconds later, Brillon snagged a lead with a takedown and then put Lee on his back for the pin at 5:44.
"Stephen got better as the tournament went on," Brian Coon said. "Dylan is a high-level wrestler, so I knew Stephen would have to wrestle well. He stayed the course, wrestled his match and found a way to win the match."
At 182 pounds, Essex's James Danis pinned in the first period to become the second Hornet state champion, but in the next match at 138, it was back to Mount Anthony and Keegan Coon, who won his third state championship in a row and was honored before the finals as one of three wrestlers to reach 200 wins for his career.
Coon pinned Spaulding's Ryan Glassford in 3:23 for win No. 202 so far.
"It's awesome, the best feeling in the world," Keegan Coon said. "It's so much better winning the team title, that's more than the individual win. I wanted the team to win, we went out there and made it happen."
"With the score as tight as it was, it's nice to have guys like Keegan and Sam in your back pocket," Brian Coon said. "I told the guys it's going to come down to who is better, and I have confidence in my guys. They've done it over and over again and when we needed them, they came through."
Mount Anthony's Davis became the next state champion, winning his second title in as many years. The sophomore led 2-0 after two periods over Spaulding's Nick Pierce and turned the Tide wrestler on his back for a three-point near fall in the third to earn a 7-3 decision. The two wrestled last year in the 106-pound final with Davis winning by fall.
"Landon could have panicked early but he didn't and he dominated the rest of the match," Brian Coon said.
Essex's Seth Carney grabbed a bit of momentum with his championship at 170, but two bouts later, Adam Frost became Mount Anthony sixth and final individual champion.
Frost, who is now 48-4 this season, became a first-time Vermont champion, taking a 6-2 lead in the final against Essex's Gill Stawinski and held on for a 9-6 win.
"I would have told him the team score was over," said Brian Coon about the match. "Even if it wasn't, it would take the pressure off a bit, just go out and wrestle. He wrestled a great tactical match. Gill took away the legs, but Adam changed it up and found a way to win."
Hurley and Johnson were both runner-up for the Patriots at 132 and 145, respectively. Hurley lost a heartbreaking 10-9 decision to Worthing on a locked-hands call in the ultimate tie-breaker, while Johnson gave up a takedown with eight seconds left in a 5-4 decision.
Jordan Ross (106), Devon Hurley (113), Sebastian Peltier (170) and Logan Sprague finished fourth, while Kaleb Carpenter won his final match for fifth place at 220. Sam Blackman finished sixth at 126.
The rest of the top 10 were Spaulding in third with 201 points (two champions), followed by St. Johnsbury (152.5 and one champion — another four-time winner in Hunter Verge), Vergennes in fifth with 116 points, CVU sixth with 107 points (one champion), Colchester in seventh with 100, Mount Abe eighth, Otter Valley ninth and Fair Haven (with one champion) in 10th.
Verge became the 11th person when the Clarion-bound senior topped Vergennes' Aidan Gebo 9-0 at 126 pounds.
"It's definitely exciting, it's great to do it when you have so much support from people," said Verge, who said he had family from Texas and Pennsylvania in attendance on Saturday night.
Spaulding had a pair of champions at the lower weights. Caleb Huntington pulled out a victory at 106 pounds over Essex's Elliot Powell. Powell led 4-2 and looked to survive, but Huntington secured a takedown at the final buzzer to send the match to overtime. In the sudden victory session, Huntington scored a takedown about 20 seconds in for the 6-4 win.
At 113 pounds, Carter Dickenson took an early lead over Colchester's Noah Quigley and never looked back, pinning the Laker in 2:43 to win the crown.
In the final match of the night, CVU's Nick Murphy took the lead over Essex's Bubba Richardson with a takedown in the second period at 220 pounds and went on to the 5-2 victory.
Notes: Eight Mount Anthony wrestlers will head to the New England tournament, which starts on Saturday at Methuen High School.... The tournament and championship was dedicated to former MAU wrestler Ethan Andrews, who is in a fight with ALS disease. ... A fundraiser for Andrews raised more than $3,000.
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