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High School Wrestling: Eden coming into its own with a Will. North Tourney title

The Eden wrestling team is pictured after winning the team trophy at Williamsville North Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Smythe earns MOW; Lake Shore second

Eden head coach Tom Page believes it wouldn’t be fair to judge his team by the way it opened the season at the Southtowns Duals earlier last month.

Although the Raiders finished a respectable 4-4 at that tournament inside St. Francis, the team’s head coach was missing two top wrestlers and saw the competition as more of an opportunity for a younger group to start gelling. He still envisioned big things ahead.

The more his team wrestles, the more Page is looking to be right on the mark.

After a season-lifting second-place finish among a competitive field at the Dunkirk Duals over the holiday break, Eden has been rolling. In only the second weekend of January, the Raiders scored a title at the Williamsville North Tournament on Jan. 12.

“We really rose to the occasion and these kids are buying into the system,” said Page, whose team was also 6-0 in ECIC III going into Wednesday’s (Jan. 16) meet with Tonawanda. “They’ve really been building off each other’s success. It started at the Dunkirk Duals, where we beat three ranked Western New York teams and one from Rochester. As far as a dual meet team, we’re tough.”

So tough that it scratched out nine place finishes and 162. 5 points, good enough to top large school power Lake Shore, which finished in second place (151.5). Lake Shore had beaten Eden during the Southtowns Duals earlier this season.

Among the Raiders’ three champions was junior powerhouse Alex Smythe, who earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors after winning the 152-pound weight class.

“I know a few coaches who were there hadn’t seen Alex,” Page said. “The buzz in the room was that he’s so explosive. He had a very tough match in the finals and he won pretty easily (10-3).”

“Also winning their weights were fellow seniors Brady Bermingham at 132 and Ryan Vondell, who’s moved down to 170 with great success. The two, along with Smythe and Jared Nowak, who took third at 160, are serving as captains this season.

Finishing in second were Peter Schmitds at 138, who’s also stepped up since moving down a weight class, and Jesse Vondell at 126. Sawyer Overhoff earned third place at 99 pounds, while Nowak was just a point away from winning his semifinal before settling for third. In fourth were Cole Overhoff at 132 and Jonah Baldwin (145).

This is the most coach-able team I’ve had so far at Eden,” said the fifth-year coach, whose squad is now ranked fifth among Western New York small schools and second in Class C. “It’s a two-way street as far as the kids respecting the coaching staff and us respecting them. We’re developing all together and they seem to be peaking at the right time.”

It couldn’t be better timing with the ECIC Championships for all 27 participating schools slated for Friday and Saturday Jan. 18-19 at Clarence High School and then the team’s division finale on Senior and Alumni Night against Alden on Friday, Jan. 25.

If both teams capture their meets in between, Eden and Alden will each come into the competition unbeaten and the division title will be on the line. That night, alumni wrestlers are asked to come to the school and register between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. in order to be recognized before the dual meet starting 6 p.m.

The season only gets more exciting from there as Eden prepares to host the Class C Championships on Saturday, Feb. 2. Qualifying wrestlers advance the next weekend to the State Qualifier, which is back to being at one site this season as the University at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena will play host.

Also at the Wiliiamsville North Tournament, Lake Shore winners included David Killian at 99 pounds and Luke Catalano at 285. Eagles taking second were Freddy Eckles at 120, Matt Gruka at 170 and Briar Dils (220). Like Eden, Lake Shore remains unbeaten in division matches as it attempts to repeat as ECIC II champions.

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