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High School Wrestling: Host Eden takes second in Class C; Lake Shore wins “A” title

After winning a second straight ECIC II division title, Lake Shore won its first Class A title since the 1996-97 season as 14 out of 15 wrestlers competing made it to the State Qualifier coming up this weekend.

An exhausted Tom Page had enough energy left at the end of a long Saturday (Feb. 2) of helping run the Class C Championships at Eden to proudly go through his 11 place-finishers from the Section VI competition.

The top four finishers from each of the five classes will advance to next week’s State Qualifier on Sunday (Feb. 10) at UB’s Alumni Arena. It was a tiring day as Eden played host to the tournament for the first time but one worth every moment not only because of how well second-place Eden performed but also how successful the competition seemed to go. The Raiders finished behind only Fredonia.

“We had a strong showing and we couldn’t get enough compliments from coaches, officials and spectators about how nice the venue is and how organized the event is,” Page said afterward. “The parents and volunteers stepped up. There is no way we would have done this without them.”

Among his five wrestlers who will move on to next week, junior Alex Smythe led that contingent, taking first at 152 pounds as he seemingly gets only stronger and more well-rounded as the season progresses. The four-time sectional place finisher also took the ECIC title a few weeks back.

“He’s like a locomotive stuck on go,” Page noted. “He’s a very powerful individual who’s only gotten more lean and mean.”

Also competing in weight class finals but falling short were senior Ryan Vondell at 170 and eighth grader Sawyer Overhoff at 99. Finishing fourth to continue their seasons were seniors Brady Bermingham at 132 and Jared Nowak at 160.

In addition, Jonah Baldwin (145), Jacob Page (99) and Cole Simmons (113) placed fifth, and Jessie Vondell (126), Mitch Lang (120) and Peter Schmits (138) took sixth.

Eden also finished the regular season repeating as ECIC Division III champions, despite having to replace a number of quality wrestlers, including the coach’s oldest son, Tom Page, who’s now wrestling Division I at American University.

PIctured above top, Eden junior Alex Smythe stood tallest in winning the 152-pound weight class at the Class C Championships inside his home gym, while directly above, Sawyer Overhoff (front) finished second at 99 pounds. (Photos by Michael J. Petro)

Lake Shore took the next step for its burgeoning program. After repeating as ECIC Division II champions in consecutive seasons, the Eagles won a Section VI Class A title for the first time since the 1996-97 season. They finished third at this event last year.

The Eagles outdid Iroquois for the second time in less than a week, scoring 214.5 to the Chiefs’ 203. Just three days earlier, Lake Shore survived a 34-33 regular season finale with Iroquois, which pitted two undefeated teams in the division competing for a regular season title.

“It was a good week,” Lake Shore head coach Bill Sills said. “It was exciting. The guys worked hard and knew what they had to do and did it. Top to bottom, these kids have been solid.

Lake Shore was led by weight class champions Luke Catalano, a junior captain who won by pin at 285, and Freddy Eckles, a freshman who came back from losing Wednesday to the same opponent from Iroquois to win a major decision against him at 120. Eckles wrestled a tremendous tournament, according to his head coach, and people took notice, as the youngster was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the competition.

The Eagles also qualified 14 out of 15 wrestlers to the State Qualifier on Sunday (Feb. 10) at UB’s Alumni Arena.

Also among them were eighth grader Lawrence Jenkins, who knocked off the top seed in the semifinal and finished second at 113, and Dylon Murphy and Briar Dils, who both finished third. In addition for Lake Shore, David Kilian, Michael Hontz, Oshae Rodgers, Matt Gruka and Hunter Whitney all took fourth, while Antonio Perna, Brandon Joslyn, Frank Gelster and Anthony Zolnowski each placed fifth.

In beating Iroquois for the league championship, down 33-31, Rodgers gave Lake Shore the decisive points with a 10-3 decision at 160. Murphy contributed at 152 with an important major decision earning the team four points, while at 113, Jenkins stepped up to earn a key decision over a senior with 25 wins. Whitney and Dils both earned pins for the Eagles, while Zolnowski and Catalano each took wins by forfeit.

Sill said it was vital to get off to a quick start with the match beginning with the heavyweight classes, which is the strength of the Eagles. Still, he said the match was ultimately won with some of the performances between 99 and 145, including his wrestlers staving off being pinned at 126 and 132.

Even after losing 10 wrestlers from last year’s starting lineup and returning only five regulars, the Eagles finished a second straight unbeaten division season with an 8-0 mark in league and were 27-3 overall. Ranked third in WNY, they did a remarkable job remaining at the top after taking several seasons of building to get there.

“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think this would happen, but we win one big match and then another, and you start seeing how tough these guys are,” Sills noted.

Also in Class A, Hamburg had two wrestlers compete for weight class titles as both Jacob Smeader (106) and Brendan Knoll (195) finished in second. Hamburg finished fourth as a team. Elsewhere locally, Frontier junior Rocco Russo not surprisingly took the 126-pound weight class in Class AA, keeping an undefeated season against Western New York competition in tact.

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