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Lake Shore works it way to Class A wrestling title repeat

KINGS OF CLASS A — The Lake Shore wrestling team celebrates repeating as Class A sectional champions on Saturday at Starpoint.
Perna earns MOW, Eckles, Catalano head of class; Hamburg’s Knoll, Frontier’s Russo, Eden’s Smythe win titles

When Lake Shore lost a dual meet for the first time in three seasons, to Pioneer earlier in the year, head coach Bill Sills made it clear to his wrestlers that they may work hard but so do many of the other team they compete against.

Sills said he did some reflecting himself and came back challenging his team to work that much harder the rest of the way and his Eagles have responded.

Lake Shore went unbeaten the remainder of the dual meet season, including a 40 – 33 win over Iroquois on Thursday, and then two days later on Feb. 8 at Starpoint, repeated as Section VI Class A champions, just getting by the Chiefs, with 11 points separating the two teams (233 – 222).

“I took some time to figure what we needed to do and tried to push the guys to another level,” said Sills, who saw this season being somewhat of a rebuilding year, after winning division titles the past two seasons.

Sills said lightheartedly his wrestlers probably hated him the week prior to the Class A meet, due to how hard he worked them, but by the time 13 of them qualified for this weekend’s Section VI Division I Championships on Friday, Feb. 14 at Niagara County Community College, they may have had a change of heart.

“We stuck to basic wrestling and we talked about what inspires them,” Sills said. “Half of the battle is going out there and wanting it. I worked them hard going into sectionals and mental toughness is what I was trying to get across. They were probably to the point where they wanted to quit, but when they got their hands raised, it makes it all worth it.”

Antonio Perna exemplified the mental toughness Sills discussed, as the junior didn’t give in to an opponent he had lost to twice this season and because of it, walked away selected as the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet. Perna earned a 2 – 1 win against top-seeded Pat Welling of Iroquois in the final at 126 pounds. Welling beat Perna in overtime at the ECIC Championships and again 3 – 0 on Thursday, but still the Lake Shore junior did not give in. Down 1 – 0, Perna executed a reversal in the final seconds of the third period to earn the win.

“He really wanted to wrestle him again,” Sills said. “We watched some film, and this time, Anthony didn’t allow any takedowns and stuck to basic wrestling. Anthony came a long way in one year. He’s more dedicated and always making weight now. If he doesn’t have a ride to practice, he rides his bike.”

Also winning titles were sophomore Freddy Eckles, who bumped up a weight to 132 and won 6 – 4 in the final, and senior Luke Catalano, who also overcame a recent loss to the same final’s opponent, to win a title at 285. Catalano had lost to West Seneca East’s Pat Faracca on Tuesday, but bounced back with a 3 – 1 win at the class tournament, producing some offense with a key takedown.

Second-place finishers included Dylan Murphy (160) and Briar Dils (195) and in third were seventh grader Dominik Thomas (99), along with David Kilian (106) and Michael Hontz (132). Lawrence Jenkins, who was expected to miss the remainder of the season, came back from a foot injury to take fourth at 145, along with teammate Shaerod Rodgers (220). Fifth-place finishers included eighth grader Marcus Muffoletto (113) and Brandon Joslyn (145) and Frank Gelster (160).

Also in Class A, Hamburg finished sixth in the field of 11 teams and had a class champion in Garrett Knoll at 220 pounds. Knoll, a runner-up at the ECIC Championships a few weeks ago, earned the title with a 5 – 1 win against Sweet Home’s Manny Espinosa.

In addition, Garrett’s younger brother, Dillon Knoll, finished second at 138 pounds, falling to defending sectional champion Danny Graham of West Seneca East, while Eric Sheffield advanced to another final, before succumbing to defending sectional champion in Iroquois’ Andrew Paulson. Sheffield was also a finalist at ECICs.

Frontier, which recorded the program’s most dual victories during the regular season, will send seven competitors to sectionals, highlighted by Rocco Russo, who goes for his fourth title and trip to states. Frontier finished seventh of 11 teams, passing Jamestown, which defeated the Falcons during the regular season. Host Lockport won the tournament with 239 points, pulling past favored Clarence (224.5).

Russo coasted by Lockport’s Vince Eberhardt by 16 – 0 technical fall in the final of the 138-pound weight class to continue a dominant season which also saw him become the program’s all-time win leader with more than 200. Adam Gibson fell in the 285-pound final to take second and Joe Aronica (138) and Aaron Valachos (145) both finished fourth. Four Falcons won the fifth/sixth place match to advance. They included Kyle Genovese (120), Jesse Harrison (126) and Seth Jones (152).

In Class C, Eden got two wrestlers to the finals, with Alex Smythe repeating as sectional champion, as the senior earned a first round pin at 160. Peter Schmitz fell in the final, to take second 20 – 11, at 145 pounds. Smythe, who also became his program’s all-time wins leader this season, with more than 200, is in search of a second sectional title and third trip to states.

Also among the five Eden wrestlers to advance to sectionals were Jacob Page, who took third at 106, and Sawyer Overhoff (120) and Jonah Baldwin (152), who each finished fourth. The Raiders, who hosted the tournament, took sixth out of 12 teams. Qualifiers will wrestle in the Division II Championships on Saturday, Feb. 15 at NCCC.

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