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Cheektowaga places three at ECICs, ‘Nardo’ repeats as champ

Cheektowaga’s ECIC place-finishers, from left, are: Matt Bartnik, Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer and John Loncher.
Another milestone was set by Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer last weekend as he led a trio of Warriors that placed at the ECIC Championships at Lake Shore.

Coach Matt Haberl saw all three of his seniors — Rodriguez-Spencer, Matt Bartnik and John Loncher — place lat the tournament on Jan. 17-18, including two who wrestled for a championship.

Rodriguez-Spencer, a co-captain, became the first Warrior in school history to capture his fourth ECIC title. He pinned Iroquois Matt Kloc in about a minute-and-a-half in the 145-pound championship bout. He won his first ECIC championship as an eighth grader, then repeated as a sophomore and junior, but missed his freshman year of wrestling.

“Going into it this year, I wanted to be totally dominant. My whole mindset was to just dominate, dominate, dominate. And that’s what I did,” said the defending state champion, who also was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament in his three previous trips.
Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer puts the finishing touches on a pin of Iroquois’ Matt Kloc to win the ECIC 145-pound division. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes

Bartnik, a fellow captain, finished in second after placing fourth last year. He came in seeded No. 6 among the 182-pounders and defeated the No. 3 and 2 seeds before falling to the top seed, Starpoint’s Matt Willms.

“I wasn’t so much nervous as I was excited knowing I was going to the finals,” said Bartnik, who got redemption by defeating an opponent in the semifinals that pinned him earlier this season.

“This is my senior year. I came up short and I was disappointed, but for me it was a good experience getting there and losing. I feel like I should’ve won, but getting there makes me even hungrier for class, sectionals and states.”

Haberl added about the championship match, in which Bartnick nearly pulled off a late-match pin: “It could’ve went either way. It took him four minutes to finally know what was going on and he was already down by eight or nine. Depending on who could’ve been officiating it could’ve been a pin. I’m not blaming the referee, it was just that close.”

Loncher, Cheektowaga’s 285-pounder, scored a sixth-place finish after losing the fifth-place bout in quadruple overtime. Seeded eighth coming into the tournament, he was satisfied with how he finished.

“I look at [the seedings] as another name. There’s another guy in front of me and I’m going to try to beat that guy,” Loncher said. “I was definitely keeping an eye out for people. I’m not scared of anybody but I know what they’re doing. I tried using my knowledge against them and it worked out pretty well.”

Placing 15th overall as a team, Haberl thought wrestlers like Erik Bartnik and Isaiah Johnson could also place at ECICs, as well. However, Johnson didn’t make weight on the second day and Bartnik went 1-2, falling victim to a last-second take down in his final match.

“Everybody else is just getting some mat time. That’s what you need in this sport,” said Haberl. “We’re hoping that as much mat time as they get between now and next year, it’ll turn those losing records into winning records.”

The Warriors hosted their final dual meet of the season on Jan. 22 against Lake Shore, and are now preparing for the class tournament, where a top-four finish gets a wrestler into the sectional tournament.

Haberl remains very optimistic about his wrestlers’ chances.

“We’ve got some good kids out there. I’m hoping to get at least five to sectionals. That’s a good number for us,” noted Haberl. “I think we can get two or three guys placing and out of that, two champs. If we can do that with the kind of year we’ve had, with 11 left out of almost 30 kids it’s not too bad.”

Although none of Shawn Dotzler’s Maryvale wrestlers placed, Ean Slisz had the best outing with a 3-2 record.

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