MIDDLEBURY — Wrestlers from local schools won five weight classes at Middlebury Union High School’s 38th Annual Hubie Wagner Invitational, while the 18 teams’ coaches voted Vergennes sophomore Cara Strona the tournament’s outstanding wrestler, and Otter Valley junior George Mitchell won a title and his 100th match.
In claiming the 96-pound title, Strona became only the second female wrestler to win a weight class at the MUHS tournament, joining Courtney Martell, the older sister of Strona’s senior teammate, Kori Martell.
Strona went 4-0, winning her first match and her semifinal and final bouts with powerful first-period pins. But her most dramatic victory was 16-15 over Mount Anthony’s Kyle Fletcher. Strona struggles at times with a breathing problem and had to tough out a bout that had to be stopped twice briefly to let her recover. When it was over her teammates all jumped to their feet, cheering.
EAGLE MATT SWEENEY twists up Mill River’s Dan Cory during the Hubie Wagner Invitational hosted by Middlebury on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Also winning a weight class for VUHS was junior Ricky Karzmarczyk, who racked up five pins and a 6-0 record at 125 pounds. In all, the Commodores had four finalists, with junior Aaron Desabrais second at 215 and junior Morgan Stinchfield second at 152, as VUHS finished third for the best placing among local and Vermont teams.
The team from Granville, N.Y., was first with 193 points, followed by Cohoes, N.Y., at 179.5 and VUHS at 173.5; Cambridge, N.Y., at 151 was fourth, MUHS took fifth with 139.5, and Otter Valley was sixth with 139. Mount Abraham’s small and inexperienced team scored 18 points.
The Tigers saw two wrestlers reach the podium with dominant performances. Senior Kaden Odell won at 145 pounds with a 6-0 record that included five pins and a win by a major decision, and junior Bryan Ashley-Selleck made hay at 152 pounds with five first-period pins — including a 22-second takedown in his semifinal match — and a solid 8-0 victory over Stinchfield in the final.
“Bryan’s performance did receive some consideration for outstanding wrestler,” said MUHS coach Jon Ashley.
Otter Valley was led by Mitchell, a state champ at 125 a year ago. He won at 130 pounds to remain undefeated this season. He earned his 100th win on a Wednesday morning pin, putting him on track to challenge former teammate Jesse Bilodeau for the school’s career record.
Mitchell reached the final with three pins, a technical fall and a major decision, but faced a tough challenge in the championship match against Paul Billings of Cohoes, a N.Y. Sectional finalist. In what Ashley called the most exciting match of the tournament, Mitchell prevailed in four overtimes, 10-9.
OV had one other finalist, junior Seth Harrington, who compiled a 5-1 record and racked up four pins at 112.
Mount Abe’s best performance came from junior heavyweight Andrew Spooner, who took fourth. Freshman Matthew Sweeney also fared well, compiling a 3-2 record with three pins at 125 pounds and just missing the podium.
Each of the local coaches found something to like in the tournament.
Ashley noted that MUHS senior Jarrod Ashley took third in the competitive 130-pound weight class, while Kody Murray and Hans Mueller also wrestled well and just missed placing. Meanwhile, he noted Ashley-Selleck and Odell continued their strong efforts this winter.
“Bryan and Kaden put in pretty dominant performances,” Ashley said.
Mount Abe’s Kevin Micklas said his young athletes benefited from the tournament’s round-robin format, which ensures that all wrestlers see plenty of mat time. He sees his individual wrestlers making progress.
“We’re a young team,” Micklas said. “We’re coming along.”
OV coach Bob Bathalon said he also sees improvement, although he would like to see his team’s less-experienced wrestlers take more of a cue from the Otter veterans about how to approach their matches with attitude.
“My younger guys are stepping up ... We’ve just got to keep them coming,” he said. “We’ve just got to get them to where the other guys are, and we’ll be fine.”
Bathalon believes the possibility is there for the younger wrestlers to tap some of their potential in time for the state tournament.
“February 26 and 27,” he said. “That’s what I tell my boys we look for. We’ve just got to keep wrestling.”
VUHS coach Nate Kittredge is fielding a smaller team than in the past two years, but VUHS has been highly competitive because several wrestlers have not only been successful, but wrestling aggressively, winning big and scoring extra points.
“We’re definitely a big-point team. We get those pins when we need it. We get those major decisions, the tech falls. We get those big points. That’s what keeps us in a lot of the tournaments,” he said.
In all, Kittredge said the Commodores have made the winter fun for him.
“I’m very proud of how the kids have been wrestling,” he said. “They fight hard. I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Other local wrestlers earning spots on the podium were OV’s Joey McCoy, who took third at 103, and Commodore Simon Flynn, who placed third at 140 with a 6-1 record and five pins.
Local wrestlers winning at least one match at the two-day tournament were:
• Derek St. George, MUHS, 2-3 at 112.
• Ben Cook, OV, 2-3 at 119.
• Matt Karzmarczyk, VUHS, 1-2 at 130.
• Kenny Micklas, Mt. Abe, 1-2 at 130.
• J.J. Ciaramitaro, MUHS, 1-2 at 140.
• Alex Alger, OV, 3-1 at 140 with three pins.
• Kori Martell, VUHS, 2-2 at 140.
• James Greeno, OV, 1-3 at 152.
• Luke Nadeau, MUHS, 1-4 at 160.
• Eddie Mulis, VUHS, 1-4 at 160.
• Tommy Charnley, Mt. Abe, 1-3 at 189.
• Alex Smith, OV, 3-2 with three pins at 189.
• Clayton Childers, VUHS, 2-2 at 189.
• Evan Bathalon, OV, 1-2 at 215.
• Shaun Mills, OV, 3-2 at 285.