MIDDLEBURY — Three local wrestlers — senior Jake Trautwein and junior Chris Gobbi from Middlebury and senior Kaegan Pearsall of Vergennes — won their weight classes at the 2013 Hubie Wagner Invitational, hosted by Middlebury Union High School on Friday and Saturday.
The wins by the two Tigers, Trautwein at 182 pounds and Gobbi at 220, plus sophomore Nate Gebo’s second-place effort at 106, helped MUHS to fifth place among the 17 teams.
Pearsall’s victory, plus second-place finishes by sophomore Ethan Reardon at 113 and freshman Trevon Smith at 126, helped VUHS to seventh.
OV, paced by freshman Neiko Desabrais’ second-place effort at 120, finished in 11th, and Mount Abe was 13th. Eagle junior Josh Roy and sophomore Josh Johnson each went 3-2 and scored 11 points in the tournament’s round-robin phase.
The combined Bellows Falls-Hartford team edged Shaker, N.Y., for the team title, 251.5-242, with Champlain Valley (208) in third.
They were followed by Cohoes, N.Y. (174); MUHS (151.5); Granville, N.Y. (147); VUHS (142.5); Rutland (90); Cambridge, N.Y. (59); Fair Haven (57); OV (57.5); St. Albans (41); Mt. Abe (38); Milton (31); Burr & Burton (30); Harwood (20); and Springfield (2).
Also reaching the podium for the local teams were:
• Freshman Kyle Kingsley, VUHS, third at 99.
• Freshman Tyson Cram, OV, fourth at 126.
• Sophomore James Whitley, MUHS, fourth at 132.
• Freshman Brandon Cousino, VUHS, third at 152.
• Sophomore Ryan Paquin, VUHS, fourth at 182.
None of the finals on Saturday produced too much drama: The only real question was whether Trautwein and Gobbi could keep their pin streaks alive, and they did.
Trautwein had won his first five matches by pin, all in 1:27 or less. BF/Hartford’s Kyle Record wrestled cautiously and extended the match until the second period. But Trautwein started that period on top, before long had Record in trouble, and pinned him at 0:52. Trautwein won his second straight tournament, ran his season mark to 10-0, and earned his 71st career victory.
Gobbi entered the final with two first-period and one second-period pins. BF/Hartford’s Jake Lober battled Gobbi, who despite a balky shoulder is healthier this season and is reaching his potential, until the third period. But Gobbi built a 9-2 lead before pinning Lober with 1:14 to go. Gobbi improved to 9-0 this season and 19-6 for his career, and like Trautwein picked up his second straight tournament win.
Pearsall did not rack up as many pins, in part because he found some opponents unwilling to engage him. But he picked up two pins and a 17-3 decision heading into the semis, where he finally caught up to Granville’s Benjamin Fox often enough to prevail, 6-0. Pearsall then gradually wore down Shaker’s Andrew Peterson for a 7-2 decision in the final to claim his third career Hubie Wagner championship.
The other four local finalists — Gebo, Reardon, Smith and Desabrais — were underclassmen who faced older, more experienced wrestlers.
Gebo racked up two pins and a technical fall before losing to Shaker’s Matt Spadoni, 11-2, in the final. Spadoni scored a takedown and two more points for turning Gebo’s shoulder to the mat in the first period, and then rode Gebo for the entire scoreless second period before pulling away in the third. Gebo has 29 career wins early in his sophomore season.
In his final at 113, Reardon ran into one of the top veteran wrestlers in Vermont, BF/Hartford’s Austin Viens. Viens entered the final with four straight pins in 42 seconds or less, including one over Reardon. Reardon, No. 2 in his round robin group, won a tense 13-11 decision over Shaker’s Chris Pavelec in the semifinal to earn another shot at Viens. Reardon fought off two near falls in the first period, but Viens finally pinned him at 0:46 of the second.
In the 120 championship match, OV freshman Desabrais faced Sam Hill of Cohoes, who was coming off four straight first-period pins. Desabrais, who scored three pins and a technical fall coming into the final, gave Hill a battle and took a 3-2 lead in the second period on a two-point reversal. But in the third, Hill reversed Desabrais, picked up points for a near fall, and then ended the match at 0:36.
Commodore freshman Smith probably had the hardest final of any of the local youngsters: At 126, his opponent, New York sectional champ Blake Retell of Shaker, was later voted the tournament’s outstanding wrestler, and he made Smith his sixth-straight first-period pin. Still, Smith pinned four opponents on the way to the final, twice surprising them in the middle of apparently even matches.
Each of the local coaches found positives on Saturday. Beyond his three finalists, the Tigers’ Ethan Raymond was pleased that each of his wrestlers won at least once and with the way they approached their matches.
“Some of our kids wrestled some real tough kids right off the bat, but they went right after them,” Raymond said. “They all wrestled tough and looked to push the action.”
Overall, he believes his mostly young team is coming on fast and is ahead of its pace of a year ago, when MUHS finished sixth in the state. Raymond thinks the Tigers should continue to gain on other teams.
“I think we’re learning at a much quicker rate, and I’m hoping we can carry that on through the season,” Raymond said. “Some of these other teams have older kids. They’re much closer to their plateau. I think we’re going to keep climbing.”
VUHS coach Nate Kittredge and OV’s Steve Mitchell both said they appreciated that their youthful teams gained valuable experience due to the tournament’s round robin format.
“I like the pooling style they’re doing here,” Kittredge said. “Even my newer kids are going to get four to seven matches anyways, where normally you suffer two losses and you’re out.”
Kittredge said he is sensing a growing camaraderie among his wrestlers that he believes will help push all of them to improve.
“I’ve got probably the best group of kids I’ve had in a few years,” Kittredge said. “These guys are all starting to come into their spot. And I really see it not only in how we train, because the training level is really good with these guys … but everybody’s stepping up with a good attitude.”
Because of those attributes, he wants the Commodores to aim high even with just nine wrestlers filling seven weight classes.
“Top five in the state. I want these kids to do it, and I think they can,” Kittredge said. “I’ve got a lot of hard workers with good attitudes.”
Mitchell’s OV team has just three upperclassmen among 13 wrestlers. Mitchell said many are coming off fine middle school careers, but are realizing how great the leap is to the varsity level. Facing and holding their own against tough competition at the Wagner tournament is valuable, he said.
“Where we’re gaining ground is we’re knocking down the walls of fear,” Mitchell said. “The fear factor is huge on a young team. As soon as we can get those walls knocked down, which we are, I think by the end of season …we’re going to be wrestling the way we’d like to see it, with spirit and attitude.”
He cited the strong efforts of his two freshmen, Desabrais and Cram, as providing examples for the rest of the Otters. Cram, in particular, Mitchell noted, had to go up against Retell.
“If Tyson gets through that match, he’s going to know he can wrestle with anyone in the state,” Mitchell said. “If they see that, his teammates will follow his lead … It takes nothing less than hard work, and I think we’ve got a group of kids who are ready for that challenge.”
Mount Abe coach Pete Lossman noted that Roy and Johnson had winning records, and that Roy was only one small mistake away from the podium.
“For the young kids we got … I think we did all right,” Lossman said. “But there’s definitely room for some improvement.”
He also liked the Eagles’ approach to the tough competition.
“Most of them came off the mat with a pretty good attitude, and that’s important,” Lossman said. “We’ll keep working and see what happens.”
The wrestlers’ places and records by weight class were:
• 99: 3. Kingsley, VUHS, 0-2.
• 106: 2. Gebo, MUHS, 3-1.
• 113: 2. Reardon, VUHS, 3-2; Eric Manning, OV, 1-4.
• 120: 2. Desabrais, OV, 4-1.
• 126: 2. Smith, VUHS, 5-2; 4. Cram, OV, 4-3; Roy, Mt. Abe, 3-2.
• 132: 4. Whitley, MUHS, 3-3; Joe Palmer, OV, 1-4.
• 138: Jeb Hodsden, VUHS, 2-3; Alex Sheldrick, MUHS, 1-3.
• 145: Wyott Warner, MUHS, 2-3; Evan Perry, OV, 0-5.
• 152: 3. Cousino, VUHS, 5-2; Dylan Little, Mt. Abe, 3-3.
• 160: 1. Pearsall, VUHS, 6-0; Johnson, Mt. Abe, 3-2; Cortland Fischer, MUHS, 2-2; Jared Felkl, OV, 1-3; Kyle Dow, VUHS, 1-3.
• 170: Nick Beauchamp, MUHS, 2-2; Sean Martin, OV, 0-4.
• 182: 1. Trautwein, MUHS, 6-0; 4. Paquin, VUHS, 4-3.
• 195: Shane Bowen, Mt. Abe, 1-3.
• 220: 1. Gobbi, MUHS, 4-0; Nathan Doty, OV, 0-3.
• 285: Benn Lussier, MUHS, 2-3.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.