MIDDLEBURY — Three local wrestlers won their weight classes last week at Middlebury Union High School’s 40th annual Hubie Wagner Invitational Wrestling Tournament, a two-day event that concluded on Dec. 29.
Vergennes Union High School senior wrestler Geoffrey Grant not only won for the second straight year, but also after Grant prevailed at 170 pounds with a 7-0 record that included six pins and a 15-3 decision, the coaches of the 16 competing teams chose him as the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
VUHS senior Cara Strona, the 2010 winner of the outstanding wrestler honor failed to earn it again, but when she won the 99-pound title with a tough, 6-5 decision over Champlain Valley’s Liam Bowley it put her in rarefied company. Already only the second female wrestler to win a Wagner Invitational title and the only one to win more than one, both at 96 pounds, last week’s victory was her third straight at the tournament. In all, she went 5-0 with three pins.
The third local winner was MUHS junior Gabe Laberge at 195 with a 6-0 mark. Laberge did not place at the Wagner tournament a year ago, but is coming on strong this fall: He also won the tough Granville, N.Y., tournament on Dec. 17.
Mount Abraham didn’t have any winners, but first-year coach Pete Lossman saw his 195-pounder, Tommy Charnley, continue his promising season by taking third, and many of his younger wrestlers posted important varsity wins.
Lossman has been encouraged by the Eagles’ attitude and work ethic, which has translated into more competitive results this winter.
“I was very happy with the way our wrestlers performed. They all went out and gave it all they had. A little more work on conditioning and I think we will win a couple of those close matches,” Lossman said. “I am very optimistic that as individuals they will continue to improve as the year unfolds. They all seem to have the desire to win this year.”
VUHS coach Nate Kittredge noted that his athletes have won outstanding wrestler honors for four straight years at the grueling Wagner tournament, which features a round-robin format that means competitors wrestle more matches than in most single- or double-elimination events. Before Grant this year and Strona in 2010, Ricky Karzmarczyk and Bobby Worley won the award in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
Kittredge (whose team will host the Tigers at 11 a.m. on Jan. 14) pointed to Grant’s dominance — the 2010 champ at 160 pounds recorded one pin in six seconds, pinned his foe in the final, and now stands just four wins short of 100 for his career — and to Strona’s perseverance. She was not 100 percent.
“Cara had a hurt knee, which was evident both days, but she stepped up,” Kittredge said.
The Tiger program also earned an honor along the way during the tournament: MUHS assistant coach John Whitney Jr. was recognized by the National Wrestling Coaches Association as the 2010-2011 Vermont State Assistant Coach of the Year.
On the mat, Laberge was one of several Tigers in the upper weights who fared well. As well as Laberge at 195, senior Tyler Dunton took third at 285, and three Tigers earned fourth-place finishes: junior Tyler LaPlant at 220, sophomore Jakob Trautwein at 182, and sophomore Joe Palmer at 113.
“We did have some strong performances,” said MUHS coach Jon Ashley.
Ashley particularly noted Dunton as well as Laberge. Dunton weighed in at 220 and battled competitively in the heavier weight class.
“Tyler wrestled well strategically and wore some very tough opponents down throughout the matches,” he said.
The greater depth helped the Tigers to the best team finish among the local squads, sixth with 123 points, second to St. Johnsbury’s 172.5 among Vermont teams.
Franklin, Mass. (238.5); Granville, N.Y. (201); and Shaker, N.Y. (180.5) ran 1-2-3. VUHS (96) was 11th, and Mount Abe (75) took 13th.
The other Tiger wrestlers who competed were:
• Miranda Warner at 106. Warner won once and lost another tough match in overtime in going 1-5.
• Derek St. George at 120. St. George lost his first match, and then had to withdraw with an injury.
• Jimmy Wells at 126. Wells compiled a 2-3 mark.
• Skyler Shute at 170. Shute won by pin, and lost three matches by decision, two to returning Vermont State place-winners and one to a Franklin wrestler.
• Asa Vessa at 170. Vessa compiled a 1-4 record.
• Luke Nadeau at 182. Nadeau went 2-2.
• Benn Lussier at 285. Lussier went 0-6.
The other Eagles who competed were:
• Logan Swinton at 99. Swinton went 1-3, including his first varsity win.
• Josh Roy at 106. Roy compiled a 2-3 mark.
• Mariah Clark at 132. Clark posted a 2-3 record.
• T.J. George at 145. George went 3-2 with three pins to improve to 7-5 this winter.
• Mike Wetzel at 152. Wetzel was 3-2 and improved to 7-4 this season.
• Floyd Porter at 160. Porter went 2-4 with his first varsity wins of the winter.
• Chris Gobbi at 182. Gobbi was injured in his first match and had to withdraw.
• Ian Bachand at 285. Bachand posted a 1-4 record.
Also competing for the Commodores were:
• Luke Stinchfield at 106. Stinchfield went 3-3.
• Anthony Smith at 120. Smith went 0-4, but Kittredge said all four matches were competitive, including an OT loss.
• Ian Anderson at 132. Anderson won once, by pin.
• Max Flynn at 152. Flynn went 1-2 with a pin before having to withdraw with an injury.
• J.T. O’Brien at 160. O’Brien went 3-3, with two pins.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.