VERGENNES — The Middlebury and Vergennes union high school wrestling teams took fourth and fifth, respectively, at Saturday’s NVAC dual-meet championship hosted by the Commodores.
But more importantly, both teams’ podium contenders for the Feb. 28 state championship meet at Mount Anthony enjoyed solid tournaments.
Tiger senior Jake Trautwein, expected to be the No. 2 state tournament seed at 182 pounds, pinned three more opponents and picked up two forfeit wins to reach the coveted 100-win plateau, while one Tiger teammate and five Commodores also enjoyed undefeated Saturdays:
• Tiger junior Chris Gobbi at 220 earned five wins, two by pin, one decision and two forfeits. Coach Ethan Raymond expects he will earn the No. 2 seed at that weight.
• VUHS senior 160-pounder Kaegan Pearsall, who should reach 130 wins at the state meet as the No. 1 seed, went 4-0 with two pins and two forfeits.
• Surging VUHS freshman Brandon Cousino, who VUHS Coach Nate Kittredge said could be the No. 2 seed at 152, went 4-0 with a pin, a major decision and two wins on points. One of those wins was a hard-fought 5-4 battle over MUHS senior James Mason, who could be the No. 4 or 5 seed at the state meet.
• Returning VUHS state place-winner Ethan Reardon, a sophomore at 113, went 4-0 with two pins and two forfeits.
• VUHS sophomore Jeb Hodsden continued his recent improvement at 138 with a 4-0 day that included three pins and a forfeit.
• VUHS freshman Trevon Smith, another expected seed at the state meet at 126, also went 4-0 with three pins.
Both Raymond and Kittredge said they believe their teams can produce a half-dozen podium finishes, and there is plenty of recent evidence to support their claim.
For example, on Saturday, Champlain Valley won the meet championship, beating Mount Mansfield in the final, 48-18. CVU beat VUHS in the first round on Saturday, but only due to forfeits — the Commodores won six of seven contested weight classes. And the Tigers recently defeated CVU in a dual meet with a 5-0 record in contested matches.
Raymond has four wrestlers who are sure to be seeded. As well as Trautwein, Gobbi and Mason, sophomore Nate Gebo returns at 106 after placing fifth at that weight a year ago. On Saturday, he went 3-1 with a pin and a forfeit. Mason won twice by pin and lost twice, to the defending state champion at 152 as well as to Cousino.
Raymond also believes sophomore Kyle Desabrais (3-1 with two pins on Saturday) could earn a seed at 120 after dramatic improvement and a recent winning streak.
Desabrais and classmate Nick Beauchamp are among Tiger wrestlers who have picked it up a notch in the past couple of weeks and could surprise at the state meet, Raymond said.
Coming into Saturday, Raymond noted the Tigers had a streak of 23 wins in 26 contested matches.
“They’re realizing the intensity it takes to finish,” he said. “They’re just realizing the level of intensity, that level of effort, it takes to take another wrestler down.”
Also on Saturday, sophomore Alex Sheldrick at 126 went 2-2 with a pin, sophomore James Whitley went 0-3 against tough competition at 132 and 138, Beauchamp went 3-2 with two forfeits, and senior heavyweight Benn Lussier went 2-2 with both wins by forfeit.
Because of the Tigers’ recent surge, Raymond is hopeful the Tigers will make six or seven podium appearances.
“They’re chain-wrestling. They’re working combinations. They’re setting guys up better,” he said. “They’ve stepped to the next level.”
Likewise, Kittredge has a similar goal.
“I should have six or seven kids wrestling at the state tournament, and I think all six or seven should be placing in the top six,” Kittredge said.
In addition to Saturday’s undefeated five, sophomore Ryan Paquin is also projected to earn a seed for the state tournament, either a 4 or 5 at 182. On Saturday, Paquin went 3-1, pinning three foes and losing only to Trautwein, a match in which he did have the Tiger standout briefly in trouble.
“He’s lost to a lot of kids I know he can beat and he knows he can beat,” Kittredge said.
Freshman Kyle Kingsley could also be seeded. On Saturday he was 2-2, with one win by forfeit. The Commodores’ final competitor at the NVAC meet was freshman Troy Provencher, who went 0-4 at 132.
Kittredge said if the Commodores are confident, they can build on their recent success and excel at the state meet.
“The proof’s in the pudding, or however that saying goes, but the reality is my kids are beating kids that we’ve lost to,” Kittredge said. “If they believe, and then it comes down to that takedown at the end, we drill so much on our feet that I’m going to put my money on the Vergennes kid if it comes down to that last takedown.”
Mount Abraham’s four-man squad also competed at the NVAC meet, but not as a team. The event had quirky rules, and only the top eight qualifiers were allowed to vie for the team title. But wrestlers from the non-qualifying teams filled out the rosters of the qualifying teams to make sure that as many athletes as possible had matches, thus allowing them to tune up for the state meet. Their results did not count in the dual-meet results, however.
For Mount Abe:
• At 126, junior Josh Roy went 1-2, with the win a major decision.
• At 132, junior Josh Russin went 1-2 with a pin.
• At 145, freshman Dylan Little went 2-1, with wins by decision and forfeit.
• At 195, junior Shane Brown lost once and earned two forfeit wins.
Of that group, Coach Pete Lossman said Roy has the best chance to make noise at the state meet. After a promising start to the season, Lossman said Roy has been held back by illness. If he can compete at full strength by Feb. 28, Roy could surprise, the coach said.
“He’s got to be healthy. He’s been sick for at least a month,” Lossman said. “He’s lost a lot of matches by just a couple of points, so he’s just got to turn it around and get the lucky break. He’s got to make the break and take advantage of the situation.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.