Patriots run away with MAU tournament title

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BENNINGTON — The Mount Anthony wrestling team might have had a sluggish start at its home tournament on Saturday, but they were just as quick on the other side, running away with the championship trophy.

MAU scored 255 points, well ahead of Averill Park in second with 146.5. Pinkerton Academy (N.H.) scored 135 to finish third, Southwick, Mass. was fourth and Lyman (Conn.) was fifth. Salem-Cambridge came in eighth overall.

The Patriots had 10 of their 14 wrestlers reach the finals, with seven winning tournament championships — Noah Call at 113 pounds, Keenan Taylor (120), Ashdin Schaefer (126), Gage McLaughlin (132), Sam Wilkins (160), AJ Wright (182) and Calvin Hayford (285).

"We started a little slow, didn't get the rest that we usually do," said coach Brian Coon. "We didn't look good early, but they responded in a big way."

Taylor had the quickest day of any competitor, scoring three falls — none took more than a period — en route to a tournament championship.

"Keenan dominated, he was attacking all day," Coon said. "He beat a couple of high-level kids at Lowell [Holiday tournament] last week and then he proved he was as good as [Springfield's Matt] Garcia a couple days ago, so he's got a lot of confidence that he can go in and win any match."

Schaefer was just as dominant, with a pair of first-period pins and a tech-fall in the final.

"He was just playing with [his finals opponent]," Coon said. "He's also dominating and really wrestling well."

Noah Call pinned both of his opponents at 113, continuing a strong season at 26-3 so far.

"Noah keeps gaining confidence, he's doing the extra it takes to beat the top wrestlers, he's not settling and trying to improve every day," Coon said.

Gage McLaughlin kept the roll going with the lower weights, the fourth champion in a row for MAU. McLaughlin won all three matches, the first one by major decision and the last two, including the final, with a fall.

"I thought Gage wrestled poorly in the first match, he's struggled with confidence a little bit. I chewed him out a little bit and he responded right away," Coon said.

Wilkins, the freshman, was 3-0 at 160, running his record to 26-5 on the year. He won his first match 13-8, but scored falls in the semifinal and final, beating Fair Haven's Gable Shaddock in the process.

"Sam just finds a way to win matches, Gable is definitely the second seed in Vermont right now," Coon said. "Sam just made his mark with the kid and broke him in the final. He didn't want any part of it."

Wright won in the final by a pin — in fact, 5 of the 7 MAU champions won by pinfall. Hayford had a short tournament but a good one with two victories, one by pin. The other was an overtime 6-4 win in the final against Pinkerton's Deene Hill. Hill, every ounce a 285-pounder, was outpointed by the quicker Hayford, who scored a pair of takedowns during the first part of the matchup.

The three Mount Anthony wrestlers to finish second included Keegan Coon at 138 pounds, Tyler Burgess at 152 and Austin Pendergast at 170. Coon lost his final against an undefeated Eddie Martinez from Southwick, 9-8, giving up a reversal with four seconds left. Coon led by a point with 15 seconds left.

"Keegan dominated a majority of his match, but the kid got away in the final seconds," coach Coon said. "He took about 15 shots and got tired out. He had a pretty good match against last year's third-place finisher in Massachusetts."

Burgess was edged, 3-2, by Averill Park's Andrew Fountain, while Pendergast fell to Devon Lancaster, 5-2. Burgess drops to 24-7 and Pendergast is 25-6 on the year.

A pair of MAU wrestlers lost in the championship rounds, but came back for third — Dennis Bunnell at 99 pounds and Colin Crowley at 195. Bunnell lost in the semifinal to Pinkerton Academy's Mark Harrington, 6-4, giving up four penalty points in the match. Coming back, he beat Mount Hope (R.I.) freshman Brian Dupras with a pin in 2:07. Crowley had a tough semifinal at 195, getting down 7-0 in the first period to Averill Park senior Charlie Olson en route to a 12-4 major decision. But Crowley fought tough to come all the way back for third, facing Mount Hope's Neil Thibaudeau and scoring a fall in the second period.

"Colin lost to the Averill Park kid and then he refocused," Coon said. "That third place match was one of his best matches this year for him."

Dylan Ross was fourth at 106, while Chris Mayer did not place at 145. Both wrestlers finished 1-2.

For Mount Anthony B, Gaige Crandall was fourth at 132 and Stephen Brillon was one match short of placement, losing to Coon in the semifinal.

The varsity Patriots have more than a week off until their next match on Monday, January 16, against Danbury, Conn., home at Kates Gym. Last year, the Patriots lost to the Hatters on the road.     

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