JOHNSTOWN — The Utica Redskins, led by first-place finishes from Pete Hughes (119 pounds), Dylan Wheeler (125), Kenny Poland (145), Seth Ware (152), Derek Posey (160) and B.J. Douglas (215), won the 2009 Northridge Invitational Wrestling Tournament on Saturday.
Despite giving up several weight classes, the Redskins (249.5 points) topped Jonathan Alder (236.5). The East Knox Bulldogs finished a close third with 216.5 points.
Utica performed solidly from top to bottom, with nearly every member of the team finishing in the top four.
“I just stayed in there with confidence,” said Hughes, who defeated Mount Vernon’s Kenny Henault, 3-1, in the finals. “I wrestled him hard to the end and I got it. It was close and he was good on his feet. I just hung with him through the third period and got a last-second takedown.”
Poland, a senior, has his eyes on a bigger prize.
“This was a good match, but I’m looking forward to the Meadowbrook tournament next weekend,” said Poland, one of the leaders on the Redskins’ squad this year. “I anticipate tough competition there. I’m ready for the big tournaments. I’ve got a lot to prove this year. I lost a couple of matches to some really good wrestlers.”
Also for the Redskins, Dylan Ware was second at 103 pounds, Andrew Gayheart was second at 112 and David Torrens was fourth at 119. Gavin Shannon was third at 140 and Creston Gray finished fourth in the 171-pound category. Anthony Taylor was sixth for the Redskins at 152 pounds.
“East Knox beat Jonathan Alder enough times to let us get ahead and win,” said Utica coach Mike Garven. “We had a lot of good finals matches and that helped us, too. We have some great leaders on this team. Captains are picked, leaders step up and lead. I was really impressed with the young kids. All three seniors won. We only brought 10 guys, but it was a good team effort.”
Bulldogs coach Keith Kaufmann, whose boys took first in four weight classes, was also sitting on the bubble during the finals.
Justin Oswalt (112), Cory Douglas (130), Trent Simmons (135) and Mark McNichols (140) won their weight classes for the Bulldogs, but it wasn’t quite enough to catch Utica or Alder.
“[Cody McSurley of] Jonathan Alter was a lot stronger than I was,” said Douglas. “He had a couple of good shots and I got him on his back a couple of times.”
East Knox, like Utica, finished strong in all weight classes. Cruze Parker (119), Josh Beltz (125), Josh Neely (160) and heavyweight Andy Van Winkle each finished third for the Bulldogs.
“I wish I could have done better,” said Van Winkle. “I’ve got to get some work done. I’ve got to work hard in the wrestling room. I’ll be working on my moves and my conditioning. I wish I could have had first, but I didn’t wrestle right.”
For Kaufmann, there were plenty of positives, despite the third-place finish.
“The most pleasing thing for me was how our kids pulled through in the finals,” Kaufmann said. “That’s when it had to happen. We got matched up well with Alder where we needed to, so I can’t be too disappointed. I’m real happy for what our kids have done. It’s early in the season, and I think we’ll get better as time goes on.”
Not all of East Knox’ supporters were wearing purple and white.
“We were rooting for East Knox a lot,” laughed Garven.
“Oh, that’s just the way coaches operate,” said Kaufmann, who could only be glad for the support.
Tyler Busenberg grabbed fourth place for the Bulldogs in the 215-pound class. Caleb Byrd placed fifth for East Knox at 152, while Baxter Westover was sixth in the 145-pound class.
The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets sent a partial squad to Northridge and managed to finish sixth with a score of 85 points. Henault (119) and Collin Riley (125) led the way, both placing second for the Yellow Jackets.
Nick Yashnick (130) was third for Mount Vernon, while Eric Lawson (145) finished fourth and Korey Bielecki (160) was fifth.
It was a tough day for host Northridge, which only has a collection of freshmen and sophomores on its squad. The tournament was more of a learning experience for the Vikings as they build toward the future.
“The tournament must have been a success, because I didn’t hear any complaints,” said Northridge coach Bill Perry. “We’ve got a few kids coming out of our middle school program next year and they will come in with some wrestling experience. By then, the guys here today will have another year behind them.”