EDEN - As a freshman, Falconer wrestler Seth Abbey finished with a 1-11 record and didn't even want to wrestle this season.
He told coach Drew Wilcox he was going to take the year off and return as a junior.
Wilcox wouldn't let him.
OBSERVER?Photo by Craig Harvey
Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner, top, looks to gain the advantage on his opponent during a match at 138 pounds, on Saturday, at Eden High School, during the Class C Wrestling Championships. Gardner won the title to advance to the state qualifier at Niagara County Community?College.
And now, Abbey is a Section 6 Class C champion as the unseeded wrestler went 3-0 Saturday at Eden Central School and knocked off the top two seeded wrestlers to become a Sectional champion at 220 pounds.
"That was pretty cool to come here and get a championship for him," Wilcox said. "This is what it's all about. It's pretty special."
Abbey came into the tournament with an 11-13 record. Because of his below .500 record, he was not seeded for the Sectional championships.
In the first round, Abbey pinned Akron's Caleb Cray in 3:38. He followed that up with a 5:35 pin over No. 1 seed Jake Warner to advance to the title match against No. 2 seed Jacob Clark of Akron. There, Clark took a 2-0 lead after the first period and a quick 3-0 lead early in the second frame. Before the end of the round, Abbey scored an escape in the final second to cut the deficit, 3-2.
In the third period, Abbey controlled the round and scored four points for the victory.
"Seth is not a kid who worries about seeds," Wilcox said. "He goes out and wrestles as hard as he can and good things happen. He has been getting better and working really, really hard. I have noticed he is getting better and better. He has had some wins lately that surprised me. I knew he would have to wrestle well to do this and my hats off to him. He wrestled great."
Abbey was one of eight Falconer wrestlers to make it to the championship round as the Golden Falcons ran away with the team title with 252.5 points. Newfane finished second with 170 points, followed by Akron 168.5, Tonawanda 141.5, Southwestern 122 and Eden 112.5. Fredonia placed seventh with 108 followed by Lackawanna 93, Wilson 68.5, Royalton-Hartland/Barker 67 and Medina 62.
Falconer won the Class D title last year and are now this year's Class C champions.
"It's obviously tougher to win Class C," Wilcox said. "There are good teams here. We had to wrestle well and we did it. I think it's better being here. It's tougher and a better prep for next weekend. If you can get through it and get to the top four in your weight class, you have a great chance of placing next weekend."
While Abbey's title run was a bit of a surprise, Fredonia's Dakota Gardner took home the 138-pound title with little surprise, or doubt.
"He was excellent," Fredonia coach Joe Santilli said. "He is prepared and healthy. We are looking forward to the challenges ahead. Next week is going to be a grind. He has to be sharp. The weight class he is in is a deep weight."
Gardner was dominant from start to finish. In his first match, he earned a 1:28 pin and followed that up with a :54 second pin. In the semifinals, he earned a 15-0 technical fall. And in the finals, he put on a clinic as he defeated Tonawanda's Tim Barnard, 10-3.
"Barnard is a tough kid," Santilli said. "He has been around a long time and has had a lot of success. One of those situations where Dakota can take advantage of some of his mistakes. Barnard was a little over aggressive. Dakota hit an excellent throw on him. Dakota wrestles 12 months a year. He is a student of the sport. He lives the sport and loves the sport. He wants to be a champion."
Falconer's Cameron Page punched his ticket into the state qualifier with a first-place finish at 106. Page's first two matches lasted less than a minute as he won via pinfall and then pinned Roobie PeQueen of Roy-Hart in the semifinals at 2:57. In the championship match, he won with a 1:05 pin over top seed Brennan Callara of Medina.
"He is peaking at the right time," Wilcox said. "The kid he beat was a Sectional-ranked kid. Cam started slow, but he is turning it on at the right time. He wrestled awesome here and it was the best he has ever wrestled. Good things are happening at the right time."
At 113, Southwestern's Ryan Hetrick earned a 4-0 victory over Falconer's Rickey Griffith.
Hetrick went 3-0 with a 1:54 pin, a 14-2 decision and the 4-0 win over Griffith.
Griffith made the finals with a 1:53 pin and a 4:54 pin.
"Next week is going to be a big deal," Southwestern coach Joe Hoose said. "We are looking for big things from Ryan. We want to make another run at states. When he scored early against Griffith, the old Ryan would have sat on that, but Ryan pushed and pushed and he scored. He didn't settle for a 1-0 win. Next week he has (Dunkirk's) Tito Colon. Ryan has to really wrestle next week if he wants to advance."
At 126, Falconer's Josh Peru also took first place with a hard-fought 17-2 technical fall win over Matt Fielbelkorn of Akron.
Peru earned his way into the title match with two pins.
Teammate Kyle Ross also placed first place at 170.
Ross, the No. 1 seed, defeated Southwestern's Mason Hoose, 15-2 to advance to the championship round. There, Ross held a 2-1 lead after the first period. After letting opponent Garrett Schultz of Akron tie the score, 3-all in the second period, Ross scored the final four points for a 7-3 victory.
At 182, Southwestern's Tanner Hoose waited until the last minute of his championship match to rally past Akron's Joey Sarow for a 4-3 win.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, Hoose picked up a reversal to tie the score 2-all. Sarow eventually escaped to take a 3-2 edge. And with eight seconds left, Hoose showed some burst as he earned a takedown for the 4-3 win.
"Tanner is like a cheetah," coach Hoose said. "The problem with a cheetah is they have great burst and great speed, but burn out. He is always afraid of burning out."
At 195, Falconer's Jake Penhollow was the most dominant wrestler in his weight class as he earned a 23-second pin in his first match. And in the finals, it took just 1:25 to pin No. 2 seed Chris Johnstone to take first place.
"Penhollow outclassed the field here," Wilcox said. "His test will come next weekend. He is being a lot more aggressive now and is attacking. That's what he has been lacking."
Local wrestlers taking second place included Southwestern's Shane Hetrick at 99, Falconer's Mike Raynor at 132 and Falconer's Jake Youngberg at 152.
Taking third place were Falconer's Dylan Ingrao (120), Southwestern's Joseph Lindberg (152), Falconer's Jimmy Schwab (170) and Southwestern's Howie Boutelle (195).
Also heading to the state qualifiers next weekend are fourth-place finishers Falconer's Zak Mata (145), Fredonia's Nick Gloff (160), Southwestern's Mason Hoose (170), Fredonia's Ryan Fisk (220) and Fredonia's Jesse Walker (285).
"We are real pleased," Santilli concluded. "We have some guys qualifying for next week who we didn't necessarily count on. We were thinking if we could get a fifth place out of some, we would be real pleased. We are in development mode and focusing on next year. Ryan Fisk had a nice day and Jesse Walker had a couple nice wins. Nick Gloff wrestled nice also. He is an outstanding wrestler."
Meanwhile, at the Class B Championships at Cheektowaga, Dunkirk-Silver Creek had three first-place finishers.
Marquis Buchanan took home the title at 182 while brothers Hector and Tito Colom won at 106 and 113, respectively.
Buchanan beat Pioneer's Baryden Denk, 8-2, in the semifinals, before upsetting No. 1 seed Matthew Bartnik, of Cheektowaga, 13-9. Buchanan sits at 29-6 on the year.
Hector Colom (24-2) earned his trip to wrestle in the State Qualifier next weekend at NCCC, by pinning Alden's Alex Handley in 3:04, trouncing Olean's Grant Fox, 16-0, and Pioneer's Dylan Mason, 15-0, and pinning Alden's Michael Munn in 43 seconds.
Tito Colom (34-4) claimed his crown with a pin of Amherst's Patrick Norris in 27 seconds and a pin of Matteo Toliano, of Lewiston-Porter, in 39 seconds.
Also advancing to the State qualifier for the Marauders were Nick Jones (285), Adrian Alvarado (195), Alex Jones (220) and Billy Seiders (120).
Jones finished 3-1 on the day to finish third overall. The Dunkirk freshman defeated Olean's Shawn Williams, 5-3, before being pinned by Lewiston-Porter's Garrett Rath in 35 seconds. Jones finished his day with a 5-3 win over Amherst's Kyle Damon and a pin of Springville's Josh Ball. Jones, who sits at 37-3 on the year, won the match in 49 seconds.
"I'm very happy to have seven athletes moving on to the state qualifiers this early in the rebuilding of the Dunkirk wrestling program,"?Dunkirk-Silver Creek head coach Joe McMurdy said. "And we're looking forward to more success in the few weeks left in this season."
Alvarado finished 3-1 on the day as well, which included wins over Olean's Malik Burney (3:38), Amherst's Kevin Abel (1:45) and Albion's Kollin Reynolds (4:35). His lone loss came against Alden's Alex Schweitzer, who cruised to a 15-4 major decision.
Jones (27-14), who finished 2-2 on the day, lost a 5-3 decision to Pioneer's Darnell Clay-May, before pinning Amherst's Skylar Polek in 32 seconds and winning a 3-1 decision over Albion's Dylan Burkhardt. Jones lost his final match to Olean's Zachary Spears, 2-0.
Seiders (23-19) also finished 2-2 on the day, losing his first match to Olean's Andrew Marra by pin in 4:22 while beating Maryvale's Christian Sable, 8-0, and Maryvale's Scott Havernick in 2:57. Seiders then lost his final match to Pioneer's Zach Wiedman, 7-0.
Troy Smith-Petrella just missed advancing to next week's meet after finishing fifth with a 2-2 mark. The junior lost his first match after being pinned by Amherst's Kellen Devlin in 59 seconds, then defeated Sam Fahy, 9-5. Smith-Petrella fell in his third match to Springville's Jobe Flemming, 8-6, but finished his day by pinning Lewiston-Porter's Nico Toliano in 2:23.