Poor weather pushed the Division II Wrestling Sectional Championships back considerably Saturday --- the finals started three hours late. But once the meets got rolling, in rapid-fire succession, the gym came alive. The meet didn't disappoint.
In addition to today's story, here are some leftover notes from an exciting day of wrestling at East Aurora High School.
--- In the heavyweight division, everything is unraveling just the way Pat Langworthy envisioned. If the Southwestern wrestler wanted to win a state championship this year, he needed to bump up a weight class. After falling short at states in the 215 class a year ago as a junior, he knew it'd be smart to move up to 285.
Last year’s 215 state champ is back — Nick Gwiazdowski of Duanesburg in Section II. So this year, his swan song at Southwestern, Langworthy opted to wrestle up. After all, Gwiazdowski is ranked in the top five nationally.
Saturday was a heck of a start for Langworthy, who won a convincing 5-3 decision over Depew’s Mike Kasprzak.
“Last year, I went to states and didn’t do as well as I wanted,” Langworthy said. “Fortunately, I had another year.”
--- Speaking of Gwiazdowski, the Section VI representative that will try to knock him off is Fredonia’s Greg Burroughs. In one of the day's best matches, Burroughs took down Fredonia’s Bashar Srouji, 5-4. After losing 3-1 in the sectional finals a year ago, winning Saturday meant a little something extra to Burroughs.
“I’m hoping to place (at states),” he said. “There will be a tough kid there.”
Fredonia finished second in the team scoring Saturday behind Lew-Port.
“He’s been the reason we have won as a team,” added Fredonia coach Alex Conti. “We were 13-0 last year and 24-0 this year. And it’s because he keeps everybody light and having fun. To see him win that was special.”
--- Without a doubt it was the right call to name Roy-Hart’s Matt McCauley the meet's Most Outstanding Wrestler. As a four seed, McCauley ran the table. As you'd expect, he was in shock after his win over Lew-Port's Dan Reagan. Not just for winning --- but how he won. All season, through meets and practices, the junior never tried a “mat mixer.”
But by wrapping his arm around Reagan's head and flipping him, McCauley did just that to win. Still, could he have ever imagined winning sectionals heading into Saturday?
“No,” McCauley deadpanned. “But beating the top seed definitely was a big confidence boost.”
--- Abulgawi Mohamed has lost track. It took a few moments for the Lackawanna senior to take a stab at his overall record.
“I think it’s one-something,” he says. “Maybe 165-18.”
As expected, Mohamed won with ease at 112 Saturday, 15-0. This year, his little brother will be joining him at states. Sophomore Majed Mohamed downed Zach Bickle at 103, 2-0.
“I teach him the basic stuff,” Abdulgawi said. “You need to work for your points. You can’t waste your minutes. There are only six minutes in a match. Every second counts.”
Lackawanna nearly had three sectional champs. At 152, Ameen Harhara fell 6-5 to Medina’s Tristian Hammer. Abdulgawi will be a favorite again to win at states.
“It’s his work ethic. He just works hard,” Lackawanna coach Jeff Michel said. “When it’s time to get serious, he gets serious and is ready to go.”
--- Cody McGregor of Tonawanda took the 96-pound title. Twisting and turning Lew-Port’s Ryan Kromer with his legs, McGregor continued a strong family tradition in wrestling.
“The legs always come in handy on top,” he said. “I’m hoping to place (at states). There will be pretty good people there.
--- And what a great battle between Salamanca’s Ben Haas and East Aurora’s Phil Czapla at 145. Czapla certainly had the home crowd behind him. But it was Haas who delivered the knockout punch.
With the score knotted at 2-2, Haas wrapped around Czapla with both arms and ripped him down for the win. The two had faced each other twice before, splitting the matches.
This time, Haas was victorious. Shortly after the win, he was greeted by former Salamanca great Kane Smith on the practice mat with a big hug.
Next up, states.
“He’s a lot stronger than me,” Haas said of Czapla. “It was more just leverage and I caught him off guard.”