ONONDAGA — Four wrestlers advanced to the finals and four wrestlers were stopped short.
Auburn's Hunter Duger and Luca Pirozzolo, Port Byron's Joe Powers and Cato-Meridian's Harry Sherman were all runners-up in their respective weight classes Saturday at the Section III wrestling championships at SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College.
The Maroons, competing in Division I, finished seventh overall in team scoring.
Pirozzolo, the No. 2 seed in 113, had a first-round bye before opening his day with a technical fall over Fayetteville-Manlius’ Braden Florczyk in 5:55. Meeting Fayetteville-Manlius’ Braden Florczyk in the semifinal, Pirozzolo won a 13-5 major decision to advance to the sectional final.
In the title bout, Pirozzolo met a familiar foe in Fulton’s Thomas Hughes. The sophomore had already faced Hughes three times during the season (0-3), including a 5-3 loss in the Class A finals.
Pirozzolo couldn’t solve Hughes on his fourth try — despite an aggressive approach early, Pirozzolo fell behind by too many points and eventually dropped a 7-2 decision.
"We kind of figured that was going to be the final after we lost to him 5-3 last weekend. We tried a couple new things during the week," Auburn coach Andy Corbett said. "He's got to finish. If he's lucky enough to get a wild-card for states this week, he's probably going to see (Hughes) again. We'll continue to work to beat that kid. Luca just has to turn the corner and finish a move and he's got that kid."
Duger, sporting a shoulder harness and knee brace, couldn’t utilize his power against the speedy Stephen Hildenbrant from Rome Free Academy in the 152-pound finals. The Maroons senior fell down by two points and that was the only scoring necessary as Hildenbrant soaked up the remaining time.
"He likes to use his strength and he's big and strong," Corbett said. "He's a counter wrestler, so the guy shoots in and he counters with his strength. (Hildenbrant) just took took shots and got back up to his feet. That kid was obviously a good wrestler."
An Auburn wrestler since seventh-grade, Duger battled through various injuries throughout his career but posted a solid showing in his final sectional championships.
"He came out as the first ever seventh-grader to wrestle for us before Luca," Corbett said. "Hurt his elbow in seventh grade, hurt his shoulder eighth-grade year, last year hurt his knee and this year a couple of those injuries came back. He's probably going to need surgery on his knee. We were elated he made it to the finals. We knew he had a good shot."
Port Byron’s Powers (120), who was the runner-up last season in Division II, nearly pulled off his first section title.
Entering the tournament with the No. 1 seed, Powers opened his day with a 5-3 decision over ARW/Pulaski’s Carlton Alder and won a 10-1 major decision over Cato-Meridian’s White in the semifinal.
Facing Mexico’s Dean Shambo in the final, Powers was on the offensive through three periods. He fell behind, however, by three points and despite a final charge with two points in the final period, Powers couldn’t pull off a takedown in the final seconds.
In the Division II 195-pound final, Cato-Meridian's Sherman was taken down by fall in in the opening minute of the first period by Canastota's Doug Simmons. Sherman beat Beaver River's Marcus Hills by an 11-4 decision in the quarterfinals and took down Chittenango's Isiah Prado by a 5-2 decision in the semis.
Other place finishers include Auburn’s Keyshin Cooper (fourth, 170) Liam McLoughlin (fifth, 138), Lucas Hogan (fifth, 182) and Mike Hamilton (sixth, 220), Port Byron’s Jack Smith (sixth, 106), Cato-Meridian’s Nick Schmitt (third, 285) and Hunter White (fourth, 120), and Skaneateles’ TJ Greenfield (third, 220) and Joey Brillo (fifth, 138).
Brillo was also announced as the winner of the Hawke-Pettinelli Scholarship Award.
"Six guys (for Auburn) placed in the top six for the first time in forever," Corbett said. "Cooper was a big surprise at 170 making it to the semis. Little disappointing with Mike Hamilton but he was the first seed and had a target on his back and lost a couple close matches, but he took sixth.
"We only had 12 or 13 kids on the whole squad and six of them placed at sectionals. This was one of my most enjoyable years at Auburn because they've been so well disciplined."