SYRACUSE — Luca Pirozzolo achieved something no Auburn wrestler had done in the last 42 years.
The sophomore won by technical fall in the quarterfinals, pinned his opponent in the semifinals and finished off the day with a convincing 11-5 victory in the finals to win the Section III, Division I 132-pound championship at SRC Arena Saturday.
While Pirozzolo gave the credit to the coaching staff, Maroons coach Andy Corbett said it came down to the preparation throughout the season — the tough matches and the work put in at practice.
“He lost three matches really quick early in the year … against really high caliber wrestlers and that helped prepare him for today,” Corbett said. “He’s wrestled a lot of really tough guys this year, and he’s been working hard in the room.”
Pirozzolo faced Fulton’s Cole French in the finals. Knowing French was good on top, Pirozzolo’s goal was to not be taken down.
“(French) is decent on his feet and decent on the bottom, and he’s really tough on top so the idea was never to be on bottom,” Corbett said.
Pirozzolo scored an early takedown and led 2-1 after the first period. French evened the score early in the second but Pirozzolo scored two more takedowns and earned three back points to pull away on the scoreboard.
Pirozzolo put an exclamation point on the match with another takedown in the third and held on for the 11-5 victory.
“The kid’s pretty good on top, so I wanted to stay on my feet then take him down, let him up, take him down and let him up — just keep doing that basically,” Pirozzolo said.
Pirozzolo is the first Auburn wrestler to win a section championship since Jim Dunster in 1977. Dunster went on to win the state championship.
Pirozzolo is looking to do the same.
“My goal before I graduate is to be a state champ,” Pirozzolo said. “Hopefully I’ll get it.”
Auburn had two other wrestlers place in the top six. Keyshin Cooper (182) took third place, while Lucas Hogan (170) came in fifth.
“Keyshin wrestled really tough but lost in the semis,” Corbett said. “He wrestled back for third, which is sometimes a more surmountable thing than going into the finals and losing.”
After falling in the semifinals to reigning state champion Marek Bush of Central Valley Academy, Hunter White rebounded.
The Cato-Meridian 126-pounder scored a reversal late in the fourth quarter and held on for a 4-3 victory in the third-place match against Port Byron’s Joe Powers.
“I was just trying to stay in good position because I knew he was trying to rip my head down and get the front headlock,” White said. “He ended up getting it so I was fighting off my back and trying to not give up back points. Once he took me down, I felt a clamp on my leg and I just tried to put my hips on him and hook the leg and get the two (for a reversal).”
White came in first in the league and class tournaments, but this was his best finish at sectionals.
“I was just hoping to break through,” White said. “I placed fourth the last two years. There’s three state qualifiers and a state champ (in the same weight class). I was happy with how I wrestled.”
Powers (126) placed fourth for Port Byron, while teammate Tyler Parker (145) came in fifth.
Jordan-Elbridge’s Landry LaFleur (182) took sixth place. The senior was also awarded a $500 scholarship from the Syracuse Wrestling Officials Association.