Milton, St. Albans and 32 other wrestling teams joined the fray in the two-day Michael J. Baker Classic. Hosted by Essex High School, the event brings together the best in New England and New York wrestling.
Entering from Milton were Dylan Hemsted at 132 lbs., Ian Kandzior at 170 lbs. and Nate Hoffman at 220 lbs. From St. Albans were Brandon Coolbeth and Sebastian Taft at 285 pounds.
All the wrestlers enjoyed glimmers of success but also knew the pains of defeat. Taft lost twice Friday but showed promise as he works his way into the varsity arena. Coolbeth had a strong first-round match, pinning his opponent late in the third period. He made it to the second day but lost his opening-round match on Saturday.
Nate Hoffman put in a super effort. Coming off a first-round loss to the top-seeded wrestler, he put together a textbook performance, pinning his second opponent late in the second period. Saturday morning didn’t bring the success Hoffman enjoyed on Friday; an opening-round loss ended his day.
Kandzior’s firmly established role as a varsity contender showed up this weekend. He put together a 2-2 record for the tournament with all his wins by pin. His last match was by far his best performance. He out-wrestled his opponent and slowly, over 2 1/2 periods, built a solid lead. But inexperience raised its ugly head and led to him getting stuck late in the final period.
Hemsted’s days at the Classic were best described as painful. It was a rollercoaster ride filled with tough opponents. In a weight class stacked with over 30 tough wrestlers, Hemsted enjoyed being named the top seed, a first for any Milton wrestler, for a brief time. A very controversial loss in the quarterfinals on Friday ended his quest to bring home his and Milton’ first Classic tournament championship. The path that followed was a tough one. But Hemsted dug deep and put together a gutsy performance. Stepping on the mat four times Saturday, Hemsted wrestled his way to a hard-earned fifth-place finish.
The teams will be competing this weekend at the Bob Benoure Invitational, hosted by Colchester High School.
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On January 5 at the Otter Valley Invitational, the core of Milton’s rebuilding team showed its true colors, as the Milton entries brought home a first, second and third place finish.
The wrestling team split between Milton’s annual junior varsity and middle school tournament and the varsity-level tournament at Otter Valley High School.
Senior and team captain Hemsted led the way with his third tournament championship of the season and stretched his record to 23-1. Close on his heels was freshman Kandzior, who made the first championship finals appearance in his young career. He endured a tough opponent from Mt. Anthony and earned a silver medal for his efforts.
Not to be left in the shadows, freshman Hoffman came back from an early loss to crush his opponent in the consolation finals and bring home the bronze medal.