OXFORD – Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville had 14 kids place among the top six, and its strong second day led it to the team title at the 52nd Annual Clyde Cole Wrestling Tournament.
The Bears, Norwich, and Unatego all crowned three champions with Norwich winding up 17 ½ points shy of B-G/A H to wind up second.
“This tournament isn’t what counts the most, but we’d rather win it than lose if we had to choose,” said Bears 18-year coach Brandon MacNaught. “It was an excellent start, and I don’t think people realize how young we are. We only have two seniors, so this was good to build some momentum.”
Norwich, coming off a Class B team championship a season ago, nearly picked up where it left off. Multiple-time champions, Tristan Rifanburg and Frankie Garcia, easily repeated as title winners, but it was seventh-grader Eli Rodriguez who maybe gave a glimpse of Norwich’s future taking the 99-pound title in his first varsity action.
Undersized in even the smallest division. Rodriguez won 13-10 barnburner over Oxford’s Cole Rice in what was likely the most exciting bout of the 15-match finals.
Rodriguez had the early takedown, but Rice seized command with a reversal and a relentless armbar that had Rodriguez fighting off his back.
Each wrestler fired salvo after salvo with Rodriguez’s superiority on his feet – and takedowns – becoming the difference in the final period.
“Eli is a very quality kid, but his size is our concern,” said Norwich coach Terry Hagenbuch. “He’s technical enough to wrestle with the bigger kids, and that will be a plus for us.”