Florance Ends Bears' Long Title Drought
Published: March 4th, 2022
By: Patrick Newell

Florance ends Bears' long title drought Darren Florance (front row, far left) of B-G/Afton/Harpursville, is pictured with other New York State High School Division II wrestling champions following the Saturday, Feb. 26 finals at the Times Union Arena in Albany. Florance captured the 102-pound title, the first wrestling state title for the Bears' wrestling program in 16 years. (Submitted Photo).

The long wait for another state champion ended last Saturday at the Times Union Center.

Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville sophomore, Darren Florance, capped an unbeaten wrestling season  winning the Division II 102-pound state title in dominant fashion.

Florance didn't give up a point in his four matches winning by scores of 16-0, 8-0, 5-0, and 5-0.

It was the program's first state finalist since 2011, and first state champion since 2006.

"I bet we've put 10 to 15 guys on the podium (since the last state title)," said longtime B-G/Afton/Harpursville head coach Brandon MacNaught. "Just not on the right spot."

Florance made a big splash as an eighth-grader at 99 pounds finishing sixth in the state.

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The majority of his 11 losses that eighth-grade year were to eventual state champion Gianni Silvestri of Tioga, while three other losses came at the state tournament.

While some schools did compete with abbreviated schedules in 2020-2021, B-G/Afton/Harpursville scrapped the season altogether, MacNaught said, due to the logistics and rules for schools that cover multiple counties.

And this year, MacNaught said, the Bears were riddled with bad luck starting with 14 wrestlers, but finishing with just seven.

Fortunately, Florance was one of the seven that remained healthy, and he proved from the outset that the year away from scholastic wrestling didn't slow his progression.

"He did great this year, and he stayed focused," MacNaught said, noting from day one, the goal was to win a state title. "He didn't give up a point at the state tournament, and when you do that, it's hard for you to lose. He gave up 10 points at the Windsor Tournament, but I bet he didn't give up 10 points the rest of the year."

Given Florance has two more seasons of varsity wrestling, he could match the three state titles of former Bears wrestler Eric Decker, who won three in the 2000s.

Like all championship-caliber wrestlers, Florance shares the same driven mentality as Decker - and every other great school alumni - but MacNaught isn't ready to compare his standout grappler to anyone from the past.

"(Darren's) story hasn't been written," MacNaught said. "Ask me (to compare) again in two years."