PENDLETON — Western New York’s No. 4 ranked wrestling squad Starpoint split a pair of duals between Tuesday and Wednesday with other top ranked teams in Section VI.
On Tuesday, the Spartans visited Niagara County rival No. 5 Newfane in a rare outdoor match on the Panther’s grass field. Starpoint was able to escape with a 32-26 win to improve to 4-0 overall while dropping the Panthers to 5-1 and out of first place in the Niagara/Orleans ‘super league’ standings.
Starpoint collected seven wins to the Panthers’ six, which included two forfeits and one pin. Newfane recorded two pins in the contest while winning six of the eleven contested matches.
After ten weights, the team score was tied at 23-23 with only three bouts remaining. Starpoint’s George Thompson recorded the team’s only pin of the match at 160-pounds to put the Spartans ahead 29-23. After a decision victory by Newfane’s Phil Stevenson at 172, the Panthers would cut the deficit to 29-26. However, the Spartans’ Landon Grainy would seal the win via a 3-2 decision in the final bout of the night at 189-pounds.
Starpoint was led with wins by JR Leuer, Dylan Lyness, Griffin LaPlante, Gage LaPlante, Peyton Lyness, Thompson and Grainy. Newfane was led by winners Ayden Buttery, Aidan Gillings, Andy Lucinski, Stevenson, Simon Lingle, and Charles Larosse.
On Wednesday the Spartans hosted No. 3 Pioneer in what was — for this year — a non-league matchup of two typical ECIC II rivals.
Like Newfane, Pioneer is one of the premier small school programs in WNY. The Starpoint/Pioneer rivalry has become a must-see match annually on the WNY wrestling calendar, and Wednesday’s edition held up to that standard in spite of the lack of league title implications on the line. Pioneer’s dramatic 39-30 victory in 2019-2020 was last season’s ECIC II title match.
After the Spartans jumped out to a 12-0 lead, Pioneer answered with 28 straight points, ultimately winning the dual by a 32-25 final score. It was the second top-five matchup in as many nights for Starpoint, who will travel to Yorkshire to tangle with the Panthers again in a Saturday quad meet where it will also meet Franklinville, Olean and Randolph.
In Wednesday’s dual, seventh grade star Griffin LaPlante got the hosts on the board first by receiving a forfeit at 126-pounds. Returning sectional champion Gage LaPlante and sectional place winner CJ Uptegrove added decision victories to the team score for a 12-0 Spartans lead.
However, Pioneer answered with six consecutive wins from 145 to 215 pounds, which included three pins, followed by three decisions to give the Panthers a 28-12 lead.
Senior Beckham Peehler got the hosts back on track with a decision at 285 pounds to add three points to the team score going into the last four weights.
A forfeit received by JR Leuer at 102 pounds and a major decision courtesy of seventh grader Zach Caldwell at 110 put the Spartans to within three points — down 28-25 — of the Panthers.
However, defending Section VI Division II champion and returning NYSPHSAA fourth-place finisher Dan Kirsch stormed out to a 9-0 major decision victory to seal the Pioneer victory.
“I feel that my wrestlers have made big strides, but there is much to improve on,” said Starpoint head coach Steve Hart after Wednesday’s match.
“Newfane and Pioneer are elite programs with elite coaching, and I think we showed that we belong in that conversation now. Both matches came down to grit and determination and kids from all three teams doing their jobs. One unsung hero for us is senior captain Sam Taylor, who stepped to the forefront for his team having to wrestle (Newfane’s) Andy Lucinski (two-time NYSPHSAA finalist) and (Pioneer’s) Kam Riordan (NYSPHSAA fifth-place finisher) in back to back matches.”
Starpoint currently sits in second place in the very strong Niagara/Orleans ‘super league’ standings with a 4-0 league record and 4-1 overall. Newfane fell to a 5-1 league mark while Pioneer, wrestling an independent schedule this season, improved to 2-0 overall.