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NTL WRESTLING: CANTON PULLS AWAY FROM TOWANDA IN BIG NTL TILT (2023-01-18)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
TOWANDA — It’s safe to say the fans got their money’s worth in Canton’s 39-23 win over Towanda during NTL wrestling action Tuesday. They probably got their money’s worth in the opening match - the rest was just gravy.

The bout opened at 139 and the fans got Canton’s Hayden Ward against Towanda’s Riley Vanderpool, two wrestlers with a combined record of 29-4, and it ended with a thrilling match from Towanda’s Rylee Sluyter and Canton’s Holden Ward, two wrestlers with a combined record of 20-11.


In between, though, the Warriors experience won out, all but clinching another league title.


They won the battle of the big guns, taking three (139, 189, 285) to one (132), and they won the battle of toss-up matches, three (139, 285, 127) to one (132).


“We had some guys who came up with key wins,” said Canton coach Lyle Wesneski. “We had some kids who battled, who didn’t give up bonus points. I mean (Brenen) Taylor got teched, but he could have very easily given up another point, and who knows with some of those matches, that could make a huge difference. And that’s what we preach about all the time.”


Canton won the matches 8-5, getting falls from Hudson Ward (152), Riley Parker (189), Michael Davis (215), Lyle Vermilya (107), and Cohen Landis (121), while earning decisions out of Hayden Ward (139), Mason Nelson (285), and Carson Rockwell (127). 


“It feels really good,” Parker said about the win. “We knew it would be a good match with us the two best teams in the NTL. We came in fired up, and it feels really good to execute.”


Towanda got a fall from Jace Gunther (160), a forfeit out of Lillie Maynard (113), a tech fall from Mason Higley (172), and decisions from Chase Geurin (145) and Sluyter (133).


“Coming in we knew we probably had 5-and-5 and what happened in the other three were going to make the difference in the dual meet, and that’s what it came down to,” said Towanda coach Bill Sexton. 


The first match was a state quality bout between Hayden Ward and Riley Vanderpool. That was a match-up both coaches, and everybody in the gym, wanted to see.


Hayden came out with a 6-0 win, but did most of his scoring in the final seconds of the third period.


“It was a real tough match,” he said. “I definitely needed that because I can always be in better shape.”


It started off with an epic scramble where neither wrestler was going to give up a takedown. At one point Ward was behind Vanderpool, but couldn’t get him to the mat. Then Vanderpool was in deep on Ward’s left leg, but couldn’t corral the other one for his two points.


“Well, at first I thought I was getting a pretty easy takedown,” explained Hayden. “Then he ended up scrambling, so I just scrambled back and getting out.”


Ward was on top in the second and rode Vanderpool the whole period. He got him flat a couple times, but couldn’t turn him.


In the third Ward got a quick escape point to go up 1-0. Both wrestlers were looking to shoot, with Ward getting in deep on a single leg. Vanderpool fought him off at first, but then Ward was able to get his head for the cradle.


He took him down and to his back, nearly pinning him, for the 6-0 decision.


“It just kind of happened,” remarked Ward. “I hit my shot and I saw his head was there, so I grabbed it.”


This set the tone for Canton, giving them momentum early.


“It was a good match,” said Wesneski. “They both scrapped, it was a good bout.”


It was a bit of a microcosm for Towanda’s night, a good effort but not enough to pull out the win.


“It was one that both of us needed, and they got it,” Sexton said. “We had a couple of good scramble situations in the beginning of that that could have gone either way, and of course they didn’t, and they ended up walking away with three points.”


The Knights would tie things up at 145 as Geurin scored an 11-4 win over Canton’s Ryland Sakers. Geurin had four takedowns through the first two periods to go up 8-3.


In the third Sakers rode Geurin for half the period before the Knight got out, making it 9-3. Geurin hunted for the fifth takedown to get the major decision, and appeared to get it with 18 seconds left for the 11-3 lead.


However, Sakers got out with seven seconds to go to keep it a decision, making it tied at 3-3.


Geurin is a wrestler that has come a long way for Sexton, beginning the year backing up Vanderpool to being a fixture in the line-up.


“He’s got nothing but better since the Christmas break,” said Sexton. “And he put together a really solid winter tournament. I think that gave him a lot of confidence, and ever since then, he’s wrestled a couple of tough kids - got whacked around a little bit - but he’s a whole different kid. His confidence level has risen. He’s a solid varsity wrestler for us this year, and I’m happy with him.”


At 152 Hudson Ward, coming off a podium spot at the Mid-Winter Mayhem Tournament last weekend, wasted no time in getting a fall over Towanda’s Aiden Miller in 2:34 to make it 9-3 Warriors.


But at 160 Jace Gunther came back for Towanda with a pin of his own on Aydin Holcomb.


Holcomb took a first period lead with a double blast takedown, going up 2-1 after one. 


In the second Gunther got an escape, followed by a single leg takedown to take a 4-2 lead. He cradled Holcomb up, couldn’t turn him, ultimately content to ride him out.


The two wrestlers went neutral in the third, with Gunther getting a takedown and another cradle, this time finishing it in 4:39.


Tied at nine Towanda’s Mason Higley gave his team their only lead of the night thanks to a 17-0 technical fall over Brenen Taylor in 4:42.


It looked like Taylor might get the first takedown as he got in on a deep shot, but Higley rolled out, and got on top for the two points. From there he turned Taylor for a set of back points to go up 5-0.


In the second Higley got another takedown and added two sets of back points for the 12-0 advantage. 


Higley would get another takedown and back points in the third for the tech.


“Higley worked harder to get prepared for this wrestling season than anybody else on our team did, and it shows,” said Sexton. “Remember, he’s still a sophomore. He’s starting to really, really show some good skills out there. I’m really happy with him.”


Then came the Canton surge, beginning with Parker’s fall over Sawyer Robinson at 189.


The Warriors figured they had the edge, considering Parker is a returning state medalist, but Robinson is putting together a strong season, coming in at 16-4.


“I just sticked to my stuff,” Parker said about the win. “You know, to keep attacking. When I got on top grinding the wrists under, and I wanted to get stuff going for our team. It was close, and I knew a pin would get us rolling again.”


Parker picked Robinson up and took him to the mat for the first takedown, then barred him up for back points to go up 5-0.


In the second Parker was on top and got a stall call on Robinson for a 6-0 lead. He would turn the Black Knight again for three more points, but came up short of the fall.


Down 9-0, Robinson took a shot on Parker, but Parker caught him and took him to his back. From there he worked for the fall, getting it this time in 4:39, to put Canton back on top 15-14.


“I felt I was close the first couple times, and then that last time I just kind of went for it,” remarked Parker. “I think things just lined up. I felt like I was in good position to kind of secure it there.”


That would start a string of four straight wins for the Warriors, taking them from a 14-9 deficit to a 30-14 lead.


“He’s weighed in light because he’s thinking about the move down,” Wesneski said about Parker. “He’s just not big enough for some of these 189 pounders across the state, so he weighed in light tonight. So he went out, it getting close, so that was big, and I was happy for it.”


Canton’s Michael Davis followed with a quick fall on Tristin Conklin at 215 in 27 seconds to extend the Warrior lead to 21-14.


Then came the heavyweight bout, one that saw Mason Nelson eke out a 3-1 win over Towanda’s Audy Vanderpool.


Vanderpool appeared to put Nelson in trouble as he got a headlock in the first period, but he couldn’t do anything with it besides forcing Nelson into a stall warning.


In the second Nelson got an escape, then saw his opportunity. Vanderpool stumbled on the mat and Nelson pounced, getting the takedown, then riding him out.


In the third they went neutral, and a penalty point on Nelson cut it to 3-1. However, Vanderpool wasn’t able to get to Nelson, giving the Warrior the decision.


“That was a huge win,” Wesneski said. “We knew that was a swing match, you know, Nelson just coming back, and he’s only been practicing not even a week. He’s starting to get some more gas in the tank.”


Up 24-14 as they made the turn, Lyle Vermilya made it 30-14 thanks to his fall on Towanda’s Bryghton Yale in 3:08.


Maynard’s forfeit win at 114 cut it to 30-20, giving the Knights one last hope for a comeback.


That was dashed by Cohen Landis at 121, who scored a fall over Knight Wyatt Stranger in 39 seconds to secure the win for Canton, as they led 36-20.


The crowd would still get two entertaining bouts, beginning at 127.


Carson Rockwell would pull out an 11-8 win over Towanda’s Hayden Space. 


Space had the early lead, using two takedowns and a quick set of back points to go up 6-1. Rockwell would get a reversal to cut it to 6-3 at the first buzzer.


Starting neutral in the second Rockwell scored a takedown and back points for a 7-6 lead, then added two more back points to go up 9-6. Space did score a reversal to cut it to 9-8.


Rockwell took down in the third finally notched a reversal for the 11-8 final.


In the final match Sluyter scored a 6-5 decision on a late reversal against Holden Ward.


Ward got the first takedown, but Sluyter got out before the buzzer to make it 2-1. Ward took down in the second and earned an escape to go up 3-1, only to see Sluyter tie it up with a takedown, 3-3.


Sluyter led 4-3 after a third period escape, but Ward got in deep on a single leg to take a 5-4 lead. Sluyter came out the back when Ward got high on top, and spun around to get control. From there he rode Ward out for the 1-point win.


“It was a good solid back and forth match,” said Sexton. “Both of them walked out of there benefitting from it.”


Both teams hope this will springboard them through the final two weeks of the dual meet season.


Towanda finishes their duals with three more home matches - Wellsboro (Thursday), Wyalusing (Saturday), and Athens (next Tuesday).


“We need to get better with each one, starting with Wellsboro on Thursday,” said Sexton. “And then we go out to West Branch and wrestle some of the best competition in the state, and hopefully that gets us ready for district duals.”


Canton will get some much needed practice time in this week before going to the Clearfield Duals this weekend. Then next week they have Troy and NP-Liberty.


“There’s no rest for the weary,” said Wesneski. “We’ve just got to keep grinding and keep getting better.”


CANTON 39, TOWANDA 23

139: Hayden Ward (C) dec. Riley Vanderpool, 6-0

145: Chase Geurin (T) dec. Ryland Sakers, 11-4

152:  Hudson Ward (C) fall Aiden Miller, 2:34

160: Jace Gunther (T) fall Aydin Holcomb, 4:39

172: Mason Higley (T) tech. Brenen Taylor, 17-0, 4:42

189: Riley Parker (C) fall Sawyer Robinson, 4:39

215: Michael Davis (C) fall Tristin Conklin, :27

285: Mason Nelson (C) dec. Audy Vanderpool, 3-1

107: Lyle Vermilya (C) fall Bryghton Yale, 3:08

114: Lillie Maynard (T) fft

121: Cohen Landis (C) fall Wyatt Stranger, :39

127: Carson Rockwell (C) dec. Hayden Space, 11-8

133: Rylee Sluyter (T) dec. Holden Ward, 6-5


— — 


PHOTO CAPTION: Canton’s Hayden Ward gets back points on Towanda’s Riley Vanderpool…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING



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