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Northern Tier Sports Report
CANTON — The schedule makers didn’t do much for Canton coach Lyle Wesneski’s sleep these past few nights.

They were dealt Athens in their very first match with just four days of practice. Four days to get his line-up ready and his wrestler’s weights in line, let alone worrying about conditioning and preparedness.

However, in the end, his wrestlers showed he had nothing to worry about, beating the Wildcats 40-22 in the season opener for the both teams.

“We both didn’t know what we had,” said Wesneski. “We were looking at each other’s line-ups, guessing who was going to be where.”

After a close start Canton’s murderer’s row of Hudson Ward (145), Hayden Ward (152) and Riley Parker (152) gave them some breathing room, with falls by Derek Atherton-Ely (189) and Gage Pepper (215) shutting the door.

Wesneski admitted he was up late at night hoping he got his ducks in a row for the high profile match-up.

“It was our first night making weight,” he explained. “Getting through that mental part of getting down, and I said ‘you’re only going to get stronger.’”

He also explained to his kids that Athens was in ‘the same boat as us.’

“They only had three more practices than us,” remarked Wesneski. “It’s going to take them a few weeks before the guys hit stride.”

The Wildcats are always a tough match - Canton only beat them by one point a year ago when they won the NTL title - and Athens won the flip to dictate the match-ups.

“You just have to be tough,” said Wesneski. “That’s what it’s going to boil down too. They’re going to go, because that’s what they do. Shawn’s kids wrestle six minutes all out. I thought we matched them pretty well conditioning wise. We got two periods of conditioning in us, in a couple weeks we’ll get three.”

It was back and forth the first four weights.

At 120 Joshua Courtney used takedowns in the first and second periods to take a 4-2 lead into the third. However, Lehman took top in the third and got Courtney on his back late to get the fall in 5:22, putting the Warriors up 6-0.

“That was huge,” said Wesneski. “I knew she had a chance, that’s why I put her on top. She gets the boots in, we’ve got a chance. She likes it, and she’s good at it.”

At 126 Athens’ Mason Vanderpool responded, beating Canton’s Brayden Wesneski by a 10-2 major decision on the strength of two takedowns and two sets of back points.

At 132 points were hard to come by as Canton’s Bailey Ferguson edged Athens’ Jacob Courtney 5-2. The first period was a mad scramble between the two - at one point it looked like Ferguson might lock Courtney up in a cradle - but it wasn’t until late that Ferguson got his takedown.

However, on a roll Courtney broke free and notched a reversal to knot things up at 2-2.

In the second period Ferguson rode Courtney the whole two minutes. 

Courtney let Ferguson up to start the third, making it 3-2. Then, during a scramble, Ferguson was able to lock up a cradle for the deciding takedown, 5-2.

Down 9-4 Athens responded at 138 as Kaden Setzer scored 13 takedowns in a 26-11 technical fall over Canton’s Austin Allen in 5:10.

With the score knotted up at 9-9 Canton entered the heart of their line-up, beginning with Hudson Ward at 145.

Hudson had put on a show of his own, getting 11 takedowns, in his 24-8 technical fall win over Athens’ Lucas Forbes in 5:17.

Then, at 152, Hayden Ward scored a technical fall over Athens’ Christopher Bathgate 15-0 in 5:10. Ward used a first period takedown coupled with back to back near fall points for a 7-0 lead. In the second he scored an escape, followed by a takedown with more back points to go up 13-0. 

Ward got the deciding takedown in the third to put Canton up 19-9.

“That was the right move, moving the Ward boys up in the middle,” said Wesneski. “The Bathgate kid is tough, and I knew I needed to take him out there.”

Then at 160 Riley Parker edged out Wildcat Karter Rude 3-0, getting a first period takedown and a second period escape. In the third Rude pushed the pace and had Parker tired out, but the sophomore was able to hold off Rude’s attacks for the win to give the Warriors a 22-9 lead.

Athens’ Zach Stafursky (172) got the Wildcats back on the scoreboard with a 10-3 win over Canton’s Brenen Taylor. Stafursky nearly had Taylor pinned in the first period after getting a takedown and five back points.

Taylor came back in the second with an escape and takedown of his own to cut it to 5-3. Stafursky would continue to score with an escape, followed by a takedown to take an 8-3 lead.

He added a final takedown in the third, but couldn’t turn Taylor to get the major decision.

22-12 is as close as Athens would get as Canton got back to back first period falls at the next two weights.

Derek Atherton-Ely (189) pinned Josiah Stringham in 23 seconds followed by Gage Pepper (215) scoring a fall over Colin Rosh in 1:58.

That sealed it for Canton as they led 34-12 with three weights left.

At 285 Canton’s Conner Davis injured his shoulder and defaulted to Athens’ Joshua Nittinger in 14 seconds, cutting it to 34-18.

“We pray the damage is minimal, especially with a shortened season,” said Wesneski. 

Canton’s Cohen Landis followed with a forfeit at 106.

Athens’ state place winner, Gavin Bradley, finally took the mat at 113 and earned a 10-1 major decision over Canton’s Isaac Landis.

Bradley started the first two periods with takedowns and a set of back points to go up 9-0. In the third they both got a point for the 10-1 final.

“I was pleased with all of them,” Wesneski remarked, noting that he liked how his kids fought for six minutes, even in losses.

“The kids didn’t give up bonus points,” he continued. “That was one of my pet peeves last year.”

Obviously, it’s hard to watch knowing what could have been if Timmy Ward was healthy at an upper weight spot.

“It probably would have been six the other way if we had that spot,” said Wesneski. “But you’ve got to go with the cards you’re dealt. Everybody is dealing with something this year.”

The younger kids came through for them, though, as freshmen and sophomores hold down 10 of the 13 spots.

“They’re the backbone of this program,” said Wesneski. “We got to build off them.”

CUTLINE: Canton’s Hudson Ward eyes up Athens’ Lucas Forbes at 145 pounds Tuesday…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING.


120: Mia Lehman (C) by fall over Josh Courtney (A), 5:22;

126: Mason Vanderpool (A) major dec. Brayden Wesneski (C), 10-2;

132: Bailey Ferguson (C) dec. Jake Courtney (A), 5-2;

138: Kaden Setzer (A) tech. fall over Austin Allen (C), 26-10 @ 5:10;

145: Hudson Ward (C) tech. fall over Lucas Forbes (A), 22-7 @ 5:17;

152: Hayden Ward (C) tech. fall over Chris Bathgate (A), 15-0 @ 5:10;

160: Riley Parker (C) dec. Karter Rude (A), 3-0;

172: Zach Stafursky (A) dec. Brennan Taylor (C), 10-3;

182: Derek Atherton-Ely (C) by fall over Josiah Stringham (A), :23;

215: Gage Pepper (C) by fall over Colin Rosh (A), 1:58;

285: Josh Nittinger (A) injury default Conner Davis, :14

106: Cohen Landis (C) won by forfeit;

113: Gavin Bradley (A) major dec. Isaac Landis (C), 10-1.

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