GLENS FALLS — Hunter McKenna had worked too hard for too long to finish second for a third straight year.
The Warrensburg junior put together one huge move Saturday night to pin Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George’s Justin Hoffman in the Division II 152-pound final of the Section II state wrestling qualifier at Cool Insuring Arena.
“It’s amazing, I’ve been working for 13 years of my life for this,” an emotional McKenna said after winning his first Section II title. “I came up short twice, now it’s my turn. It sucked having to step on the podium twice in second place. I can’t wait to sleep on this tonight.”
McKenna, who was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for D-II, joined Hudson Falls’ Chris Petteys (106 pounds), Corinth’s John Freebern (120) and the Whitehall-Fort Ann duo of Brendan Covey (195) and Spencer Dickinson (285) as first-time Section II champions.
Corinth junior Alec Richards, meanwhile, repeated as a Section II champ, winning D-II at 170. Saratoga Springs’ Eric Griskowitz won at 145 in Division I.
Several other local wrestlers finished second Saturday, as Hoffman, Glens Falls’ Avi Berg (99), W-FA’s David Austin (145), Salem-Cambridge’s Evan Day (220) and Schuylerville’s Andrew Dumas (285) came up short in D-II, as did Queensbury’s Trevor Robbins (138) in D-I.
Winners and a number of at-large selections to be determined later advance to the State Wrestling Tournament, set for Feb. 28-29 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
McKenna, 39-1 this season and Warrensburg’s all-time career wins leader, had lost by fall in the finals the last two seasons. On Saturday night, he built a 6-3 lead in the second period, then started the third period in neutral position and caught Hoffman in a cradle for the pin at the 4:19 mark of their final.
“He wrestled a smart match against a tough kid,” Burghers coach Mark Trapasso said. “He opened it up — Hoffman is a hammer on top, so he wrestled well on his feet.”
Petteys was overjoyed with his 7-2 victory over Greenville’s Kieran Cullen, scoring early takedowns that held up as he became Hudson Falls’ first Section II champ since 2015.
“I was just coming out confident, I wanted to complete my dream of being a Section II champion that I’ve been working for my whole life,” said Petteys, a junior who improved to 37-4 this season.
“He wrestled flawlessly all day today,” Tigers coach Mike Prendergast said. “He was a man on a mission, and not just today, but all season. Last year, he went to states as an at-large, but he didn’t feel like he belonged. But then he won a couple of matches and got to the second day (of states), and that set a fire for him this year.”
At 120, Freebern (33-1) nearly pinned Cobleskill’s Gus Spohn late in the second period, then caught Spohn again and put him on his back in the third, earning the pin in 5:15.
“You’ve just got to keep wrestling through everything, no matter what happens,” Freebern said. “I was just looking for that tilt, see if I could open up that arm bar and throw in my power half.”
Richards (34-2), who won the D-II title at 138 last year, moved up to 170 this season and pinned Duanesburg’s Caden Landauer 2:53 into their final, after taking him down several times.
“My strategy is always on my feet and turn him if I can,” Richards said.
“He’s so tough on his feet — it’s not a stretch to say he might have the most takedowns ever for a Corinth wrestler,” Tomahawks coach Dick Whitaker said. “He got a taste of states last year and he wanted to go back.”
Covey (35-2), a senior, earned an 8-2 win over Watervliet’s Nick McNulty in the 195 final, then cheered on teammate Dickinson at 285. Dickinson (35-4), the third seed, pinned the fourth-seeded Dumas in 5:31 after opening an 11-3 lead.
“My first takedown, I felt more confident, I knew I could take him down again,” said Dickinson, a junior. “It’s a blessing to come down here — I got sixth last year, so it’s just an adrenaline rush to actually win it.”
Berg, who entered the finals with a 30-0 record, came up short in a 9-5 loss to Ichabod Crane’s Jair Gomez, a returning Section II champ. Berg took a 5-4 lead with a takedown in the second period, but Gomez rallied.
“I could’ve beaten him on neutral (position) if I didn’t hesitate — I should have taken a shot and I didn’t,” said Berg, a freshman. “He couldn’t hold me on the bottom, he couldn’t work his top stuff like he does on everyone else. I changed his match more than he changed mine.”
Local wrestlers finishing third in D-I were Queensbury’s Will Fraser (170), Dylan Schell (182) and Seth Guay (220), and Saratoga seventh-grader Lucius Anderson at 99.
Placing third in D-II were Granville senior Cole Haines (160), Hudson Falls’ Dom Doyle (99), H-L/LG’s Caleb Carpenter (113), Corinth’s Devlin Blanchard (126), Warrensburg’s Tanner McKenna (132) and Jacob Clear (285), and Glens Falls’ Skyler Sturdevant (152).
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.
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