Due to its accumulated record and enhanced reputation, the Canastota wrestling team was one of 16 squads invited to the 19th annual Section III Dual Meet, staged last Saturday at Rome Free Academy.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the at-large draw did not produce much luck -- for it had to meet no. 2 seed Phoenix in the opening round.
Sure enough, the Firebirds, ranked no. 1 among small-school programs in the state, beat the Raiders 54-10, with the Raiders only prevailing twice, one of them a forfeit to Sean Wilkinson at 140 pounds.
John Carver, competing at 171 pounds, easily handled Jeff Hendrickson in a 16-4 decision. Elsewhere, Tyler Sirota (119 pounds) fought hard in a 6-2 loss to Talon Sotherden, while Brandon Durfee (103 pounds) fell to Nick Tighe 9-3.
Eventually, Phoenix made it all the way to the finals, where it dethroned nine-time defending champion Fulton. They tied in points 24-24, but Phoenix won based on criteria, earning seven of the 13 matches.
Meanwhile, the Raiders had a consolation match, where it would bounce back and beat Baldwinsville 31-25.
It helped that Jake LaBarre got to start, at 160 pounds, where he held off Andrew Giormini 4-3. Carver then beat Corey Buyck in an injury default before James Coonrod, at 189 pounds, edged past Vince Todzia 10-7.
B'ville took four of the next matches, and even Durfee stood up in his 6-3 defeat to the Bees' top wrestler, Anthony Finocchiaro. Sirota, now at 112 pounds, followed by pinning Tim Hamm in 1:51.
Nate Hopkins, at 135 pounds, earned a tough 3-0 decision over Joe Senf after Zach Zupan (130 pounds) dazzled with a 36-second pin of Pete Cole.
Still, it came down to the 152-pound finale between Wilkinson and Sean Hennigan. It never proved to be close, as Wilkinson blanked Hennigan 13-0 and the Raiders had the victory.