When he took second place at 96 pounds during the last month's Section III Division II meet, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill's Dylan Kavanaugh resolved himself to do better if he got an at-large bid to the state championship meet.
Sure enough, when the state's top wrestlers got together last weekend at Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, Kavanaugh would shine, going all the way to the 96-pound championship match before seeing his title dreams come up one victory short.
A trio of VVS wrestlers -- Kavanaugh, Dan Walts (112 pounds) and Ryan Wendt (215 pounds) -- all gained at-large bids at the state meet after runner-up finishes at the sectional meet. All would have varying amounts of success, with Kavanaugh faring best.
Kavanaugh, a freshman, got started on Saturday morning against Robert Morgan (Oyster Bay), from Long Island, and piled up points in a 9-2 victory.
From there, he moved on to Saturday afternoon's quarterfinal against Chris Bourguignon, another Long Island native from Port Jefferson. And while the match was a bit tighter, Kavanaugh prevailed over Bourguignon 6-2.
In this same around, Section III champion Dom Giacalone (Cato-Meridian), who beat Kavanaugh in that title match Feb. 23 at Cicero-North Syracuse, lost Arik Robinson, a freshman from Peru. That would prove important later.
On Sunday morning, Kavanaugh returned for the semifinals and took charge against Noah Valastro (Hudson Falls), piling up points in a 12-6 decision that put him in the finals -- against Arik Robinson.
As it turned out, Robinson's toughest match had come against Giacalone, for he would handle Kavanaugh in the finals, using an expert series of takedowns to take an 8-1 decision.
At least Kavanaugh came home with a medal and a final season mark of 36-10. Both Walts and Wendt came up just short in similar quests.
Walts, a sophomore, won in the 112-pound opening round on Saturday, pinning Jacob Demmon (Clifton Fine) in 3:09, but in the quarterfinals he fell 6-0 to Danny Gormley (Bainbridge-Guilford-Afton), and would also fall to Curt Thompson (Whitehall) 11-1 in the consolation bracket.
As for Wendt, a senior at 215 pounds, he could not escape the opening round in the main bracket, taking a narrow 4-3 loss to Southampton's Julius Agnlikas.
Moving to the consolation bracket, Wendt would get two more wins, pinning Jedd Mason (Whitehall) in 2:41 and topping Craig Amidon (Canisteo-Greenwood) 5-1 before a 4-3, triple-overtime defeat to Noah Sibley (Windsor). Had Wendt won that match, he would have been assured a spot on the medal podium.