In perhaps the ultimate sign of how far it had risen, the Cazenovia wrestling team was one of 16 teams invited to the biggest team event of the season -- the annual Section III Dual Meet, held Saturday at Rome Free Academy.
The only drawback on the whole thing was that the Lakers had to meet top seed and defending champion Phoenix in the opening round. Sure enough, the Firebirds handled the Lakers in a 56-18 decision on its way to repeating as Dual Meet champions.
Phoenix won the first seven matches before Cody Foster, at 189 pounds, finally got the Lakers on the board by pinning Jonathan Rhodes with 29 seconds left in their match.
Clancy Kemp followed at 215 pounds by pinning Anthony Gandino in 4:21, and Alex Petroff (125 pounds) closed the meet with his pin over Steve Denbleyker in 2:48. Dylan Perry (140 pounds) had a close call, but lost to Brandon Colling 6-5.
Later, in the consolation bracket, Cazenovia would fare better, getting the rotation just where it wanted at the end to beat the Sandy Creek Comets 34-29.
Sandy Creek won the first four matches on the card, going ahead 16-0, but the Lakers answered with three straight pins to take an 18-16 lead. Phil Kugler (160 pounds) took 1:05 to finish off Ed Scheppard, while Sam Taylor (171 pounds) earned his pin over Tyler Gronau in 2:26 and Foster pinned John Hamlin in 3:06.
After the Comets went back in front 19-18 as Kemp lost a close decision, Brad Nardella (103 pounds) dominated Jake Benedict 16-2, with Jose Wells, at 112 pounds, pinning Jake Donohoe in 3:27.
Even though the Comets won the next two matches and reclaimed a 29-28 lead, the meet ended with Petroff, who just needed any kind of win over Mason McNitt. It took just 1:46 for Petroff to pin McNitt and put Cazenovia on top.
Cazenovia will clinch the OHSL Liberty division regular-season title Tuesday if it wins at Jordan-Elbridge, this before a Saturday visit to Solvay for the OHSL Liberty/Patriot tournament.