Over the course of two months, the Cazenovia wrestling team had proven itself to be the one challenger worthy to take on superpower Phoenix with the OHSL Liberty division title at stake.
But when the two sides gathered Wednesday night at Buckley Gym to decide the league title, the gap between them remained significant, as the Firebirds beat the Lakers 44-18 to finish in first place.
They started at 130 pounds, and the home team got the first two matches. Jake Wilson, at 130, fought his way past Rowdy Prior 8-6, and Adam Lockwood (135 pounds) dominated Ben Gouchle in an 8-0 shutout.
However, Phoenix recovered to win six of the seven matches to take command, with standouts Dylan Perry (145 pounds) and Noah Shephard (152 pounds) managing just one point between them in losses to Tyler Button and Caleb Wallace.
Only Dan Cossitt, at 171 pounds, broke up the Firebird run, earning a 17-0 technical fall over Hayden Virginia. Brad Nardella earned the other win at 103 pounds, pinning Austin Brutcher in just 31 seconds as Jose Wells (119 pounds) took a 9-8 defeat to Zach Lytle.
Cazenovia will be one of the favorites for Saturday's Onondaga High School League Liberty/Patriot division championship meet at Port Byron.