By a tiny margin, the Baldwinsville wrestling team fended off a challenge from Liverpool and won the Section III Class AA championship.
In Saturday's AA meet at Cicero-North Syracuse, the Bees picked up 226 points, while the Warriors gained 222.5 points to finish a very close second. Host C-NS, with 192 points, took third place.
Four times, B'ville wrestlers made it to the championship round, and won all four. Kevin Paul dominated at 106 pounds, pinning Austin Duger (Auburn) and shutting out Travis Chewning-Kulick (Liverpool) 6-0 before a final where he also blanked Central Square's Blake Engebretsen 8-0.
Tim Sposato took top honors at 113 pounds, where he pinned Lucas Spiker (Central Square) to reach the finals and, once there, rolled past C-NS's Joe Copani 14-1. Anthony Rafkis, at 160 pounds, beat Tiel Thang (Institute of Technology Central) 6-1 to reach the title match, where he held off CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt's Mark Friske in a 4-3 decision.
Finally, Pat Nasoni lay claim to the championship at 195 pounds. After pinning Auburn's Brendan Malone in a 67-second semifinal, Nasoni did even better against Central Square's Nick Baker in the title match, pinning him in just 47 seconds.
With every point important, Jabr Bengabr earned third place at 120 pounds when he beat Ben Mayers (Central Square) 10-2 in the consolation bracket final. Chad McArdell, by shutting out Liverpool's Luay Ashkar 5-0, earned a key third-place finish at 126 pounds.
Connor Ross (132 pounds) had his own third-place effort, capping it by routing C-NS's Jacob Murdock 11-1, with Joe Nasoni, at 182 pounds, pinning Spencer Norton (Central Square) in 4:25 to also finish third. Jake Florack, to earn third place at 220 pounds, edged CBA/J-D's Zach Shapiro 1-0.
Jake Norton (138 pounds) was fourth, as was James Eustice (152 pounds) and Gunnar Stuphen (170 pounds), while Steve Petrelli (145 pounds) beat Liverpool's Darren Breen 5-2 for fifth place. Ryan McArdell was sixth at 152.
Not only did the Bees take team honors, but first-year head coach Tony Burkinshaw walked away with CNY Counties League National division Coach of the Year honors after leading B'ville to a regular-season league title. B'ville beat Fayetteville-Manlius 57-7 last Wednesday, getting pins from Paul, Sposato, Ross, Joe Nasoni and Pat Nasoni.
Now Burkinshaw and many of his B'ville stars will head to Onondaga Community College's SRC Arena for this Saturday's Section III Division I championships, which start at 9 a.m. Winners are guaranteed spots in the Feb. 24-25 state meet at Albany's Times Union Center.