Verona Tough competition everywhere would await the Marcellus wrestling team as it traveled to Vernon-Verona-Sherrill for Saturday’s Section III Class B championships.
But Zach Ruggles was up to it, as his victory in the 120-pound division, combined with a near-victory for Ben Hood at 113 pounds, gave Mustangs fans plenty to smile about, even though it only finished ninth in a 12-team field.
Ruggles, as the top seed, started in the quarterfinals, where he pinned Peter Davis (Homer) 24 seconds into the second period. Then he met South Jefferson’s Kyle Snyder in the semifinals and won an 8-3 decision.
Moving to the title bout, Ruggles took on Morrisville-Eaton’s Zach Burke, and it proved a close match, with every point important. But Ruggles held on to beat Burke, 5-3, and went to the top of the podium, improving his record to 30-4 this winter.
As this was going on, Hood contended at 113, working past Ross McFarland (Phoenix) 6-2 in the quarterfinals and Austin Vanderhoff (VVS) 6-0 in the semifinals. A close final followed against Mexico’s Hunter Howland, but Howland pulled it out, beating Hood 5-4, just the fifth defeat of the season for Hood against 29 victories.
Sam Rice also wrestled at 113 for the Mustangs, losing to Dennis Hilts (Camden) 4-3 in the quarterfinals, but recovering to finish third, pinning Cameron Cronk (Homer) and edging Vanderhoff 3-2 before shutting out McFarland 4-0 in the consolation bracket final.
With these efforts, Ruggles, Hood and Rice all qualified for this Saturday’s Section III Division II championships at SRC Arena, which start at 10 a.m.
Back in the Class B meet, John Dunn, who is 26-6 this season, lost in the semifinals due to a disqualification against Central Valley Academy’s Nathan Cook. Nate Long took sixth place at 145 pounds, with Kevin Morrissey matching that sixth-place effort at 160 pounds.