Skaneateles wrestler Josh Brillo holds his 132-pound opponent, Fabius-Pompey’s Bill Heselden, on the mat in the semifinal of the Jan. 4 Port Byron Invitational. Brillo would pin Heselden to win that match and finish second overall, his Lakers also gaining second place in the team standings.
Back-to-back runner-up finishes in large-scale tournaments at South Lewis and Port Byron had the Skaneateles wrestling team in a confident mood going back into the OHSL Liberty division fray.
What awaited last Wednesday night, though, was the Lakers’ trip to Phoenix, and the Firebirds would prevail in 11 of 15 bouts, handing Skaneateles a 50-23 defeat.
Even with two state champions (Nick Tighe and Rowdy Prior) who graduated after the 2012-13 season, Phoenix, coached by Gene Mills, is still one of the area’s strongest programs, and its move from the OHSL Freedom division to the Liberty league meant that the Lakers would get a close-up look at them each winter.
Mike Goetzmann did give Skaneateles a victory in the 152-pound opener, pinning Alan Ashby 41 seconds into the second period, but the Firebirds won each of the next four bouts to take control, even though Connor Gray (182 pounds) was tough in a 4-0 defeat to William Hilliard.
Cooper Pitman got the Lakers back on the board at 220 pounds when he pinned Austin Wirth midway through the third period. Two matches later, at 99 pounds, Christian Daley recorded an 18-3 technical fall over Malachi Santiago.
Phoenix won six of the remaining matches, with only Maverick Janes (138 pounds) breaking that spell with his pin over Adam Pinzer with 33 seconds left. Joey Brillo, at 113 pounds, lost, 3-1, to Ross McFarland, with Josh Brillo (132 pounds) taking a 9-7 defeat to Brad Dietz and Andrew Newton (145 pounds) falling to Kyle Demo 6-2.
Just 24 hours later, the Lakers were back home, facing Morrisville-Eaton, and it quickly returned to the win column, pushing its way past the Warriors 42-27 in a thriller that included three overtime bouts and three others decided by two points or less.
That began at 99, where J.W. Simmons lost, 5-3, to Beau Burke, part of a streak where M-E won the first three bouts, including an overtime classic at 112 where Max Collier fell to Tyler Ayers 11-9.