ALBANY A full decade after Shawn Farnham gave the Baldwinsville wrestling program its last state championship, four seniors – Kevin Paul, Chad McArdell, Gunnar Sutphen and Joe Nasoni – would try to add to that total at Albany’s Times Union Center.
And while they were unable to do so, each of them put out a memorable effort, with everything from come-from-behind pins to hard-earned decisions that they earned along the way.
Paul, wrestling at 138 pounds, was the veteran, appearing in his third straight state meet. McArdell, Sutphen and Nasoni all said that having Paul as a mentor was important as he gave advice on how to stay focused and perform on the big stage.
As the Sportsmanship Award winner from his section, Paul had the honor of carrying the Section III banner into the arena as part of Friday’s opening ceremonies.
Two hours later, he was on the mat, taking on Shenendehowa’s Kevin Parker in the first round, but he didn’t stay on his feet for long, Parker nearly pinning him in the first period on his way to a 10-0 lead and what looked like certain victory.
But then Paul got off his back, earned a takedown, and midway through the second period, with one quick move, Paul put Parker’s shoulders on the mat for a dramatic pin that sent him to the quarterfinals against the top seed, Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi.
Here, the dream of a state title ended, as Lapi bolted out to a 4-0 lead. Paul earned his lone point on an escape, but Lapi dominated the rest of the bout and prevailed, 12-1, eventually earning the state championship on Saturday night with an overtime victory over MacArthur’s Justin Cooksey.
Later on Friday night, in the consolation bracket, Paul ran into West Seneca East’s Danny Graham and lost a close 6-3 decision, which put an end to a 39-6 season and a high school career that included nearly 150 total wins.