February 11, 2013
This blog entry was supposed to be entirely about the Section III championships in wrestling and indoor track that took place at SRC Arena last week, and yes, we'll talk about them. But what happened on Sunday may have been the most astonishing, strange, bizarre and sad news of the high school sports season, all at once.
F-M's ice hockey team, who finished second in Division I West, found itself out of the post-season because it realized, too late, that it had played 21 regular-season games, one more than the 20 that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association mandates.
The supreme irony of it all was that F-M didn't have to play that 21st game, a 4-2 defeat to Rome Free Academy. That game filled out the league schedule, but it had no bearing on the final standings. Once F-M realized its mistake, it self-reported the violation and, in essence, gave up its season.
Your heart aches for the Hornets players, coaches and parents who, clearly, didn't intend to do this. But the rules are pretty straightforward, and though F-M plans an appeal, it isn't likely to go places.
Because of this, Baldwinsville, with apologies to Lou Gehrig, must consider themselves the luckiest men on the face of the Earth. Instead of meeting state no. 1-ranked C-NS in the quarterfinals, the Bees host sub-.500 Central Square. Slight difference, don't you think?
In all, three Division I playoff matchups changed because of F-M's unexpected departure. Now Rome Free Academy, who shares the top spot in the state rankings with C-NS, plays Cortland-Homer, who took the Hornets' place in the field. Now C-NS plays the Syracuse Cougars. Only West Genesee's match-up with Watertown IHC remains unchanged.
In Division II, no upheaval, just two very intriguing opening-round games where defending champ Oswego must face a Cazenovia side it tied twice during the season and Auburn hosts CBA/J-D. The top two seeds, Skaneateles and New Hartford, will have gone nearly two weeks between the end of the regular season and hosting the semifinals early next week. Will the rest, or rust, affect them?
Before all this, from Wednesday through Saturday there were three days of sectional championships decided at SRC Arena, starting with indoor track and field.
It was F-M again, twice over, in Class AA, the boys led by Nick Ryan and the girls paced by Alana Pearl as they both won two distance races and the Hornets cleaned up in the relays, too.
J-D tried for its own sweep in Class A and did win on the girls side, led by Rachel Fairbanks and Sierra Vasiliou, but it was Westhill/Bishop Ludden winning the Class A boys title, sweeping the relays and getting a shot put win from Corey Wilkinson on the day he signed to attend West Point.
Just down the road from Westhill/Ludden, Solvay had its own reason to brag after winning the Class B boys sectional meet, holding off Clinton by getting sprint titles from Nick Cometti and jumping points from Brian McLeod. Cazenovia ruled in Class B girls as Ashley Winn continued to own the sprints, regardless of opposition, and the Lakers placed everywhere else to fend off Skaneateles.
They also had the Class C/D boys and girls sectional meets on Thursday, where West Canada dominated the boys competition, outlasting Tully, 188 points to 143, led by Riley Synecki taking the long jump, triple jump and high jump. In the girls meet, West Canada nearly got a sweep, but South Lewis held them off, 83 points to 79, with Victoria Campanian in the lead role as she won the 1,000 and helped out in a pair of winning Falcons relays.
Come Saturday, and after all the snow on Friday, it was time to pull out the mats for the sectional wrestling championships. Team-wise, it was Baldwinsville winning Division I by two points, 143.5 to Fulton's 141.5, while in Division II South Jefferson's season-long domination culminated with 146.5 points to Phoenix's 112.5.
Both the Firebirds and Spartans could take something from the meet, though. They share Most Outstanding Wrestler honors through the Spartans' Jon Crast and the Firebirds' Rowdy Prior, the latter of whom knocked off unbeaten Tyler Spann (Adirondack) for the 152-pound title.
And of course there's Phoenix's main man, Nick Tighe. All Tighe has done is win back-to-back state championships in 2011 and '12, and in pursuit of a three-peat, he passed two milestones at the sectional meet, getting career win no. 250 (a rare thing) and career pin no. 150 (an even rarer thing).
Just as rare is having a guy win five sectional championships in his career. Just three had pulled it off before Indian River's Derrick Gray did so in Division I at 138 pounds, the same weight class as Tighe. That got Gray MOW honors among the large-school competitors.
All of the sectional wrestling champions can now gear up for the Feb. 22-23 state meet in Albany, the same weekend as the hockey sectional finals at Utica Auditorium, an event F-M thought it had a chance to make it to, if only it had curtailed its schedule a bit.