GLENS FALLS — When the marathon wrestling match was finally through, Willie Thacker was on top. Literally.
“I rode him out,” the Niskayuna senior said after his win over Nick Pino of La Salle at last Saturday’s Section II state meet qualifier. “That’s not really a strength of mine. I just held on.”
Thacker prevailed in the Division I 138-pound final on criteria after he and Pino were tied at 12 after six minutes of regulation wrestling, a one-minute overtime, and a pair of 30-second overtimes. Thacker got on top of Pino to begin the last 30-second session and stayed there as his corner coaches urged him to do.
“Once it went to overtime, it got real intense,” Thacker said.
The senior won the Division I title at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls and earned his automatic state meet berth a week after placing first at the Section II Class A meet at Shenendehowa High School.
Thacker was on top of a different kind of mountain at this time a year ago, doing AP work, studying nature and examining critical thinking while at the High Mountain Institute in Colorado.
“I went there for a semester, and along with the classes, we spent a lot of time with nature,” Thacker said. “It was totally worth it.”
Thacker made a significant jump upon his return, after placing third his sophomore year at the Class A meet and fourth at the Division 1 meet.
“Willie is a thinking man’s wrestler,” Niskayuna coach Shaun Neely said. “He figures things out.”
Of the 30 Section II champions crowned in Glens Falls, Thacker was the only one who prevailed from the No. 4 seed position. Most of the first-place wrestlers, including 160-pounder Peter Meshkov of Niskayuna, held a No. 1 seed.
“I think winning [the Class A] was great for his confidence,” Neely said.
Thacker decisioned Seamus Leavey of Shenendehowa 6-3 and decisioned No. 1 Eric Griskowitz of Saratoga Springs 5-1 before outlasting No. 2 Pino for the Division I title.
At the Class A meet Thacker was seeded No. 3. He pinned James Hough of Guilderland in 1:30, decisioned No. 2 Leavey in overtime 9-7 and decisioned No. 1 Griskowitz 5-3 for the top spot.
“He is very technical. He is a very accomplished wrestler,” Thacker said of Griskowitz, who had beaten the Niskayuna senior in the semifinals at the Saratoga Invitational. “I’m a scrappy wrestler. I’m not a good match-up for him.”
Thacker was 11-1 when he stepped away from the Niskayuna program his junior year. With six postseason wins this month, he’ll take a 32-7 record to the Feb. 22-23 state meet at the Times Union Center in Albany.
The Section II Division I champions list also includes Jashon Holmes of Shaker (99), Stevo Poulin of Shenendehowa (106), Dylan Sleezer of Queensbury (113), John DeConno of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (120), Vince Santilli of South Glens Falls (126), Jake Deguire of Mohonasen (132), Brock Delsignore of Shenendehowa (145), Sean Malenfant of Averill Park (152), Jakai Townsend of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (170), Liam Mooney of Colonie (182), Brant Robinson of Saratoga Springs (195), Nik Koch of Averill Park (220) and Jake Stangle of Ballston Spa (285).