LATHAM — Gordon Murray’s timing was impeccable.
The Saratoga Springs junior wrestler had never beaten teammate Vito Spatafora before, but with the two deadlocked in the 152-pound championship match during Sunday’s Section II Class A tournament at Shaker High School, Murray found his moment.
A wild, rolling scramble finally ended with Murray in control for the decisive takedown, giving him a thrilling 3-1 victory.
“I hadn’t beat him in practice at all,” Murray said. “This felt like a comeback for me.”
Murray was the only individual champion on Sunday for Saratoga Springs, which finished third in the team race behind Shenendehowa and Shaker.
Murray had dropped a 3-1 decision to Spatafora in the opening round of January’s Saratoga Invitational, and forfeited to his fellow junior Blue Streak later in the month when the two were in the same round-robin pool at the King Bison Invitational.
This time around, the two matched each other move for move. After a scoreless first period, Murray took a 1-0 lead with an escape in the second period, only for Spatafora to answer with an escape of his own in the third.
“That whole first period, we were trying to feel each other out,” Murray said. “We were practicing stuff during the week.”
In overtime, Murray shot in for a takedown, and the resulting flurry of counters resulted in a cyclone of flailing limbs that ended with Murray scrambling out of trouble to end up with the victory.
“I did not think I was going to get out of that [lateral] drop,” Murray said. “He had me on my back. I hooked my leg in, and we just kept rolling through. . . . It was amazing.”
It was Murray’s first appearance at a Section II championship event. As a freshman two years ago, he was injured just before the Class A tournament and missed out on the postseason, and no Section II wrestling championships were held in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Murray’s win over Spatafora was one of three showdowns between teammates during Sunday’s final, and by far the most dramatic.
The other two matchups between teammates both ended in first-period pins. Colonie’s Will Hotaling beat top-seeded teammate Jaydon Aquirre-Hamlin in 1:08 to win the 285-pound title, while Shenendehowa’s Jashon Holmes needed just 42 seconds to dispatch fellow Plainsmen grappler Davin Leavey for the 138-pound title.
Holmes won all three of his matches on Sunday with first-minute pins, needing just 2:17 of total mat time to improve to 32-0 on the season.
“My goal was to get on and off the mat as fast as I can,” Holmes said.
Holmes was one of five individual champions for Shenendehowa, which totaled 213 points to capture the team championship. Shaker edged Saratoga Springs 169-168, to take second place, followed by Colonie (131), Guilderland (106.5), Columbia (84), Bethlehem (76), Schenectady (62.5) and Albany (53).
Shenendehowa’s win was forged in the lower half of the weight classes. The Plainsmen had finalists in every weight class from 102 through 145, with Greg Green at 102, Ayden Robles at 126, Vincent Grembocki at 132 and David Ensminger at 145 joining Holmes as Class A champions.
“We work hard,” Holmes said. “I’m not shocked that we’re owning those middle and light weights.”
Shaker’s runner-up team finish was led by a trio of individual champions in Michael Santore at 118, Donovan Deguire at 172 and Ryan Stein at 215.
Stein, the Section II Class A and Division 1 champion at 220 pounds two years ago, pinned Bethlehem’s Keith Heineman in 2:59 to win his second classification title.
It was a satisfying win for Stein, who is 26-1 this season while coming off a leg injury that forced him to miss the entire football season last fall. Now, the senior willl fix his attention on the Section II state qualifier this coming Saturday at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls with the goal of earning a second trip to the state tournament.
“I want to be a state champ,” Stein said. “That’s obviously the goal.”
BURNT HILLS DOMINATES CLASS B TOURNAMENT
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had six individual champions among its 10 finalists, racking up 253.5 team points to run away with first place in the Section II Class B tournament at Queensbury.
Coming away with first-place finishes for the Spartans were Tyler Whiteley at 110 pounds, Liam Carlin at 126, Gabriel Goss at 132, Tyler Rossini at 138, Joshua Warland at 145 and Thomas Pawlinga at 160.
Queensbury finished as the team-runner up with 189.5 points, followed by Ballston Spa (157), Averill Park (154), Mohonasen (116), Niskayuna (96.5), Amsterdam (55), Scotia-Glenville/Galway (50) and South Glens Falls (50).
Ballston Spa had a trio of individual champions in Ralph Keeney at 102, Connor Gregory at 152 and Darrien Insogna at 215. Rounding out Sunday’s winners were Mohonasen’s Nico Rivera at 118, Queensbury’s Dylan Schell at 172, South Glens Falls’ Joshua Ahrens at 189 and Niskayuna’s Allen Duavon at 215.
SECTION II CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIPS
102: Green (Shen) pinned Dacey (Sara), 1:29. 110: Kligerman (Alb) dec. Losee (Shen), 12-10. 118: Santore (Shak) pinned Noman (Shen), 1:53. 126: Robles (Shen) pinned White (Guil), 1:11. 132: Grembocki (Shen) dec. Beaury (Sara), 4-2. 138: Holmes (Shen) pinned Leavey (Shen), 0:42. 145: Ensminger (Shen) dec. Smith (Colu), 8-2. 152: Murray (Sara) dec. Spatafora (Sara), 3-1 (OT). 160: Welcome (Colu) dec. Chuckrow (Sara), 10-5. 172: Deguire (Shak) dec. O’Brien (Guil), 7-4. 189: Blanchard (Guil) dec. Farzad (Shak), 7-3. 215: Stein (Shak) pinned K. Heineman (Beth), 2:59. 285: Hotaling (Colo) pinned Aquirre-Hamlin (Colo), 1:08.
102: Green (Shen) pinned Mastrianni (Colo), 1:54; Dacey (Sara) major dec. Drake (Shak), 14-0. 110: Kligerman (Alb) pinned Natuel (Beth), 1:53; Losee (Shen) pinned Harris (Schen), 1:03. 118: Santore (Shak) pinned Jubert (Colo), 1:07; Noman (Shen) pinned Polsinello (Shak), 2:44. 126: Robles (Shen) major dec. Rounds (Colo), 15-2; White (Guil) pinned Toussaint (Colu), 1:08. 132: Grembocki (Shen) pinned Abbaszadeh (Shak), 2:44; Beaury (Sara) dec. Willi (Beth), 6-2. 138: Holmes (Shen) pinned Khetab (Alb), 0:38; Leavey (Shen) dec. Griskowitz (Sara), 4-3. 145: Smith (Colu) pinned Ralston (Guil), 1:30; Ensminger (Shen) pinned Rezek (Shak), 1:52. 152: Spatafora (Sara) pinned Dimonda (Shen), 1:12; Murray (Sara) pinned Hoxie (Colu), 3:12. 160: Chuckrow (Sara) dec. Truesdell (Colo), 6-3; Welcome (Colu) major dec. Hashimee (Shen), 13-4. 172: Deguire (Shak) major dec. Miranda (Sche), 15-6; O’Brien (Guil) major dec. Woolums (Shen), 9-0. 189: Blanchard (Guil) tech fall C. Heineman (Guil), 3:06 (19-2); Farzad (Shak) dec. Palleschi (Sara), 10-7. 215: Stein (Shak) pinned Morizio (Guil), 3:01; K. Heineman (Beth) dec. Elsiddig (Schen), 3-1. 285: Aquirre-Hamlin (Colo) pinned Stevens (Alb), 2:47; Hotaling (Colo) pinned Harrison (Guil), 0:52.
SECTION II CLASS B CHAMPIONSHIPS
102: Keeney (BSpa) dec. Graulau (Mohon), 10-3. 110: Whiteley (BH-BL) tech fall Vanguilder (Qby), 3:12 (15-0). 118: Rivera (Mohon) pinned C. Hinchcliff (BSpa), 3:08. 126: L. Carlin (BH-BL) dec. Conti (S-G/G), 3-1. 132: Goss (BH-BL) pinned Testani (Qby), 0:22. 138: Rossini (BH-BL) dec. C. Carlin (BH-BL), 3-2 (OT). 145: Warland (BH-BL) dec. R. Montalvo (Ams), 6-4 (OT). 152: Gregory (BSpa) dec. Tempel (AP), 7-1. 160: Pawlinga (BH-BL) dec. Steen (AP), 4-2. 172: D. Schell (Qby) major dec. Buthfer (BH-BL), 19-5. 189: Ahrens (SGF), dec. Casey (BH-BL), 7-2. 215: Insogna (BSpa) pinned Ismail (BH-BL), 0:51. 285: Duavon (Nisk) pinned Meisner (Nisk), 1:52.
102: Keeney (BSpa) pinned Schiavo (Nisk), 3:00; Graulau (Mohon) pinned Shattuck (Qby), 4:33. 110: Vanguilder (Qby) def. O’Connor (Mohon) via forfeit; Whiteley (BH-BL) dec. Hanlon (AP), 6-0. 118: Rivera (Mohon) pinned Taylor (BH-BL), 1:55; C. Hinchcliff (BSpa) dec. T. Hinchcliff (BSpa), 5-4. 126: L. Carlin (BH-BL) tech fall Bartlett (AP), 3:09 (16-1); Conti (S-G/G), dec. C. Montalvo (Ams), 7-1. 132: Goss (BH-BL) pinned Collins (BSpa), 0:31; Testani (Qby) pinned Welcome (AP), 0:56. 138: Rossini (BH-BL) pinned White (AP), 3:09; C. Carlin (BH-BL) pinned Johnson (Nisk), 3:06. 145: R. Montalvo (Ams) pinned Hempel (AP), 1:19; Warland (BH-BL) pinned Lofstrom (Mohon), 3:11. 152: Gregory (BSpa) major dec. Bearce (BH-BL), 12-4; Tempel (AP) major dec. L. Schell (Qby), 9-0. 160: Pawlinga (BH-BL) dec. Siracuse (BSpa), 5-2; Steen (AP) pinned Smith (Qby), 0:41. 172: D. Schell (Qby) pinned Goosmann (AP), 0:26; Buthfer (BH-BL) major dec. Payton (Mohon), 12-4. 189: Casey (BH-BL) pinned Reagan (Ams), 0:36; Ahrens (SGF) pinned Miller (Qby), 2:14. 215: Insogna (BSpa) pinned Killingsworth (Qby), 2:00; Ismail (BH-BL) dec. Hoke (Nisk), 6-0. 285: Duavon (Nisk) pinned Byers (AP), 0:44; Meisner (Nisk) pinned Kannamore (Mohon), 2:29.