ALBANY — Last year, Jake Deguire became just the second Mohonasen wrestler since 1983 to qualify for the state championships. This year, he brought some friends — both on the mat and in the stands at Times Union Center — at the forefront of Mohonasen’s wrestling renaissance.
“We’ve changed our culture,” Mohonasen coach Brandon Guthrie said Friday at the arena after Deguire pulled off a second-straight upset win to earn a spot in Saturday's semifinals. “When Jake was here last year, none of the rest of our teammates came to watch. Up in our box right now, we’ve got 25 kids from our team watching. Hopefully, they’re going to see this and buy in to what we’re doing.”
It’s been 37 years since a Mohonasen wrestler claimed any spot on the podium at states. No matter what else Deguire does from this point, he’ll end that streak Saturday night. Deguire, the No. 13 seed at 138 pounds in Division 1, guaranteed a podium finish thanks to a pair of upset wins Friday. Deguire started the day by knocking off fourth-seeded Brendan Carroll of Roy C. Ketcham with a pin after a dominant performance, then he outlasted No. 5 seed Tim Bova of Arlington for a 6-5 win in an overtime tiebreaker.
“I’ve practiced all year for this,” Deguire said. “I’m in really good condition. Everything falls into place when you work hard.”
Deguire had a 5-4 lead over Bova when the third period expired, but after a lengthy discussion between officials it was determined that Bova had escaped Deguire’s control at the buzzer and was awarded the tying point.
After two minutes of overtime, the match headed to a final 30-second tiebreaker. Deguire desperately flailed and kicked his way to the escape that sent him to the semifinals.
“He deserved that win,” Guthrie said. “That was awesome.”
By getting to the semifinals, Deguire is set to be Mohonasen’s first state place finisher since Pat Ferri took sixth at 119 pounds in 1983. It’s one of a number of trailblazing accomplishments for Deguire. The junior’s first-round win made him the first Mohonasen wrestler to reach 150 career wins, and just by reaching the tournament this year he became the school’s first two-time state qualifier since John Gallo in 1980 and 1981.
But this time, unlike a year ago — and the other six previous occasions that Mohonasen has been represented at the state tournament — Deguire didn’t come alone. He was joined by sophomore 99-pounder Clay O’Connor and senior 285-pounder Camrin Russell, both of whom were eliminated after going 0-2 Friday.
Prior to this year, Mohonasen had never sent multiple wrestlers to the state tournament. This year, the Warriors’ three representatives matched Shenendehowa for the most among any Section II Division 1 squad.
“It’s awesome. All thanks to coach Guthrie,” Deguire said. “He took over the program, and it’s amazing.”
Like Mohonasen, Cobleskill-Richmondville has never had a wrestler win a state championship. In fact, the Bulldogs have never sent a wrestler to a state final.
Ethan Cooper and Jeff Crooks both saw their championship quests end in the semifinals a year ago, but both are back as top seeds in Division 2 this season and powered their way into the semifinals in impressive fashion.
Cooper rolled to a 12-2 win over Tyler Goodemote of Berne-Knox-Westerlo/Middleburgh in the first round at 182 before pinning Hudson Johnson of Falconer in the quarterfinals. Crooks pinned his way through his first two matches at 220 pounds.
Both reached the podium last year — Cooper was third at 170, Crooks was fourth at 220 — but the goal all season long has been to make program history together.
“It’s just so sweet to be back in the semifinals and have a chance to redeem myself from last year,” Crooks said. “We just both want to get there and win it. It would mean a lot if both of us could do that.”
“That’d be awesome,” Cooper said. “It would be crazy.”
Cooper and Crooks were joined by a third teammate, 138-pounder Greg Hotaling, who won his first-round match before a right ankle injury forced him to default in his quarterfinal. Hotaling recovered enough to get back on the mat in the wrestleback rounds and advance to Saturday with a pin against General Brown’s David O’Neil.
Cooper is Cobleskill-Richmondville’s first-ever, three-time state qualifier. In 2018, he came alone. Last year, both he and Crooks came as Section II champions, with Hotaling earning a wild-card berth. This year, the Bulldogs crowned three sectional champs for the first time in program history.
“Having three of us win in the [sectional] finals and then come here together, it makes it a lot more enjoyable and it makes it pretty cool,” Cooper said. “It makes you excited for the whole tournament, because it’s not just about you anymore.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.