For Corning senior Blake Abbey, better late than never.
Saturday marked his last chance at that elusive Southern Tier Athletic Conference wrestling title, and Abbey made good on it with a 4-0 decision over Chenango Valley’s Jacob Lehr in the finals of the 106-pound weight class at Union-Endicott High School.
Abbey failed to advance past the quarterfinal round in his previous three STAC Championships before reaching Saturday’s final.
“It’s my senior year, so I knew I really had to buckle down and have a big year,” said Abbey, who reached the final with an 8-7 semifinal victory over U-E’s Grant Gannon. “It means a lot to me.”
Abbey broke a scoreless tie when he got a takedown with three seconds left in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. He got a reversal early in the second period and remained in control the rest of the match.
“That takedown was a big momentum changer,” Abbey said. “That got me a nice lead and put him in a position where he got a little sloppy.”
Johnson City successfully defended its team title, with host U-E finishing second. The Wildcats finished with 214 points to U-E’s 196, with Vestal a distant third with 149½ points. Corning (74 points) was 10th and Elmira (67) was 11th out of 16 teams.
JC had a tournament-high five individual champions with Isiah Colgan (120), Zach Colgan (160), Dominic Taylor (170), Nick Bidwell (182) and Reggie Williams (195) all winning titles. Zach Colgan and Williams each won their fourth.
JC also garnered a measure of revenge against U-E after getting throttled, 57-24, by the Tigers last weekend in the semifinals of the Section 4 Dual Meet Tournament.
“We went into the Duals down two to three weight classes, which made it tough,” JC coach Jordan Glenn said. “But we had some revenge matches go our way, and the guys came in here thinking we can win this.”
One of those revenge matches came at 120, where Isiah Colgan eked out a 2-1 decision over U-E’s Mikey Carr in the title match. A week earlier, Carr pinned Colgan in 5:04 at the Section 4 Duals.
Colgan took the lead with a reversal midway through the second period after working out of a cradle attempt by Carr.
“I practiced all week working on getting out against the cradle,” Colgan said. “My brother Zach and (teammate) Tyler Brazinski are really good with the cradle, so I worked out with them.”
Zach Colgan and Williams both won decisively in securing fourth STAC titles. Colgan defeated Ithaca’s Ian VanValen by a 6-0 decision in the 160 final while Williams cruised to a 16-5 win over Windsor’s David McKee in the 195 final.
Taylor won his first STAC title, using a headlock to pin Oneonta’s Kirkland Dolan in 1:25 of their 170 final.
“When I pinned him, I loved hearing the sound of the crowd roar,” said a beaming Taylor, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, including a concussion earlier this season. “I owe it to Reggie, he’s my workout partner and he really prepared me for this.”
Bidwell’s title win came in unfortunate fashion, as he won by injury default over Chenango Forks’ Isaiah Zimmer at 182. Zimmer led 7-3 midway through the third period when he crashed to the mat screaming in pain with a right knee injury and could not continue. He left the gym shortly afterward to have an MRI done on his knee.
JC was one of four teams with multiple champions, as Norwich had three and both U-E and Vestal with two.
Among Norwich’s champions was Tristan Rifanburg, who earned the Sarge Award — named after former U-E coach Frank Sorochinsky — as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Rifanburg won his fourth STAC title, defeating Elmira’s Curtis Grant, 8-3, in the 138 final.
When the two met last month at the Owego Duals, Rifanburg eked out an 8-6 victory. It was a far more dominant effort by the Norwich junior on Saturday, as he took command with a two-point near fall and later a takedown in the second period to build a 7-3 lead.
“He’s quick, fast on his feet,” Rifanburg said. “He’s got a fast low single-leg takedown, and this time I was able to take that away and control the match.”
Also winning titles for Norwich were Frank Garcia and Dalen Geislinger. Garcia won the 152 title with a 12-4 decision over Vestal’s Owen Jarrold while Geislinger defeated teammate Ty Rifanburg by fall in 3:12 to take the 99 title.
The Geislinger/Rifanburg final was one of two on Saturday featuring teammates.
In the 132 final, U-E’s Xavian Hughes defeated teammate Anthony Noce by a 5-2 decision. U-E’s Isaac Eddings also won a title, defeating JC’s Niko Cejic, 2-1, at 285.
Vestal senior Pat Carlin remained unbeaten. The first-year varsity wrestler edged U-E’s Andrew Brinser, 3-1, to win the 220 title, breaking a 1-all tie when he spun around for a takedown just as time expired in the match.
“He was trying to score (late) and I was just being defensive,” Carlin said. “I thought the longer the match went on, the better the chance I had of winning.
“I didn’t expect this, it’s awesome.”
Derek Osman (113) was Vestal’s other champion. He got a takedown midway through the first overtime period to secure a 4-2 victory over Brazinski.
Also winning individual titles Saturday were Maine-Endwell’s Zak Garrehy (145) and Ithaca’s Richie Burke (126). Garrehy overcame an early deficit, pinning Owego’s Nate Bell in 3:08 of their title match. Burke won the 126 title with a 12-1 decision over M-E’s Kobe Garrehy.