Two champions and five second-place finishers helped the Elmira wrestling team to one of its most significant nights since the programs at Elmira Free Academy and Southside combined in 2002.
Led by individual champions Charlie Mahon at 120 pounds and Curtis Grant at 138, the Express won the team championship Saturday night at the 29th annual Mike Watson Invitational at Watkins Glen High School.
The Express finished with 203 points, well ahead of runner-up Tioga’s 176 points. Waverly placed third with 170 in the 19-school tournament. Elmira’s B team tied for 16th with 40 points out of 30 teams that scored.
“This is the biggest tournament we’ve won ever as far as I know,” Elmira coach Dave Guyette said. “I can’t really dig back to a long time ago, but in my coaching career this is by far the biggest tournament we’ve won.
“We had a great weekend. The kids came out and they wrestled hard. It didn’t matter which team I entered, every kid we had in the lineup contributed and really wrestled a great weekend.”
Runners-up for Elmira were Mat Reese (99), Connor Wilson (138), Anton Brown (160), Tommy Mackay (170) and Mitch McGowan (182).
Waverly’s third-place finish was led by individual winners AJ Burkhart (99), Brandon Ellers (170) and Ryan Wolcott (220).
Watkins Glen finished fourth with 169 points. Brandon Gould won at his home tournament for the second straight year, taking the 113-pound title. Teammate Ian Chedzoy won at 182.
Burkhart was named Most Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights after posting a 21-4 technical fall in the finals and 195-pound champion Andrew Barnhart of Whitney Point won the award for the upper weights, winning the title match 5-2 after three pins.
Mahon, an eighth-grader, pulled out a 4-2 win over Owego Free Academy’s Ryan Kwialkowshi for the first tournament title of his career. Both wrestlers earned tough semifinal wins, with Kwialkowshi downing Odessa-Montour standout Joe Rorick, 8-7, and Mahon beating Owego’s Jackson Bell, 5-3.
“It’s my first (title) at the varsity level and it feels great,” Mahon said.
“I feel like I wrestled all right (in the finals). A tough match. He was a good wrestler.”
Grant dominated the 138-pound division, following two pins Friday with a 13-2 semifinal win over Maine-Endwell’s Brock Post and a 9-2 finals victory against his teammate Wilson.
“Curtis beat a former sectional champ in the semifinals by (11) points and he really is looking to improve every time he steps on the mat,” Guyette said. “He’s got that focus toward the end of the year.
“Also, he wrestled his teammate, which is kind of a tribute to him and his teammate that they’re both working that hard that we had the two best 138-pounders in the tournament.”
Gould needed to go beyond six minutes to win for second straight year, getting a takedown to pull out a 2-0 overtime victory over Maine-Endwell’s Keigan Brown at 113 as a large home crowd backed him.
“It’s a good experience. A lot friends and family out here to support us,” said Gould, now 18-0 in his sophomore season. “It’s just nice to win your home tournament with everybody here watching. The support is awesome here at Watkins.”
Chedzoy also needed overtime to secure his title, edging McGowan 5-3 at 182 with a takedown.
Wolcott, the Division II New York state runner-up at 220 pounds last season, earned a second straight Watson first-place trophy with a 17-5 victory over teammate Jeff Klossner.
“It’s tough (wrestling a teammate),” said Wolcott, now 22-0 this season. “You practice with him every day, so they know what you do and you know what they do. It’s just a learning experience to get a little bit better.
“I worked on some good stuff (this weekend), getting ready for the end of the year. So it helped me a lot to come to a tournament like this and get to use my moves.”
Other weight class winners were Corning’s Blake Abbey, who won by pin in the third period at 106; Maine-Endwell’s Kobe Garrehy at 126, Tioga’s Jesse Manuel at 132, Addison’s Israel Byler at 145, South Seneca’s Nick Wycoff at 152, Spencer-Van Etten’s Joe Judge at 160 and Tioga’s Zach Kelsey at 285.