It was not the way Johnson City senior Zach Colgan wanted to come into the New York State wrestling tournament.
Colgan, a two-time Section 4 champion, was denied a third title when he lost to Newark Valley’s Derek Holcomb, 4-0, in the finals of the Division I 160-pound weight class on Sunday at the Section 4 Championships.
It left Colgan — who placed fourth in Division I 152 at last year’s state tournament — in the unenviable position of waiting out an at-large berth, one that he did receive Wednesday when he was the highest-rated at-large entry in the Division I 160 weight class.
“My coach (Jordan Glenn) told me to stay focused, the only (at-large) guarantee in the room is Reggie (Williams),” said Colgan of a pre-Section 4 Championships chat with his coach. “I had to do everything I can to win, it’s my last chance.
“(After the loss) I thought I had a very good chance at an at-large. I looked at other kids that had placed in the state, and how other kids did who I had wrestled and beat….I wasn’t too worried.”
The loss to Holcomb was his second this season, his previous one coming by a 6-4 decision at the Eastern States Classic in January. In the Section 4 final, Colgan gave up an early takedown and could not muster any offense the rest of the way.
“Other than trying to get him off my ankle, I wrestled a good match,” said Colgan, who is 33-4 this season. “I just couldn’t get out from bottom.”
Despite the loss, Colgan is feeling good about his chances going into the state tournament, Feb. 28-March 1 at the Times Union Center in Albany. He still figures to get a high seed and can take comfort in that three previous Section 4 wrestlers — Unatego’s Kevin Thayer last year, Unadilla Valley’s Tyler Peet in 2010, and Marathon’s Devon Brown in 2007 — won state titles as at-larges.
“I’m feeling very confident, looking at the kids who won Sectionals that I’ve beaten,” Colgan said. “Hopefully I can get Holcomb in the finals and avenge my loss.”
Norwich finishes strong
Last season was a difficult one for Norwich, the Purple Tornado winning but a handful of dual meets and finishing well back in both the Southern Tier Athletic Conference and Section 4 Class B Tournaments.
Norwich’s fortunes figured to improve this season with much of its lineup back, but how much so was anybody’s guess.
That was answered Sunday when the Purple Tornado captured its first Section 4 Division II team title, holding off Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville and Deposit/Hancock. Norwich’s championship came one week after it won the Section 4 Class B title.
“The guys have come a long ways from last year,” Norwich coach Terry Hagenbuch said. “They worked hard every single day, and you started to see things materialize.
“Right around the Windsor Tournament (in December), we got some momentum with a top-9 finish, then we had a top-3 at the Ilion Tournament and things got better from there.”
As expected Norwich got a big lift from Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia, who cruised to Section 4 Division II titles at 138 and 152 pounds, respectively.
But Norwich also had five other wrestlers place, with top-five finishes from Ty Rifanburg (fourth at 99), Dalen Geislinger (fifth at 99), Zach Mills (fourth at 106), Cole Rifanburg (third at 120), and Bradley Chesebro (fourth at 220).
“With the seeds we had, if we could wrestle to our seeds or a little better, we’d be in good shape,” Hagenbuch said. “And they did that.”
The revival for Norwich should not be a one-year thing. All seven wrestlers who placed at the Section 4 Division II Tournament should return next season, part of a roster that will lose only a pair of seniors, only one of whom was a starter.
Hagenbuch says his wrestlers are already looking ahead to next season.
“The season is over for the guys except for two,” Hagenbuch said. “But we held some practices for those guys and most of the team showed up. They’re excited, it’s nice to be back.”
Newark Valley coach Eric D’Arcy tries not to play favorites, but there was little hiding that of his five wrestlers who won Section 4 Division I titles on Sunday, Larry Kasmarcik’s meant the most.
Kasmarcik won the 152 title with a 4-2 overtime victory over Vestal’s Owen Jarrold, capping a difficult senior season during which he dealt with back problems.
“I’ve known Larry since he was a very young boy, we are very tight — he’s almost like a son,” said D’Arcy, his eyes welling as he spoke. “It was really special.”
Newark Valley’s other Section 4 champions are Bennie Baker (99), Trevor Hoffmier (145), Derek Holcomb (160) and Vinnie Darpino (171).