Champs, Familiar and New
pblackwell, Sun, March 1st, 2009
As the Section III basketball semifinals raged on, some other individuals and teams had much bigger goals in mind.
That included all the champion wrestlers that descended upon Albany's Times Union Arena for the state meet, which will stay in the Capital District for the near-future.
Thirty sectional winners, plus a dozen wildcards, plunged into the 16-man brackets in each weight class, Division I and II alike. Only one of them ended up on top of a podium.
Morrisville-Eaton's Ryan LeBlanc already had a state title from 2008, and had been perfect so far this winter in pursuit of another. With three hard-fought decisions, he found himself in the 160-pound Division II final on Saturday night.
By that point, all the other wrestlers in Section III blue and gold had fallen. Either LeBlanc beat Windsor's David Kohlbach, or it would be a shutout.
LeBlanc wasn't about to lose, though. He got a quick takedown, a second-period escape, and held on from there to win 4-2. On to Indiana now for LeBlanc, who finished his high school career with exactly 200 wins and multiple state titles.
Back home, the ice hockey sectional titles got handed out on a Sunday afternoon, the players getting a stage grander than they've had before.
Instead of cold, sometimes cramped town rinks, they were in the War Memorial, putting out a product that was just as entertaining as anything the Crunch has shown this year.
First came New Hartford against Corcoran in Division II. A scoreless first period gave Cougar fans the hope that the state no. 1-ranked Spartans might be human and that a 16-game win streak could get halted.
Then New Hartford scored three times in a span of 57 seconds early in the second period (two of them seven seconds apart), then rubbed it in with six more goals in the third period.
Mike Zalewski had four goals as the Spartans, by a 9-0 margin, left no doubt as to who merited the banner. If New Hartford gets to the final four at Utica Auditorium, expect a massive contingent in red and blue as they seek a second state title to match the won gained in 1997.
Then West Genesee and Baldwinsville took their turn for the Division I title, and the Bees hit first with Adam Mohr's goal 4:12 into the game.
WG hardly got fazed by this, though, attacking until the Mazzoni brothers, Eric and D.J., scored less than three minutes apart in the second period.
As it turned out, WG would need Ryan Michel's power-play slap shot with 8:31 left. Brett Earle converted to pull it within one, but the Wildcats held on to win 3-2 - the exact same margin by which it beat Ithaca for the title in 2008.
Having come so close to a state title last March, WG won't be remotely satisfied until it celebrates on the ice in Utica two weeks from now. To get there, though, will require beating Shaker in the Albany area next Saturday night...