By JOHN ANDERSON, photos by STEVE HARRISON
To turn the Hornell wrestling program around and be mentioned in the same breath as the Matt Sheldon-era has been a tough road for coach Bill Drake.
Monday night, facing the combined Livonia/Wayland-Cohocton wrestling team, winning a fourth straight Livingston County Athletic Association (LCAA) title would complete the process.
It wasn’t easy.
To earn the title, the dual meet came down to the last match and last second.
Hornell’s Dominic Lockwood used a second period escape for a 1-0 lead and held on for the final two minutes as Alex Ott was so close for an escape. However, Ott could not pop his head in the last seconds to complete the escape and Lockwood held on for a 1-0 victory.
Hornell had trailed, 32-30 going into the 285-pound final match and the victory lifted the Red Raiders past Livonia/Way-Co, 33-32 for the exciting victory.
“When I was hired four years ago, I made a promise that I would do everything in my power to return this program to the success Coach Matt Sheldon made when I wrestled for Hornell,” Drake said. “Tonight is just proof that we have not only turned this program around, but we are working hard to keep it at a high level. Winning tonight against a very tough Livonia/Way-Co team shows the fight we have.
“Now that we are four-time LCAA Champions, it is all on the great wrestlers I’ve had, my two assistant coaches and the support of our school and administrators,” Drake added.
After a forfeit win to start the night, Hornell got on the board at 118 when Brody Flaitz had a first period pin.
Hornell’s Mason Drew had a pin and Breydon Drew broke a 12-12 tie with a pin at 138.
The key match was Haiden Kowtun only giving up three points in a 9-5 loss to LWC’s Matt Neitz at 145.
Patrick Robards picked up a pin for Hornell and at 215, Livonia/Way-Co’s Hunter Battaglia pin suddenly gave the visitors a 32-30 lead going into the final match. Lockwood got the three points to secure the 33-32 win.
After three years of no issues, Covid and injuries finally caught up to Hornell this season. Which is another reason Drake is so proud of this group and the fourth LCAA title.
“With quarantines, sickness, eligibility and unexpected departures, every day and match seems like we have to fight that much harder to win,” Drake said. “We actually started the season as an honorable mention in the state rankings and got as high as #15. Then, we had some kids quit and some quarantines.”
The wins took place as a result of the remaining team members working harder in practice and becoming leaders.
“I can tell you how each and every guy has played a huge part in the success this year,” Drake said. “Obviously, Mason Drew is tearing it up. He is 30-1 and close to breaking the school record for all-time wins.
“Breydon Drew has bounced around to go after the tougher competition with success. Our 8th-grader, Brody Flaitz, started off with some rust but has worked his tail off and is firing on all cylinders now.
“Everyone of our guys are getting better each day for themselves and for their team,” Drake added.
110: Miles Jorzyna (LWC), win by FF, 0-6
118: Brody Flaitz (H), pin Matt Rudolph (LWC), 1:10, 6-6
126: Mason Drew (H) pin Jake Dalmeiri (LWC), 12-6
132: Matt Conner (LWC), FF, 12-12
138: Breydon Drew (H), pin, Dakota Christian, 1:59, 18-11
145: Matt Neitz (LWC), win, 9-5, Haiden Kowtun (H), 18-14
152: Patrick Robards (H), pin Caleb Cogswell (LWC), 1:28, 24-14
160: Ryan Abbott (LWC), win by FF, 24-20
172: Jake Ponticello (H), win by FF, 30-20
189: Noah Magin (LWC) pin, Kenny Graham (H), 3:23, 30-26
215: Hunter Battaglia (LWC), pin Dylan Cullen (H), 1:10, 30-32
285: Dominic Lockwood (H), win, 1-0, Alex Ott (LWV), 33-32