JC's No. 1 goal achieved

Press & Sun-Bulletin
Monday, January 06, 2003

Ryan McCormick of Johnson City is tied up in the legs of Spencerport's Josh Fuller in Sunday's bout at the Union-Endicott Duals. McCormick pulled out a 4-2 win and Johnson City beat Spencerport, 33-28, to take over the state's top big-school ranking.
WAYNE HANSEN / Press & Sun-Bulletin

ENDICOTT -- Johnson City entered the Union-Endicott Dual Meet Tournament with impressive enough credentials: An unblemished dual meet record, a seventh-place finish at the nationally regarded Beast of the East tournament, and an experienced roster of wrestlers that included numerous Section 4 title contenders.  

But the Wildcats knew all of that would mean little in their quest for a state team title if they didn't beat top-ranked Spencerport in Sunday's championship match.

So the outpouring of joy -- as well as relief -- from the JC wrestling team and its legion of fans was understandable moments after Steve Wiktorek pinned Nick Morabito at 4:13 of their 125-pound bout to give JC an insurmountable lead en route to a 33-28 victory over the Rangers in the finals at U-E High School.

With the victory, they knew that JC had not only earned revenge for last year's 29-22 loss to Spencerport in the U-E Duals, but made its state-title statement as well.

"We've been working toward this all year, since 364 days ago," said JC coach Pete Capone, whose team last won the state large-school title in 1999. "We were looking forward to beating Spencerport and getting back to No. 1."

And No. 1 is where JC (13-0) will be when this week's New York State Sports Writers Association large school state rankings come out, according to Glen Irving, who compiles the state wrestling poll. JC was fifth in last week's rankings.

Though Wiktorek's victory, which had given JC a 33-12 lead with three matches to go, was important enough, it was a key three-bout stretch earlier in the match in which Nolan Robinson, Jon Colgan and Ryan McCormick picked up victories that turned the tide in JC's direction.

After Ryan Kuzel's 8-5 win over Sebastian Baliva at 171 gave JC a 15-4 lead, Robinson, who had missed the last three weeks with an elbow injury, was locked in a scoreless tie with Alex Baxter at 189 after the first overtime period.

In the down position to start the second overtime period, Robinson fought his way for an escape with 11 seconds remaining for a 1-0 victory that put JC up 18-4. Had Robinson not escaped, Baxter would have won the match and cut the Spencerport deficit to 15-7.

"This was like nothing I've ever done before," Robinson said of his win. "You're out there and you just want to keep going and going.

"I've been dying to get back out there and I did everything I could to step up."

Added Capone:"I told Nolan 'Don't make any mistakes.' In the past we've had teams going for No. 1 and we've made that one mistake in a match that's cost us, and that could have happened today."

Colgan followed up Robinson's win with a pin of Adam Fredrick in 2:39 of their 215-pound match.

Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Colgan countered a shot by Fredrick, taking him down and using a headlock to gain the pin.

"I went out there, and he was blocking a lot of my set-ups," Colgan said. "So I told myself I would let him shoot and make his own mistake. That's when I hit it."

After Colgan's victory, McCormick built a 3-0 lead early in the third period against Josh Fuller before holding on for a 4-2 victory at 103.

The victory gave JC a 27-4 lead, and the Wildcats would hold off a late Spencerport surge.

"Those were big wins for us," Capone said. "Ryan beating a senior co-captain was huge, and Nolan really gave us a lift."

On Friday, it appeared that snow, and not Spencerport, might derail JC's state title hopes.

But instead of being canceled, the U-E Duals were just moved back a day, providing JC the opportunity to get its shot at Spencerport.

"I was nervous, because we knew we wouldn't have another chance at Spencerport," Capone said. "Fortunately, we got it done, but we know things aren't going to get any easier for us."

Fulton beat Wayne, 33-28, in the third-place match of the eight-team tournament. Host U-E placed seventh.

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