Wellsville assistant coach Trent Robbins hugs Shane Davidson after an incredible upset in states as coach Tyler Carman celebrates to the left. Photos by Char Stone for the Wellsville Sun.
BY JOHN ANDERSON
This morning, Wellsville senior Shane Davidson is lacing up his wrestling shoes to compete on Saturday. It’s not a big deal if you’ve wrestled before. It is a big deal when it’s the final day of the New York State Championships.
In one of the biggest unexpected upsets on Friday, Davidson defeated a wrestler he lost to three times this season to reach the semi-finals and is two wins away from a state championship.
HOW HE GOT HERE
Davidson was considered one of the favorites to win sectionals this season until a loss to Byron-Bergen’s Malachi Smith in the Perry tournament where he gave up nine points in a loss.
He certainly was not considered a favorite to win states after losing to Smith again in the Section V finals, 3-1 for the 189-pound weight class. But the victory allowed Davidson to stay alive and reach the state qualifiers.
On Feb. 11, he once again made the finals, but lost to Smith in the Super Sectional finals, 6-3.
Davidson earned an at-large bid to the state tournament in Albany at the MVP Center.
On Saturday, Davidson started the state tournament in the 22-man bracket with a 10-2 victory over Trent Snide-Haselto (28-9), the Section VII champion from Northern Adirondack.
Next up in the quarterfinals? Malachi Smith for a fourth time.
Coming in at 29-1, Smith had just made quick work pinning his first opponent in states.
Like he did in their previous three matches, Smith got the first takedown over Davidson for the lead.
The rest was a blur for Wellsville wrestling coach Tyler Carman.
He could only blurt out, “He won … 10 to 4. He won.”
HOW IT WENT
Carman remembers the first time Davidson and Smith wrestled this season, “It wasn’t even close.”
But unlike the experts, Carman and his assistant coach, Trent Robbins, never gave up hope.
When asked by a reporter if Carman felt Davidson had zero chance at a sectional or state title following the loss, the usually subdued Carman snapped back loudly, “no!”
Carman then explained, “After that first loss, I was thinking we have a lot to work on. There is time before sectionals and states and Shane’s a great competitor. He has a great physique, he has strength, he’s always learning and he’s very smart. He has good coaches and good teammates to help. So we came up with a game-plan and idea and fortunately we extended his season enough (by placing at sectionals and super sectionals) where he had the time.”
On Friday, Smith got the takedown to take the lead, 2-0 over Davidson and it looked like loss #4 was going to take place.
“About 90 percent of the time in wrestling when you give up the first take down, you lose,” Carman said.
But Shane Davidson has always been that 10 percent kid. Adversity has followed him at every turn and he has always responded. Now, with five minutes left in his high school career, he responded again.
Davidson got an escape and to his feet. He then locked up with Smith and threw him with a lateral drop, with Smith landing on his back. The referee counted the back points and suddenly, a 2-0 deficit was a 6-2 lead.
This is no small feat against Smith who has incredible strength and balance and is one of top-ranked wrestlers in the nation.
But this was now Davidson’s moment.
“That opened up the match, the pressure was on the Bergen kid to come back and win it,” said Carman. “Shane D finally opened him up, made him make mistakes and made him uncomfortable. Coach Robbins and I were pretty confident when Shane has a four or five point lead, he can get the job done.”
In the second period Wellsville had choice (for top, bottom or neutral to start the period) and deferred. Byron-Bergen took down.
“Shane had him in control most of the second,” Carman recalled. Smith got an escape for one point, but Davidson had a takedown to end the second and an 8-3 lead heading into the third.
In the third, Carman and Davidson chose neutral, a risky move with Smith’s strength, especially since Davidson was able to ride-out Smith for a majority of the two minutes of the second.
High risk, high reward.
Davidson was able to throw Smith to his back again, but did not get the backpoints as they slid out of bounds. Char Stone, who is the Wellsville Sun photographer at states, captured a great photo of Smith flat and then one clearly showing Davidson’s toes in bounds, but the wrestlers were out of bounds. It was the correct call, but Davidson earned two crucial points and a 10-3 lead.
Smith got one point for an escape at the end but the victory was sealed.
Davidson won, 10-4 to improve to 40-4 on the season.
“He kept his composure, he controlled the match and he was loose,” Carman said. “It was the first time he did all of that against Smith and it was the difference.”
As for the upset, Carman gets emotional talking about Davidson. This season, Davidson almost lost his sister in a horrific car accident in Ohio. His sister, Morgan Davidson is a former Section V star in wrestling and was wrestling in college. She is home recovering and was able to watch her brother.
“I’ve been around wrestling a long time and seen some good upsets,” Carman said. “This one was personal and this came down to being personal because of Shane and what he has been through. How many times can you get knocked down, get back up and get better? That’s Shane Davidson. He keeps getting back up. He’s very special. I’m very proud of him for sure.”
THE FIRST MATCH
In the 10-2 win over Snide-Haselto to start states, Carman was impressed with the arsenal of moves Davidson displayed.
“He mixed up a great offensive, scored from multiple different ways from his feet to open up the match,” said Carman. “It was a good warm up and he looked really tough.”
A LITTLE HISTORY
Davidson is the fifth Wellsville wrestler to make the state tournament. Last year, John Layfield won his first match in the state championships. Layfield is now wrestling at Alfred State and as a freshman, won his conference finals and made the NCAA Tournament.
Brian Gray won states for Wellsville, the only wrestler to ever do so. He lost five matches that year and was also crowned a national champion in Pittsburgh.
“Brian Gray did the same thing. The story has been written. Now Shane has to try to finish the job,” Carman said.
Today, Davidson faces the #1 seed in his bracket, Troy Austin of Whitehall (43-1) who won by pin and an 18-2 major decision. Last season, Austin finished sixth in the state.
At Bolivar-Richburg, five wrestlers made the state tournament and four are alive today. The incredible program is used to having wrestlers practicing until the end of February.
Not in Wellsville.
Davidson was alone and met with his coaches after super sectionals.
“The whole dynamic was different. We had to have the conversations, ‘this isn’t about the team. The team did great things. Now, what can Shane Davidson do?’ You represent the team, you represent the program in Albany,” Carman told him. “The question now is, how can you get on the podium?”
WE ARE WELLSVILLE
Carman and Robbins also had to come up with a new workout plan.
“We had to decide to work out for one hour or for three hours? Work on your feet? Work from the bottom?” Carman said “It was a lot to decide.”
Suddenly, a few Wellsville wrestlers who had their seasons, and for some, their careers end in sectionals, laced back up and came to practice.
“On Wednesday night before we left, we had 10 or 12 kids in the room wrestling and helping Shane,” Carman said. “Shane will be the first to tell you, none of this would have happened without the team in that room. This has happened because of them. Xander Outman, David Clark, Noah Black, on and on, they kept coming to practice and helping him because they wanted him to get here.”
Today, he faces a wrestler who was honored this season by the Albany Times-Union for his pin-after-pin season.
That’s doesn’t phase the coach. Carman said Davidson has the losses because he wanted to be in this moment.
“Shane beat a lot of great quality kids in the state,” Carman explained. “He has five wins over kids who are in the states. So we had confidence going in that he wrestled a tough schedule and it showed today.”
CHAR STONE PHOTO GALLERY:
(Char Stone has photos of local wrestlers from across the Southern Tier. The Sun will have more stories and photo galleries today and Sunday)