By JOHN ANDERSON, photo gallery at end
There was no shortage of storylines when it came to the Wellsville Lions wrestling team earning two Section V champions on Saturday in East Rochester during the Class B2 championships.
For Wellsville wrestler Gabe Black, he would face a wrestler in the 190 finals who pinned him this year. At 170, Xander Outman had an opponent who had absolutely owned him year-after-year and in summer tournaments.
However, on Saturday night, thanks to weeks of preparing for this moment, both wrestlers stood on top of the podium as Section V champions.
Wrestling is a sport that means sacrifice. Wrestlers sacrifice second helpings and family desserts during the holiday seasons to make weight. They train and train for the toughest six minutes in sports.
It also means missing events. For the Wellsville wrestlers, they were missing out on the annual Snowball Dance. As their classmates were taking photos and going to dinner with their dates, the wrestlers were battling for a spot on the podium or a title.
When the Class B2 championships ended, the wrestlers jumped on the school bus and headed right to the dance, arriving just before it ended. While classmates were in shirts and ties, the wrestlers walked in wearing black and orange Wellsville Lions Wrestling warm ups.
And they walked into an ovation. Their classmates then lifted the champions on their shoulders and carried them through the packed dance floor to the cheers of the students, faculty, chaperones and the DJ. They smiled, they cheered and they ducked so they didn’t hit the disco ball.
The team will get their firetruck rides today at 2 p.m. but for Coach Tyler Carman, a volunteer firefighters in Wellsville, he said that moment Saturday night was special.
“They went up on stage and the student body was going nuts,” Carman said. “It was such a great moment I don’t know how the firetrucks will top it!”
(Video of the celebration at the dance on Twitter or Instagram, @23johnanderson)
Outman won the 170-pound weight class with a thrilling 1-0 victory over Carson Turner of Canisteo-Greenwood. Black won, 7-1 over Daniel DeBadts of Warsaw for the 190-pound title.
Black’s victory had special meaning for Carman. While his assistant coach is Trent Robbins, Tyler Carman’s father, Danny, is there at every turn. Danny Carman is well-known as the former Geneseo wrestling coach where he coached his son, the program would not be where it is today withouth the late Don DeBadts.
Don DeBadts was Danny Carman’s coach.
“Coach DeBadts built the program my dad was able to coach at and the program I came up through,” Tyler Carman said. “So we are very close with the DeBadts family. And Gabe had his grandson, Daniel in the finals. It was a win-win for me because I would have been happy for either wrestler to win.”
But being happy and training a wrestler for a win are two different things. When the season started in late 2023, Daniel DeBadts pinned Black during the Wellsville Invitational.
To win sectionals, Carman and Robbins knew they had to get Black tougher on his feet.
When the match started, both wrestlers attacked and after a flurry of action, neither wrestler was awarded the two points for a takedown. However, Black for the first takedown and a 2-0 lead. Carman felt that set the tone for the match.
Warsaw deferred the starting position to start the second period and Black took bottom. He not only got out for a 3-0 lead but a takedown and a 5-0 lead. In the third, Black was able to get three backpoints and held on for the 7-1 victory.
“It was a great match,” Carman said. “Gabe rode him out and looked really good on his feet. Gabe has struggled on his feet this year, but it’s a position we spent a lot of time on to get him ready for this.”
Just a sophomore, Black is now 31-8 and heading to the state qualifiers. Black lost in the finals last year to a senior from LeRoy. DeBadts, a senior, will be joining him on the road to states as well.
“Gabe had a taste of it and wanted to go back this year,” Carman added.
Then there was Xander Outman.
During a dual meet this season, Outman was able to get a 3-1 win over Turner, but lost to him three other times and in all off-season tournaments. Carman knew to win a Section V title, Outman would have to work harder controlling a wrestler from the top position with the lead and work on throwing in legs to gain control and back points.
Little did Carman know, all of this work would be for nearly six minutes of riding time and not giving up points.
Both wrestlers had chances in the first period but could not score. It was 0-0 after one and Outman took bottom. He got the escape and Turner worked extremely hard for the takedown and a 2-1 lead. But Outman countered each attack. Outman then tried to shoot and Turner conutered. Carman felt Turner had Outman on the ropes going into the third.
But in the third period, Outman, a sophomore, somehow controlled Turner, never letting him up for the tying point or the two-point reversal.
With 38 seconds left, the wrestlers went out of bounds and Carman had to make a crucial decision as a coach. He knew if Outman was reversed and lost 2-1, it would haunt him for the next 12 months.
“There was a break at 38 seconds left when they went out of bounds. I was worried he would lose on a reversal and asked Xander if he wanted to let him up (to tie it 1-1) and get the take down and win’” Carman said. “But Xander said, ‘No coach I got it’ and he worked hard to ride him out to win the Section V title.”
Outman spent the third period trying to get back points and was never called for stalling. He won, 1-0.
“He just never let off the gas, trying to score. I think him being aggressive is the reason he was able to win,” Carman said.
It was a special day for the team.
“We’ve worked so hard to get a title this year after three second place finishers last year (Outman, Black and Shane Davidson) so it feels so good to get to the top of the mountain,” Carman said. “Zander has only lost a few matches this year and each one was to a wrestler ranked in the top five in the state.
“Easton Joyce (seventh grader at 101) wrestled super tough. He had to win one more match to get on the podium and he broke his ankle in the final match,” Carman continued. “Eighth-grader Paul Giovanniello (at 108) had a great day and was on the podium, he took sixth in a very deep weight class. Landon Straton, a freshman, lost in the ultimate overtime at 138 and just missed getting on the podium.”
At 160, sophomore Matt Ritter took third, and he advanced to state qualifiers. Ritter defeated Warsaw’s Logan Lafferty, 9-1 in a major decision in the consolation finals.