Weekly Feature



2018-02-14 / Sports

Belief helps Amherst’s Kennedy win wrestling title

Tigers place school record six
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter


Amherst’s Calik Kennedy has his hand raised after winning the 285-pound weight class at Saturday’s Section VI Division I Championships at North Tonawanda High School. Amherst’s Calik Kennedy has his hand raised after winning the 285-pound weight class at Saturday’s Section VI Division I Championships at North Tonawanda High School. Calik Kennedy’s goal all season was to win a Section VI title and the goal became reality when he won the 285-pound weight class at Saturday’s Division I Championships at North Tonawanda High School.

To reach his goal, Kennedy pinned top seed Jaquan Johnson of Grand Island in 4:16. He was the only wrestler to record a pin in finals.

“It felt so good,” Kennedy said. “At the beginning of the season, I was cautious to go 285 because I didn’t know if I could beat Jaquan. Towards the end of the season, I started to believe in myself more and more and I did it. I’m so happy with how far I have come.”

It was the eighth time Kennedy and Johnson met in a high school wrestling match. Kennedy lost four times last year and twice this season before beating him at the Class Tournament last week and then at sectionals.


Amherst’s Hassan Dobbins works to gain the upper hand over Lancaster’s Josh Jelonek during their match in the 126-pound weight class in Saturday’s Section VI Division I Championship Tournament at North Tonawanda. Dobbins lost 1-0. 
Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Amherst’s Hassan Dobbins works to gain the upper hand over Lancaster’s Josh Jelonek during their match in the 126-pound weight class in Saturday’s Section VI Division I Championship Tournament at North Tonawanda. Dobbins lost 1-0. Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Kennedy said the losses earlier in the season made him hungrier for sectionals.

“Calik has really showed amazing belief in himself,” Amherst coach Dennis Bauer said. “Jaquan Johnson is an opponent who has really dominated the matches between these two. Beating him last week allowed him to be that much more confident.”

Kennedy, seeded second, pinned Jacob Wasko of Clarence in 32 seconds in the quarterfinals and third seed Diego Velasquez of Frontier in 1:35 in the semifinals.

Kennedy, 31-4, will represent Amherst at the New York State Championships Feb. 23-24 at the Times Union Center in Albany. Kennedy said his goal is to place at the state tournament.

Kennedy was one of six Tigers to place in the top six. It was the most number of wrestlers Amherst had placed at sectionals since five placed in 1964.

Sophomore Ryan Bitka beat sixth seed John Haberman of Hamburg by sudden victory, 5-4, for third place at 220.

Senior Brandon Simonson pinned third seed John Milks of Ken-Ton in 2:34 to place third at 160.

Senior Anthony Maiola beat Will O’Neil of Williamsville South, 5-2, for fifth place at 182.

Eighth-grader Luke Brydges of Amherst took sixth at 99 pounds.

Junior Matthew Mohan placed sixth at 145.

Bitka, seeded third at 220, pinned Haberman in 2:37 in the quarterfinals and lost by pin to second seed Noah Turzillo of Jamestown in 3:52 in the semifinals.

Bitka wrestled back and pinned Matt Kosha of Frontier in 5:51 in the consolation semifinals before facing Haberman for the second time.

“Ryan ended his sophomore season with 34 wins (34-10 record),” Bauer said. “Ryan is such a competitor in all that he does. His last match was over an opponent who had beaten him twice earlier this season.”

Seeded fourth at 160, Simonson beat fifth seed Dylan Wojciechowski of Frontier, 8-3, and lost to top seed and eventual champion Josh Thibeault of Niagara Wheatfield, 5-3, in the semifinals.

Simonson wrestled back and beat Corey Snyder of West Seneca West by technical fall, 16-0, before he pinned Milks.

Bauer said the semifinal match against Thibeault started well for him, maybe a bit too well.

“He worked his way to three good scoring chances, converting on one to take a 2-0 lead,” Bauer said. “Unfortunately, Thibeault stayed with his plan and sucked Brandon into wrestling in positions favoring his opponent.”

Bauer said there was very little separating the top three in Simonson’s weight class and believes Simonson was the most complete wrestler of the group.

“Brandon wrestled very well the whole tournament,” Bauer said. “He has been our most consistent performer the last two seasons.”

Simonson finished 34-6 and finished his high school career with 126 victories, ranking him third in school history.

Maiola, the fifth seed at 182, lost his quarterfinal match against fourth seed Mike Ventresca of Frontier by major decision, 11-2.

Maiola wrestled back and pinned Jon Bennett of Hamburg in 5:31, lost to third seed Joe Mannarino of Clarence in 4:15, and then beat O’Neil.

“Anthony ended his career with a win over a very tough opponent from Williamsville South,” Bauer said. “His mark of 29-12 indicates his tremendous growth this past off season on the mat and in the weight room. More importantly, Anthony started to believe in the things he does well in all positions.”

Brydges, the sixth seed at 99, lost to third seed Colin Coughenour of Niagara Wheatfield by pin in 1:02 in the semifinals.

He wrestled back and pinned Luke Ventresca of Frontier in 3:46 and lost to fifth seed Mark Kuhn of Niagara Wheatfield, 8-2, in the consolation semifinals. He wrestled back again and lost to fourth seed Myles Gronowski of Lancaster, 15-2, by major decision in the fifth, sixth-place match.

Mohan, the fifth seed at 145, lost to fourth seed Quinten Burke of Clarence, 5-3, in the quarterfinals, wrestled back and pinned Dominic Manzella of Hamburg in 3:22, lost by pin to third seed Jason Omar of Orchard Park in 4:55, and lost to Burke, 5-3, in the fifth, sixth-place match.

Junior Raman Singh went 1-2 at 195, beating Connor Regis of Lockport, 7-2, in the first round, and losing by pin to Cam Walter of Williamsville North/Williamsville East in the quarterfinals and Mike Pataky of Orchard Park.

Sophomore Hassan Dobbins lost his first-round match at 126 to Josh Jelonek of Lancaster, 1-0.

Sophomore Benjamin Levine was pinned by Jon Bennett of Hamburg in 4:48.

Junior Aman Deo lost his quarterfinal match at 170 against fifth seed Gabe Mastrangelo of Hamburg by major decision, 13-5, and then wrestled back and was pinned by Codie Scotland of Lancaster in 1:58.

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