AMHERST - Falconer's Branden Muntz made it to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association state wrestling championships as a freshman in 2010.
After a two-year hiatus, the 126-pound wrestler is returning to the Times Union Center in Albany with a final chance at becoming a state champion.
The senior took the first step Sunday at the University at Buffalo with an upset victory over No. 1 seed Dakota Gardner of Fredonia, 2-0 in the Section 6 Division 2 championships.
Falconer’s Branden Muntz wraps himself around Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner en route to winning the 126-pound championship match at the Section 6 Division 2 State Qualifier at the University at Buffalo on Sunday. Muntz was named the most outstanding wrestler.
Photo by Craig Harvey
"He has been there and seen it," Falconer coach Drew Wilcox noted. "He has his sights set on the finals and he is definitely capable of doing it. If he wrestles like he did today, it's a strong possibility."
Muntz scored a takedown in the opening round and the lead stood the rest of the way.
"Branden wrestled a very smart match," Wilcox said. "I am super proud of him and he deserves it. Dakota is a tough kid. I think both guys will get on the podium in Albany in two weeks. Branden has been focused all day."
As for Gardner, despite the loss, he should be able to make the tournament on a wild card as he is a 2012 state finalist and is now 41-1 on the season.
"I'm all for a loss now," Fredonia coach Alex Conti said. "I can name three state champions who lost in the finals of the qualifier last year. As long as he gets to the show, anything can happen. Maybe it will remind him there is work to be done."
Also punching in a ticket into the NYSPHSAA wrestling championships is Southwestern's Ryan Hetrick. After earning a pin and a decision to advance to the finals, Hetrick took down Falconer's Kyle Blake, 3-2.
After a scoreless first period, Blake started the second frame on bottom and escaped with 44 seconds left in the period to take a 1-0 lead.
In the third period, Hetrick escaped with 1:39 remaining and then earned a takedown with 39 seconds left for the 3-1 lead. After letting Blake out of the hold, Hetrick was able to hold off a takedown for the win.
It will be the Southwestern freshman's first trip to the state meet.
"Hetrick has been phenomenal all year," Southwestern coach Mark Arnold said. "He deserves it. Ryan had a plan and it worked out for him. He has trained for this all year. His work ethic and dedication is fantastic. His goal was to get to the state meet and it paid off."
At 106, Maple Grove freshman Brad Bihler scored two points in each period for a 6-0 decision over Roy-Hart's Cameron Swick.
Bihler, a freshmen, scored a takedown in the first round, a near-fall in the second round and a takedown in the third round for the win.
"Being the No. 1 seed, we knew he would see some stiff competition," Maple Grove coach Tanner Delahoy said of his No. 1-seed wrestler. "I was a little nervous. I am not sure if he was. In the finals, we had never seen (Swick). We didn't know what to expect. Brad stuck to his plan. He did what he had to do and now we are going on. He did well. We have three more years together."
Also winning was Frewsburg's Austin Lynn as he prevailed, 4-2, in overtime over Portville's Tyler Veno in the 182 match.
After a scoreless first period, Lynn had a 1-0 lead after four minutes of action.
In the final frame, Veno earned a two-point reversal for a 2-1 lead with just 42 seconds left. However, Lynn escaped in the final seconds to force overtime. There, Lynn got the takedown for the win.
"Austin has been doing this since he was four years old," first-year Frewsburg coach Randy Spicer said. "It's his turn to go to states. It's a big deal for him since he is a senior. Veno and Lynn have battled all year. This match could have gone either way."
Fredonia's Chris Saden and Zach Buckley each went undefeated at the state qualifier Sunday.
At 170-pounds, Saden was dominant all day. The No. 1 seed used two pins to get into the finals. Once there, Buckley took down No. 3 seed James Carr of Randolph, 18-3, for the technical fall.
"Total domination," Conti said of Buckley. "He wrestled a fantastic tournament He is the real deal. I hope he is ready to rumble at the states. If he doesn't let his nerves get in the way, he can do some damage. He has been hitting his stride since the second weekend. He works out with guys and you can't expect anything but great things."
Meanwhile, Saden was equally impressive at 220. Saden, a No. 3 seed, used a pin in the quarterfinals and a 4-2 decision in the semifinals to advance to the finals. There, he earned a 5:35 pin over No. 5-seed Brian Kerwin for his ticket to Albany.
"He has put in his time and a lot of effort," Conti said. "He has had the opportunity to work with Matt Booth of Cattaraugus-Little Valley and it has really paid off. Matt is a great partner for him. It has paid dividends for Chris.
"If you get a chance to pin someone in the finals of a state qualifier, it's pretty exciting," Conti noted. "It also take a lot of pressure off the coach."
Unfortunately for Fredonia, Jude Gardner and Dakota Gardner lost in the championship round.
Meanwhile, Jude Gardner lost in the finals at 145 to No. 1 seed Drew Hull of Roy-Hart, 1-0.
After a scoreless first period, Hull began the second period from the bottom position and escaped. It proved to be the winning point of the match as Gardner could not do the same thing in the third period.
"Jude did a nice job," Conti said. "Hopefully we wrestle Drew Hull in the final of states. Drew Hull is the real deal. He took second at states last year and I think he will be the man to beat this year. Hopefully we get a chance to battle with him in the finals.
"I believe Jude will also get a wild card," Conti noted.
Meanwhile, Conti also feels Tyler Cassidy has a chance at a wild card after taking third place.
"He came through and took third in a huge wrestleback win," Conti said. "He is a senior and he has been wrestling a long time. Hopefully he gets there. It's always tough to come back with two wins after a loss, so good for him."
Also headed to states is Matt Booth of Cattaraugus-Little Valley/Pine Valley, who defeated Salamanca's Dustin Lewis, 15-3, for the 195 title.
Southwestern's Brian Westerdahl came up one victory short of an automatic bid into the finals as he lost to No. 1 seed and a former state place finisher Daniel Reagan of Lewiston-Porter.
Despite a valiant effort, Westerdahl fell, 11-2.
"We knew coming in that Reagan was the man to beat," Arnold said. "We told Brian to try some moves. He had nothing to lose. Brian came in as a No. 2 seed and I thought he had a great tournament. He was a solid wrestler all day. And even in the finals, he didn't give up."
Now wrestlers who did not take first place on Sunday will wait and hopefully hear their name called for a wildcard spot.
But for the ones who did advance Sunday, Spicer said it best: "Once you get to Albany, the rest is icing on the cake."
99: Ryan Hetrick (Southwestern) d. Kyle Blake(Falconer), 3-2
106: Brad Bihler (Maple Grove) d. Cameron Swick (Roy-Hart), 6-0
113: Andrew Shomers (Lew-Port) d. Andrew Marra (Olean), 10-5
120: Kellen Devlin (Amherst) p. Abdul-Fatah Alshawai (Lackawanna), 4:25
126: Branden Muntz (Falconer) d. Dakota Gardner (Fredonia), 2-0
132: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowaga) md. Ryan Kromer (Lew-Port), 18-7
138: Daniel Reagan (Lew-Port) md. Brian Westerdahl(Southwestern), 11-2
145: Drew Hull (Roy-Hart ) d. Jude Gardner (Fredonia), 1-0
152: Alex Smythe (Eden) md. James McLean (Pioneer), 10-2
160: Gunnar Van Curen (Portville) md. Miguel Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowaga), 12-2
170: Zach Buckley (Fredonia) p. James Carr (Randolph), 3:50
182: Austin Lynn (Frewsburg) d. Tyler Veno(Portville), 4-2 OT
195: Matt Booth (Catt-LV/PV) md. Dustin Lewis (Salamanca), 15-3
220: Chris Saden (Fredonia) p. Brian Kerwin (Wilson), 5:35
285: Matt Montesanti (Medina) d. Clayton Smith (Roy-Hart), 1-0