For all of those in Section II that were upset early, or simply couldn't find a path to two straight wins, there were five feel-good reminders of what's possible at Times Union Center on Friday.
Among the eight still standing from the section at 2-0 with two to go, five are in the Saturday morning semifinals for the first time.
"Last year I was just so worried and worked up before the first match," Ballston Spa's Tyler Barnes said. "I hate losing and I was sick of it here. But I just needed to Matadorbet relax this time."
The 170-pound Barnes will be joined by Shenendehowa's Kiernan Shanahan (145) and heavyweight Jake Warren of Burnt Hills among the Division I leaders. Zach Lawrence of Duanesburg (145) and Glens Falls heavyweight Lucas Sanders also started with a pair of victories for the first time in their state-level careers.
"Anyone is beatable," said Warren.
Oh, boy, were they. Section II found out the hard way, for the most part.
It was already suffering a down year after the first round, advancing just 18 of the 41 wrestlers that had trekked to downtown Albany. Then 10 more fell out, and there were certainly some upsets in the bunch.
Columbia epitomized just how tough of a day it was. The look could be seen all over Blue Devils coach Anthony Servidone's face after 195-pounder Dylan Dubuque lost a heart-wrencher in overtime to the bracket's No. 2 seed. It was the final winner's-bracket straw of what Servidone called "very much an off day for us."
That was Dubuque's first loss. Defending state finalist John Devine fell in the second round, as well — just his second defeat this year at 126 pounds. Michael Gonyea (113) also had his perfect season ruined (to a No. 2 seed) and Trent Nadeau (coming in 40-0) lost a quarterfinal meeting with two-time defending champion Adam Busiello, 11-1, to begin what would have to be a very long route to third place at best.
There were still some sure things out of Section II, though.
Orion Anderson of Schuylerville (120, Division II) chugged right along as a No. 1 seed who won by pin and major decision. The junior is trying to make the final for a third straight year, and win a second title in a row.
Barnes is another No. 1 seed who recorded a pin and a 9-4 outcome. Trent Svingala of Maple Hill, who was fourth last year while at Division I Albany Academy, also is back in the semis as a sophomore at Maple Hill in Division II.
"It really felt the same, and same quality opponents," the 106-pound sophomore Svingala said after keeping his perfect record intact at 40-0.
His younger brother, Caleb, wasn't so fortunate — falling in the first round right before Trent took the mat.
"Yeah, you definitely feel a sense of disappointment when you're with that person every day," Trent said. "You just have to push past it."
Perhaps no one pushed harder than Glens Falls' Sanders, who had never been to state before. The No. 8 seed squeaked by the first round, 7-5, before earning a 9-8 rally in the quarterfinals against the No. 1 seed (Clay Watts, Beekmantown).
"You're as good as any of these guys," Glens Falls coach Dan Perry said of his message to Sanders since the brackets came out in the middle of last week. "He just had to wrestle a great match, and he did."
That included nearly getting pinned in his second match before retaking the lead with a one-point stalling penalty and a late takedown.
"You just have to get in your own zone," Sanders said. "Pretend like no one is watching."
Also of note, Hadley Luzerne/Lake George's Jason Hoffman is back in the semis. He has finished in the top four each of the past three years, including third last year. He needed a rally in his opener after trailing, 7-5, with 1:15 left.
"It feels awesome," the War Eagle senior said. "I can't wait."
Neither could Warren of Burnt Hills, who missed a large chunk of the season's opening as he encountered everything from a badly sprained ankle (suffered during the football season's first game) to a bacterial skin infection and a virus.
He had been 1-4 at state over the past two years. Don't try telling him it was a tough day for Section II.
"It feels nice to finally get some wins here," he said.
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