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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
HORSEHEADS — As the first period ticked down, Cael Owen found himself on his back, fighting with everything he could to avoid getting pinned.

It looked like the match was over for Owen, but he was saved by the bell as the first period came to a close.

As the second period started, Owen wasn’t about to let the same mistake happen twice.

This time Owen was ready when Zach Hibbard tried the same move, and he quickly got Hibbard on his back to get the pin in 2:21.

It was the way Horseheads battled every match on Wednesday, and in the end it’s why the Blue Raiders won the Section 4, Division I Duals title.

“It’s amazing, we worked so hard for this,” Owen said of the team title. “From Nov. 16 to now, it feels just like we had a dream come true.”

The Blue Raiders used a pair of victories to claim the title, beating Corning 45-19 and Chenango Forks 51-24 in the final.

“It’s great, something we strive for since Nov. 16, the first day of practice,” Horseheads coach Brett Owen said. “I’ve had this date circled and to beat two quality teams tonight, very impressive. What coach (Brian) Guilfoyle is doing at Corning with a bunch of freshmen, sophomores, eighth graders, they came to battle and was not an easy match.

“And Forks, Forks is always a battle. Well coached, they are all phenomenal coaches and to pull out the victory is awesome.”

The Blue Raiders started their day with a win over Corning.

The Hawks have been shorthanded recently, and they forfeited two weights, and there was one double forfeit in the match.

After a double forfeit at 215, Gannon Johnston of Horseheads got a pin in 1:39 over Camden McConnell at 285 to get things started for Horseheads.

Corning got a win at 102 as Dalton Webb won a 14-1 major decision over Joel Scibek, before Horseheads got back-to-back forfeit wins.

At 110 Brian Park got a forfeit and Ryan Massengale got the forfeit win at 118.

At 126 Cody Dale of Horseheads pinned Matthew Mahon in 1:22, before Corning’s Logan Bruce won a hard-fought 9-5 match against Lucas Mosher of Horseheads at 132.

Horseheads’ Cael Owen won a 10-3 match over Clayton Smith at 138 and at 145 William Lotocky of Horseheads got a pin in 3:35 over Brody Wolfe.

Horseheads’ Liam Levantovich pinned Jordan Matthews of Corning in 1:08 at 152.

Corning then got back-to-back pins as Mason Horton of Corning pinned Luis Bohan in 1:15 at 160 and Ethan Hart pinned Ben Massengale in 2:58 at 172, before Horseheads’ Hunter Lavigne pinned Jayden Vandusen in 1:16 at 189.

In the final the Blue Raiders received five forfeits on their way to the victory.

Brett Owen knows how crucial it is that Horseheads has a full lineup.

“It’s huge,” he said. “I remember talking years ago to Bill Sexton at Towanda (the 2nd winningest coach in Pa. history) and he said hey, you’ve got to have the numbers. Nowadays it’s not necessarily the best trained guys. It’s coming down to numbers, and then you throw Covid into the mix.

“We beat Vestal and it was a totally different team that shows up here tonight. The other night they showed up with like eight, ten guys, tonight they were pushing 20 guys, so it’s huge to have this big of a squad.”

Having that depth also means some younger guys find themselves in the lineup at times, playing a big role for the Blue Raiders.

“We talk about next man up,” Brettt Owen said. “I praised the guys who sit behind the starters all year and they get their time and step up. Lucas Mosher showed that tonight, coming up with two tough matches, squeaking one out. I definitely was hoping he’d get the first one, he battled real hard against one of the best kids in the section for Corning.

“Having that depth and those numbers gives us that opportunity. Heck, we were missing two guys to, but it doesn’t look that way because we are able to maneuver the lineup.”

Johnston started the match against Forks by getting a forfeit win.

Chenango Forks then won two straight to take a 12-6 lead. Ryan Ferrara pinned Scibek in 41 seconds at 102 and at 110 Kaeden Hubbard pinned Park in 1:57.

Horseheads tied things up at 118 as Massengale pinned Carmine Gross in 59 seconds, before Dale gave Horseheads the lead with a forfeit win at 126.

Mosher won a tight 3-1 decision against Dylan Furman at 132, before Forks got a forfeit win by their star, Tyler Ferrara, at 138.

Owen then took the mat against HIbbard, and came away with the win.

For Owen, as he was trying to avoid getting pinned, he just was hoping to get out of that situation.

“I am going to be honest, I was nervous,” Owen said. “I was like, ‘oh shoot, I’ve got to fight with everything I have from there to the end.’ But, once they choose bottom again, I knew he was looking for that same move, so I just stuck my half in, and that’s it.

“That was the toughest battle of my life right there (trying to avoid the fall). It was just a wake up call. I could only control what happened after that.”

As Owen got the pin the bench erupted and Owen started celebrating.

“It was amazing, I can’t explain the emotion, I was just so full of joy,” Cael Owen said. “I made an epic comeback and wanted the team to be happy when I got that win.”

Horseheads got back-to-back forfeit wins as Lotocky and Levantovich got the victories at 152 and 160.

At 172 Forks got a pin in 23 seconds by Zander Arnold over Ben Massengale.

At 189 Hunter Lavigne got a pin in 22 seconds over Skyler Harvey of Forks, before Jacob Bennett wrapped up the Horseheads win with a forfeit victory at 215.

For Lavigne, it was special getting the pin.

“All I knew about my dude I was wrestling was keep him off my head and just out think him,” Lavigne said.

And, like Owen, there was a celebration when he got the pin.

“Just like he said, you can’t really feel it until you do it yourself. It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s hard to express it’s just a really great feeling to win.”

Both the matches by Owen and Lavigne were big ones for the Blue Raiders.

“Cael started off a little slow, put me in a little shock,” Brett Owen said. “But, give it to Hibbard, he battled hard. Cael made a mistake, he capitalized on it. Then, Cael knew he’s not going to roll over and went and battled against him and got the fall.

“Hunter is a freshman, and he battles. He comes out, it’s going to be a battle for him whenever he wrestles.”

Now it’s onto Syracuse for the state duals.

“That’s amazing,” Cael Owen said. “I’ve been there once before, but hopefully this time I can change my luck around.”

“I haven’t been there, I’m only a freshman,” Lavigne added. “First year going, it’s going to be awesome.”

The Blue Raiders have been to state duals each year it’s been held.

“Since they have been doing the state duals, Horseheads has represented Section 4 each time (either as champion or as a wild card entry),” Brett Owen said. “It’s huge, we are able to go back to Syracuse to represent our section.”

Horseheads 45, Corning 19

215: Double Forfeit
285: Gannon Johnston (H) fall Camden McConnell (C), 1:39
102: Dalton Webb (C) maj. dec. Joel Scibek (H), 14-1
110: Brian Park (H) fft.
118: Ryan Massengale (H) fft.
126: Cody Dale (H) fall Matthew Mahon (C), 1:22
132: Logan Bruce (C) dec. Lucas Mosher (H), 9-5
138: Cael Owen (H) dec. Clayton Smith (C), 10-3
145: William Lotocky (H) fall Brody Wolfe (C), 3:35
152: Liam Levantovich (H) fall Jordan Matthews (C), 1:08
160: Mason Horton (C) fall Luis Bohan (H), 1:15
172: Ethan Hart (C) fall Ben Massengale (H), 2:58
189: Hunter Lavigne (H) fall Jayden Vandusen (C), 1:16

Horseheads 51, Chenango Forks 24

285: Gannon Johnston (H) fall
102: Ryan Ferrara (CF) fall Joel Scibek (H), :41
110: Kaeden Hubbard (CF) fall Brian Park (H), 1:57
118: Ryan Massengale (H) fall Carmine Gross (CF), :59
126: Cody Dale (H) fft.
132: Lucas Mosher (H) dec. Dylan Furman (CF), 3-1
138: Tyler Ferrara (CF) fft.
145: Cael Owen (H) fall Zach Hibbard (CF), 2:21
152: William Lotocky (H) fft.
160: Liam Levantovich (H) fft.
172: Zander Arnold (CF) fall Ben Massengale (H), :23
189: Hunter Lavigne (H) fall Skyler Harvey (CF), :22
215: Jacob Bennett (H) fft.

IN TOP PHOTO: Horseheads' Cael Owen celebrates after getting a pin against Chenango Forks. ..  PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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