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When it came to wrestling in the Valley this winter, Tioga dominated the headlines, but there were many bright spots elsewhere, including Athens winning the first-ever District 4 Girls Wrestling Championships.

The Tigers, led by three-time state champion Ousmane Duncanson, won their third consecutive N.Y. State Division 2 Duals title, and their fifth consecutive team title at the N.Y. State Division 2 Championships, while Waverly’s Troy Beeman won a state title, and Athens had a strong season with an influx of impressive freshmen.

On the girls side, the Wildcats ended up advancing four wrestlers to the first-ever PIAA Championships, while Sayre senior Layla Bennett also qualified. North of the Border, Waverly and Tioga were well-represented at the New York State Girls Wrestling Invitational (It becomes a NYSPHSAA event next year), with Waverly’s Mackenzie LaForest winning a silver medal.

The question now is: What will 2024-25 bring?

With the season still eight-plus months away, the crystal ball is still a bit cloudy, but let’s take a look and see what we can see.

Athens Wildcats: Shawn Bradley’s team will lose three starters, but the most difficult weight class to fill will be heavyweight, unless junior Caleb Nason bumps up next year, which could create the same problem at 215.

The Wildcats return a host of freshmen, several sophomores, as well as a few juniors next year, and should have a pretty deep line-up, and some quality depth.

With Athens’ bump up to Class AAA, getting to Hershey won’t be any more difficult, but once a wrestler is there, as Bradley has said “it’s a meat grinder.”

Prediction: The Wildcats should compete for the NTL Duals title, and possibly a berth in the District 4 Duals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four wrestlers qualify for the PIAA Championships.

Sayre Redskins: Freshman Jordan Brown went 17-15 this season — the most wins by a Sayre wrestler in several years. The problem is Brown only had two teammates.

The transfer portal hurt the program quite a bit as several youngsters wrestled at other Valley schools this winter, taking a roster that would have been somewhere between nine and 12, and reducing it to three.

Prediction: There’s not much to say. Without numbers, this program doesn’t have much chance to be anything more than it is. The lack of numbers isn’t on the coaching staff either. The kids aren’t leaving the district because of the quality of their sports teams.

Tioga Tigers: Tioga graduates seven seniors who combined for 919 career wins, and 17 state medals, including six state titles, four second-place finishes, and one third-place finish, so there’s little doubt the Tigers will take a step or two back in terms of dominance.

How far back is the question? Tioga returns four state place-winners — sophomores Jayden Duncanson, Logan Bellis, and Kadin Cole, and freshman Declan McKee — who scored more points (88) at States, than the runner-up team (Pal-Mac - 80 points), so there run of five straight team titles at States could continue.

As for extending their streak at the Division 2 Duals, that could be trickier. There are some obvious holes in the line-up that need to be filled, but there’s no shortage of bodies willing to try at Tioga. In Section IV, they are the team to beat until somebody beats them.

Prediction: The Tigers won’t be what they have been the last three years, but they will probably take five or six wrestlers to States, and that’s not bad.

Waverly Wolverines: The Wolverines return virtually intact, led by state champ sophomore Troy Beeman, and freshman Matthias Welles, who placed sixth at States.

Add in 8-grader Drayton DeKay, and freshmen Rhylee Stotler, Parker Larson, and Caden Bradley, and 7th-grader Avery Bowman, and the Wolverines have a strong nucleus for the next couple years.

Prediction: Athens transfer Daltton Davis should work his way into the line-up, but Waverly will need more wrestlers to step up, or have one or two emerge from the junior high team if it has hopes of knocking Tioga from the top rung of the Duals hierarchy in Section IV. Individually, Waverly should take at least three, and possibly four or five to States next year.


Athens Wildcats:
Athens will lose just two wrestlers to graduation from its District 4 Championship team, and will return three state qualifiers in sophomores Hanna Rathbun, and Leah Nason, and freshman Abigail Wagner.

Add junior Emma Renninger, freshmen Emma Mallare, and Joyce Clink, and junior Mary Henry, who all had double-digit wins, and Wildcats could be in the running to repeat as District champs.

Sayre Redskins: Senior state qualifier Layla Bennett will graduate, leaving two wrestlers — sophomore Mikyah Brown, and freshman Kennadie Cochrane in the room for the Redskins.

Like the boys, they will need to add numbers. Unlike the boys, girls wrestling is new, so it will take time, especially at a small school.

Tioga Tigers: Tioga will return all four of its wrestlers, including a trio of state qualifiers in 8th-grader, Kyah Nelson, freshman Amelia Toomey, and junior Kali Bailey.

Like most other girls teams, the key is adding numbers, but Tioga is in good position to take three girls to the first official NYSPHSAA State Championships in 2024-25.

Waverly Wolverines:
Waverly graduates two-time state champion Mackenzie LaForest, and Brenae Tedesco, who came on strong at the end of the year, but the Wolverines return two-time state qualifier sophomore Elona Holmes, as well as sophomores Emma Vanderhoof, and freshman Abby Sickler, who both registered double-digit wins.

If everyone is back out next year, Waverly could have as many as seven on its roster, plus a couple up from the junior high ranks.

Girls wrestling is growing and it’s great to see.

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