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A Tag-Team Effort: Bellows Falls-Hartford Shines at State Meet

  • Hartford's Austin Viens.

    Hartford's Austin Viens.

  • Hartford's Nolan Viens.

    Hartford's Nolan Viens.

  • Hartford's Patrick Libuda.

    Hartford's Patrick Libuda.

  • Hartford's Austin Viens.
  • Hartford's Nolan Viens.
  • Hartford's Patrick Libuda.

Bennington, Vt. — It might not quite be ready to dethrone Mount Anthony Union High, but the Bellows Falls-Hartford cooperative is certainly asserting itself in Vermont wrestling circles.

Placing in the top five in 10 of 14 weight classes and in the top three in five, the Terriers were second as a team — their highest collective finish ever — at the VPA state wrestling tournament hosted by MAU Friday and Saturday.

Hartford High senior Nolan Viens won his second straight individual title, shutting out the Patriots’ Darren Ruiz-Sauer in the 145-pound final, 6-0.

Viens’ younger brother Austin, a junior, won three straight matches to reach the 113 final, where Mount Anthony’s Tyler Raetz avenged an earlier loss to Austin Viens with a 4-0 win.

Hartford senior Patrick Libuda — Nolan Viens’ running back partner on the Hurricanes’ football team — lost in the 152 semifinals to eventual champion Dylan Shattuck, but recovered to beat Rutland’s Ian Reilly in the third-place match, 3-1.

Two Bellows Falls athletes also placed third, including freshman Brendan Kendall (126) and junior Kyle Record (182) as BF-Hartford finished with 155.5 points, 20 higher than third-place Mount Mansfield.

Continuing its utter VPA dominance, Mount Anthony had seven individual champions and six runners-up for 336.5 points, securing its 26th championship in 26 years of sanctioned wrestling in Vermont.

“It’s a big-time accomplishment. It’s hard to describe,” said Bellows Falls-Hartford coach Claude Weyant of finishing second to the Patriots. “It’s unfortunate for us that Mount Anthony happens to compete in Vermont, because if they were (anywhere else in New England), they’d still be winning state championships every year. That’s just the caliber of the program they have here. So for us to be second in Vermont ... It’s kind of like winning a state championship for us, in a way.”

Weyant was recognized as Vermont’s coach of the year in an awards ceremony prior to the finals.

Nolan Viens is now 188-22 for his career and 44-0 this season. He pinned Mill River’s Kade Timbers just 1:08 into their quarterfinal match, then dominated Spaulding’s Duncan Lord 12-1 to set up a rematch with Mount Anthony’s Ruiz-Sauer, whom he’d faced off with just two weeks ago in a regular-season tournament hosted by the Patriots.

Ruiz-Sauer — a junior who was 42-19 entering the state tournament — managed four points for escapes in the first match against Viens. That wasn’t the case Saturday, as the Hartford senior kept him smothered for a convincing win.

After the final buzzer, Viens celebrated by pumping his hands three times and pointing and nodding to the large Bellows Falls-Hartford fan base on hand.

“He got out from underneath me a couple times two weeks ago, and I knew I was probably going to be facing him again tonight,” Viens said. “So for the last two weeks, I’ve been working on keeping my legs in better position so not to let him out.”

Austin Viens, who’d beaten Raetz by a 3-2 decision in February, had the tables turned on him in Saturday’s final as Raetz prevailed 4-0.

“He had a lot of good moves tonight that he didn’t have last time,” said Austin Viens, whose runner-up was still an improvement from last year’s third-place finish. “I wasn’t expecting him to be as good as he was.”

Hartford junior Steve Cerrone was fifth, a disappointment after placing second the last two years. After being pinned by an Essex wrestler in the semifinals, Cerrone fell 14-2 to a St. Johnsbury foe in the consolation bracket. He managed to secure points for Bellows Halls-Hartford, though, when he pinned BFA-St. Albans’ Brandon Coolbeth in the fifth-place match.

“It was a tough tournament for Steve after getting second twice in a row and this year settling for fifth,” Weyant said. “But even fifth helped us from a team standpoint, and that’s the difference you’re starting to see with this program. We’ve had individual success in the past, but competing for a team championship is a new concept.

“It’s the result of a lot of hard work and guys working hard both during the season and during the offseason to get better.”

Nolan Viens, who’s bound for the NCAA Division I wrestling program at Sacred Heart University next fall, plans to give it his best at the New England meet in Rhode Island next week.

He placed fifth last year, but three of the four wrestlers ahead of him were seniors.

“The plan is to win it,” he said. “That’s what I’m going for.”

Team Scores: 1. Mount Anthony 336.5; 2. Bellows Falls-Hartford 155.5; 3. Mount Mansfield 133.5; 4. St. Johnsbury 109; 5. Vergennes 102; 6. Mill River 98.5; 7. Middlebury 91; 8. Rutland 69; 9. Champlain Valley 68; 10. Essex 56.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.