Leonard repeats as Class D champ for Cooperstown

Cheryl Clough Milford sophomore Avery Leonard cradles Copenhagen's Dylan Petrie in the 106 pound finals of the Section III Class D Tournament on Saturday in Cooperstown.  

The cradle rocked again for Milford sophomore Avery Leonard.

Leonard's second Section III Class D title came the same way as his first, in 2018: with an early pin caused by a synched in cradle.

His win at 106 pounds — a class higher than last year — helped host Cooperstown to a seventh-place finish in the 12-team tournament.

"I am excited to be one step closer to my goals, one step closer to the state tournament," Leonard said.

Leonard beat Copenhagen's Dylan Petrie, pinning him with two seconds left in the first period. He led 7-1 by that point, having taken Petrie down and gotten back points, then letting him up and repeating the process.

"As soon as I got momentum on him, I knew," Leonard said.

Leonard's two other tournament wins were by second-period technical falls, including a semifinal win over teammate Matt LoRusso. LoRusso finished fourth, losing to Mount Markham's Aydin DeForest by pin in 1:23.

Cooperstown had four other place winners: T.J. O'Connor finished second at 99. Lucas LoRusso finished third at 113. Logan Kantor finished third at 126. Lucian Lytel finished sixth at 138.

Leonard, O'Connor, Kantor and both LoRussos advance to Saturday's Section III Division II Tournament at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.

"This is probably the best finish we've had at sections in years," Cooperstown coach Mike Croft said. "This is probably the best team we've had since the (Brendan) "Poppy" Hill days.

Croft, a 2008 Cooperstown Central School and 2013 Oneonta State graduate now in his fifth year coaching his alma mater, said he is pleased with where the program is going. The Hawkeyes won their first division title since 2005, Hill's senior season, by sweeping dual meets in the Center State Conference Division II.

"The division title was big," Croft said. "Somehow, even having to forfeit nearly half the matches, we were able to get our guys in places to win all our meets."

Often, the missing matches came in waves, with other schools unable to compete against Cooperstown's stellar lightweights, and the Hawkeyes unable to field a team past middleweight. Croft said he is excited to have some bigger kids coming through the system who will be on varsity next year. He also said he was thrilled to have the tournament in Cooperstown for a second year.

"It is exciting to get to this time of the season," he said. "Avery and maybe T.J. have very good paths to the state meet."

Leonard said the Class D title was only one of his goals this season. Last year he placed third in the Division II meet and missed the state tournament. But he wrestled through the off-season on the Unadilla club team his father, Nate, runs, Gorilla Grapplers Wrestling Club. He went to tournaments around the east coast in the summer, and wrestled a tougher schedule during the school year, too, going to the invitation-only Eastern States Classic at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake for a Jan. 13 meet.

"I took a few more losses this season, but I have wrestled better competition," he said.

At 41-4, Leonard's record is slightly worse than last year's 34-2 record, but at 75-6 two years into his high school career, he is likely to get to 100 wins as a junior. And more importantly, he said he feels he is on track to make the state tournament and make the podium when he gets there.

"I'm confidant I am going to place at state," he said.

Although Milford has allowed its students to wrestle for Cooperstown since 2013, Leonard is the first MCS student to letter in the sport. Then he became the first Wildcat to win a wrestling title, and then win a section title in the sport. And while there are still more Milford firsts to get — 100 wins, 150 wins, a state title — Leonard said he is thrilled he is no longer the only MCS wrestler.

O'Connor, a seventh grader from Milford, started with Gorilla Grapplers before he started at Cooperstown. And despite his early pinfall loss in the finals Saturday to Beaver River's Andre Lyndaker in 24 seconds, O'Connor has done so well in his first season, where he is 40-3, he could concievably gain a first of his own if he becomes the first Milford wrestler to break Leonard's even-growing record for wins.

"To be a seventh grader and be where T.J. is, is amazing," Croft said. "I mean, he is way ahead of any other kids his age."

The Hawkeyes finished with 79 team points, 28 behind sixth-place Mount Markham. Beaver River won the event by a large margin, with 236.5 points, 89.5 points better than second-place Morrisville-Eaton.

Copenhagen's Riley Dalrymple won the meet's Most Outstanding Wrestler Award, winning a title at 113 pounds. Dalrymple, a junior who finished second in her class last year, became the first female Section III Class D champion in 10 years, since Anna Cummings of Onondaga in 2009.