Redhawks wrestling beefing up after COVID decline

The pandemic pinned the sport of wrestling for way longer than a three-count.

Understandably, a sport where opponents are literally and quite unavoidably in each other’s faces was completely shut down. While other sports have begun to thrive again, wrestling has been slow getting up off the mat.

At Champlain Valley the sport went into a severe decline, just like it did at high schools statewide.

But last year wrestling began to bounce back, and coach Scott Bissonett thinks the Redhawks could bounce even higher this year.

In 2019, the wrestling team had 22 kids, after the hiatus Bissonett has been building the team back up. Last year, the first year back after COVID, the team had eight wrestlers. This year the team has a dozen.

“Kids got away from the sport, and then they found other things to do,” Bissonett said. “It was a statewide issue.”

But student athletes are starting to rediscover the sport.

And last year, for the first time ever, CVU hosted the state tournament. It had been planned to be there the year before, but was postponed because of COVID.

The coach is encouraged by how the season is going so far with the team notching significant wins as individual wrestlers and as a team. He’s particularly please with how well the Redhawks are doing with two of his varsity wrestlers taking the mat for the first time.

On Saturday, Jan. 7, at Mt. Anthony Union High in Bennington, the Redhawks took seventh out of 16 teams, scoring 70 points in a tough field of competitors.

Camden Ayer wrestled to a third-place finish in the 120-pound weight class and Thomas Murphy also took third in the 182-pound weight class.

Jacob Underhill (152 pounds) and Griffyn Bowen (170 pounds) both finished fourth in their weight class.

Bissonett was excited by the Redhawks’ performance in the Hubie Wagner Memorial Tournament in Middlebury, Dec. 28 and 29. The team finished sixth out of 21 teams from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.

Murphy of Charlotte was the 182-pound champion of the tournament. The junior pinned all six of his opponents and didn’t give up a single point.

Ninth grader Ayer of Hinesburg was runner-up at 120 pounds, while Underhill, a junior from Williston, took third at 152 pounds.

Bissonette is encouraged by the team’s progress at this point in the season.

“We’ve got some kids with some talent. We just have to keep working on things we need to improve on,” he said. “We’ve got some high hopes come the state tournament.”

The state tournament will be in Vergennes this year at the end of February.

Whitney Williams of Charlotte celebrated the beginning of Vermont’s archery season in December by winning her division at the Bucky Classic Tournament in St. Albans, scoring 294 points out of a possible 300 points.

Williams was competing in the adult recurve female division although she is 15 years old. She became interested in archery when she was 7 after seeing the Disney movie “Brave,” which is about a Scottish princess who’s deft with a bow and arrow.

Williams went to the United Kingdom and won the Junior Nationals Indoor Championships at 11.

She has won several national competitions and holds national records. She shoots at home, at Pelkey’s Archery in St. Albans and in Connecticut, where her coach Roxanne Reiman is based.

Williams hopes to compete in the Olympics — sooner rather than later.