SYRACUSE — Of the four seeded wrestlers from Homer Central School, senior Paul Morse was one of three grapplers seeded in the top four in their respective weight classes and maybe the least likely to reach a title match in the Section 3 Division II Champions Saturday at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
Morse was having a great season as he began Saturday with a 26-7 record, but he was coming off the 2016-17 season where he missed much of it after having shoulder surgery and he had never reached any tournament final in his career.
That all changed as Morse went 3-0 as the third seed before falling in the championship match at 182 pounds to top-seed Connor Fredericks from Chittenango. Fredericks was 32-2 coming into the final match and is one of the top wrestlers in New York State at this weight class as well as Section 3. The two met one week earlier in the Section 3 Class B semifinals with Fredericks winning 6-0.
Giving away close to 20 pounds to his opponent, Morse gave his all, but lost a 6-1 decision to Fredericks. Morse earned his lone point with an escape in the second period.
Though it was a second loss in as many weeks, Morse gained respect from his opponent and many in attendance for a better showing overall. Morse caps his senior year with a 29-7 mark and 55-42 career record.
“I am just thankful for how far I’ve come this season,” a winded Morse said after the match. “This only my fifth year of wrestling and to make the sectional finals, I’m very excited.”
“Paul has been wrestling up all season long,” Homer coach Jason Reynolds said. “Paul is exceptionally strong and, like many of our wrestlers, he really peaked at the right time. He wrestled one of the best kids in the state in the finals and he just kept wrestling. Paul has always had a workman like attitude and it really showed in this tournament. He wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation because he has heart, soul and determination. He saved his best for last. I’m very proud of him.”
Morse scored a first round pin of General Brown’s Conner Vecchio. He followed up with a 9-0 majority decision over Jack Bailey (South Jefferson/Sandy Creek) in the quarterfinals and a 6-3 decision over second-seed Bryce Dare (Holland Patent) in the semifinals.
Homer had not had a Section 3 Division II finalist since Matt Norris (second place) in 2014. Prior to that, you have to go back to Toby Reese’s two championships in 2004 and 2005 along with second place finishers by Zach Burhans and Matt McGuiness in 2004.
“It is my very first final and it comes in my senior year,” Morse said. “It was also my first year in this tournament. It was very hard coming back from the surgery. I was out so long. I had to relearn a lot of things and getting the muscle memory back, but through hard work, heart and determination, anything is possible.”
“He wrestled early in the season last year before deciding to have the surgery,” Reynolds said. “Some kids I would be worried about that because it is a tough recovery and a lot of work is needed to back even close to normal. I never worried about Paul Morse putting in the time to get back to better than normal.”
As for the other Trojans, senior Noah Thomas (35-7) finished fourth at 126 pounds after going 3-2 on the day. Senior Anthony Parker (30-12) went 2-3 to place sixth at 220 pounds. Thomas lost a close 2-1 decision to Dylan Price from Onondaga/ Tully in the consolation final. Parker dropped an 8-0 majority decision to Canastota’s Mike Leibl for fifth place.
The remaining Homer wrestlers did not place, Hunter O’Gorman (31-9) was 1-2 at 195 pounds, while Nick Rice (26-13) at 120, Gabe Cline (18-19) at 138 and Charles lines (23-12) at 152 lost first round matches.
Homer finished 13th in the team standings with 51 points while Cortland was 19th with 34.5 points. Camden took team honors with 140.5 points.
Three Cortland High wrestlers placed in their respective weight classes. Kaiden Haynes took third at 106, beating Adirondack’s Bryar Croniser in the third-place match. Haynes went 4-1 with two pins on the day, the only loss in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Micah Roes from Lowville. Haynes finished the season at 32-9 with 20 pins.
Josh Rowland won the fifthplace match at 99 pounds 2-0 over Kyle Musachio from Canastota to cap a day in with he went 3-2 to finish the season at 30-12 (14). Aaron Kelchner was sixth at 132 pounds, pinned by Keegan Case from Adirondack in the fifth-place match. He went 2-3 (1) Saturday to close out the season at 31-11 (21) and his career at 94-40 (56).
Losing in the first round Saturday were Bali Cornell at 152 pounds to finish the season 20-19 (9) and Brandon McClendon at 220 to close out a 19-15 (8) season and a 26-win two-season career.