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Warriors Win Battle For The Belt

Destin Tirado was the first to get his hands on the belt and raise it in victory. It was perhaps the sweetest moment of his varsity wrestling career.

Tirado was one of 10 Tonawanda wrestlers to have his hand raised as the Warriors defeated the Lumberjacks 60-27 Tuesday night as the storied program’s battled for the right to be the first team to win the TNT Championship belt.

NT varsity wrestling coach Joe Hooley, who had seen his daughter Olivia Hooley and her Ladyjacks battle Tonawanda for the TNT Cup in soccer the past few years came up with the idea of a pro wrestling championship style belt being awarded to the winning team as a way to motivate both teams. And it worked. As the final score was announced the Warriors raced to the scorers table to claim the belt as they celebrated their win.

“It felt good! It felt really good,” Tirado said. “It means so much to everybody. Just the fact that football, we try but we can’t succeed. Wrestling-we all came out here and did what we had to do and it feels amazing.”

Knowing that they would be giving away six weights to forfeits the Lumberjacks knew if they had any hope that they would have to make the most of every match. And they did early on, as forfeits at 195 (Veysal Mukhtasimov) and 220 (Jose Raitz) followed by back-to-back pinfall wins by Jordan Holmes (285) and Tyler Bartolomei (99) gave them a 21-0 lead.

Nick Zrotyka scored Tonawanda’s first points when he pinned Ryan Meyer in the 106 pound match. That opened the door for seven consecutive wins by the Warriors as they took a 42-21 lead.

The defining moment of the match came when Tonawanda freshman Jason Frazer beat NT senior Nick Rosky in the 138 pound bracket.

The Warriors had just taken a 24-21 lead. A win by Frazer would his team some breathing room. A win by Rosky gives NT the lead and much needed points after three straight forfeits and three more looming down the road.

Frazer and Rosky went toe-to-toe exchanging moves and counters until Frazer was finally able to tie up Rosky for the pin a split-second before the buzzer went to end the second period.

“I came out nervous because I knew that was a big part of it. I came out sloppy,” Frazer said.

“I knew when I looked up at the score I had to go big or go home.”

Logan Kent scored NT’s final win with a pin of Jeff Amato at 152 pounds.

Three straight forfeits by Riley Whipple (160), Noah Gillis (170) and Nick Burda (182) capped off the night for THS.

“All of our guys were fired up for the match,” said Tonawanda coach Dan Bishop. “I’m excited for (Frazer) to get a big win like that with a big crowd and really get the team back on track.”

Josh Fisher, Zach Braddell, Cory Gau and Joe Amato also received FFT wins for Tonawanda.

A full night of wrestling, the evening also included a special series of kids club matches before varsity and an alumni night where a total of 30 former wrestlers from both programs were recognized before the match.

From NT’s Al Duquette (Class of 1962) to recent grads like NT’s Troy Keller, the line up of alumni’s featured several families like the Fire’s and the McGregor’s and Scott Klepp who owns the distinction of wrestling for Tonawanda’s as a freshman before transferring to NT and wrestling as a Lumberjack for three seasons.

While the final score was obviously not what the Jacks wanted to see coach Joe Hooley said the night itself was a memorable one for both programs, schools and cities.

“It was a great event,” said Hooley. “The stands were packed. It was a great night. It was fun.”

Though Hooley’s desire was to his boys raise the belt he couldn’t help but smile and respect what the Warriors accomplished.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Hooley said, as he pointed to a group of Warriors taking photos with the belt.

“That gave something to the match. Made the dual exciting. That’s what it’s all about. Those kids are happy and now it gives my kids something to fight for. Now they saw it and they want that. They’re gonna want that belt back.”

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