Mt. Anthony Title Streak on Hold
Patriots one of several high school wrestling programs affected by cancellation of season
BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The history is quite literally written on the wall.
“We’re like the number one sport that people go to see. It’s wrestling,” said Jordan Thomas Ross, a senior member of the legendary Mt. Anthony Wrestling program.
“I graduated in ’93 so I was on 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the state championship runs,” added head coach Brian Coon. “I’ve been around the program for pretty much my whole adult life.”
Thirty-two consecutive state championships. Mt. Anthony’s Wrestling program holds the national record for longest streak by any school in any sport. And it’s easy to see how they’ve been able to maintain their dominance over the years.
“I’ve been around the program since I was first born,” said Hayden Gaudette, a junior at MAU and two-time individual state champion. “My dad’s been on the coaching staff for a while.”
“I moved up here fourth grade year and immediately my uncle showed me the sport and I fell in love with it,” added Kyle Hurley, a fellow Patriot junior.
“My dad got me into it when I was five years old, and I stuck with it,” said Landon Davis, set to become a team captain in his junior year.
“This is part of our culture here in Bennington,” Coon said. “We’re working class people, so when people that work hard for a living teach your kids about work ethic, then it transitions into working hard and being successful.”
But no amount of work is going to allow the Patriots to put up another banner in the gym this year. Citing an inability to avoid close contact, the state of Vermont has announced that wrestling is one of two high school sports they won’t sanction this Winter. It’s a crushing blow to the Mt. Anthony athletes.
“I was upset tremendously since I’ve grown up trying to prove it here, so losing my junior year sucks,” Gaudette said.
“I was just mad that I wasn’t going to get my senior year of wrestling,” added Thomas Ross. “I wasn’t going to be able to improve on my mistakes last year, and prove that I do deserve a state title.”
Coon is frustrated, saying the wrestling community wasn’t given a chance to make its case for inclusion.
“I’m on the coaches association. We came up with like two or three plans and we submitted it, but we never really got any answer back until they said, ‘You know, you’re done,’” Coon said. “And really there was no explanation.”
Coon cited the extensive sanitation measures the sport already has in place and believes there are things they can do to make it even safer.
“I think only doing dual meets (matches between two schools rather than several), doing the 45 days of practice before actual competition. I think they would have had a good idea of if it was gonna go crazy in the wrestling community or not. And then maybe at that point you look at it and say it’s not possible,” Coon said.
He still hasn’t given up trying to find a way to make it work, in large part because he’s worried about the off-mat effect it can have on kids to not have this avenue available to them.
“That’s my biggest stress is that some of those kids, maybe this straightens them out so they go to college or get a good job,” Coon said. “You know you’re always at those crossroads around your 15 to 16 year old time so I think that if you don’t have people directing traffic at that point, it’s definitely gonna hurt some of those kids.”
For now though the Patriots have taken it upon themselves to keep up that work they pride themselves on.
“You gotta suck it up and get back in the room and do something...so that’s what I did,” Davis said.
“We’re just gonna push to our limits and do what we gotta do to make sure next season is just as good as what this season would have been,” Hurley added.
And whenever the Patriots are able to return to competition, the goal will be to push that record to 32 straight titles.
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