Junior wrestler Hunter Verge won states to qualify for New Englands.
Article courtesy of Paul Hayes/Caledonian-Record.
On the Verge: With 3rd state title in hand, St. J star heads back to NEs to settle score
Febuary 24, 2019
ESSEX — Last year Hunter Verge finished a disappointing fifth at New Englands.
The next day, instead of enjoying the off season, he was back at it. He called a couple of training partners, met them at St. Johnsbury Academy's practice facility above the Black Bear Tavern, and sparred for 90 minutes.
It was proof of Verge's high expectations.
Settle for fifth? Not a chance.
"New Englands has always been the goal I've wanted, since I was young. I've always been training for it," he said.
He'll get another crack at them next weekend. He punched his ticket by winning the 120-pound title at the 50th annual Vermont state championship at Essex High School on Saturday.
Verge pinned MAU's Christian Burdick in 2 minutes, 39 seconds. It was his third consecutive state crown after winning at 106 as a freshman and 113 last year.
Verge (44-0) takes an unbeaten record into New Englands for a second straight season.
Arguably the most dominant wrestler in Vermont, Verge has succeeded through hard work. He committed himself to the sport at a young age and spends his summers training with clubs in Pennsylvania. He has a career record of 145-6 and has won every major tournament in the region at least once — except New Englands.
"Of his six losses, four have come at New Englands," said his father and SJA head coach, Mike.
Verge won't be the only one representing St. Jay the New England Championships, which open in Providence (R.I.) on Friday.
Three other Hilltoppers also qualified: sophomore Zebb Winot (220) and juniors Zach Hebert (126) and Wilder Hudson (160).
Winot and Hebert were both runners-up in Saturday's state championship.
In the 220 title bout, Winot lost a thriller, falling to Mt. Anthony's Chris Mayer by a 2-1 overtime decision.
Said coach Verge, "It could have gone either way." He noted that Winot has only begun to realize his potential, "He's 16 years old and he's just maturing. I keep forgetting he's just a kid. But he's getting some desire and he's starting to want it more."
In the 126 finals, Hebert was pinned by Mt. Anthony's Roman Mayer at 4:40. A transfer from Michigan, Hebert has been an important addition to the Hilltoppers' roster this season.
"He's been a fantastic kid, he's always upbeat, he's just brought life to the room," said coach Verge. "And he always wants to improve. He's very, very coachable, he's a sponge. And he loves wrestling."
Meanwhile, Hudson placed third in the 160-pound division. Hudson rallied from a semifinal loss, winning his next two matches by pin: The first in 58 seconds for his 100th career win and the next in 4:40 for bronze.
"If anybody has improved the most this season, it's been Wilder," said coach Verge, adding that he was impressed at how Hudson rebounded after his semifinal loss. "When you lose in the semifinals, the toughest match is the next one, you have to pick yourself up and he picked himself up."
"And getting his 100th win was a special moment. Having 100 wins by your junior year is pretty cool."
Team champions were Mt. Anthony (286.5 points) followed by runner-up Essex (196.5) and third place Spaulding (133.5). St. J was fourth with 132 points.