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Falcons win first NFL title since 2015-16 season
By David Yarger
The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons wrestling team has had tremendous success in the 2018-19 season. Wednesday night, that success came full circle, as the team defeated the 4-0 Niagara Falls Wolverines, by a score of 49-24.
The win clinched the Falcons its fourth straight Niagara Cup victory as well as the team’s first Niagara Frontier League title since 2015-16.
Both teams came into the matchup unbeaten, and the match garnered an abundance of hype around the Niagara region.
Fans knew how important the match was as well, as both squads wrestled in front of a standing room only crowd at Niagara-Wheatfield High School.
The Wolverines got off to a quick start on the mat, as JoJo Dixon, Levi Cox, Censere Humphrey and PJ Young took four of the first five matches.
Josh Thibeault was a winner by pin fall in the 182-pound weight class – the first victory for the Falcons.
Down 18-6, the Falcons would take over from there, as the team went on to win nine of the next 10 matches.
Andre Clause won the 285-pound battle via pin fall; Te’Shaun Matthews won a thriller in the 99-pound class, which was decided in two 30 second rounds; Elijah Greenough won the 106-pound class via pin fall; Mark Kuhn was victorious in the 113-pound class via pin fall; Collin Coughenour won the 120-pound class via decision; Kyle Jungier and Justin McDougald followed with wins by technical fall in the 126- and 132-pound weight class, respectively; Jake DeWolf won by decision in the 138-pound class; and Warren McDougald was victorious via pin fall in the 152-pound class.
Following the first four victories, Willie McDougald was the only NF wrestler to notch a win, as he claimed the 145-pound battle.
Falcons coach Rick Sweeney was nothing but thrilled for his team to be champions once again.
“We haven’t won the NFL title in the last two years,” Sweeney said. “We lost to Lockport two years ago and we lost to Grand Island last year, so it’s nice to get that back.
“It was a good run this year. The guys showed up to wrestle and they’re tough. And we do a real tough schedule … but our kids our mentally tougher a lot of times, because we do the top tournaments in New York state.”
Justin McDougald was also thrilled to finally own the claim as NFL champs.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I’ve been working on the team, pushing them to their fullest. Just to see everybody smile and just to have another team title (feels good).”
McDougald was energetic the entire match, constantly giving teammates instruction, as well as motivation to get better. The team fed off his energy and McDougald said it’s something he really enjoys doing.
“They definitely react good to it,” he said. “They start to get the gist of it and they know I’m in this with them and then they start listening to me and it just falls together. Nine times out of 10 they end up winning the match.”
Sweeney also was pleased to see his team fight back after a quick NF lead, but he said he expected the comeback.
“They’re stronger on top with a little bit on us,” Sweeney said of the Wolverines. “We knew that was coming, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but they threw a couple things in there with that 99-pounder; we didn’t know he was in the lineup, so we adjusted to 99. … It comes down to you gotta have to look at their lineup and matchup the best you can, and that’s all we did.”
Justin McDougald said it was cool how hyped up the match was and what type of turnout it brought to the gym.
“It felt good. I haven’t had a big crowd since states,” he said. McDougald reached the state tournament last season. “It feels good getting that in over and over again.”
Sweeney added how exciting it was for his team to wrestle in front of a packed audience.
“We haven’t had this in a long time,” Sweeney said. “Last time was probably against Lancaster for the championship match the last time we did something here. It’s been a long time.
Sweeney added that several wrestlers will head to Eastern States this weekend to battle the best of the best. Wrestlers include Coughenour, Justin McDougald, DeWolf, Warren McDougald, Thibeault and Halford.
The team will take part in the Section VI duals Jan. 19 in Lancaster.
Warren and Justin McDougald pose with the Niagara Cup.
Josh Thibeault attempts to take down his opponent, Maurice Jackson, of Niagara Falls.
Justin McDougald grabs the leg of his opponent, Deandre Prum.