SARATOGA COUNTY – Victory was earned for two local high school wrestlers this past weekend. Competing in the NYSPHSAA wrestling championships, which ran from Feb. 24-25, Ballston Spa junior Tyler Barnes and Schuylerville junior Orion Anderson fought through four rounds of competition across two days to claim state championship titles. Barnes won in the Division I, 170-pound weight class, while Anderson won in the Section II, 120-pound class. With this win, Barnes becomes the first ever state champion to come out of Ballston Spa. Anderson, meanwhile, fought through illness and injury to not only win the title, but also be voted one of the Most Outstanding Wrestlers out of the whole competition.
“He’s a very focused young man,” said Coach Harold Staulters of Barnes. “He has goals, he always has goals, and he sticks to them.”
After finishing in 5th place at last year’s championship, Barnes, supported by in Staulters’s estimation 40 or more Ballston Spa residence in attendance, went all the way this year to become the town’s first ever state wrestling champion. Winning his first match by pin on Friday, Barnes made it to the finals on Saturday, where he bested John Glenn High School’s Mike Ancewicz 5-2. Well aware of the import of his potential victory, Barnes wore a singlet with Ballston Spa’s school colors, purple and gold.
Staulters said that consistency was important during Barnes’s training leading up to the event. He stuck to his usual practice routines, and stuck with his longtime friend and practice partner, Jake Cook, who also competed over the weekend.
“They know each other pretty well,” said Staulters of Barnes and Cook. “They’ve been friends since they were six… Probably been workout partner since the same time.”
For Anderson, the run-up to the championship was fraught with hindrances. At the Section II state qualifying event two weeks prior at the Glens Falls Civic Center where Anderson secured his spot in the state finals, he suffered a cut to his forehead that required stitches. For the month prior to the state finals, Anderson had also been suffering through bouts of mononucleosis and upper respiratory infection, the latter of which sometimes made it difficult for him to breathe.
“I don’t think he even realizes what a big deal it is,” said Buck Anderson, Orion’s coach and father.
For each champion, wrestling is a family affair. Barnes’s father, Terry, wrestled in the 1995 state championships and was runner-up that year. Anderson, meanwhile, has seen many members of his family in the state finals, with his older brother and sister each having competed in the finals in years prior, and he himself has been wrestling since the age of two.
Barnes’s is currently planning to compete in the Cadet Greco Nationals in Fargo, ND, where he also competed last year, making it all the way through the semifinals. This year, he’s aiming to win it all. Anderson, conversely, will be taking things slower to let his body heal and to recover from his illnesses. Once he feels better, he intends to get back to practicing and compete in off-season matches.