Memorial’s Kuilan takes silver medal at wrestling Meet of Champions

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BEDFORD, NH – Memorial High junior Jaylen Kuilan earned his first bid to the New England Championships with a second-place showing at the NHIAA Meet of Champions Saturday at Bedford High School.

Kuilan, who came into the tournament seeded No. 3, reached the 285-pound title match with three straight wins, including a stunning third-period pin of No. 2 seed Hayden Robinson of Raymond, the three-time Division 3 State champion.

Wrestling his fourth match in less than eight hours, Kuilan ran out of steam in the final, dropping a hard-fought 5-1 decision to Evan Ray of Keene High. Ray, the two-time Division 1 State champion, received a first-round bye as the top seed and was wrestling just his third match of the day.

Memorial had four wrestlers in Bedford on Saturday. In the Meet of Champions, Patrick Vachon posted a 4-2 record to place fifth at 215 pounds. Tavin Bland went 1-2 at 113 pounds. Memorial’s Rebekah Sanborn went 1-2 in her three matches at 107 pounds in the Girls’ State Tournament.

“It was a great showing from everyone from Memorial here today,” said Crusaders’ Head Coach Craig Whittick. “It’s great to get Manchester (back) on the map and get everyone to realize that we’re here for business.”

Manchester was also represented by West’s Tomas Acosta, who posted a 1-2 record at 165 pounds.

Ray wears down Kuilan

Kuilan looked to remain aggressive and was the initiator for much of the match against Ray. But Ray showed patience, gradually wearing his challenger down, fending off takedown attempts and countering with his own offense when an opening presented itself.

Ray grabbed an early 2-0 lead with a first-period takedown. He pushed the lead to 3-0 with an escape early in the second. With the final seconds of the second period ticking off, Kuilan looked to catch Ray off guard with a single-leg takedown but Ray deftly countered the move and turned it into his own takedown to build a 5-0 lead entering the final period.

Starting in the “down” position, Kuilan broke the ice with an escape but was unable to take Ray to the mat.

This was the fourth time Ray and Kuilan had met this season. Ray pinned Kuilan twice during the regular season. But last week, in the Division 1 Tournament final, Kuilan built an early 4-0 lead before Ray rallied for a 9-4 decision victory.

Despite the loss in the final, Kuilan was happy with his overall performance.

“I was sixth in the state last year, second in the state this year. I feel like I’ve improved a lot during the course of the season,” he said. “I’m happy where I am, right now.”

Through the first three matches, Kuilan had been wrestling the tournament of his life. He opened with a third-round pin of Hunter Hutchinson of Bow. He followed that up with a dominant 31-second pin of James Caruso of Pinkerton Academy. That set up a huge showdown with Robinson, the No. 2 seed.

The two went at each other hard, trading takedowns, with Robinson getting the best of the scoring. On two occasions, Kuilan looked to have scored a takedown, only to have the referee rule the grapplers had gone outside the circle. Rather than get frustrated, Kuilan got mad.

“It kind of lit a fire under me a little bit,” said Kuilan. “It just made me work harder at getting other takedowns.”

Robinson held a 7-5 lead entering the third period. With the choice of starting position, Robinson chose “down”, looking for a quick escape to put the match away. The choice proved to be a mistake. Starting on top, it took just 13 seconds for Kuilan to power Robinson over and into a pin to claim the win and ignite a massive celebration in the Memorial corner.

“A big hurdle for Jayen to get over was that semifinal match. Hayden Robinson is a tough wrestler, three-time D-3 champ, two-time MOC finalist. (Robinson) has had his number in the past, ” said Whittick. “Jayden realizing now that he can compete with the best of the best, taking that to New England next week is a great feeling.”

The New England Championships are slated for March 1-2, in Providence, RI.

Vachon picks up 100th career win

It was a busy day for Patrick Vachon (215 pounds), who wrestled six times en route to 5th place. Vachon’s day began with an 11-0 route of Mason Foster of Portsmouth, then dropped into the consolation bracket after a 5-3 loss in the quarterfinals to No. 3 seed Shawn Boudreau of Alvirne . He stayed alive with a 3-2 win over Ryan Kontos of Timberlane, which was the 100th victory of his high school career.

Vachon then secured his most impressive win of the tournament, pinning No. 2 seed Jake Benn of Bedford early in the third period. He suffered a second-period pinfall loss to Seth Adams of Monadnock but bounced back with a 5-1 win over Antonio Hebert of Goffstown in the 5th-place match.

Tavin Bland’s day got off to a strong start with an 8-5 win over Trey Wiley of Spaulding. But in the quarterfinals, Bland was pinned in the second period by Alden Smith-Nightengale. In the consolation bracket, Bland’s tournament came to an end with a pinfall loss in the first period to Lyncoln Jablonski of John Stark.

Sanborn’s day began with a third-period pinfall loss to Grace Kenna of Bedford, a match Sanborn was winning on points, at the time. In the consolation bracket, he pinned Dayna English of Keene in the first period, before falling to Joie Demmons of John Stark by pinfall in the third period.

Acosta had an up-and-down tournament. He opened with a first-period pinfall loss to Connor Whitman of Nashua South. In the consolation bracket, he scored an impressive pinfall win over Exeter’s William Hartford in just 53 seconds. But his tournament came to an end with a second-period pinfall loss to Ben McDcDowell of Bow.

Team results

Salem High won the MOC team championship with 159 points. The Blue Devils were followed by Bedford (128), Keene (118) and Timberlane Regional (116). Memorial placed 2oth with 38 points. West was 31st with 4.

Bedford, Plymouth and Souhegan tied for the championship in the Girls State Meet with 40 points each. They were followed by Merrimack (37), Alvirne (36) and Windham (36). Memorial was 21st with 8 points.



About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.