The 1961 state championship Pittsford High School boys basketball team will be honored before Friday’s game against Mill River, but the Panthers will share the stage with Otter Valley wrestler Josh Beayon. He will be honored before the game for achieving his 100th milestone victory as a senior earlier this season at a meet in New Hampshire.
Like the Panthers of 58 years ago, Beayon has played on a state championship team. His moment came in 2017 when he and his OV teammates captured the Division II baseball state championship.
Beayon also wants to attain an individual state championship in wrestling in the 182-pound class.
“I think I can do it,” Beayon said. He is one of the top three in that weight classification.
Otter Valley wrestling coach Cole Mason said Beayon has put in the work to realize that dream.
“Josh is everything a coach could want,” Mason said. “He shows up every day and works hard. I don’t think he has missed more than one practice in four years, if that. That’s hard to get nowadays. He puts in the work in the off season.”
Beayon’s athletic resume is impressive. He picked up both the team MVP and MVP Pitcher awards for the Rutland Post 31 baseball team at its banquet in November.
But the 100 (118 and counting) wrestling victories and the state baseball championship are in the past.
Beayon has so much to look forward to, including a run at another Division II state baseball crown this senior year, a potential state championship in wrestling in less than two weeks, a college baseball career at Keene State College and one last summer with the Rutland Post 31 baseball program.
Beayon is passionate about both wrestling and baseball, but he leaves no doubt where his allegiance is for the future.
“If I had to pick, baseball has always been my favorite,” Beayon said.
That is why he is headed to Keene State, where he will pursue a major in Athletic Training or Exercise Science.
“I knew what area I wanted to be in. I wanted to be where my family could watch my games,” Beayon said.
Also in Keene’s favor was the fact that the coaching staff did not make him commit between being a pitcher or a position player. He was an outstanding defensive first baseman and hitter in high school and Legion ball.
“I have always loved to hit,” he said.
Otter Valley baseball coach Mike Howe was both a pitcher and first baseman in college at Castleton and he believes Beayon can be deployed in the same fashion at Keene.
“I have talked to a lot of college coaches about Josh. He is a very hard worker, and it’s hard to keep him off the field,” Howe said. “I think he has two total errors in the last two years and has struck out just once.”
Beayon has been fortunate to have Howe as his coach because Howe was not only a pitcher for Bellows Falls and Castleton University, but like Beayon, he’s a left-handed pitcher.
“He has helped me with my mechanics and form, and with using my whole body,” Beayon said.
“I think Josh could play at a bigger school, but Keene is such a good baseball program and plays in such an excellent baseball conference, I don’t think he made a bad decision,” Howe said.
Howe will greet Beayon and the other pitchers on March 11, the day that the Vermont Principals’ Association allows pitchers and catchers to start practicing before the entire teams begin on March 18.
But before that first day of baseball practice, there are wrestling matches to win and that state title to shoot for.
Wrestling runs through the Beayon family. Josh’s father Joe also ascended to the 100-victory mark at Fair Haven, where his cousin Brandi Beayon wrestled a few years back.
The 100-win plateau was a goal this year that Beayon put on the back burner.
“I knew if I stayed healthy and kept the same pace as last year that I should get it. I tried to put it aside. I didn’t think about it until I got really close,” Beayon said.
He pinned an opponent from Exeter for the 100th victory.
Wrestling is a sport that requires a great deal of sacrifice and dedication. But it is those facets of wrestling that Beayon thrives on.
He didn’t place at the State Meet his freshman year, going out in one of the first rounds.
That is one reason he stopped playing football and embraced the weight room the next fall.
“It’s a hard sport. It’s hard to stay with it and lot of athletes do not,” Beayon said
“I was not as strong as my opponents that freshman year so I worked out a lot in the fall. I did a lot of cardio so I could last the whole match.”
“He is not the most athletic kid out there, but he has made himself into a good wrestler,” Mason said.
“It’s a secondary sport to him but he does not take any shortcuts. He trains as if it is a full-time job.
“I have no doubt he could wrestle in college if he wanted to.”
Whether he gets that state crown at the meet in Essex or not, Beayon and his OV teammates will chase another state championship in baseball this spring.
Beayon’s memory of the 2017 baseball title is vivid, and he would love to replicate it.
He said that was the highlight of his baseball career at OV so far.
“We won it on a walk-off hit by Nate Hudson. He is such a good kid and he works so hard,” Beayon said of that 3-2 victory over U-32 at Burlington’s Centennial Field.
Beayon is optimistic about the approaching season. He and OV teammate Patrick McKeighan both played on a Showcase New Hampshire travel baseball team this past fall. He believes McKeighan has become a pretty good pitcher through that, and that with a rotation of himself, McKeighan, Kollin Bissette and Marcus McCullough, he feels the Otters have a staff that can serve them well in the chase for the championship.
After that quest, there is that one more year with coach Rick Battles’ Post 31 team over the summer.
“That’s a lot of fun,” Beayon said, noting he has played with Post 31 since his sophomore year. “It is an experience I will never forget.”
He believes working out so hard for wrestling has also enhanced his pitching.
“The velocity came as I got stronger,” he said.
The other component of pitching where he has seen improvement is his pitch selection, something Howe has helped him with.
“I have gotten better at controlling my pitches and knowing when to throw each pitch,” Beayon said
He would love to stay with baseball as long as he can, looking even beyond Keene State. If that doesn’t include playing, coaching is a possibility.
“My dad coaches my younger brother’s Little League team and I kind of like being around young kids,” Beayon said.
Otter Valley Athletic Director Steven Keith said that would be a perfect fit for Beayon.
“He is an outstanding student and person as well as an athlete. He is a great role model for our younger athletes,” Keith said.