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Youth and College Stars Take the Mat January 8 at Cornell

By Betsy Veysman

Wrestling fans will get a unique opportunity to see top-notch talent ranging from elementary school through college on January 8 at Cornell University as both the NYWAY Big Red Kickoff Tournament and a dual meet between two top 15 NCAA programs, Cornell and Lehigh, will take place at Bartels Hall in Newman Arena.

“I’m not sure where else you would get a chance to see future greats and current greats wrestle on the same day at the same place,” said Cornell head coach Rob Koll.  “It’s a great way for people to see great wrestling and it’s also a great way for us to continue to build our Cornell fan base.”

The action will begin at 9 a.m. with Session I of the NYWAY Big Red Kickoff Tournament.  The event will feature star youth grapplers from New York, California, Michigan, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, among others, in five age groups ranging from 6 and under to the highest group, the 13/14-year old bracket.

In order to compete, wrestlers must preregister by January 6 at 5 p.m. at www.nyway.org.  The registration fee includes a ticket to the Big Red-Lehigh dual. All participants must have a paid NYWAY membership.

NYWAY State President Clint Wattenberg is excited about the event, which serves as the official NYWAY kickoff.  The organization has already amassed over 1450 members in just six months of operation.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Wattenberg said. “We will be able to bring a great product to kids from around the state and the country.  It allows the kids to also be involved in an incredible Cornell dual.  It will bring youth and college wrestling together to support both levels of the sport.”

The college competition will begin at 1 p.m., after the first session of the youth tournament has been completed.  The center mat will be set up for the battle between fourth-ranked Cornell and 12th ranked Lehigh.  The East Coast rivals have had close matchups the past two campaigns, while the Big Red has captured the past five EIWA titles, with the Mountain Hawks placing second in two of those years.

Eleven ranked wrestlers will compete, with three bouts pitting nationally ranked grapplers against each other.  At 141, a pair of multi-time New York state champions, #8 Stephen Dutton and #15 Mike Nevinger, will face off.  At 184, two All-Americans, #1 Robert Hamlin and #4 Steve Bosak, will compete and at 197, #1 Cam Simaz will take on #8 Joe Kennedy.  Spectators will also get a chance to watch two 2011 NCAA Champions, 157-pounder Kyle Dake of Cornell and heavyweight Zach Rey of Lehigh. (Intermat rankings as of December 29)

“It’s a great opportunity to see two of the top teams on the East Coast,” Koll said. “With the fans from the youth tournament and the local fans, we expect a sellout. A big turnout would be great, especially with the college students out of town on break.”

As is customary, the Cornell wrestling team will conduct an autograph session following the dual meet, after which the Big Red Kickoff tournament will run to its conclusion. (Session II is slated to start at approximately 4 p.m.).  First through fourth place finishers will earn awards.

“We’re really excited to package great wrestling for fans of the sport,” Koll said. “We are trying to introduce young wrestlers to Cornell wrestling and cultivate future Cornell wrestlers.  Years ago we ran an AAU tournament here and I think even 10 or 15 years later, people came up to me saying that they were there when they were in elementary school and it introduced them to Cornell wrestling.   That’s what we’re hoping for.”

As for NYWAY, Wattenberg is hoping the tournament will allow the organization to continue its growth and its mission of supporting youth folkstyle development.

“We’ve had a great start, especially since we haven’t had a tournament yet, which is what typically drives membership,” he said.  “We’ve had motivated individuals around the state get things off the ground.   We’re pleased about what has happened so far, but we’re missing some downstate representation and are looking to improve that.”

Wattenberg concluded by encouraging anyone with input or interest in getting involved to contact him through the www.nyway.org website or at clintwattenberg@nyway.org.

For more information on the January 8 events, see http://www.nyway.org.

New York Wrestlers Anderson and Heberlein Look Forward to Big Red Kickoff Classic

By Betsy Veysman

This past November, a group of wrestlers representing NYWAY traveled to California with Coach Mike LaPorte to compete with some of the best the Golden State has to offer in both a duals tournament and the Junior Mid Cals individual competition.

On January 8, the NYWAY wrestlers will return the favor, welcoming many of those West Coast grapplers as well as other top competitors from all over the country to New York for the Big Red Kickoff event held in Bartels Hall on the campus of Cornell University.  In between the morning and afternoon sessions, the fourth-ranked Big Red wrestling team will take on Lehigh in a battle of NCAA powerhouses.

“It is such a fantastic opportunity for the kids,” LaPorte said.  “The kids will have to step up their game knowing they will be wrestling in front of Cornell wrestlers on the same stage.  What a great vehicle to get kids wrapped up in the sport.”

Sixth grader Orion Anderson of Schuylerville and seventh grader Dane Heberlein of Darien, members of the NYWAY contingent that went to California, both won individual crowns when they competed out West. The two are ready to test themselves again at the Big Red Kickoff.

 Orion Anderson

Anderson’s title at 70 pounds at the Junior Mid Cals capped off an undefeated weekend in which he was voted the NYWAY Most Valuable Wrestler by his teammates.

“It was really cool that the team voted for me,” he said. “I was really happy.”

After cruising through the first several rounds of the tournament, Anderson defeated California USA Wrestling Triple Crown Winner Matthew Olguin of Team Smackdown in the finals by the score of 3-1.

“The competition was really good but that was my toughest match,” Anderson said. “I was able to get a takedown in the second period which was the difference.”

“Orion performed extremely well,” LaPorte said. “He was the only New York wrestler to go undefeated over the two days.  In the finals, he beat a very highly regarded kid.  People there were saying his opponent would just dominate everyone in the weight class, but Orion wrestled a special match.  I was proud to be in his corner.”

The Schuylerville native is very familiar with success.  He was the Eastern National Champion in both 2008 and 2009 as well as a New York State champion in multiple styles.

Wrestling seems to be in his blood.  His father, Bucky, competed in the sport and currently runs the Barn Brawlers Club where Orion and many area wrestlers, from elementary school through college, train.  His sister Sarah, currently a wrestler at King College in Tennessee, was a two-time sectional champion and state qualifier in New York.

Anderson believes he is at his best in neutral and he says his favorite takedown is the throw by.   He plays football as well, but trains year round in wrestling.  He has this in common with Heberlein, who wrestles all 12 months despite playing football and baseball.

 Dane Heberlein

Heberlein rolled through the 75-pound bracket at the Junior Mid Cals, winning his first two matches by first period pin (8 seconds and 30 seconds) to earn a rematch with Chase Zollman of Poway Elite, who defeated Heberlein by a point the previous day in the dual tournament.

“I was hungry to wrestle him again because I knew I didn’t wrestle my best,” he said.  “It was a close match both times but I think I was more aggressive and that’s why I won.”

He then earned the top spot on the podium with a 16-1 technical fall in the finals.  His performance earned him the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) award for the lightweights.

“I didn’t really expect it [MOW],” he said. “It was a huge rush when I heard I got it.”

“Dane deserved it,” La Porte added. “He was dominant.”

It’s what Heberlein had in mind when he began wrestling at age six.  He said a friend introduced him to the sport because “I wanted the trophies.”  He certainly has quite a few medals now.  The two-time New York folkstyle state champion has also placed high in a number of other events, including the Ohio Tournament of Champions and the Cliff Keen Eastern Worlds.

The seventh grader, who made the varsity team at his school but has not been able to wrestle because he doesn’t meet the state minimum weight requirement of 91 pounds, admires former Arizona State NCAA Champion Anthony Robles because of the way he overcame so much to be so successful.

Heberlein showed similar resiliency when he dropped his first round match at the Ohio Tournament of Champions.  In a very large bracket, he bounced back with 12 straight wins in one day to take third.

 The Common Ground

Besides Robles, Heberlein lists Cornell’s Kyle Dake as a grappler he loves to watch, saying he “is great at riding and always understands the right things to do on the mat.”

Anderson agrees.  “I really like to watch Kyle Dake,” he said. “I like his stance and he wins the big matches.”

Seeing Dake and his Big Red teammates compete between sessions of the Big Red Kickoff is something both Heberlein and Anderson are awaiting.

“I’m really excited to wrestle in the tournament but I’m also so excited to watch the dual meet,” Heberlein said.  “I’ll get to see Dake and so many other great wrestlers.”

“I met Kyle Dake at the Hoosick Falls Clinic and I am excited to see him again with all the other college wrestlers,” Anderson added.  “College scrambles are fun to watch.”

As for their own goals on January 8, Heberlein and Anderson are thinking along the same lines.

“My goal is to win every match,” Anderson said.

Heberlein added, “I don’t really worry about who is in the bracket.  I just want to worry about myself and finish first.”

Hopefully, there is room left in those trophy cases.