Never Say Never: Stanton, Greene Wrestlers Defy the Odds at States

By Betsy Veysman

One team member was told in junior high that he would never wrestle again.  Another believed his season was finished over a month ago after a car accident.  A third was unable to effectively use his right hand due to a pinched nerve and a fourth failed to place in two tournaments early in the campaign.  But on the biggest weekend of the high school calendar, the squad from Greene High School overcame adversity to produce three medalists, including a dominant state champion, and a fourth place finish in the Division II points race.

You can’t talk about the Greene weekend without mentioning 2:57.  Two minutes and fifty-seven seconds. That’s all it took for 220 pounder Kyle Stanton to pin all four of his weekend opponents and capture the state championship in his final high school match.

“It was one of the most amazing feelings ever,” Stanton said. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.  I watched [former Greene wrestlers] Nick Wilcox and Tyler Beckwith win titles and wanted it so badly for myself.”

Not bad for someone who thought just a few years ago that he had hung up his wrestling shoes forever.

When he was in seventh grade, doctors told Stanton that he had a genetic defect in his back.  The first medical opinion he received was that he would never wrestle again.  It was devastating news for someone who had been successfully competing in the sport since he was in peewees.

“Everything was based around wrestling for me at that time,” he said. “I felt like my whole life was being taken away.”

But another surgeon told him that there was hope.  He believed he could operate and insert two titanium rods in his back to support the vertebrae.  If Stanton followed a slow and controlled rehabilitation process, getting back on the mats would be a possibility.  Stanton happily agreed.

“Kyle just lit up when he heard there was a chance,” said Greene head coach Tim Jenks. “He was so excited and willing to do whatever the doctor told him.”

After the procedure, Stanton was not cleared to wrestle as a ninth grader, although he was allowed to play basketball.  But he couldn’t stay away from his favorite sport.  He stayed involved with the grapplers by keeping the team statistics and attending every meet that didn’t conflict with hoops.

“I promised the doctor I would follow everything he said, word for word,” Stanton said. “When he told me to, I started doing some strength training with Dickie White.  That made a huge difference.  When I went back to the doctor after my freshman year, he was amazed at how I recovered.  He said that he saw no reason I shouldn’t wrestle.”

So finally, during his sophomore campaign, he was allowed to strap on the headgear again.  There were some initial concerns but those were soon alleviated.  Just getting back on the mat was an achievement; the results seemed secondary.  After all, he hadn’t participated in the sport in years.

However, Stanton surprised many, including his coach and himself, by taking second at the Section IV tournament after very little mat time.

“That was unbelievable,” Jenks said. “Without much wrestling for so long, the fact that he made it that far was amazing.”

He intensified his training and lifting and came into his junior year ready to take the next step to the state tournament.   After a solid year, a knee injury sustained in football worsened a few weeks before the sectionals. He fought through it, took second and qualified for the state tournament, where he placed fourth.

“I think the knee hurt me a little bit, but in general I thought I wrestled one of my best tournaments at states that year,” Stanton said.  “I felt that I was pretty calm for my first trip to states.  I wanted more than fourth, though.”

Immediately after the season was over, he underwent knee surgery.  Rehab was nothing new to him and he attacked it with the same ferocity that he attacked his opponents this past weekend.

Finally healthy, he came into his senior year with a new attitude and a single-minded goal.

“I knew it was my last shot and that motivated me more,” he said. “I also felt good that nothing was holding me back like all the other years.”

“Because of what happened to him, Kyle had a really special commitment in the room and outside of it too,” Jenks added. “When we did goals at the beginning of the year, he said he would be satisfied with nothing less than a state championship.  Sometimes kids say that but don’t put everything into making it happen.  Kyle lived it.  He practiced every day with states on his mind. He didn’t take anything for granted.”

Stanton, who plans to wrestle at the Division I level in college, established himself as the Empire State’s best at 220, compiling a 33-2 record with the only two losses coming to nationally-ranked AJ Vizcarrondo of Wyoming Seminary.

When he got to Albany, he didn’t waste any time demonstrating he was the best.

“I thought the finals at least would be a close match,” Jenks said. “But Kyle told me before the match started that he felt great and he thought he was going to pin the kid. He was so pumped, so confident.  He just had a whole different attitude.  He wanted it over quickly.  He was just so happy to be there.”

Also happy to be there was junior 160-pounder Mike Beckwith.  He began the year with 15 straight wins in contested matches, including a victory over 2012 state placer Stephen Lumley of South Glens Falls.  However, he was in a car accident in January and sustained a back injury that put the rest of the season in question.

According to Jenks, Beckwith was determined to wrestle at the sectional tournament.  However, it seemed that he wouldn’t be adequately prepared with just two light practices under his belt prior to the event.

“He did a little drilling but no live wrestling at all,” he said. “We were thinking it would be so difficult to get through four matches at sectionals when he couldn’t even practice with our 126 pounder. How many people could win sectionals with just two practices?”

Beckwith did, earning his ticket to states by picking up two majors and two pins on the way to the Section IV title.

“Mike had a fairly tough bracket at sectionals and to see him win it without practice was really impressive,” Stanton said.

In Albany, Beckwith went 1-2 with two close losses, including a 3-1 overtime setback in the wrestlebacks.

“Mike had to stop doing what he’s really good at,” Jenks said. “He’s an upper body wrestler. But it’s so hard to work the upper body stuff with an injured back.  He fought hard, but it was really his conditioning that lost him those two close matches.  He’ll be ready for next year.”

Also looking toward next year is 152-pounder Dan Dickman.

The junior had a rocky beginning to the campaign, with a 13-6 record at the end of 2011.  He didn’t place at the Jarvis Wildcat Memorial or the Windsor Christmas Tournament and moved around in the lineup, from 160 to 152 to 145 pounds.

“Dan had some down times early on,” Jenks said. “He was the runner up in the section last year but he had some trouble adjusting after moving up a few weights.”

Things started to turn around at Eastern States, where he had some quality wins and ended up on the podium at 145 pounds.   Even so, the cut was difficult so he moved back to 152, where he settled in at the end of January and won 10 straight bouts to give him momentum going into the state tournament.

He was unseeded in Albany and after a second round loss to eventual runner up Derek Pfluger, bounced back with three victories in the consolation bracket, all by two points or less, to take fourth.   Jenks said that he “couldn’t even breathe” in most of Dickman’s matches because they all went down to the wire.

“I was impressed with how Dan turned things around,” said senior Keegan Cerwinski. “Toward the end of the year, he got his head together and wrestled.  Instead of caring how he looked out there, he focused on his performance and it worked.”

“Dan came a long way since the beginning of the year,” added Stanton. “I was really proud of his performance.  Everything seemed to click at Eastern States and after that he started doing well.  He wrestled great at states.”

Also wrestling great at states was Cerwinski, who finished second at 182 pounds.  The senior outscored his opponents 16-2 in his first two matches before edging Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer 1-0 in the semifinals.  Cerwinski defeated Schaefer by the same score earlier in the season.

“Keegan was outstanding,” Jenks said. “He did a tremendous job to get where he did. I think I lost about seven pounds in the match against Schaefer.  [Schaefer] knew he had to get out from bottom but Keegan wouldn’t let him.  Although he lost to a very tough Tony Lock in the finals, Lock took neutral against Keegan which shows how tough he is on top.”

Not only is he tough on top, he’s tough in general.  He’s competed with knee and ankle injuries and a week before the state tournament, he suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder.  He said he had very little strength in his right hand and was unable to open and close the hand or even hold a pencil in it.  Nevertheless, he finished his high school action with a state silver medal and has at least four meetings with Division I college programs in the coming weeks.

Afterwards, however, Cerwinski was talking about what his frequent workout partner Stanton had achieved.

“I don’t really know how to explain what Kyle did,” Cerwinski said. “He really came out of his shell.  He opened up.  I was surprised by how aggressive he was, even in the finals.”

Stanton has been thinking about a state title since he was in elementary school. Yet, the weekend exceeded his expectations.

“I couldn’t have imagined it happening like this,” he said of his four pins. “I thought I would have decent matches on Friday and then I would squeak out two close ones on Saturday.  It was better than I ever expected.”

For a young man told he may never wrestle again, better is hard to imagine.

Simaz Named Ivy League Wrestler of the Year for the Second Time

ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell senior Cam Simaz has earned his second-straight Ivy League Wrestler of the Year honor it was announced by the conference on Monday. Simaz joinsFrank Perrelli and Steve Bosak in earning first-team All-Ivy honors, while the Big Red totals eight All-Ivy selections. The Big Red won its 10th-straight Ivy League title this season after finishing with a 5-0 record. Cornell has won 53 straight Ancient Eight matches.

Simaz (197), Perrelli (125) and Bosak (184) all earned first-team honors at their respective weight classes, while Chris Villalonga (149), Craig Eifert (165) and Maciej Jochym(HWT) all earned second-team spots. Kyle Dake (157) and Mike Nevinger (141) were honorable mention.

Simaz (Allegan, Mich.) is the fourth-straight Cornell wrestler to earn Wrestler of the Year honors, joining Mack Lewnes ’11 who claimed the award in 2009 and 2010. Simaz is the topped ranked wrestler in the country at 197 pounds. He is now a four-time Ivy League first team honoree and rounds out his Ancient Eight career with an impressive 20-0 Ivy League record. Four of his five conference wins this season were bonus including a pin, two technical falls and a major decision. Simaz was named Ivy League and EIWA rookie of the year in 2009. He is a three-time All-American and three-time EIWA champion. The Big Red senior captain is 22-1 this season with his only loss coming from an injury default.

At 125 pounds, Perrelli (Hackettstown, N.J.) earns his second All-Ivy honor this season with a 5-0 conference record. The Big Red wrestler is 25-5 overall this season and is currently ranked No. 7 in the country.

At 184 pounds, Bosak (State College, Pa.) earns his second first-team All-Ivy honor. The Big Red captain was second-team All-Ivy in 2010. The All-American is 26-3 overall and 4-0 against the Ancient Eight. Bosak is currently ranked No. 5 by InterMat.

Two-time NCAA champion Dake was named All-Ivy honorable mention at 157 pounds after going 1-0 in Ivy League matches. Dake is 26-0 for the season and is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

The Big Red will look to capture its sixth-straight EIWA title on March 3-4 at Princeton University.

Wrestler of the Year
Cam Simaz
, Cornell, 197 (Sr., Allegan, Mich.)

Rookie of the Year
*Lorenzo Thomas
, Penn, 165 (Fr., Pittsburgh)

First Team (10)
*Frank Perrelli
, Cornell, 125 (Sr., Hackettstown, N.J.)
*Steve Keith, Harvard, 133 (Jr., Shoreham, N.Y.)
*Zack Kemmerer, Penn, 141 (Sr., East Greenville, Pa.)
Steve Santos, Columbia, 149 (Jr., Brick, N.J.)
Daniel Kolodzik, Princeton, 157 (Sr., Bellbrook, Ohio)
*Lorenzo Thomas, Penn, 165 (Fr., Pittsburgh)
*Stephen West, Columbia, 174 (Jr., Fresno, Calif.)
*Steve Bosak, Cornell, 184 (Sr., State College, Pa.)
*Cam Simaz, Cornell, 197 (Sr., Allegan, Mich.)
*Steve Graziano, Penn, 285 (So., Syosset, N.Y.)

Second Team (10)
Billy Watterson
, Brown, 125 (So., Pound Ridge, N.Y.)
Bryan Ortenzio, Penn, 133 (Sr., Camp Hill, Pa.)
Adam Krop, Princeton, 141 (So., Urbana, Md.)
Chris Villalonga, Cornell, 149 (So., Totowa, N.J.)
Walter Peppelman, Harvard, 157 (Jr., Harrisburg, Pa.)
Craig Eifert, Cornell, 165 (So., Mason, Mich.)
David Foxen, Brown, 174 (Sr., Garden City, N.Y.)
Shane Hughes, Columbia, 184 (Fr., Sussex, Wis.)
Micah Burak, Penn, 197 (Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Maciej Jochym, Cornell, 285 (Sr., Williston Park, N.Y.)

Honorable Mention (9)
Robert Dyar
, Columbia, 125 (Jr., Birmingham, Ala.)
Kyle Gilchrist, Columbia, 133 (Sr., Jefferson, Ohio)
Mike Nevinger, Cornell, 141 (So., Perry, N.Y.)
Steve Robertson, Penn, 149 (Fr., Lombard, Ill.))
Kyle Dake, Cornell, 157 (Jr., Ithaca, N.Y.)
Andy Lowy, Princeton, 174 (Sr., Brookeville, Md.)
Ophir Bernstein, Brown, 184 (Fr., Allen, Texas)
Sterling Hecox, Brown, 197 (Fr., Loves Park, Ill.)
Kevin Lester, Columbia, 285 (Sr., Nampa, Idaho)

*-Unanimous selection

Dekrone and McCabe Rebound to Win State Titles as Wildcards

 

By Betsy Veysman

They go to different Suffolk County schools but they have known each other for a long time and have a lot in common.  Both had just one loss in the 2011 New York State Championships to place but not quite reach their ultimate goal.  Both spent much of this season ranked as the top Division I wrestler at their weight.  Both suffered a loss early in the sectional tournament and fought back to take third to make a wildcard bid back to Albany possible.

Now both are state champions.

On Saturday night at the Times Union Center, James Dekrone of John Glenn and Sean McCabe of Connetquot completed their standout high school careers on top of the podium, finishing ahead of those who upset them a few weeks ago.

“I’ve been wrestling with [McCabe] since I was really little,” Dekrone said. “After counties, we looked at each other and talked about how we just needed a chance to get upstate.  If we got that chance, we both thought we could win state titles.”

Dekrone came close to getting that title last year when he dropped a one-point bout in the championship match to Steven Rodrigues of Fox Lane, now wrestling at Illinois.   He rode that success into the 2011-12 campaign, losing just two bouts against Division I grapplers at 138 pounds.  In storybook fashion, he avenged both defeats over the weekend.

In the semifinals he took on Wantagh’s Danny McDevitt, who had beaten him early in the campaign 2-1.  It looked like the result was going to be similar when McDevitt held a 2-0 advantage very late in the third period.  But Dekrone was awarded a penalty point and then got a reversal just before the final whistle to earn his second straight finals berth in Albany.

“The whole match I had a hard time getting out from underneath,” Dekrone said.  “I was down to the last minute and took a second to regain my focus and think about what was really on the line.  I pulled myself together. First I got the clasp call and then the reversal with something like five seconds left to get the win.”

That win propelled him to the title bout, where Dekrone was set to meet another familiar face.  Alexis Blanco of Brentwood edged him in the county tournament on February 11.  This time, with his dream of a crown in his grasp, the senior took full advantage of his last opportunity.

“The first time I wrestled him, I didn’t think I wrestled my best and I wanted another shot to prove that I was better than what I showed,” he said. “I wanted to control the handfighting and control the pace.  I wanted to stay tough on top, keep him down and work turns.”

Dekrone was able to do those things on his way to a 6-1 victory.

“When it was over, I was thinking a lot of different things,” he said. “It was definitely an awesome feeling but it was also a relief to finally get my hand raised in the finals.”

McCabe can certainly relate to those emotions after his 3-2 championship victory at 120 pounds.

“Winning was just awesome especially after I took third in the county and needed a wildcard for states,” McCabe said.  “I really can’t describe it other than it was just awesome.”

After a third place finish a year ago at the state tournament, McCabe cruised through this campaign, bringing 32-1 record into the Section XI tournament.  He was the top seed, but was upended in the quarterfinals by Sayville’s Matt Leshinger and had a tough road to the bronze, including a victory over former state champion Mark West of Hauppauge.

“I was obviously upset when I lost, but I knew if I came back and got my head straight and kept winning, I could make it to states,” he said.

When he got to Albany, he took advantage.  After a 9-0 major in the semifinals, McCabe faced an unfamiliar challenge, Pittsford’s Brady Baron, in the title bout.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I had never even seen him before.”

The Connetquot senior came out aggressive, taking numerous shots.  But Baron proved very difficult to score against.

“I was getting in deep a lot but he was countering well,” he said.  “I knew I eventually had to finish. I just kept pushing, kept setting him up and eventually I got my two to get the title.”

Dekrone and McCabe were not alone atop the podium for Section XI.  Five Suffolk wrestlers earned state championships and 23 total made the medal stand, leading Section XI to a 79.5 points margin over second place Section 8 in the Division I standings.

“No question, Section XI is tough,” Dekrone said.  “I definitely think to come out of Section XI means something, whether you’re a wildcard or not, especially in some weights where even the third or fourth place guy is capable of contending for a state title.”

“I wasn’t really surprised that we won because I knew we had a really solid team,” McCabe added. “But I was a little surprised that we won by so much.”

The other Suffolk victors were Ward Melville freshman Nick Piccinnini (106 pounds), Eastport-South Manor’s Maverick Passaro (126) and Dekrone’s teammate Nick Bellanza at 182 pounds.  Bellanza entered the event 35-3, but was not frequently mentioned as a top contender.

“I’ve wrestled with [Bellanza] all season,” Dekrone said. “Not too many people were talking about him, but I said from the first day that if he works hard enough he could be right there to win it.  It was really cool to share something like this with him.”

After going from third in the county to best in the state over the course of two weeks, both Dekrone and McCabe are ready for the next chapter of their wrestling careers.  Both say they want to continue at the Division I level in college, with McCabe mentioning the University at Buffalo as a possible destination.

Until then, they are still getting used to being called state champions.

“We knew if we got wildcards we could do some damage,” McCabe said. “And we both did.”

Cornell's Simaz Named Ivy League Wrestler of the Year, Eight Wrestlers Earn All-Ivy Honors

ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell senior Cam Simaz has earned his second-straight Ivy League Wrestler of the Year honor it was announced by the conference on Monday. Simaz joins Frank Perrelli and Steve Bosak in earning first-team All-Ivy honors, while the Big Red totals eight All-Ivy selections. The Big Red won its 10th-straight Ivy League title this season after finishing with a 5-0 record. Cornell has won 53 straight Ancient Eight matches.

Simaz (197), Perrelli (125) and Bosak (184) all earned first-team honors at their respective weight classes, while Chris Villalonga (149), Craig Eifert (165) and Maciej Jochym (HWT) all earned second-team spots. Kyle Dake (157) and Mike Nevinger (141) were honorable mention.

Simaz (Allegan, Mich.) is the fourth-straight Cornell wrestler to earn Wrestler of the Year honors, joining Mack Lewnes ’11 who claimed the award in 2009 and 2010. Simaz is the topped ranked wrestler in the country at 197 pounds. He is now a four-time Ivy League first team honoree and rounds out his Ancient Eight career with an impressive 20-0 Ivy League record. Four of his five conference wins this season were bonus including a pin, two technical falls and a major decision. Simaz was named Ivy League and EIWA rookie of the year in 2009. He is a three-time All-American and three-time EIWA champion. The Big Red senior captain is 22-1 this season with his only loss coming from an injury default.

At 125 pounds, Perrelli (Hackettstown, N.J.) earns his second All-Ivy honor this season with a 5-0 conference record. The Big Red wrestler is 25-5 overall this season and is currently ranked No. 7 in the country.

At 184 pounds, Bosak (State College, Pa.) earns his second first-team All-Ivy honor. The Big Red captain was second-team All-Ivy in 2010. The All-American is 26-3 overall and 4-0 against the Ancient Eight. Bosak is currently ranked No. 5 by InterMat.

Two-time NCAA champion Dake was named All-Ivy honorable mention at 157 pounds after going 1-0 in Ivy League matches. Dake is 26-0 for the season and is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

The Big Red will look to capture its sixth-straight EIWA title on March 3-4 at Princeton University.

Wrestler of the Year
Cam Simaz, Cornell, 197 (Sr., Allegan, Mich.)

Rookie of the Year
*Lorenzo Thomas, Penn, 165 (Fr., Pittsburgh)

First Team (10)
*Frank Perrelli, Cornell, 125 (Sr., Hackettstown, N.J.)
*Steve Keith, Harvard, 133 (Jr., Shoreham, N.Y.)
*Zack Kemmerer, Penn, 141 (Sr., East Greenville, Pa.)
Steve Santos, Columbia, 149 (Jr., Brick, N.J.)
Daniel Kolodzik, Princeton, 157 (Sr., Bellbrook, Ohio)
*Lorenzo Thomas, Penn, 165 (Fr., Pittsburgh)
*Stephen West, Columbia, 174 (Jr., Fresno, Calif.)
*Steve Bosak, Cornell, 184 (Sr., State College, Pa.)
*Cam Simaz, Cornell, 197 (Sr., Allegan, Mich.)
*Steve Graziano, Penn, 285 (So., Syosset, N.Y.)

Second Team (10)
Billy Watterson, Brown, 125 (So., Pound Ridge, N.Y.)
Bryan Ortenzio, Penn, 133 (Sr., Camp Hill, Pa.)
Adam Krop, Princeton, 141 (So., Urbana, Md.)
Chris Villalonga, Cornell, 149 (So., Totowa, N.J.)
Walter Peppelman, Harvard, 157 (Jr., Harrisburg, Pa.)
Craig Eifert, Cornell, 165 (So., Mason, Mich.)
David Foxen, Brown, 174 (Sr., Garden City, N.Y.)
Shane Hughes, Columbia, 184 (Fr., Sussex, Wis.)
Micah Burak, Penn, 197 (Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Maceij Jochym, Cornell, 285 (Sr., Williston Park, N.Y.)

Honorable Mention (9)
Robert Dyar, Columbia, 125 (Jr., Birmingham, Ala.)
Kyle Gilchrist, Columbia, 133 (Sr., Jefferson, Ohio)
Mike Nevinger, Cornell, 141 (So., Perry, N.Y.)
Steve Robertson, Penn, 149 (Fr., Lombard, Ill.))
Kyle Dake, Cornell, 157 (Jr., Ithaca, N.Y.)
Andy Lowy, Princeton, 174 (Sr., Brookeville, Md.)
Ophir Bernstein, Brown, 184 (Fr., Allen, Texas)
Sterling Hecox, Brown, 197 (Fr., Loves Park, Ill.)
Kevin Lester, Columbia, 285 (Sr., Nampa, Idaho)

*-Unanimous selection

2012 New York State Wrestling Tournament Full Coverage Section

 
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Friday
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4:00pm – 8:00 – Wrestlebacks

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9:30am – Parade of Champions
10:00am-11:30am – Semis & Wrestlebacks
12:30pm-2:00pm – Wrestlebacks/Consi Semifinals
2:00-3:30 – Consolation Finals
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It's Almost Tournament Time! Take a Weight-by-Weight Look at Division I

We’re less than two days away from the first whistle at the NYPHSAA Championships. Here’s a weight-by-weight look at what could happen this weekend in Division I.

99

Kyle Kelly, undefeated this season at 33-0, is the favorite to repeat at New York’s lightest weight class.  Among his victories this year was a technical fall over second-seeded Jonathan Haas of Spencerport (35-1).  To meet Kelly again, Haas will potentially have to get past 42-1 junior Alex Tanzman as well as an impressive freshman from Section 8, Jose Rodriguez.  The Wantagh wrestler sports an unblemished 41-0 record and has been dominant throughout the season, including winning an Eastern States title.

Prediction: Kelly gets back-to-back titles with a hard fought win over the outstanding ninth grader Rodriguez.

 

106

Unlike at 99 pounds, neither of last year’s finalists return to 106, but the bronze medalist, Nick Piccininni is back.   The Ward Melville wrestler is unbeaten this year and has been held to a decision on only three occasions, but there is no shortage of experienced medalists ready to challenge this weekend.  In fact, last year’s fourth, fifth and sixth place finishers at 96, Lockport’s Anthony Orefice, St. Anthony’s Freddy Dunau and Fairport’s Bryan Ruggeri all sit in the top half of the bracket with Piccinnini. Mike Parise of Brewster, who dropped from 113 at the beginning of 2012 and has put up some impressive results, including third at Eastern States, joins them.  (Ruggeri and Piccinnini meet in the first round).

On the other side, MacArthur’s Justin Cooksey has compiled a 40-3 mark and a runner up finish at Eastern States.  He defeated Krishna Sewkumar three times, including in the Section final.  Seeded second and third, they could meet again in the semifinals.

Prediction: Piccininni moves two spots higher on the podium with a victory over Cooksey.

 

113

Both Mark Raghunandan of Long Beach and Dylan Realbuto of Somers took second place in Albany a year ago, at 103 and 96, respectively.  They met in the finals at the Eastern States Classic in January in a match won 7-6 by the Long Beach wrestler. Another meeting on the evening of February 25 for the state title wouldn’t be a surprise, although Realbuto’s loss during the Section 1 tournament put him a difficult position where he could potentially meet Corey Jamison of Huntington in the second round.

Jamison (38-1) has had a strong season, with solid victories over contenders such as William Koll of Lansing (top seed in Division II) and Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam, the number three seed and a possible semifinal opponent.

Among those potentially in Raghunandan’s path is fourth seeded Vincent DePrez of Hilton (fourth at 103 in 2011), who is 46-0.   He’ll match up with Pat Skinner of Kellenberg (sixth at 103 in 2011) in the opening round.

Prediction: Realbuto fights back to reach the finals, but Raghunandan gets his title as a senior.

 

120

Matt Leshinger earned the top spot in the bracket after an impressive run through the Suffolk County tournament, during which he beat Sean McCabe of Connetquot (third at 119 last year), Mark West of Hauppauge (2010 State champion) and TJ Fabian of Shoreham-Wading River in succession.  McCabe battled back to take third in Section XI and with a 37-2 record, is in the number two spot.  If he is victorious in his first match, the “reward” could be facing a familiar foe in Fabian (43-4).  Also a threat out of the bottom half is Frontier’s Rocco Russo (42-1).

No stranger to tough bouts, Leshinger will be tested right off the bat with Roslyn’s John Lanzillotti, the Section 8 winner, who is 37-1.  Also waiting is Pittsford’s Brady Baron (37-1) whose only setback was to two-time state finalist in Division II, Tristan Rifanburg.

Prediction: Section XI featured incredible competition at 120 this year with former state champion West not even qualifying for the tournament.  McCabe had valuable experience in Albany last season and avenges his county loss with a state finals victory over Leshinger.

 

126

Fox Lane’s Sam Speno was a runner up in 2011 at 112 pounds but will be the favorite to finish one spot higher this time around.  He has followed up his finals appearance with a 42-1 season in which he has racked up a number of quality victories this season, including over Division II standouts Nick Tighe and Drew Longo as well as the third and fourth seeds in the class, Dylan Caruana of Kenmore West and Al Dierna of Webster Schroeder, respectively.  Speno’s only loss came at the hands of nationally ranked Dom Malone of Wyoming Seminary at Eastern States.

Grabbing second at that event was Maverick Passaro of Eastport-South Manor, who is the two seed after a 46-3 campaign.  Passaro topped Caruana (sixth at 125 in 2011) at the Eastern States and a rematch could occur this weekend in the semis.

Prediction: Speno continues his success against Empire State wrestlers, beating Passaro on the biggest stage.

 

132

Some would argue that the top three performers at 132 in New York in 2011-12 are in the bottom bracket together.  Nick Kelley of Shenendehowa was fourth a year ago at 130 and has looked very good all year while earning 41 wins in as many matches.  He cruised to the title at Eastern States, defeating Nick Mauriello of Hauppauge, 10-4.  The two could see a rematch in the second round. Mauriello came back from life threatening illness last year to have an inspirational 39-2 campaign and capture a Suffolk County championship.

St. Anthony’s Jamel Hudson, who raised some eyebrows with several wins over nationally ranked opponents at the Super 32 tournament in North Carolina last fall, has continued rolling with a 31-1 mark this year. The only loss came against out of state opponent Shyheim Brown of Central Dauphin in Pennsylvania. He has pinned 11 of his last 12 foes and would meet the Kelley/Mauriello victor in the semifinals should all advance.

Dan Ventura of Fox Lane notched the top spot after a 42-4 campaign in which took fourth at Eastern States. (He lost to Mauriello during that event).  Ventura has big match experience after his runner up finish at 119 in 2011.  Set to challenge him in the top half of the bracket is Jimmy Porteus of Brockport, who is 21-1 with his only setback against Kelley.

Prediction: Whoever survives the gauntlet on the bottom of the bracket takes the title.   It’s a tough one to pick, but we’ll say Hudson sends Ventura to his second consecutive silver medal.

 

138

James Dekrone of John Glenn finished second last year in Albany, losing the championship match at 130 pounds by one point.  He followed that up with a 41-4 season, but his path to back to the feature match on Saturday night won’t be easy.  If he wins in round one, he’ll face the winner of Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva, a returning placer who has won 11 in a row, and Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi, who has captured 43 victories.  Also in the same section of the bracket is top seed Danny McDevitt of Wantagh (40-5) who defeated Dekrone early in the campaign.

Dekrone is the fourth seed because he took third at the Section XI tournament behind Longwood’s Malik Rasheed and Brentwood’s Alexis Blanco.  They competed three times during the season, with Rasheed taking the last two bouts, including the one for the Suffolk crown.  Warwick Valley’s Shane Connolly is among those trying to stop a fourth meeting between Rasheed and Blanco from happening this weekend.

Predictions: Dekrone bounces back and earns the hardware with a victory over Rasheed.

 

145

James Kloc will try to make it two in a row at 145 after his 4-3 triumph over Rocky Point’s Matt Ross last February earned him his first state title.   Undefeated Evan Wallace of Columbia (47-0) resides in the top of the bracket as does fourth seed John Northrup of Rush-Henrietta, who has the tough Louis Hernandez of Mepham (25-2) in the first round.

Longwood’s Corey Rasheed was fifth at 112 last season.  He jumped up to 145 and has adjusted to the increase in weight well with a 32-2 mark, including 17 consecutive victories to end the regular season.  Rasheed could meet up with Mike Caputo of North Rockland for the third time after splitting matches during the campaign, but Caputo would first have to face the winner of a bout between Eastern State medalists Dale White of John Jay East Fishkill and Bret Sauschuck of Port Jervis.

Prediction:  Two in a row for Kloc, but Rasheed makes it difficult.

 

152

Brian Realbuto of Somers will look to notch his third state title at a third weight.  He has rolled over the competition throughout this season with the exception of his Eastern States finals bout against Dylan Palacio of Long Beach.   A rematch would have been a can’t miss bout to watch, but with Palacio at 160 for the postseason, Realbuto’s main competition in the top half of the bracket could come from Steve Maier of Spencerport, who has beaten multiple qualifiers in his 39-2 campaign.  Maier’s two losses were to two-time state champion Chris Nevinger up at 160 and in sudden victory to Tristan Hamner.

Returning fourth place medalist Nick Hall of Longwood (32-2) sits in the number two slot, with Suffolk rival John Keck of Shoreham-Wading River (44-2) at number three.  The two have split bouts this season and could meet for the tiebreaker in the semifinals.

Prediction: Realbuto gets ready for his collegiate career at Cornell by beating future EIWA opponent Keck (Navy).

 

160

Dylan Palacio has shown all season long that he is one of the state’s best wrestlers.  He is on a mission to win his first title after previous finishes of third and fourth. The Long Beach senior has had no trouble with the opposition this campaign, going 37-0.  Among those trying to prevent him from making the showcase match on Saturday night could be last year’s 140-pound titlist Connor Sutton of LaSalle or Wayne’s Eastern States champion Frank Affronti.

On the other side, Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West is 45-1 as a junior and has beaten a pair of tough Long Island wresters who are in the same part of the bracket — Joe Cataldo and Zak Mullen (twice).   Mullen starts with Jorge Jiminez, who put together a successful 35-1 campaign.

Prediction: Palacio gets the title missing from his resume, handing Grimaldi his second setback.

 

170

Dan Spurgeon of Plainedge is a perfect 46-0 this year, including an early win over the wrestler all the way on the other side of the bracket – Rrok Ndokaj of Monsignor Farrell.  The Catholic league grappler is 39-5 and if he wins his first round bout, he may face Dylen Seybolt.  Seybolt is 31-3 on the year, with losses to one of the nation’s best, Eric Morris of Wyoming Seminary, as well as Gio Santiago and Joe Piccolo. (He came back to beat Piccolo in mid February).  Shayne Brady of Carthage also resides in the bottom half of the bracket as the three-seed after a 35-1 campaign.

Senior Stephen Lumley of South Glens Falls, the number four seed, will be among those to challenge Spurgeon on the top side.

Prediction: Spurgeon runs the table, beating upset-minded Seybolt.

 

182

McZiggy Richards of Wingate is 34-1 and the favorite in the class.  Jacob Berkowitz of Scarsdale has had a very strong season as well, going 48-2 with only one of his losses coming to an in-state wrestler, a 2-1 decision to Tim Schaefer of Warsaw.  Richards and Berkowitz will be the favorites to meet in the semifinals.

On the other side, Matt Lashway comes back after a runner up finish at 171 in 2011 with hopes of getting to the top of the podium.  The Queensbury wrestler’s only loss on the mat this year came in a 3-2 decision to Richards.  Joining Lashway is Plainedge’s Andrew Jones, who lost three of his first five matches and then reeled off 38 in a row to conclude the season.  A pair of familiar foes, Gio Santiago and Nick Bellanza could also make a run.

Prediction: Richards brings a title to the PSAL with his second tight victory over Lashway this year.

 

195

Tony Fusco has been the top ranked grappler at 195 throughout the season.  The Shenendehowa senior was fourth a year ago at 189 and hasn’t skipped a beat this year, with an unblemished 33-0 record.  Kingston’s Deon Edmond sits on Fusco’s side of the bracket, after a 40-1 year, where his only loss was a default against one of the top Division II wrestlers at the weight, Austyn Hayes.

Johnson City sophomore Reggie Williams, a sixth place medalist as a freshman, cruised through the season at 37-2 with both of his setbacks coming against Fusco, once in December and again at the Eastern States.  Another returning medalist in the field is Brockport’s Jesse Kozub, who moved between 195 and 220 throughout the season, posting a 41-2 mark.  He avenged his only loss at 195 in the Sectional final against Fairport’s Colton Kells.  The two Section V grapplers could met in the second round, although Kells matches up in his first bout against Eastern States placer Mike Spinelli of Mahopac, who went 42-3 with two losses to Williams.

Prediction: This has been Fusco’s year and it will continue to be.  The Shenendehowa senior beats Williams for the third time.

 

220

There aren’t any returning placers from 2011 at this class but there are a number of wrestlers who medaled at the Eastern States in January.  On the top side, LaSalle’s Jon Babson (fourth at Eastern States) could meet Patrick Kopcynski (fifth at Eastern States) of Brooklyn Tech in the second round.   Also in that portion of the bracket is top seeded Josh Lackey of Fairport who has compiled a 36-1 record this year, losing only to Shenendehowa’s Fusco.  Lackey has had a number of solid wins, including a pin of the second seed in Division II, Nick Talcott, and two victories over Max Antone of Niagara Wheatfield, who is positioned on the opposite side of the bracket as the two seed.

Antone (35-3) has a number of challengers in the bottom half.  In his second bout, he could face the winner of a battle between Eastern States placers Tyler Lilly of New Rochelle and Alex Pontiff of Queensbury.  The number three seed Dom DeVita of Somers begins with Nick Lupi of Huntington (28-4), who could be a sleeper at the weight.  Derrek Dalton (40-1), a dangerous returning qualifier, lost his only bout of the season up at 285 pounds.

Prediction: Josh Lackey takes a championship back to Fairport after topping DeVita.

 

285

Cole Lampman is the sole returning heavyweight placer from 2011, when he was fifth.  He comes in as the third seed after losing in the Section II final against Cory Quintana of Mohonasen in overtime on a last second reversal.  The two could compete again in the semifinals, as Quintana earned the two seed.

On the other side, Ethan Stanley of Saugerties is in the top position after a 36-2 season in which he took third at Eastern States and had multiple wins over another competitor he could see, Seth Stauble of Kingston.  Stauble faces a tough first round bout with Evan Kappatos of Syosset who was 41-1, suffering his only setback of the season in the Sectional final against Dante Salkey (36-2). Union-Endicott’s Tyler Bayer got the four seed after going 43-5 with a pair of losses to Stanley.

Prediction: Lampman avenges his last defeat in the semis and takes the title in his final high school bout against Kappatos.

 

–Betsy Veysman

It's Tournament Time! Division II New York State Championships Preview

It’s almost here!  The NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships start on Friday morning.  Here is a weight-by-weight look at Division II.

99

The lightest weight class is often a showcase for future superstars.  Leading the charge this year is sophomore Joe Nelson of Oxford, who suffered his only loss of the season while up at weight against Cody Carbury (the number three seed at 106). Nelson won all but one of his matches at 99 by bonus points this year and that was a 6-2 decision in the Section finals against Dylan Wood of Walton, one of three victories over Wood.

Wood opens action in the first round with Andrew Flanagan of Holley, a 42-5 junior who returns to Albany for the second time.  The winner of that match could face Lyndonville’s Tony Recco (43-3) who decisioned Flanagan 3-1 on the last weekend of the season.

Also in the bottom half is the third seed, Alex Herringshaw, who has piled up 40 wins against just four losses this season.  He could face the winner of Joe Dillon of Nanuet (27-8) and Alexis Bleau (41-3), who was the first-ever qualifier from Schoharie.  One of five eighth graders at 99, Bleau is the only female in the field.

Among the contenders looking to defeat Nelson in the top half are the number four seed, Luis Weirebach of Hoosick Falls, who has had a solid 28-2 campaign, as well as Edgemont’s Tyler Aslanian who has gone 28-6 in his sophomore season.

Prediction: Joe Nelson looks to be the top performer in the field and shows it, beating Herringshaw.

 

106

106 this year may wind up looking a lot like 96 last season.  The 96 pound finals match in 2011 pitted Lucas Malmberg of Marathon against Ryan Snow of General Brown in a bout Malmberg captured 12-2.  This year’s 106 bracket features Malmberg as the top seed and Snow as the number two. Snow’s only setbacks of the campaign came up at 113 pounds.

Cody Carbury of Chittenango was sixth a year ago at 96 and after a 31-4 campaign, with two of his losses to Malmberg and Snow, enters 106 as the three seed.  Corey Hollister of Perry is in the fourth position after a 40-4 year.   Although there are some tough wrestlers in the field, it looks like a rematch of the 2011 finals on Saturday night.

Prediction: Same participants, same results, as Malmberg wins two in a row.

 

113

There is no question that this will be a competitive weight with 7 of the 16 entrants returning placers from 2011. The lone champion, William Koll of Lansing, is the top seed.  He will face a difficult path, with Dillon Stowell of Gouverneur (third at 103), 40-4 Kyler Harrington of Hudson Falls and Sean Peacock of Midlakes (third at 96) in the same portion of the bracket.  Peacock, 45-2 this season, fell to the fourth seed after losing his Section championship to Warsaw’s Austin Keough, 3-2. 

Keough, who took fourth at 112 a year ago, has had a stellar campaign with just one loss (plus two forfeits) and earned the three seed.  He will have an immediate challenge in the first round from Illion’s Laken Cook, a fifth place medalist at 103 last season.  Cook is 35-5 with a fifth place finish at Eastern States in January.

Also on the bottom half with Keough and Cook is returning fourth place medalist Cody McGregor of Tonawanda and last year’s runner up to Koll at 103, John Aslanian of Edgemont (36-1).  With top-notch talent throughout the class, this should be an exciting weight to watch.

Prediction: Both Koll and Keough navigate a deep field to make the finals, where Koll earns his second consecutive title.

 

120

Sam Recco was sixth at 112 last year but has his sights set much higher for this weekend.  The Lyndonville senior is 41-1 with his only setback coming against Wyoming Seminary’s Evan Botwin in the finale at Eastern States.  At that event, Recco piled up some quality triumphs, including a 1-0 win over this bracket’s second seed Jeff O’Lena of East Rochester and an 8-5 decision over the top seed in the Division I bracket, Matt Leshinger of Sayville.

O’Lena’s 48-4 mark includes an eighth place finish at the Eastern States.  He dropped a 3-0 decision to Recco in the Section 5 final.  Looking to stop a third meeting between Recco and O’Lena on Saturday night are a number of tough senior challengers including, but not limited to, Adirondack’s Pat Webster, Sidney’s Scott Stafford and Corinth’s Zach Marcel.

Prediction: The familiar foes meet again with the same result: Recco over O’Lena.

 

126

126 pounds boasts several wrestlers who have previously been in the finals.  Top seeded Nick Tighe of Phoenix was in the Saturday night spotlight last year when he captured the 119-pound crown.  The second and third seeds, Norwich’s Tristan Rifanburg and Ardsley’s Drew Longo squared off in the 96 pound championship bout in 2010, with Rifanburg earning the hardware.

In the Section IV title match, Rifanburg handed Corey Dake his first loss of the year.  The Lansing senior has made the podium in all three of his appearances in Albany.

Outside of the favorites, upset threats abound, including Noah Valastro of Hudson Falls on the top half (47-2) and Palmyra Macedon’s Dylan Rifenburg (43-2).

Prediction: Tristan Rifanburg gets to his third finals in three tries and in a battle of former champions, edges Tighe.

 

132

After a third place medal in 2011 at 135, Wesley Blanding showed no letdown.  The Chittenango wrestler is 36-0 despite seeing action at several weights.  He had a few impressive victories at 138 and 145, including a pair of triumphs over Canastota’s Anthony Finocchiaro.  Since moving down to 132, he has had some tight wins over the field, including overtime wins over Jessy Williams and Lansing’s Connor Lapresi, which went to the ultimate tiebreaker.

That was Lapresi’s only loss in a campaign in which he won a deep Section IV.  Blanding and Lapresi could be on a collision course in the semis.

In the other half, another pair of familiar foes could meet again.  Kevin Strong of Frewsburg earned a 1-0 win over Eden’s Tom Page during the season, however at the Section final, Page reversed the result in sudden victory.  Page, a three-time placer, and Strong, a two-time medalist, both were third a year ago.

Former state champion Jacob Goddeau of Peru and 45-match winner Curt Rowley of Duanesburg are among the other contenders looking to make a title run.

Prediction:  In his last Albany appearance, future American University Eagle Tom Page gets over the hump to capture a state title over Lapresi.

 

138

Murphy, the winningest wrestler in Empire State history, is the odds on favorite to win his fourth New York title at his fourth different weight.  The Indiana-bound grappler has been impressive all year, with 55 wins, 52 of which were by bonus points.

Looking to earn his first crown is Canastota’s Anthony Finocchairo who has put up a strong resume of his own this year after grabbing third at 130 a year ago.  The senior has compiled a 35-4 mark with victories over Division I qualifiers such as Tom Grippi, David Almaviva and Aaron Benedict.  None of his four losses were to wrestlers in this bracket.  Finochairo edged Beaver River returning placer Isaiah Riccio (37-2) in the Section tournament 1-0 a few weeks ago and could face Riccio again with a finals berth on the line.  Junior Jude Gardner of Fredonia is also a threat.

On the other side, Murphy could see last season’s sixth place medalist, Dan Regan of Lewiston-Porter, who he soundly defeated earlier in the campaign.

Prediction: In the end, we expect the top two seeds to square off on Saturday night with Quinton Murphy joining the exclusive club of four-time state champions.

 

145

There is a lot of familiarity at 145 pounds. Three entrants come from Section III, including the top two seeds, General Brown’s Nathan Silverthorn and Phoenix’s Tyler Button.  The pair met in the 145 pound third place match a year ago with Button coming out on top, 9-3.  This year, Silverthorn turned the tables, beating Button to maintain his 46-0 record.

Also qualifying from the same section is 41-2 Mitch Janes, whose only losses are to Silverthorn and Button and who could face the top seed early on.

Both Drew Hull (35-2, Royalton Hartland) and Jacob Demmon (24-2, Clifton-Fine) earned sixth last year, at 135 and 140, respectively and are back to make the stand again.  Olean’s Jake Baer split matches with Hull this season and will be a threat in the bottom half.

Prediction: Tyler Button and Nathan Silverthorn take the mat against each other yet again. Button won their last meeting in Albany and takes this one.

 

152

Three wrestlers who finished in the top three a year ago sit at this weight.  The top seed, Lehigh-bound Ben Haas, was the 145-pound champion while 140-pound runner up Derek Pfluger is the second seed.  (Pfluger was a state champion in 2010 and a third place medalist in 2009). Tristan Hamner of Medina was third at 152 and sits as the number three seed.

Haas suffered his only loss of a 38-1 season to Hamner in early January but got revenge a month later when he beat the Medina wrestler 14-11.  That result was Hamner’s only blemish all year.

Meanwhile, Pfluger has yet to suffer a setback, ringing up 40 victories, all by bonus.  While there are several other worthy challengers in the field, including 47-match winner Brooks Boyle, these three past medalists look to battle for the title.

Prediction: Pfluger notches the second championship of his career, defeating Haas on Saturday night.

 

160

Chris Nevinger has won eight straight matches at the State tournament and looks for his third consecutive title.  The Buffalo-bound grappler has rolled through the season, winning all 47 matches, with the closest bout being a seven-point victory.  Looking to stop Nevinger’s streak on the top half of the bracket is General Brown’s Tyler SIlverthorn, who has impressed in his sophomore season with a 44-2 mark. Both losses came at the hands of Sandy Creek senior Jared Soule, the second seed, who has had a successful year of his own with a 35-2 record. 

Joining Soule (fifth at 152 in 2011) in the bottom half of the bracket is Hudson Falls senior Aaron Dudley (43-1), who took second in a deep class at the prestigious Eastern States, falling in the finals in overtime to highly ranked Frank Affronti of Wayne.

Mike Beckwith of Greene could also make an impact.  The returning qualifier has been at several weights this year and hasn’t lost a bout on the mat (forfeited out of Eastern States).

Prediction: Nevinger continues his unbeaten streak in Albany with another trip to the top of the podium after topping Dudley.

 

170

While neither of last year’s finalists are back in this weight class, four medalists from 2011 appear in the 170 pound class as the top four seeds.  Nick Mitchell, third at 160 last season, earned the top spot after a 42-0 campaign with 24 pins.  The Frewsburg senior beat second seed Marcus Dwaileebe of Olean (third at 171 last year) twice by decision and also topped possible opponent Burke Paddock of Warsaw.  (Paddock beat Mitchell in the semifinals last year on his way to a runner up finish).

Dwaileebe could face Canastota junior Zach Zupan, fifth at 171 last season, whose one setback this campaign was against nationally ranked Eric Morris of Wyoming Seminary in the Eastern States finals.  Zupan owns a victory over Paddock in January.  It goes without saying that the semifinals should demonstrate very competitive, high level wrestling.

Prediction: Mitchell runs the table for the 2011-12 season by beating Zupan in a squeaker.

 

182

Both Tony Lock (second at 171) and Keegan Cerwinski (sixth at 160) stood on the medal stand last year in Albany.  Both have followed up with stellar seasons.  Lock is the state’s top ranked wrestler after a 47-0 campaign that includes just one decision.  He dominated the Division I frontrunner, McZiggy Richards, by technical fall in the Eastern States championship bout.

Cerwinski dropped matches to Division I standouts Richards, Jacob Berkowitz and Matt Lashway in a 32-3 effort that included handing Lansing’s Ryan Todd his only loss.  He also edged Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer 1-0 at the Eastern States Classic, although Schaefer bounced back to place third while the Greene senior took sixth.

Schaefer began in December at 160 pounds and moved back and forth between that weight and 182 before settling in at the latter class for the end of the season.  Another showdown between Cerwinski and Schaefer seems fairly likely in the bottom half of the bracket for the right to match up with Lock.

Prediction: Tony Lock returns to the championship bout where he gets his first title over Schaefer.

 

195

Ryan Todd returns after making a run to the finals at 189 last year where he placed second.  He followed up that silver medal performance with a 28-1 season in which he has taken the mat at three different weights for Lansing.  After his one loss, to Keegan Cerwinski at 182, he moved to 195 pounds for the remainder of the campaign.  At that weight, he went he went 18-0 with 15 falls over the course of the season.  A possible early opponent is Bryce Mazurowski, who went 43-1 with 42 bonus wins.  His only loss came against undefeated Tony Lock.

Three other highly ranked wrestlers sit in the bottom half of the bracket.  Austyn Hayes, who took sixth last year at 171, sports a 38-1 mark with his only setback coming in the Eastern States final against the state’s top ranked grappler, Tony Fusco of Shenendehowa.  Hayes recorded a major decision over Whitehall’s Zach Diekel, a possible opponent in the semifinals.

Diekel has racked up 36 wins and just a pair of losses – to Hayes and Fusco.   Jon Nickerson of Maple Grove could pose an early challenge to Hayes after a 34-1 regular season.  Dan Breit has had a solid year and could make a run in the top half.

Prediction: Austyn Hayes ends his campaign with the top prize after defeating Todd.

 

220

Kyle Stanton has been dominant, placing second at Eastern States and compiling a 33-2 record, with the two losses to nationally ranked AJ Vizzcarondo of Wyoming Seminary.   The fourth place finisher at 215 in 2011, Stanton has defeated several top notch Division I grapplers such as Dom DeVita, Patryk Kopczynksi and Nick Lupi.

Fellow Section IV competitor Nick Talcott tested Stanton in his last bout, a 3-2 victory for the Greene senior.  Talcott, from Tioga, is the number two seed.  Junior Zack Bacon of Hornell (28-1) and senior Austin Blackley of Barker will be among the many challengers.

Prediction: Kyle Stanton shows why he’s the state’s best at 220 with another decision over Talcott.

 

285

Kacee Sauer looks to move one step higher on the podium this year after runner up performances at this weight as a sophomore and junior.  The only returning placer at heavyweight, Sauer’s only setbacks this year have been by medical forfeit at the Eastern States.

The other side of the bracket features several wrestlers with excellent records. Beekmantown’s Hayden Head piled up 37 wins against just two losses and has a quality victories over Columbia’s El Shaddai Gilmore-VanHoesen and Kingston’s Seth Stauble.    Brandon Fayle of Lowville also has just two setbacks (along with 35 wins, 23 coming by fall).

Prediction: Sauer came within a point of a crown in 2010 and 2011 and we predict he will not come up short this time as he gets by Fayle.

 

–Betsy Veysman

Proven Performers Murphy and Sauer Lead Holley Team on a Mission

By Betsy Veysman

When the purple comes out, you know it’s the postseason.

Holley senior Quinton Murphy dyed his hair the color of the Section V singlet for Sectionals and beyond the past two years and captured state titles both times to go along with the championship he won as an eighth grader at 103 pounds.

“I like to do things my own way,” Murphy said. “As a sophomore, I decided to represent Section V purple and it worked out so I decided to do it again.  I had to do it again this year.”

His teammate Kacee Sauer said his hair will stay its natural shade, but he too is looking to make a February run as he goes for his third straight finals appearance and his first state title.  In both 2010 and 2011 Sauer dropped one-point decisions in the state championship match.  He is starving for more.

“My goal coming in to this season was to end my career with the state title that I’ve been missing the last two years,” Sauer said. “The last two years have made me work harder and want it more.  I know it’s my last chance and I feel like I just have to wrestle every match like it’s my last. I have to wrestle every match like it’s the state finals.”

Holley head coach John Grillo believes this is the year for Sauer, whose only setbacks this season were medical forfeits after an injury at the Eastern States Classic.

“I feel pretty good about his chances,” the coach said.  “It’s going to be a battle because there are some strong kids in the weight, some quick kids too.  But Kacee can outmaneuver heavyweights with his great athleticism. He has it all — strength, speed, agility and technique. And he has the hunger too.”

Meanwhile, Murphy, the winningest wrestler in New York State history, looks to add to his already lengthy list of accolades.

Besides his three state titles, Murphy has had a great deal of success in freestyle, his preferred type of wrestling.  This summer, the Indiana-bound grappler placed third at the Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, handing Ben Whitford, the eventual champion (and Intermat’s #1 overall recruit for the Class of 2013), his only loss.  In 2010, Murphy took fourth at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

“Freestyle is my favorite,” he said. “It’s more technical and it takes more thinking.  I actually look forward to the summer during the school year because I get to focus on freestyle.  I’m definitely hoping to make the Olympics in the future.  But for now, it’s about states and then NCAA titles.”

Murphy will attempt to win those NCAA titles in the Big 10 when he moves on to Indiana in the fall.  He expects to wrestle at either 133 or 141 pounds.

While he isn’t off to Bloomington yet, Murphy is taking a trip to the Midwest this week.  He typically goes to Ohio to work with his offseason coach, Miron Kharchilava, during the days leading up to states.  Although he has a lot of travel time, he said he won’t use that opportunity to take a glance at what lies ahead for him next Friday and Saturday in Albany.

“I don’t like to check out the bracket,” Murphy said. “I’m not big on watching video.  I just wrestle as hard as I possibly can and hopefully I come out with a title.”

It has worked out so far.  Murphy took sixth as a seventh grader and second as a freshman, along with his three titles.  He knows getting another championship would put him in good company.

“It would mean a lot to get four,” he said.  “I know there are only a few wrestlers who have done it, so it would be a big accomplishment.”

According to Grillo, it would be a fitting end to an outstanding career.

“He’s by far the most successful wrestler I’ve ever coached,” Grillo added. “He’s the most technical wrestler I’ve ever had as well. He’s very gifted. His wrestling ability is beyond what people can teach.”

 Team to Beat?

It isn’t just personal goals that drive the Holley seniors.  Murphy, Sauer and Grillo all were most enthusiastic during the interviews when discussing the squad’s Sectional championship, its first since 2008.  It was especially meaningful after Holley lost one of the team captains, Kevin Avery, to injury very early in the campaign.

“We felt that we were the underdog coming in,” Grillo said. “We did a lot of preparation both on the mat and off.  We went in early and got a lot of pins to move into the lead and we hung on to win.  It was huge for the guys.  Then, we went on to win Super Sectionals as well, ahead of a very good Midlakes team.”

“It meant so much to the whole team,” Sauer added. “We all worked so hard for it.  The last time we did it was my eighth grade year so most of the team never experienced it before.”

In what looks like a wide-open team race in Division II, Holley could make a run at the team title in Albany.  It would take a lot of points from Murphy and Sauer and strong contributions by the squad’s other two qualifiers, Andrew Flanagan (99 pounds) and Mike Silvis (220).

“It’s Andrew’s second time at states,” Grillo said of his 42-5 junior. “I feel he has the ability to score offensively. He’s very intense and when he’s on, he could be at the top of the podium.  He didn’t get a great seed, though, so he has a lot of work ahead of him.”

Silvis, who has registered a 48-4 record this season, benefits from practicing with Sauer every day (and vice versa).

“[Working out with Silvis] helps me because he’s faster than the heavyweights I wrestle and he’s strong too,” Sauer said. “I think I give him a different workout than he gets against most 220s.”

“You might not think Mike Silvis is a dominating wrestler by the looks of him,” Grillo added. “But he’s a mini-Kacee.  He’s very athletic, a linebacker in football.  He’s fast and very smart with good technique for a 220.  His goal is to get on the podium.”

Several teams have the firepower to finish atop the points race.  Last year’s runner up, Phoenix, has three qualifiers who received high seeds, including former champion Nick Tighe (#1 at 126), Tyler Button (#2 at 145) and Austyn Hayes (#2 at 195).  The bronze squad from 2011, Peru, doesn’t bring back any placers but does have eight qualifiers.

The teams that took fourth through seventh a year ago all bring formidable representation.  Warsaw (fourth) has three grapplers seeded in the top four.  Lansing (fifth) boasts a pair of top seeds (William Koll at 113 and Ryan Todd at 195) as well as a duo of fourth seeds (Corey Dake at 126 and Connor Lapresi at 132). Holley was sixth and Greene (seventh) will send a quartet, including 220 favorite Kyle Stanton and #2 at 182 Keegan Cerwinski.

When asked about the frontrunner in the team race, several followers of Division II mentioned many additional squads, including, but not limited to, Lyndonville, Midlakes and General Brown. Clearly, it’s up in the air.

“I think we definitely have what it takes to win,” Murphy said. “If we all place and a few of us win titles, I think we can.  I was so happy and proud of our team at Sectionals.  If we won states, I would be ecstatic.”

If it happens, you’ll be able to see Murphy celebrate.  Just look for the purple hair.