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.