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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.