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