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.

Chenango Forks' Nickerson takes one last shot

Written by
Mike Mangan

Troy Nickerson’s wrestling resume is one most would dream of having.

There are the record five New York State high school titles, along with several national high school championships. Collegiately, Nickerson was a four-time All-American, most notably capturing the 2009 NCAA championship while competing at Cornell University.

And yet, there is some unfinished business.

So seven years after last donning the red, white, and blue as a Chenango Forks High senior, the 25-year-old Nickerson hopes to don the colors again this summer in London as a member of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

“I don’t regret anything that happened in my college career,” Nickerson said. “I won an (NCAA) title and was a four-time All-American. Many people would be happy with that, but I expected more out of myself. I felt I should have been a three-time champion.

“So winning that gold medal, it would make up for a lot of it. I’m definitely capable of it; that’s why I’m putting the effort into it every day.”

Expectations were high for Nickerson when, as the top-ranked high school senior in the country, he announced he was going to wrestle for the Big Red.

Nickerson compiled an impressive 36-2 record his freshman season, reaching the NCAA finals in the 125-pound weight class where he lost to defending champion Joe Dubuque of Indiana, 8-3.

But injuries would plague Nickerson over the rest of his Cornell career. A back injury limited him to 20 matches his sophomore season, and he had to sit out the 2007-08 season due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which required surgery.

Shoulder problems persisted over his final two seasons. Though he managed to go 25-0 en route to the NCAA 125-pound title in 2009, by the time he concluded his collegiate career with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2010, Nickerson had had enough.

He needed a break.

Rekindled spark

“It was frustrating physically and mentally,” Nickerson said. “I wasn’t planning on competing after college after all the injuries I went through. So I took a year off, even from (medical) school, just trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

A few months after the school year ended, Nickerson began helping out with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club in Ithaca.

It didn’t take long for his competitive juices to begin flowing again.

“He was focused on coaching, but once he got out there on the mat, he flipped the switch and got back in that competitive mindset,” said Mike Grey, a FLWC coach and former Cornell teammate of Nickerson’s.

So Nickerson started focusing on returning to competition, with an eye toward the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The perfect litmus test to see if such a return would be worthwhile was the U.S. Open championships, held last April in Cleveland, Ohio.

With the tournament featuring many of the top amateur wrestlers, a good showing would provide the validation that Nickerson needed to give it one last go at the sport.

Despite not having competed in a year, Nickerson managed a runner-up finish in the 55-kilogram/121-pound freestyle division, losing to Sam Hazewinkel — a four-time All-American at Oklahoma — 6-0, 4-3, in the finals.

That was good enough for Nickerson, who shortly after the event moved to Colorado Springs, Col., where he would spend the next seven months training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center before returning to Ithaca in December.

“That was my first tournament back, and my first freestyle tournament since high school, so that was a really good steppingstone,” Nickerson said. “So if I was going to do this, I was going to make a 100-percent effort.”

During the course of his extensive training, Nickerson has discovered his abundant skills have not left him.

Nor have the struggles of dealing with his shoulder and struggles to maintain his weight.

“The biggest issues are staying healthy, and keeping my weight under control,” Nickerson said. “Those are my two biggest opponents.

“I’ve been through four shoulder surgeries. I have the shoulder of a 70-year-old; it’s locked down pretty tight. There’s still a lot of pain, but I have good days and bad days.

“My senior year in high school, I cut to 125 pounds for the state tournament and senior nationals. It’s been eight years keeping that weight down. Every year it gets harder and harder.”

‘My last go’

U.S. national freestyle wrestling coach Zeke Jones worked with Nickerson during his stint in Colorado Springs.

The pair have known each other for several years, dating back to when Jones was the head wrestling coach at West Virginia.

Jones has seen a considerable change in Nickerson compared to when he competed at the collegiate and scholastic levels.

“He has a much more mature and experienced view on wrestling and what it takes to win,” Jones said. “I also think the monster spotlight that surrounded Troy coming through high school and college has dimmed because he was hurt and people lost track of him.

“That’s taken some of the external pressure off him, but I think it can be an advantage for him if he uses it right.”

Nickerson keeps persevering. Grey, who has been working with Nickerson extensively over the past couple of months, says his competitive attitude is one of Nickerson’s strengths.

“His desire is great; he wants his technique to be perfect,” Grey said. “Mentally, physically, you can see the hard work paying off. He’s got all the tools to be as good as he wants to be; he just needs to put it on the mat.”

Nickerson will get that chance again at the U.S. Olympic Trials in April at Iowa City. The winners in each of the weight classes, freestyle and Greco-Roman, will earn berths on the U.S. Olympic team for the Summer Games.

It will be his last chance at realizing his Olympic dream, one that first formed when he, his father and some friends attended the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. After this year, Nickerson is hanging up the singlet for good.

“Wrestling has always been my life; this is my job, this is who I am,” Nickerson said. “I always had to put everything into it.

“But I’m not 18 anymore, I’m not the same person I was when I was 18. I’m very focused on making this Olympic team, but this is my last go at wrestling. After that I’ll probably go back to school. So I just want to give this the best shot I can.”

No. 24 Hofstra Roars by Columbia, 28-9

New York, NY – Junior Steve Bonanno posted a major decision at 125 and the Pride captured eight of the 10 matches as 24th-ranked Hofstra defeated Columbia, 28-9 at University Gymnasium Sunday afternoon. The Pride, who ended the dual match portion of the regular season Sunday, improved to 12-3 on the year. Columbia slipped to 6-5 on the year. 

The Pride won the first six matches of the contest to jump out to a 22-0 lead after the 165-pound contest. 14th-ranked juniorSteve Bonanno started off the match with a 10-1 major decision over Robert Dyar at 125 pounds. Bonanno won his fourth straight match to improve to 25-6 on the year. Sophomore Jamie Franco boosted the lead to 7-0 with a 3-1 sudden victory decision over Kyle Gilchrist on a takedown in the waning seconds over the 133-pound extra period. Franco improved to-19-10 on the season. At 141, sophomore Luke Vaith won his fourth straight match taking an injury default win after leading Matt Bystol, 11-1 in the contest. Vaith, who is now 19-8 on the season, gave the Pride a 13-0 lead in the match. 

Pride junior Justin Accordino recorded a big third period on the way to a 5-2 victory over Steve Santos at 149 pounds. Accordino posted a takedown and a two-point near-fall in the third for his 11th victory in the last 13 matches. He is now 21-10. Junior Tyler Banks gave the Pride a 19-0 lead at 157 pounds with a 4-2 decision over Jake O’Hara. Banks won his second straight match to improve to 12-11 on the year. 19th-ranked senior P.J. Gillespie posted one of the most exciting wins of the day at 165 with a 5-4 decision over Eren Civan in the second sudden victory period. Gillespie has now won nine-in-a-row to improve to 26-5. 

Columbia got on the board at 174 pounds as Stephen West pinned Jermaine John (7-15) in 2:08 of the match to close the deficit to 22-6. But 12th-ranked junior Ben Clymer boosted the lead for Hofstra at 184 with a 4-1 decision over Shane Hughes. Clymer posted his 12th win in 13 matches to improve to 26-6. In another exciting contest, Nick Mills posted a takedown in the second sudden victory period to defeat Hofstra’s Tim Murphy, 4-2, at 197 pounds. Murphy slipped to 10-20 on the season. In the match finale, Pride junior Paul Snyder defeated Kevin Lester, 5-2, at 285 in a rematch of the 2011 New York State Collegiate Championship final that Lester won, 4-0. Snyder improved to 17-11 on the season as Hofstra posted the 28-9 victory. 

The Pride will now prepare for the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Championships to be held at Binghamton University on Saturday, March 3 

#24 Hofstra 28, Columbia 9 
125- Steve Bonanno (H) maj. dec. Robert Dyar (C), 10-1
133- Jamie Franco (H) dec. Kyle Gilchrist (C), 3-1
141- Luke Vaith (H) wins by inj. def. Matt Bystol (C),
149- Justin Accordino (H) dec. Steve Santos (C), 5-2
157- Tyler Banks (H) dec. Jake O’Hara (C), 4-2
165- P.J. Gillespie (H) dec. Eren Civan (C), 5-4 in OT2
174- Stephen West (C) WBF Jermaine John (H), 2:08
184- Ben Clymer (H) dec. Shane Hughes (C), 4-1
197- Nick Mills (C) dec. Tim Murphy (H), 4-2 in SV2
285- Paul Snyder (H) dec. Kevin Lester (C), 5-2

Bulls Cap Regular Season With Win Over SIU-Edwardsville

EDWARDSVILLE, IL – Highlighted by a record-setting win from Kevin Smith, the Buffalo wrestling team ended its regular season Sunday afternoon with a commanding 28-10 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Bulls won seven matches and earned bonus points in three of them. Smith’s decision at 141 pounds was the 52nd of his career, moving him into sole possession of first place on the program’s career dual meet wins list.

After a SIU forfeit at 125 and a UB loss at 133, Smith took the mat with his last dual match of his career, needing the win to break his tie at the top of the list with Kyle Cerminara. He jumped out to a 7-1 lead after the first period against Logan Taylor, and starting on bottom in the second period he reversed Taylor and turned his for three two-point near falls to extend the lead. Taking a 15-1 lead into the final period, Smith secured riding time to claim a technical fall.

Wally Maziarz won his second match in as many days, breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period en route to a 6-2 win over Kyle Lowman. Mark Lewandowski followed with his 11th technical fall win of the season after working his opponent over for 17 points in just over two minutes. The junior got a takedown just ten seconds into the match and went to work, turning Steven Ross six times for a 17-0 shutout. Jake Waste‘s 4-1 decision immediately after gave the team a 22-7 lead in the dual.

Following a close loss by Justin Lozano in the 184-pound bout, Justin Heiserman came through with a clutch win in overtime over Cole Brandt. After the two wrestlers exchanged escapes in the second and third periods, the true freshman got a takedown for the sudden-victory win. Jedd Mason capped the dual with an 8-3 win over Cole Rogers.

With the two weekend wins by Smith, Lewandowski and Waste, the trio finish the season with 16 wins in dual action to put them into an eight-way tie for seventh most for a single season in program history. Lewandowski’s five two-point near falls over the weekend give him 21 for the season, a program record, and his 12 total three-point near falls are tied for sixth most for a single season in program history. Smith will end his career at Buffalo with his named dotted all over the program record book. His 126 career takedowns are good for fifth, his 56 escapes are tied for 12th, his 15 reversals are 18th most and his 15 three-point near falls are tied for tenth.

The Bulls end the regular season with a 7-14 overall record and will take two weeks to rest up and prepare for the Mid-American Conference tournament, hosted by Ohio University. The event will begin on Mar. 3.

Results
125 – Max Soria (Buffalo) won by forfeit
133 – Brendan Murphy (SIUE) def. Justin Farmer (Buffalo) 8-2
141 – Kevin Smith (Buffalo) won by tech fall over Logan Taylor (SIUE) 7:00 16-1
149 – Dillon Pousson (SIUE) def. Dan Gormley (Buffalo) 15-1
157 – Wally Maziarz (Buffalo) def. Kyle Lowman (SIUE) 6-2
165 – Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo) won by tech fall over Steven Ross (SIUE) 2:05 17-0
174 – Jake Waste (Buffalo) def. Gabe Hocum (SIUE) 4-1
184 – Deshoun White (SIUE) def. Justin Lozano (Buffalo) 7-6
197 – Justin Heisermen (Buffalo) def. Cole Brandt (SIUE) 3-1 OT
285 – Jedd Mason (Buffalo) def. Cole Rogers (SIUE) 8-3

Shenendehowa Looks to Repeat as New York State Champs

By Betsy Veysman

Every year, Shenendehowa head coach Rob Weeks challenges his team at the start of the season to be the best team he’s ever had.

That’s a pretty tall order for a program that has been among New York’s best for years.  The Plainsmen have finished atop the team points race at the State Championships multiple times, captured the Dual Meet title in 2011 and have won their Section every year since 2005.

But according to the coach, this year’s squad is doing its part.

At the Glens Falls Civic Center last weekend, six Shenendehowa wrestlers won Section titles and punched their tickets to the State Championships February 24-25 in Albany.  They will be joined by two additional teammates who were granted wildcard spots. That topped the five automatic qualifiers (and seven overall entrants) from a year ago.

“We have a great group of kids who have had success throughout the season,” Weeks said.  “Our expectations are high and they keep performing up to them.  What we need to do now is get some of our individuals to become state champions.”

Leading the way has been a pair of undefeated grapplers ranked number one at their weights in the state, junior 132-pounder Nick Kelley and senior Tony Fusco (195).  Both placed fourth in Albany in 2011 (Kelley at 130 and Fusco at 189).

Kelley has cruised through the season without a loss, recently picking up his 200th career victory during the Sectional event.

“Nick is a pretty grounded kid who doesn’t talk about himself at all,” Weeks said.  “You have to tell him about milestones like that before he acknowledges them.  200 wins is a big milestone and he has already achieved a lot in the sport.  But in reality he’s focused on one objective, and that’s being a state champ.”

The junior may be the favorite to do so, having defeated some of the top contenders in the Empire State while capturing the Eastern States crown in January.

“Nick has wrestled exceptionally well when he’s needed to,” Weeks said.  “He’s had a few good wins against high caliber wrestlers, and he has placed at states a few times, so he won’t be overwhelmed at the big event.  He’s always been a really hard worker and we’re hoping he’ll come home with the hardware he’s been working for.”

While Kelley has a lot of wrestling in front of him, senior teammate Fusco is looking to end his wrestling career on top of the podium for the first time.  The undefeated 195-pounder signed with Albany to play football next year.

“Tony is a talented kid,” Weeks said. “He’s an elite athlete but also is very likable and engaging. He has a different kind of pressure because if he wants to finish on top in wrestling, it has to be in Albany [this] week.  That’s a big motivator for him.  He wants to do whatever it takes to win a state title.”

Also looking for titles will be the squad’s other four Section champions, eighth grader Kevin Parker (99), Corey Ali (106), Zach Joseph (120) and David Almaviva (138).  It was the first Section crown for each of the four, but it won’t be the first trip to Albany for one them.  Almaviva had a taste of the Albany experience last season when he took sixth at 135 pounds.

“He is peaking at the right time,” Weeks said. “He had some hiccups at Eastern States [where he sustained two of his three season losses] but wrestled great caliber kids there in close matches.  I think he’s a much improved wrestler since then, if not physically, then mentally.  I think he has a legitimate shot of not only placing high but winning the state title.”

The same holds true for senior Cole Lampman, who took fifth at heavyweight last season at the state tournament but was upset this year in the Section final against Cory Quintana in overtime.  It was just his second setback of the season and the first against an Empire State wrestler. He has been ranked at or near the top of the 285 class all year and received a wildcard invitation to the state tournament. (113-pounder Jesse Porter was granted an at-large bid as well).

“We knew Quintana is very athletic and hard working,” Weeks said.  “We knew going in it was going to be a match decided by a couple of points.  Quintana was exceptional.  I could see them meeting again at states.”

Regardless of the outcome in Albany, the heavyweight has a bright future both athletically and academically.  He will attend Princeton next fall.

“Cole is a very, very intelligent kid,” he said. “He really fits the mold of a ‘Princeton guy’, Ivy League all the way through.  He’s a great athlete and also a great kid.”

Weeks, who won his 200th career match in December and was named the New York State Coach of the Year last season, attributes the success of the Shenendehowa program to a number of factors.  He praises the work of assistant coaches Frank Popolizio and John Meys, junior varsity coach Chris Capezzuti and modified coaches Ryan Fenton and James Ward.  He thanks the booster club, the parents and school district for giving necessary support.  And he believes the combination of sports and scholastics exemplified by participants like Lampman play a tremendous role.

“This is a good academic school,” he said. “Kids here are academically driven and success breeds success in the sport of wrestling.  I’ve been around situations where there were good athletes who weren’t such good kids.  A lot of babysitting was needed.  And I’ve seen places with good kids who weren’t such good athletes.  Here we’re blessed to have good athletes who are also good kids.”

Colleges have taken notice.  There is an extensive list of recent Shenenedehowa alumni competing at the next level including, but not limited to: Hunter Meys (Boston University), Austin Meys and Jim Carucci (Lehigh), Seth Hazleton (Princeton), TJ Popolizio (Brown), John Belanger (Army), Max Miller (Cortland), and Mike Almaviva (Oneonta State).

“Colleges respect history and we’ve proven that kids that come out of here are qualified to wrestle at the next level whether it’s Division I or Division III,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to send kids to prestigious schools.  The unwritten goal of a head coach is to see kids be successful in high school and move on to the college level, whether they wrestle or not.  Wrestling teaches them and reinforces so many things that help them be successful in their lives.”

At this point, the team is narrowing its lens on short-term success.  While Shenendehowa may be the favorite to win the Division I team points race in Albany, the coach believes that success for the remainder of the campaign will come from focus on the individuals.

“We’ve won the team state title a couple of times and it’s a nice reward for the kids and the program,” he said.  “But that’s almost a secondary goal now.  The objective now is to focus on the individual.  If each of our guys achieves what they are capable of, the team title will come.”

In a few days, the 2011-12 Plainsmen may stake a claim to being the best team Weeks has ever coached, but even if they don’t, Weeks has only good things to say about them.

“I know I’m blessed to have a group like this,” Weeks said. “I don’t know if I can replace this group and this team.  It is a constant pleasure to show up and coach them. They make it easy. Hopefully we’ll have success [at States].  Then, I’ll challenge next year’s team to be the best one we’ve ever had again.”