By Betsy Veysman
The NCAA season ended last Saturday night, but there was still plenty of high level wrestling on the campus of Cornell University this weekend as nearly 650 grapplers took the mat in the first ever NYWAY State Championships.
There were many champions crowned, from the lightest weight (37 pounder James Leuer Jr. of Lockport Kids Club) to the high school 220-pound victor (Corey Gaffney). There was a well-known youth wrestler (Stevo Poulin at 55 pounds). There were winners in deep classes, such as the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club’s Lucas Malmberg topping a field at 112 pounds that contained three other state placers from Albany. And there was even a pair of NYPHSAA state finalists battling for the 125-pound trophy, as 2011 state champion William Koll decisioned 2012 runner up Vincent Deprez.
Few champions were as dominant, however, as the ones from the top two teams in the tournament, G2 World Wrestling Academy from Rochester (five champions) and Cobra Wrestling Academy from Depew (four champions).
G2 came out on top of the team race with 219.5 points. Cobra was right behind with 214, with Finger Lakes Wrestling Club in bronze position with 200.5.
“I didn’t think too much about the team portion of it initially,” said G2 head coach Adam Burgos. “I was focused on the kids individually, doing what they’ve been training for. About halfway through the day, I heard the team scores and realized we were right up there. Then when we heard we won, we were ecstatic. This will be the premier youth event in the state, so to win the first year is huge.”
Presenting team awards rather than just individual medals was a relatively late addition to the event after it was suggested by Cobra Executive Director and Niagara County Community College coach Keith Maute.
“All the kids love team events and wrestling when there’s something at stake for the group,” Maute said. “Adding a team race to mimic the high school states and even the college level was a great thing that gets them used to what they’ll see as they get older. I like them to understand the points system and especially what getting bonus points means to your team.”
The combined nine champions from G2 and Cobra certainly seemed to understand the concept of extra points very well.
For G2, Frankie Gissendanner (D4, 120 pounds), Yianni Diakomihalis (D4, 100 pounds) and Ryan Burgos (D3, 70) all went undefeated on Sunday and only one of their matches went the distance.
Gissendanner spent less than three minutes on the mat in each of his matches, winning a trio of bouts by fall to capture the title.
“Frankie is a phenomenal athlete,” Burgos said. “He’s easy to watch and even easier to coach because once you present something to him, he goes out and executes it.”
He and eighth grade teammate Diakomihalis benefit from working out together. Diakomihalis won the 100-pound class on the strength of two pins and a technical fall.
“Both Frankie and Yianni work extremely hard,” the coach said. “Their futures are extremely bright in this sport. They go so hard in practice that when they get to the matches, they seem like they’re at a different speed than their opponents.”
After a close first round match, Ryan Burgos registered three pins in the event, and he did it on his terms.
“Ryan put it all together this weekend,” Coach Burgos said of his son. “He had a really tough semifinals opponent, Elijah Rodriguez from Norwich. I was telling him to stick to the plan, keep good head position. He said he really wanted to try a spladle. Sure enough, he was behind 2-0 in the second and hit a spladle and got the pin. He said he saw [Rodriguez’s] match earlier and thought it would work. I don’t know how he saw it; he’s just 10 years old. I’m very proud of him.”
Burgos was also proud of another pair of wrestlers who took gold in Division 2 for his squad – Jayden Scott (65 pounds) and Cooper Kropman (80 pounds).
“I think I had the most fun watching [Scott] wrestle,” Burgos said. “His dad is so animated. He wasn’t that familiar with wrestling at first and now they’re hooked. Jayden’s had success at an early age and without much experience.”
Wrestling has been a big part of Cooper Kropman’s family, with two of his siblings also competing on Sunday. According to Burgos, Kropman is a “phenomenal little wrestler” who strikes a resemblance to another talented grappler.
“Cooper is part of a terrific wrestling family that will do big things,” Burgos said. “He puts together sophisticated moves at such a young age. If you squint your eyes, with his blonde hair, he looks a little like [Cornell’s three-time NCAA champion] Kyle Dake. Cooper always has the biggest smile on his face and is walking around talking to people. You saw Kyle Dake there this weekend, smiling, talking to everyone too.”
NYWAY State President Clint Wattenberg felt that having members of the Cornell program on hand strengthened the event.
“It’s a pretty special thing to be able integrate top New York wrestlers that are five years old and college age,” Wattenberg said. “The kids can look up to someone like Kyle Dake, who is a product of New York. That helps to bring things full circle and show the kids that one day they can achieve dreams beyond youth wrestling.”
In addition, Burgos noted that he’s never been part of a tournament before where “you need to relieve the timekeeper [Dake] because everyone is getting autographs and taking pictures with him. But [Dake] seemed to be enjoying it.”
Team Cobra enjoyed the event as well, with more than 20 placewinners. (Team scoring only took 10 wrestlers into account).
Leading away for Cobra were four competitors who went a combined 14-0 with 14 bonus point wins.
Carson Alberti (D2, 50 pounds) and his cousin Dane Heberlein (D5, 85 pounds) rolled over the competition all day long, combining for three pins, a tech fall and two majors.
“They’re the kinds of kids that you show them something once and they get it automatically,” Maute said. “They just understand it and perfect it. They both have a ton of natural athletic ability. I joke with their fathers that it must come from their mothers’ side since their mothers are related. They were very dominant.”
Also very dominant was D5 120 pound winner Kellen Devlin. The eighth grader racked up two pins, a technical fall and an 11-0 major decision after qualifying for the New York state tournament this winter for Amherst High School.
“It’s really hard to find people Kellen’s age that can beat him,” Maute said. “He probably should have placed at states; he was caught in between weight classes. He’s so good that to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a two or three time state champion in high school before he’s done.”
Philip Calandra earned his title at 90 pounds in Division 4 after taking third at the regional qualifier. He looked like a champion this weekend, with three pins and a technical fall in four bouts despite a hurdle that emerged along the way.
“It was a tough weight and Philip had to beat some familiar guys,” Maute said. “Our club took 1-2-3 in that bracket. In the semifinals, Philip broke his hand in the first 30 seconds of the match. At the time, we didn’t know it was broken. He got taped up, went back out there and got the pin. Then he got another pin in the finals. Now he’s in a cast. He definitely showed determination, not letting anything get in his way.”
The NYWAY organization has taken a similar approach in its initial season. Wattenberg acknowledged that there were challenges, especially from a logistical standpoint, during the first year of operation. But he and the others in attendance on Sunday believe that the inaugural state championships and the campaign as a whole have been very successful.
“I was happy with about 90% of the things that happened this weekend,” Wattenberg said. “The other 10% was managed effectively, helped by some really good people, including our head pairers Jon Gregory and Phil Yoder, who were responsible for the day going so smooth.”
“I thought they did a great job with this tournament,” Maute agreed. “With so many kids, we were finished by about 6:30, which was great. The competition was tough and I think it will only continue to get better.”
The coaches expressed optimism that the offerings of NYWAY will also only continue to get better from a good starting point.
“The most positive thing I saw was the step of getting the state organized,” Burgos said. “Not to knock other organizations, but there wasn’t a lot of organizational reachout at the state level before NYWAY. NYWAY tried to organize regions and get people involved. At the local level, I think the competition has increased with NYWAY. You have clubs and families that want youth wrestling to grow and I think it will because of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”
Both coaches also were impressed with the opportunities wrestlers were given to see different competition through travel with NYWAY.
“It was amazing that they sent kids to places like California,” Burgos said. “For $200, they traveled cross country, wrestled and saw some sights. Amazing. They made it happen and that’s huge for the kids and their development.”
“Some of our guys went on the trip to California,” Maute added. “We also had quite a few on the team that went to Michigan. Those experiences are so important. I met Mark Hall [whose son Mark is a star for Apple Valley High School in Minnesota] a few years ago. He told me about the MYWA organization [the Michigan model for NYWAY] a few years ago and he was telling me that we needed to get it started in New York. He talked about how his son has seen so much of the country through MYWA for very little cost. The next thing you know, Clint Wattenberg and other great people were working on it. I was always interested in the model but didn’t know how to get the ball rolling. They picked the right people to do it and they’re doing well so far.”
Wattenberg believes that NYWAY’s second year will build upon the foundation created over the past 12 months.
“This year’s NYWAY season was about putting together some tournaments while working with people who are passionate about the common vision of where New York state wrestling can go,” he said. “Moving into next year, we need to expand our reach downstate and we plan to provide a real tournament season that will make youth wrestling more organized and accessible to kids and families. Ultimately, we’re working toward a true New York state championship, unifying the state for youth wrestling.”
To watch videos from the NYWAY State Championships:
For full brackets and results: http://www.nyway.org/results/
For over 1000 photos of the NYWAY State Championships, visit: http://zephyr.exposuremanager.com/
37: James Leuer Jr (Lockport) pin Cooper Gronowski (Cobra), 2:55
40: Kyrius Townsend (Whitney Point) pin Lucas Hoffman, 1:38
45: Ryan Massengale (Horseheads) decision Gianni Silvestri (Tioga), 7-6
50: Benny Merrill (Warsaw) pin John Chamberlain (IHC Cavaliers), 0:31
55: Jack Clough (IHC Cavaliers) decision Frankie Luculano (Frewsburg), 10-8
60: Conor Meagher (Camden Pee Wee) decision Isaac Allen (Finger Lakes), 11-7
65: Peyton Hodder (Canisteo) decision Jared Cook (Indian River), 11-9
75-HWT: Trevor Harrington major Jacob Gates (Mexico), 10-0
45: Bryce Bailey (Waverly) decision Myles Gronowski (Cobra), 6-0
50: Carson Alberti (Cobra) pin Colin Bradshaw (Phoenix), 1:42
55: Andrew Lucinski (Lockport) decision Carter Schubert (Superior), 4-2
60: Troy Spratley (Norwich) pin Kyle Burback (vvs), 2:40
65: Jayden Scott (G2 World Wrestling) major Jacob Deguire, 12-0
70: Luca Pirozzolo (Port Byron) decision Will Smeader (Bulldog), 6-4 (ot)
75: Joseph Dixon (Niagara Falls) major Hunter John (Gowanda), 8-0
80: Cooper Kropman (G2 World) major Colby Young (Canton), 8-0
88: Tyler Rice (Norwich) decision Duncan Zubrzycki (Copenhagen), 9-8
100: Charlie Tibbitts (vvs) decision Ryan Moran-Vaughn (Cobra), 4-1
HWT: Kenneth Trumble Jr (Indian River) pin Hunter Hoffman (Indian River), 0:58
55: Stevo Poulin (Journeymen) pin Jace Schafer (Superior), 1:34
60: Myles Griffin (Mexico) major Greg Diakomihalis (G2 World), 9-0
65: Ethan Ferro (Whitney Point) decision Matthew LaPorte (Hoosick Falls), 4-2
70: Ryan Burgos (G2 World) pin Justin Mcdougald (Niagara Falls), 2:28
75: John Worthing (Finger Lakes) decision Dean Shambo (Mexico), 2-0
80: Wyatt Smith (Midlakes) decision Ryan Martin (Brockport), 4-0
85: Benny Baker (Finger Lakes) decision William Mcdougald (Niagara Falls), 5-4
90: Zachery Lawrence (Journeymen) pin Cory Day (Cobra), 1:53
95: Tyler Kellison (vvs) decision Gabriel Mastrangelo (Bulldog), 5-1
100: Camrin Galvin (Fulton) decision Colby Johnson (vvs), 6-2
110: Kevin Halford (NWAA) decision Slade Springer (Central Square), 7-5
125: Henry Grunzweig (Grand Island) pin Maraina Villalobos (Indian River), 0:54
140: Mike Leibl (Edge) pin Mason Pagett (Randolph), 0:55
65: Michael Gonyea (Journeymen) major Matthew Griffin (Mexico Wresting), 8-0
70: Orion Anderson (Hoosick Falls Wrestling) decision Christian Kee, 6-0
75: Mitchell Seaver (Lockport Kids Club) decision Brenden Gager (Norwich), 5-0
80: Dillan Palaszewski (Journeymen) decision CJ Walz (Edge), 10-6
85: AJ Burkhart (Independent Wrestling) decision Michael Bristol (Edge), 10-3
90: Philip Calandra (Cobra Wrestling) pin Dominic Crouse (Cobra Wrestling), 2:22
95: Tanner Lapiene (Ogdensburg) decision Steven Kapuscinski (Lockport), 4-0
100: Yianni Diakomihalis (G2 World Wrestling) TF Hammond Raes (Midlakes), 16-0
106: Jacob Peru (Falconer Wrestling) decision Caleb Mayer (Lowville), 6-2
113: Dillon Knoll (Bulldog Youth) major Morgan Seller (Beaver River), 12-0
120: Frankie Gissendanner (G2 World Wrestling) pin Billy Ciccarelli, 2:45
130: Dominic Salerno (Greene) pin Matt Tanner (Adirondack Wrestling), 0:49
140: Dustin Dailey (Deposit) pin Dylan Depew (Oxford), 2:53
150: Antonio Cutrie (Titletown Fight Club) decision Gavin Kovalik (General Brown), 8-2
160: Caleb Null (Carthage) pin Keagan Carmenatty (Finger Lakes Wrestling), 1:10
175: Roddy Rodgers (Seneca Grappler)
HWT: Nick Jones (Dunkirk) pin Joshua Shumate (NWAA), 1:24
80: Austin O’Reilly (Mexico) injury default Trent Nadeau (Cobra Wrestling)
85: Dane Heberlein (Cobra) TF Dylan Arena (Cobra), 22-6
91: Kelan McKenna (vvs Youth) decision Derek St. James (G2 World), 6-0
98: Ryan O’Rourke (Adirondack) decision Ryan Hetrick (Southwestern), 2-0
105: Dandre Norman (Edge) decision Donald McCoy (Niagra Falls), 9-2
112: Andrew McFarland (Carthage) decision Daniel Fox (Shadow), 6-0
120: Kellen Devlin (Cobra) major Paul Bavisotto (Cobra), 11-0
130: Joshua Simpfenderfer (Ironmen) decision Kirkland Feeney (Lockport), 3-2
140: Jordan Bushey decision Kyle Pittman (G2 World), 7-1
150: Jordan Torbit (Whitney Point) decision Richie Jones (Cobra), 1-0
160: Josh Burge (Elmira) decision Trevor Allard (Mexico), 2-0
172: Jacob Woolson (Mexico) pin Jacob Sweet (Brockport), 1:29
185: Ricardo Dawkins (General Brown) decision Garrett Knoll (Bulldog), 2-0
HWT: Matt Marshall (Fulton) pin Alex Jones (Dunkirk), 3:56
D6 (High School)
95: Nick Johnson
103: Blake Abbey
112: Lucas Malmberg (Finger Lakes) decision Thomas Hill (Fulton), 2-0
118: Anthony Orefice (Lockport) decision Nick Toutant (Indian River), 7-0
125: William Koll (Finger Lakes) decision Vincent DePrez (G2 World), 5-1
130: Branden Muntz (Falconer) decision Jake Anderson (Hoosick Falls), 7-2
135: Scott Stafford decision Derrick Gray (Indian River), 7-3
141: Connor Lapresi (Finger Lakes) decision Trevor Hoffmier (Finger Lakes), 1-0
145: Cam Milliken (NY Titan) pin Sean McKenna, 2:47
150: Joshua McFarland (Carthage) decision Dan Woughter (Finger Lakes), 10-7
160: Tyler Spann (Adirondack) decision Jake Weber, 3-0
170: Michael Green (Journeymen) decision Andrew Cole (Ogdensberg), 5-3
189: James Benjamin pin Connor Calkins (Finger Lakes), 3:52
195: Todd Oakes (Fulton)
220: Corey Gaffney decision Ethan Venosa, 3-1