By Betsy Veysman
At eight years old, Carson Alberti knows how to take charge.
“Even though he’s young, he still likes to think that he’s running practice,” said Cobra Wrestling Academy Executive Director Keith Maute. “Even when we’re doing warmups with the high school kids, he calls out the routine and tells everyone what to do next. It’s pretty funny. He’s not at all intimidated by the older kids.”
He isn’t intimidated by his peers on the mat, either.
This weekend, Alberti added to his ever-growing trophy collection when he won the prestigious Ohio Tournament of Champions in the 52-pound Bantam division.
Alberti has become very familiar with the top of the podium after winning titles at the NYWAY State Championships, the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals and the Empire Nationals over the past month. But despite all that success, he was targeting the crown in Columbus.
“One of his biggest goals was winning the Ohio Tournament of Champions,” Maute said. “He took third there last year. The winner, Jake Craig from Smitty’s Barn in New Hampshire, was quite a bit better than him a year ago. With all the work he put in, he has moved up to another level.”
Alberti demonstrated that progress throughout the spring, but according to Maute, his improvement was most clear in his one loss. Craig defeated him in the dual portion of the Empire Nationals, but unlike their three meetings last season (two pins by Craig), it was a nailbiter.
“Craig beat him pretty badly last year three times,” Maute said. “This time, he fell behind 5-0 and wound up losing 5-4. He controlled most of the match, but there wasn’t enough time left. Actually, Carson put [Craig] on his back and got a one-count as time expired. One more second and he would have won the match. It showed he’s come a long way. It was a loss but it was actually a confidence booster for Carson.”
Alberti looked confident throughout the day in Columbus, taking his quarterfinal match by a 4-2 score but otherwise dominating the field. Maute said Alberti notched major decisions in both the semifinals and finals.
According to Maute, this is only Alberti’s second full year of wrestling. However, the coach marvels at how well the youngster soaks up the sport and picks up new skills with ease.
“You show him something and he understands it right away,” Maute said. “He just gets it. Obviously there’s also a lot of natural ability there. He always seems like he’s having fun. He trains hard and listens really well.”
One of the people he listens to is fellow member of the Cobra Wrestling Academy, eighth grader Kellen Devlin.
Like Alberti, Devlin took third the last time he competed at the Ohio Tournament of Champions, back in 2010. In that tournament, Devlin lost a first round overtime battle with the eventual champion, Billy Bowlen of Pennsylvania, before winning at least eight matches in a row to grab the bronze.
This time, Devlin cruised through the bracket before winning a 2-1 bout in the finals over Kaleb Romero of Ohio.
“His matches weren’t very close until the last one,” Maute said. “But he was in control of it. He got the takedown and the other kid wasn’t ever close to scoring.”
The victory continued a successful run for Devlin, who was the NYWAY State Champion at 120 pounds and the third place medalist at the NHSCA Middle School Nationals in Virginia Beach at 119.
“I knew he would do really well at nationals,” Maute said. “To be honest, I was a little surprised he got beat because there aren’t many kids his age that can beat him. That loss was the only one for him this season. He’s really gifted and really fun to watch. When he’s in the room, I have him demonstrating the moves because he understands everything we’re trying to do.”
His spring success comes on the heels of a 34-5 campaign as an eighth grader for Amherst High School, where he won the Section 6 title and a bid to the State Championships in Albany.
“At states, he basically had his first match won but then made a mistake with about 20 seconds left on top where he got reversed to his back. He controlled 5:40 of the match and wasn’t in any danger. I almost felt that in his first time at states, he was a little nervous and it affected him.”
After that result, Devlin moved to the consolation bracket where he dropped a decision to top-seeded Mark Raghunandan, who had been upset in the first round.
“Kellen learned from it, I’m sure, and the next four years will be different,” he said. “He’s looked great. He’s more than a great wrestler. He is one of the idols for the little kids at our club. They know he’s been there and they see how hard he works. He’s really likeable and he plays around with the kids. He and Carson have a good relationship. I think Carson reminds Kellen of himself when he was little. They’re pretty similar.”
Last Saturday, they were certainly similar in one way – both captured first place at the Ohio Tournament of Champions.
JR Colom of Dunkirk, new to Cobra, also took gold in the event in the Junior division at 90 pounds.
In addition, G2 Wrestling Academy was well represented in the Buckeye State, with Frankie Gissendanner (Junior 125 pounds) and Yianni Diakomihalis (Schoolboy 96 pounds) continuing their winning streaks with championships. Stay tuned for more on them in the near future.
The Empire State put many wrestlers on the podium on Saturday. See the full list below.
Carson Alberti (East Aurora) Bantam 52
Kellen Devlin (Amherst) Schoolboy 120
Yianni Diakomihalis (Rochester) Schoolboy 96
JR Colom (Dunkirk) Junior 90
DJ Giancola (Niagara Falls) Open 175
Frankie Gissendanner (Rochester) Junior 125
Jason Goldman (Binghamton) Open 135
Trevor Hoffmier (Newark Valley) Cadet 140
Stevo Poulin (Schuylerville) Midget 52
Tito Colom (Dunkirk) Schoolboy 104
Greg Diakomihalis (Rochester) Junior 56
Troy Keller (North Tonawanda) Schoolboy 92
Kelan McKenna (New Hartford) Cadet 92
Carter Schubert (Marion) Bantam 52
Jake Silverstein (Smithtown) Junior 82
Cooper Kropman (Rochester) Midget 80
Anthony Orefice (Niagara Falls) Cadet 115
Randy Sisenstein (Johnson City) Open 145
Darren Snead (Niagara Falls) Open 285
Tim Barnard (Tonawanda) Cadet 136
Brock DelSignore (South Glens Falls) Midget 64
Richie Jones (Tonawanda) Cadet 152
Donny McCoy (Niagara Falls) Cadet 100
Dillan Palaszewski (Galway) Junior 79
Travis Race (Fulton) Schoolboy 160
Logan Ramadan (Grand Island) Bantam 95
Trent Reid (Sanborn) Bantam 56
Jahad Ali (Niagara Falls) Open 135
Justin McDougald (Niagara Falls) Midget 70
Leonard Merkin (Brooklyn) Schoolboy 126
Jake Ashcraft (Glenville) Cadet 152
Tyler Benjamin (Candor) Midget 100
Zach Bierfeldt (Limestone) Schoolboy 116
Ethan Ferro (Whitney Point) Midget 64
Jordan Kayes (Olean) Schoolboy 126
Parker Kropman (Rochester) Schoolboy 92
Willie McDougald (Niagara Falls) Junior 82
Frank Shomers (Niagara Falls) Elite 285
Bryson Solomon (Niagara Falls) Midget 85
Anthony Stewart (Addison) Junior 64
David Berkovich (Brooklyn) Junior 79
Ethan Gallo (Slate Hill) Bantam 80
Bryce Rowe (Ripley) Junior 95
Derek St. James (Rochester) Schoolboy 88
Ethan Stotler (Waverly) Midget 70
Charlie Tibbits (Chadwicks) Midget 92
Shane Broad (Alden) Junior 64
Trey Duvall (Corning) Cadet 160
Jonathan Earl (Fulton) Schoolboy 116
David Fales (Corning) Junior 56
Bryan Ruggeri (Fairport) Elite 112