The biggest tournament of the summer is here as competition begins in Fargo, North Dakota on Saturday. Here are a few of the New York storylines to watch.
Will the champions repeat?
Rosemary Flores had a tremendous tournament in 2011, capturing titles in both the Cadet and Junior divisions while winning eight of her nine bouts by pin. She has enjoyed sustained success throughout the year, earning a spot on the ASICS Girls All-American First Team and taking second at a number of prestigious tournaments including the Cadet Pan Am Championships and the Body Bar Women’s National tournament. The New York City standout will be back for another run, this time at 130 pounds.
Last summer, Brian Realbuto became the first Men’s Freestyle title winner from the Empire State since Troy Nickerson won double titles back in 2004. The 145-pound class that Realbuto won was loaded with top tier talent, such as Jake Sueflohn, who won 25 matches as a true freshman at Nebraska last season and top 20 recruits such as Brandon Kingsley, Oliver Pierce and Brian Murphy. The Somers star wrestled only in a pair of matches at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma City, but is registered to compete at 152 pounds this week where he will once again be challenged by a plethora of formidable opponents such as Ohio’s Anthony Collica, New Jersey’s Dylan Milonas, Murphy, Pierce and a familiar face, Long Beach’s Dylan Palacio.
Speaking of Palacio, can he keep his unbeaten streak alive?
It’s been quite a year for the Nassau County wrestler. Palacio had an unblemished record during the high school campaign to win his first state championship, then went on to earn gold at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach. He followed that with dominant performances at the New York Freestyle and Greco States, taking the top spot in both, and then went undefeated at the Disney Duals, beating nationally-ranked grapplers such as Garrett Peppelman and Taylor Simaz. While he has placed at Fargo in the past (8th in Greco a year ago), he has made it clear that he is looking to reach the top of the podium in North Dakota before beginning his college career in Ithaca.
Which other returning placers are gearing up for a title run?
Four-time state champion Quinton Murphy readily admits that while he has had success in folkstyle throughout his career, he prefers Freestyle. He has proven his capabilities in the international styles as well, including an fourth place at the Youth Olympics Games in 2010. In 2011, he took bronze at Fargo at 135 pounds, handing the eventual winner Ben Whitford of Michigan his only loss. Murphy went undefeated in limited action at the Junior Duals in Freestyle a few weeks ago and will be among the favorites at 138 pounds, where he could again meet Whitford.
The 160-pound Junior competition may be of interest to New York fans as several accomplished grapplers take the mat. Burke Paddock of Warsaw has a long list of achievements, including earning sixth in 2011 in Greco at the same weight and capturing the Junior Greco World Duals event this spring. Columbia-bound Connor Sutton placed at FILA Juniors in Greco and comes into the week with a lot of momentum. In fact, WIN Magazine picked Sutton to make the finals at Fargo following his All-Tournament team performance at the Junior Duals in late June where he went 8-0 in the style.
Chris Cuccolo was a double medalist in 2011, taking fifth in both styles at 84 pounds in the Cadet division. The Pine Bush wrestler returns to the Cadet competition, this time at 94 pounds where Intermat has labeled him the favorite on the Greco side.
Shenendehowa’s Jesse Porter has a track record of success in the international styles, including a 2011 Schoolboy National Championship at 105 pounds in Greco. He is one to watch in Cadet Greco action at 132 pounds.
Mary Westman made the finals in 2011 at 148 pounds, registering three wins by fall, and looks to finish one rung higher on the ladder in the 159-pound class this week. Alexis Porter wrestled in both divisions in 2011, garnering third (Cadet) and fourth (Junior) in the 124/125 weight classes. She is currently registered at 143 pounds in the Cadet competition and should be a contender. In addition, two returning sixth place finishers, Kendra Kenyon and Kennedie Eddings, will look to climb to the top of the podium.
Which wrestlers will make a smooth transition from the Cadet to Junior competition?
There are several wrestlers on Team New York who appear ready to make the jump. Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer of Cheektowoga was fourth at 125 pounds in Freestyle and has placed in a number of national events in both Greco and Freestyle. At the Junior Duals, he went 10-2 overall and looks poised to represent the Empire State well following his runner up performance in Albany in February.
Another New York state finalist, Reggie Williams of Johnson City, stood fifth on the podium last year at 215 as a Cadet and will try to repeat that success at the Junior level, this time at 195 pounds.
What other state placers should be watched closely?
A large number of medalists from Albany in 2012 will be fighting for All-America status, including state champions Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks (7th in Greco in 2011 at Fargo) and Dylan Realbuto (126) of Somers. In addition, several other top four finishers at the Times Union Center such as Columbia’s El Shaddai Gilmore-Van Hoesen (285), McZiggy Richards (182), Troy Seymour (170), Tyler Grimaldi (160), David Almaviva (145) and Nick Kelley (132), Ryan Snow (126), William Koll (120), Nick Casella (100) and Trey Aslanian will look for podium positions. Aslanian, a two-time folkstyle silver medalist in New York, went an impressive 7-1 at the Junior Duals.
Which of the New York State Freestyle and Greco title double winners will be taking the mat?
In addition to Palacio and Koll, 220-pounder Soslan Gularov was a double champion who is registered. On the Cadet side, a handful of double titlists will represent the Empire State – Matthew Morris (113 pounds), Freddie Dunau (120), Mike Dusold (152) and Daniel Smith (170). Josh Antoine was the 113-pound champion in both Freestyle and Greco at the Northeast Regional qualifier as well.
Many wrestlers were mentioned and there are sure to be others who stand out on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
Stay tuned and check back for updates and interviews throughout the week.
2011 Fargo All-Americans from New York
105 – Lucas Malmberg (Marathon), 6th
112 – John Aslanian (Edgemont), 8th
135 – Quinton Murphy (Holley), 3rd and Steven Rodrigues (Fox Lane), 5th
145 – Brian Realbuto (Somers), Champion
98 – Kyle Kelly (Chenango Forks), 7th
135 – Patrick Hogan (Peru), 8th
152 – Dylan Palacio (Long Beach), 8th
160 – Burke Paddock (Warsaw), 6th
84 – Chris Cuccolo (Pine Bush), 5th
125 – Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga), 4th
130 – Jonathan Craft, 8th
215 – Reggie Williams (Johnson City), 5th
84 – Chris Cuccolo (Pine Bush), 5th
Junior Women’s Freestyle
105 – Hanna Grisewood (Warsaw), 5th
125 – Rosemary Flores (Curtis), Champion, Alexis Porter (Shenendehowa), 4th
148 – Mary Westman, 2nd
Cadet Women’s Freestyle
88 – Kim Cardenas (Petrides), 4th
101 – Leah Taylor (Alexander), 8th
115 – Kendra Kenyon (Warsaw), 6th
124 – Rosemary Flores (Curtis), Champion, Alexis Porter (Shenendehowa), 3rd
143 – Keneddii Eddings (Niagara Falls), 6th