Last week, second place. This week, champions.
Superior Wrestling Academy wrapped up a busy spring and summer schedule by taking the title at the 1000 Islands Duals Junior High Division after grabbing the runner up spot last weekend at the Northeast Duals in Hoosick Falls.
The squad topped a 19-team bracket that offered teams from New York, Vermont, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, sweeping four meets.
“I think we wrestled really well,” said coach Ed Schafer. “I think what our performance shows is the importance of wrestling in the offseason. All the work the kids put in definitely showed.” (For team roster, see below).
In the first two duals, against South Jefferson and Delaware Valley, Superior rolled to victories by large margins (45-15 and 47-9, respectively).
The semifinals, however, brought a strong challenge from Buffalo Wrestling Club, which, according to Schafer, won the tournament on several occasions in the past. It was a matchup the coach was anticipating leading up to the event.
“That was a great dual,” he said. “They were the champions, so to knock them off was really exciting. I thought coming in we had the team that could beat them, but it was very close.”
It was indeed close as Superior won by just two points, 28-26. In describing the key bouts, Schafer first pointed to the efforts of his team in a pair of losses, rather than wins.
“They had Freddy Eckles, a beast from Section 6 and Dakota Gardner, who was a state placer last year,” Schafer said. “It was the kind of situation where their coaches probably told them they needed to go out and get pins and in that type of situation, they usually get the pins. We bumped Nathaniel Grubham up to face Eckles and we had Dominic Nassivera, a 12-year old kid, wrestling Gardner. We told them we needed them to stay off their backs to win the dual. They not only did that, but they wrestled really well. Their performances were huge.”
Schafer added that Kelan McKenna, an NHSCA Middle School National Champion, had a key victory against Buffalo as well.
Buffalo Wrestling Club coach Chris Nadeau was pleased with the efforts of his squad, which came back to thump Mt. Anthony 45-6 for third place.
“Our team was really dominant throughout,” he said. “We lost only five matches in four duals. We were up big in the semifinals against Superior, but unfortunately gave up three forfeits at the end and lost. I thought the guys wrestled really well.”
After that tense semifinal, Superior faced another tough test in the finals from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. With the Empire State squad down by six, Austin Worth took the mat at 165 pounds.
“We needed a pin,” Schafer said. “He went out and got us a pin. That was really big. Then, they forfeited in the heavyweight match and that was it.”
In addition to Worth’s fall, the championship featured a number of significant victories, including one by Mexico’s Austin O’Reilly.
“O’Reilly came up big in a few of the duals,” Schafer said. “The PA kid he was facing was beating up on everybody all day. We told him to get pumped up and get ready and he just took it to him. He also had a big win against Buffalo. If he can get his weight up, he’ll be tough in the high school season.”
Schafer expects the same from Yianni Diakomihalis, who has won a number of events this offseason. Diakomihalis, who had more than 30 wins as a seventh grader for Hilton High in 2011-12, was unbeaten at the 1000 Islands Duals, as was McKenna.
So, Superior has completed their offseason schedule on a high note. Or has it?
“We’ve had a pretty good summer and it’s winding down,” Schafer said. “We don’t have anything else on our schedule, but it gets addictive. It’s such a good group of kids that win so much, it’s hard not to put them on the mat. We’re supposed to be done, but I think we may try to find one more tournament, to get out there one more time.”
High School Division
In addition to the bronze finish in the Junior High competition, the Buffalo Wrestling Club picked up second place in the High School action (see roster below).
The squad opened the event with a pair of lopsided victories, 51-18 over Summit Wrestling Club and 52-9 against Apex Gold. The third contest was a little closer, however, Buffalo came away with a 40-25 win over General Brown to set up a semifinal battle with a somewhat unfamiliar foe from West Virginia.
In a nailbiter, the Empire State wrestlers punched their ticket to the finals with a 21-20 decision that came down to overtime in the last match.
With his team trailing by two, 2012 New York state sixth place medalist Matt Montesanti took the mat at heavyweight. The bout was tied at 1 at the end of regulation and after a scoreless extra session, the match went to the ultimate tiebreaker.
“They had choice and took down,” coach Chris Nadeau said. “It worked out for us because if we had choice, we would have taken top anyway. Matt threw in legs and was tough on top. He rode him out and we got the one-point win. That team was very good and it was an extremely exciting dual.”
The team rode the momentum into the finals, where the Buffalo grapplers led 21-0 early, according to Nadeau.
“We thought we had it in the bag, even though we had to deal with two forfeits,” he said. “We lost some close ones that were tough, especially at 164, where our wrestler bumped up and lost 3-1 on a tough takedown call in a scramble.”
In the end, the team from Bound Brook (NJ) got the seven-point victory, however Nadeau had positive things to say about the experience.
“The kids were incredible,” he said. “It’s such a good time – we’ve been going out for many years and we have a campsite and the kids fish and have a lot of fun. All the kids wrestled well, including the young guys we had out there like Dakota Gardner and Kellen Devlin. I was especially impressed with our [rising] seniors [all former state placers]. Eric Lewandowski went undefeated and was dominant the whole time. Matt Montesanti, Drew Hull and Steve Michel were amazing. They will be factors at the state tournament this year.”
The top finishers in the Gold Bracket in the High School Division were:
Champions: Bound Brook
Second Place: Buffalo WC
Third Place: West Virginia
Fourth Place: Phillipsburg
Fifth Place: Doughboy WC
Sixth Place: General Brown
Seventh Place: Suburban Council
Eighth Place: Delaware Valley
The top finishers in the Junior High Gold Division were:
Champions: Superior Wrestling Academy
Second Place: Nazareth (PA)
Third Place: Buffalo Wrestling Club
Fourth Place: Mt. Anthony
Fifth Place: Lewis County
Sixth Place: Apex Wrestling Club
Seventh Place: Delaware Valley
Eighth Place: Fulton Red
Team Roster for Superior Wrestling Academy (Junior High, 1st Place)
75 – Drew Schafer
82 – Austin O’Reilly
90 – Ian McKenna
98 – Mike Venosa
105 – Kelan McKenna
115 – Yianni Diakomihalis
119 – Blake Jackson
127 – Nathaniel Grubham
135 – Jeremy Boyle
145 – Dominic Nassivera
155 – Josh Farrar
165 – Austin Worth
Hwt – Owen Albanese
Team Roster for Buffalo Wrestling Club (High School, 2nd Place)