Section 4 has nine 2012 All-State wrestlers returning, including former state champions Kyle Kelly, Connor Lapresi, William Koll and Tristan Rifanburg, as well as runner up Reggie Williams. For the teams and wrestlers to watch in 2012-13, please read on.
Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Kyle Kelly, Chenango Forks, State Champion
106 Pounds: Jimmy Overhiser, Corning, Fourth Place
182 Pounds: James Benjamin, Vestal, Fifth Place
195 Pounds: Reggie Williams, Johnson City, Second Place
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
113 Pounds: Jake Green, Chenango Forks
120 Pounds: Richie Burke, Ithaca
126 Pounds: Brock Post, Maine-Endwell
132 Pounds: Curtis Grant, Elmira
138 Pounds: Trevor Hoffmier, Newark Valley
152 Pounds: Greg Kleinsmith, Johnson City
160 Pounds: Zach Colgan, Johnson City
Leading the Way:
Let’s start with two-time titlewinner Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks. Kelly boasted a perfect 37-0 junior season with 31 wins by bonus points. His dominance wasn’t limited to the regular season, as he outscored his opponents in Albany 17-3 and also recorded a pin. The Section 4 standout, who took fourth as a freshman, will try to finish his career as a Blue Devil with three straight times at the top of the podium at the Times Union Center, likely up a weight or two.
Reggie Williams of Johnson City isn’t a state champion … yet. But he’ll be favored to get his first title this year. Williams has been one of the top upperweights in the state since his freshman season. In his ninth grade year, he was sixth in Albany and as a sophomore, he took a few more steps forward, notching second in the Empire State after going 40-3 with all three losses coming to New York champion Tony Fusco of Shenendehowa. To learn more about Reggie Williams, see the link here.
James Benjamin rarely needed a full six minutes for his matches last season. The Vestal wrestler went 38-3 a year ago with 32 pins. In fact, he won four bouts at the state tournament on his way to fifth place and all four victories were by fall (and all in less than three minutes). As the highest returning placer from the 182-pound bracket in Albany, Benjamin will have a good chance to end his career at or near the top of the podium.
Also looking to step up higher on the medal stand is Jimmy Overhiser, who racked up a 31-4 mark on the way to fourth at 106 pounds and who participated in some high profile offseason events, such as the Disney Duals with Team New York Kong in Florida.
Also Keep an Eye On . . .
Reggie Williams isn’t the only person to watch on the Johnson City squad. He is surrounded by quality wrestlers, including returning qualifiers Greg Kleinsmith (26-10 as a freshman 152 pounder) and Zach Colgan (39-8 at 160 pounds with a pin over Fox Lane’s Matt Pasqualini in Albany). Winning Section 4 titles meant more than just a trip to the state tournament for Colgan and Kleinsmith last year. According to head coach Jordan Glenn, both made “family history” as their fathers and/or uncles had wrestled for the Wildcats in the past and had come close to capturing Section crowns, but hadn’t quite achieved the feat. Glenn believes that both will win more matches this year in Albany, and also has high hopes for a number of young wrestlers on the squad, including another Colgan (Isaiah), who won over 20 matches as an eighth grader at 99 pounds.
Jake Green (Chenango Forks) – Kyle Kelly is unlikely to be the only person racking up points for Chenango Forks this year in the postseason. Jake Green went 1-2 at the state championships in 2012, but he did so with a very challenging draw. His three matches were against the top two seeds in the bracket (Mark Raghunandan and Corey Jamison) and the eventual champion, Dylan Realbuto. Green was in every match, defeating Jamison, while dropping a 6-4 decision to Realbuto and a three-pointer to Raghunandan. He proved he could hang with some of the best and will look to get over the top in 2013.
“He was good enough to place last year but faced some really tough wrestlers in a strong weight class,” said Union Endicott coach Josh Ruff. “He put in the time after the season and I would be really surprised if he didn’t place this year.”
Richie Burke (Ithaca) – As a ninth grader, Burke made his second trip to wrestle at the Times Union Center. He capped off a 29-7 year by going 1-2, losing to the fourth and fifth place finishers. Four of his other setbacks during the season came to qualifier Jake Green (three times) and state champion William Koll, while he registered a victory over Division II qualifier Nate Hayes of Windsor. Burke will look to build off victories such as that one in his sophomore season.
Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb (Newark Valley) – As a sophomore, Hoffmier compiled an impressive 28-4 mark with 18 pins. In Albany, he began with a loss against runner up Alexis Blanco of Section 11 but rebounded with a victory before a one-point setback against Section 1’s Tom Grippi ended the competition for him. However, he and teammate Derek Holcomb should once again form a formidable duo in the Newark Valley lineup. Holcomb, who had over 30 wins in 2011-12, recorded several quality victories, including one over All-State wrestler Dan Dickman from Greene. In addition, Holcomb made the medal stand at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach. He hopes to add to his accolades in February in the state capital.
“They’re both really talented kids,” Ruff said. “I could see both of them winning matches at the state tournament. Holcomb got caught up in a tough match at Sectionals and got upset, but he has a great chance of getting to Albany this year.”
Alex Francik (Vestal) – As a 152-pound junior, Francik sported a 34-2 record, with 23 pins and only six regular decisions. He defeated Greg Kleinsmith 7-5 in late January before the Johnson City wrestler returned the favor with a one-point win in the Section tournament. In his final high school season, Francik will look to take the next step to the state championships.
The Team Race . . .
Union-Endicott ran away with the Division I team title in 2012 by over 40 points with tremendous balance – 13 wrestlers were fourth or higher in their weight class (and two others competed in the fifth place tilt). Ten of those grapplers are back, including second place finisher Mikey Carr (106) and third place medalist Heze Morgan (120). In addition, fourth placers Kyle Hughes, Xavian Hughes, Nathan Bomysoad and Lucas Depofi are slated to take the mat again.
Ruff believes that many of those wrestlers are ready for breakout years. Bomysoad, for example, earned 30 wins at 152 pounds, including a victory over Greg Kleinsmith (who won the rematch). Ruff believes he is ready to take the next step.
“Nate wrestles so hard,” the coach said. “His work ethic is incredible and he showed he could beat high caliber kids last year.” Two of the many other wrestlers Ruff believes are ready to compete at a higher level are Zack Bendick, who won over 20 matches as a freshman and Xavian Hughes, who took fourth in the Section as a sophomore at 132 pounds.
“I’m confident that Xavian can wrestle with anyone in the section on his feet. If he improves on the mat, he could qualify for states. And Bendick is very talented. He has improved so much since last season and is ready to wrestle the top caliber guys.”
All of those returners will certainly put significant points on the board, but sizable scoring was lost with the departure of Section champions Richie Lupo and Tyler Bayer as well as Jordan Billet (second), Tyler Hubbert (third) and Tyler Allen (third). In addition, 2012 Section 4 runner up at 160 pounds, Sammy Davis, suffered an injury in football that will keep him out at least until January. Those losses will open the door for challengers such as last year’s runner up and third place team, Vestal and Johnson City, respectively.
“We were very well balanced last year,” Ruff said. “We didn’t really have superstars, but we had a tough guy in every weight class. This year is a little different. We bring back Lucas Depofi at 220 but we graduated most of our other upperweights and now with Sammy Davis’s injury, we’re a little thin there. We do feel, though, that we’re stacked in the lightweights and middleweights and we do bring back a lot of points. I think if we continue to work really hard, we’ll be challenging for the title at the section tournament.”
Also clearly in the mix is Johnson City, which has significant firepower. The squad is led by the trio discussed above: Reggie Williams, Zach Colgan and Greg Kleinsmith. In addition, four wrestlers who lost only once at the Section tournament a year ago, juniors Anthony Johns, Joseph Hamdan and Conner Halladay as well as freshman Isaiah Colgan, will look to improve upon their showings. Meanwhile, Corey McCormick, Nick Bidwell, Joshua Dember and Nikola Cejic will bring experience to the table. Reggie Williams spoke with excitement about his squad’s potential in 2012-13.
“We have a great coaching staff and a great team,” Williams said. “We’re better than people think. The sky’s the limit for us at Johnson City.”
Union Endicott and Johnson City will be tested by Vestal, which returns six wrestlers who were top four a year ago, including All-Stater James Benjamin. The Golden Bears graduated 220-pound state qualifier Anthony Osman and fourth placer Andre Strano, but will be a threat with Alex Francik, heavyweight Juwin Jumpp and young up and comers Robert Mastronardi (third at 126 as a freshman), Owen Jarrold (third at 132 in ninth grade) and Hunter Beck (fourth at 106 as an eighth grader). Other experienced wrestlers who competed in the fifth place bouts last year such as Alex Crostley, Tom Flynn, Collin Vangordon and David Gardner will try to push Vestal higher in the race.
Newark Valley has some heavy hitters to account for, including returning champion Trevor Hoffmier and other top three placers Vinnie Darpino, Dan Geisenhof and Derek Holcomb.
While Union Endicott won the section by a significant number of points a year ago, a 40-point margin between first and second seems a lot less likely this year.
Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Joe Nelson, Oxford, Third Place
113 Pounds: William Koll, Lansing, Third Place
126 Pounds: Tristan Rifanburg, Norwich, Sixth Place
132 Pounds: Connor Lapresi, Lansing, State Champion
152 Pounds: Dan Dickman, Greene, Fourth Place
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Dylan Wood, Walton
106 Pounds: Sean Ballard, Whitney Point
113 Pounds: Nate Hayes, Windsor
120 Pounds: Austin Ryan, Unatego
132 Pounds: Frank Garcia, Norwich
145 Pounds: Kyle Halladay, Chenango Valley
160 Pounds: Mike Beckwith, Greene
170 Pounds: Ryan Wolcott, Waverly
182 Pounds: Mike Beers, Walton
195 Pounds: Mark Viviano, Bainbridge-Guilford-Afton
220 Pounds: Dillon Hurlbert, Marathon
Senior Connor Lapresi of Lansing is looking to end his high school career with a second consecutive state crown before heading off to Bucknell. After avenging his only regular season loss (to Wesley Blanding) in the semifinals in Albany, Lapresi controlled the finals against Curt Rowley to end his junior campaign with a gold medal. Lapresi hasn’t limited his wrestling success to the Empire State, as he was an All-American in Virginia Beach at both the NHSCA Freshman and Sophomore Nationals in 2010 and 2011.
Lapresi isn’t the only Bobcats grappler with title aspirations. Teammate William Koll has made the medal stand in both of his appearances at the state tournament. As a freshman, he captured the 103-pound crown with a fall over multiple-time state placer Trey Aslanian of Edgemont. This past February, Koll took third at 113 pounds in a bracket that featured at least five past medalists. He also was the New York State Greco Roman and Freestyle champion in May, winning both brackets in dominant fashion. Additionally, Koll has demonstrated his national competitiveness on multiple occasions, with strong performances at the Disney Duals and a runner up finish at the NHSCA Freshman Nationals in 2011.
Tristan Rifanburg also knows what it’s like to place second nationally, as he did just that at the NHSCA Freshman tournament this spring. That showing came after the Norwich wrestler earned his third consecutive medal in Albany, taking sixth in a deep 126-pound class. Rifanburg will look to get back to a familiar place in 2013 at the Times Union Center – the Saturday night finals. He was a state champion as a seventh grader at 96 pounds and a runner up a year later. For all his accomplishments, Intermat has Rifanburg ranked as the #45 sophomore in the country.
Section 4 offers a number of other wrestlers who can challenge for top billing this season in Albany. Joe Nelson of Oxford entered the state tournament as the top seed last year and after absorbing an upset to eventual runner up Nick Casella of Locust Valley, bounced back to earn third place. Greene’s Dan Dickman also lost his second bout at the Times Union Center last year at 152 pounds, but came back to take fourth.
But other than those who were All-State before, here are some other wrestlers to keep tabs on this year . . .
Lightweights and Middleweights:
Austin Ryan (Unatego) – In his freshman season, Ryan picked up over 30 wins and made an appearance at the state tournament, where he went 1-2. Scott Stafford, who handed him four of his losses, has graduated and one Section 4 coach mentioned that he believes Ryan is primed for a breakout year. Unatego teammate Codie Nichols is another wrestler who could have a big campaign after going 37-6 last season.
Frank Garcia (Norwich) – The Norwich wrestler had a strong ninth grade season at 132 pounds, racking up a 36-5 mark with 11 falls and coming within one win of becoming All-State in Albany. Garcia dropped multiple close decisions to state champion Connor Lapresi, including a 3-2 result in the quarterfinals at the Times Union Center. The medal stand seems within the sophomore’s reach this season.
Jordan Torbitt (Whitney Point) – Torbitt wasn’t intimidated as an eighth grade middleweight, compiling a 29-6 record with 14 pins at 145 and 152 pounds. Half of his losses were close decisions against wrestlers who placed in the top five at the state tournament – Dan Dickman of Greene, Wesley Blanding of Chittenango and Isaiah Riccio of Beaver River. After the tough competition during the season, Torbitt excelled on the national stage, winning the NHSCA Middle School national title at 154 pounds in Virginia. He will be a freshman to watch.
Kyle Halliday (Chenango Valley) – The senior boasted a 33-3 record in 2012, with 29 victories coming by bonus points. He injury defaulted out of the state tournament after an opening round defeat, but registered several quality wins during course of the year, including over state qualifiers JT Romagnoli, Tyler Spann (twice), Greg Kleinsmith, and Richie Lupo.
And moving into the higher weights . . .
Mike Beckwith (Greene) – Beckwith faced a number of setbacks in an abbreviated 20-2 season in 2011-12. However, he was able to get back on the mat for the Section 4 tournament, where he was completely in control of his bouts with two pins and two major decisions. He has the talent to be on the podium, and although he dropped a pair of two-point matches at the state tournament this past year, he will be looking for more in 2013.
“Mike had a tough year,” Greene coach Tim Jenks said. “First an injury, then a car accident. He only had 11 days of practice between Christmas and the Section finals. It’s amazing that he won the Section with so little practice. What hurt him at the states was his conditioning. In the close matches, he just didn’t have the gas. We believe he’ll have a great year.”
Christian Dietrich (Greene) – Dietrich has the potential to be one of the Section’s best as he is set to return from a knee injury that kept him out for the 2011-12 campaign. He accomplished the rare feat of placing in the middleweights as a seventh grader as he took sixth at 152 at the 2011 state tournament. Now an upperweight who may compete anywhere from 170 to 195 according to Jenks, he is ready to pick up from where he left off two years ago and ascend higher on the podium as a freshman. Jenks also mentioned that junior Joel Roselle may open some eyes this year after a solid sophomore season where he took third in the Section. “It was the first time he wrestled in a while,” Jenks said. “He’ll be back and he’ll be tough at 170 or 182.”
While Greene offers some tough wrestlers like Beckwith, Dietrich and Roselle in the upperweights, they’ll have plenty of competition in the Section as three returning top 8 wrestlers will take the mat – Mike Beers, Ryan Wolcott and Dillon Hurlbert, as will qualifier Mark Viviano.
Mike Beers (Walton) – Keegan Cerwinski was a bit of nemesis for Beers last year, handing him three losses. Still, Greene coach Jenks was impressed with what Beers showed in those bouts and pointed to him as a wrestler to watch in 2012-13. The Walton grappler notched 28 victories, including 19 pins and came within one win of earning All-State honors in Albany after he dropped a 2-1 decision in his last bout at the Times Union Center.
Ryan Wolcott (Waverly) – Wolcott didn’t get an easy road in Albany, going 2-2 with both of his losses to top three finishers (Nick Mitchell and Burke Paddock). Wolcott and Paddock were the only entrants at 170 pounds that weren’t juniors or seniors. He’ll have a great opportunity to get on the podium this time.
Dillon Hurlbert (Marathon) – Like Beers and Wolcott, Hurlbert split his four matches at the state tournament. He was third in Section 4, but there was no shame in that, as he stood behind state champion Kyle Stanton and fourth place finisher Nick Talcott. As a junior, the Marathon wrestler went 40-8 with more than 25 pins. With only three of the top 8 competitors at 220 pounds returning, he will have a good chance to end his career with a medal.
Not to be forgotten is fellow upperweight Mark Viviano from Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton, who got a wildcard bid to Albany. He had close to 30 wins, including a victory over state qualifier Kegan Levesque in the Section 4 tournament after losing to him the previous week. With the graduation of Ryan Todd, who defeated Viviano twice, including at the Times Union Center, Viviano will be expected to make a return trip to the state capital.
Division II Team Race . . .
Greene, the returning champion, lost All-Staters Keegan Cerwinski and Kyle Stanton to the college ranks. But the Trojans, who won the Section 4 title by 13.5 points, will enter the campaign as the favorites as they bring back gold medalists Dan Dickman and Mike Beckwith as well as three other placers – Brendan Wheeler (third at 106), Joel Roselle (third at 170) and Trevor Parrish (fifth at 138). The addition of Christian Dietrich will also be significant.
“We have great kids coming back, including some who missed last year with injuries,” Jenks said. “I think we should be the team to beat, but we do have some questions. I’m not sure whether we’ll have a 99 pounder and we need to figure out some things with our lineup. We have a lot of great kids in the same weight classes and we’re not sure yet how we’re going to iron it out. I look forward to a great year.”
Who can challenge Greene for the title? The list of possibilities is long.
There are teams that are lead by a few top-notch wrestlers, such as Lansing and Norwich, the second and third place teams in 2012, respectively. The Bobcats feature state champions William Koll and Connor Lapresi as well as freshman Greg Lee, who was fourth at 106 as an eighth grader. However, they will have to replace the points of standouts Ryan Todd and Corey Dake.
As for Norwich, Rifanburg and Garcia will tally significant points, but they, like Lansing, lost substantial points in the form of four graduated Section placers.
Jenks mentioned a pair of teams that could challenge on the strength of a number of wrestlers that saw success in last year’s postseason – Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton and Unatego. Bainbridge offers a solid team, with five of its six Section placers returning, including runner up Mark Viviano and a trio of fourth placers – Austin Carr, Justin Cirigliano, and Jesse Griswold.
Unatego had three finalists a year ago and all three are back – Austin Ryan, Kevin Thayer and Codie Nichols. When you add Ryan Marszal (third at 145), Leland Slawson (fourth at 152) and Lucas DeJoy (sixth at 132) into the mix, it seems likely that the team can improve upon its eighth place showing.
Also looking to make its mark again is Chenango Valley, led by Kyle Halliday and a pair of sophomores – Anthony Colon and Billy Liberati, and Tioga with five 2012 Section medalists, including fourth placers Kaleb Stone and Tyler Spires.
Special thanks to all the coaches and wrestlers who contributed to this story.
More Season Previews:
Season Preview Features (more to come):
Section 1 Feature: Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium
Section 4 Feature: Looking for “Number Nine”: Reggie Williams Aims to Make History at Johnson City
Section 5 Feature: The “Miracle” Continues: The Return of Aaron Paddock
Section 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak