Section 3 finished second in the Division II state championships last year, with five finalists and three champions. Two of those titlewinners, Nick Tighe (Phoenix) and Zack Zupan (Canastota) look to finish their careers atop the podium before heading to Binghamton. Carthage’s Shayne Brady made an impressive run to the finals a year ago in Division I and looks to move step higher on the podium in his final season of high school wrestling. For more on the wrestlers and teams to watch in Section 3 in 2012-13, read on.
(Special thanks to John Drew of cnywrestling.com for his significant contributions to this story).
2012 Returning State Placewinners
Sixth Place: Alex Herringshaw, Holland Patent, 99 Pounds
Third Place: Ryan Snow, General Brown, 106 Pounds
State Champion: Nick Tighe, Phoenix, 126 Pounds
Third Place: Isaiah Riccio, Beaver River, 138 Pounds
Sixth Place: Tyler Silverthorn, General Brown, 160 Pounds
State Champion: Zack Zupan, Canastota, 170 Pounds
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
113 Pounds: Laken Cook, Illion
152 Pounds: Tyler Spann, Adirondack
160 Pounds: Matt Fisher, Oneida
285 Pounds: Brandon Fayle, Lowville
Seniors to Watch:
Fans in Section 3 will be treated to two of the top seniors in New York this season with Zack Zupan of Canastota and Nick Tighe of Phoenix looking to pick up some more hardware in their final high school campaigns.
Both stood on top of the podium in Albany last year after making their way through two of the toughest weight classes at the event.
Zupan came out on top of a 170 pound bracket that included current Division I wrestler Nick Mitchell (who came into the tournament undefeated) and two wrestlers that finished second at the NHSCA Nationals a few weeks later (Burke Paddock of Warsaw and Troy Seymour of Peru).
Tighe, already a two-time champion, was simply dominant, earning three pins in four matches to capture the title in a field containing such wrestlers as Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (one of the top 50 juniors in the nation, according to Intermat), multi-time placer Corey Dake of Lansing and former state champion Tristan Rifanburg of Norwich. His 47-2 year featured 31 total falls and only six regular decisions.
Tyler Spann (Adirondack) – Spann had big wins over Kaleb Smith and Rowdy Prior in the Section tournament last season to punch his ticket to Albany, and a return trip is very likely. He tallied a 35-6 record as a junior at 145 and 152 pounds, going 1-2 at the Times Union Center with his losses coming against state champion Ben Haas and fourth place finisher Dan Dickman of Greene.
Matt Fisher (Oneida) – John Drew described Fisher as an “absolute gym rat” who “possesses freakish strength for someone his size”. He won more than 35 bouts a year ago at 160 pounds and went 1-2 at the state tournament, although both of his losses were by one point. He will look to take a few steps further next year to make the medal stand as a senior.
Also Keep an Eye On . . .
They weren’t state champions last year, but the following are wrestlers to watch this upcoming season.
Laken Cook, Ilion – Cook didn’t make the podium in 2012 but has in the past (fourth at 96 pounds as an eighth grader and fifth at 103 as a freshman). He compiled a 36-7 record with 20 pins in 2011-12, including six straight falls in January. With around 125 victories already in his career, he is a lightweight to watch as he tries to make a return to All-State status.
Brandon Fayle, Lowville – Fayle was within one victory of placing at the state tournament in 2012. He won a pair of bouts in Albany and lost to both the fifth and sixth place finishers by one point. The senior brought a 35-2 record into the Times Union Center, with his two losses to wrestlers he also beat during the campaign. As one of three wrestlers returning from the top 8 a year ago, Fayle could get on the podium – and quite high on the podium – in his last season.
Isaiah Riccio, Beaver River – Riccio earned third place at the state tournament in 2012 at 138 pounds a year after taking fifth at 140 in Albany. The senior has picked up 30 or more wins in each of the past three campaigns. In 2011-12, he notched a 41-3 record with all of his losses coming to All-State wrestlers (two close decisions against runner up Anthony Finocchiaro and against fourth placer Nathan Silverthorn).
Tyler Silverthorn, General Brown – The junior reached the century mark in wins last season when he racked up a 46-5 mark and a sixth place finish at the Times Union Center at 160 pounds. He was the only sophomore to medal at that weight in either Division. (In fact, only one other non-senior placed at 160 — Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West in Division I). Silverthorn also earned All-America status at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach as both a ninth and tenth grader.
Ryan Snow, General Brown – Snow has finished in the top 3 in Albany in each of the past two seasons. The lightweight dropped two bouts in December of his sophomore year, but then proceeded to get his hand raised 33 consecutive times before losing 4-2 to Cheick Ndiaye at the state tournament. He rebounded to take third after earning second the previous February. Snow will be in contention for a first state title this year.
There are also several others who didn’t get a ticket to Albany but have a great chance of finding themselves on the mats at the Times Union Center this February.
Rowdy Prior, Phoenix – Prior went 40-6 as a junior at 152 pounds. He lost to All-State wrestler Frank Affronti of Wayne in the first week of the season in early December and then won 31 out of 34 bouts prior to taking fourth at the Section 3 tournament. Prior defeated multiple state qualifiers during the campaign, such as Conner Fox of Midlakes, Josh Maier of Brockport and Tony Torrese of Fulton. He will certainly be a contender to go to Albany and win some matches on the big stage.
Dan Smith, South Jefferson – According to Drew, Smith has earned All-America honors and is seeking to pick up some more accolades in the Empire State. The junior notched a 35-12 mark last season, including a victory over state fourth place medalist Jared Soule. Six of his losses were to Matt Fisher and Tyler Silverthorn and he may get another chance against those wrestlers again in 2012-13.
Tim Fargo, Lowville – Fargo was mentioned as a possible “sleeper” pick for the upcoming campaign. He had over 35 wins last year with 19 pins at 132 pounds, with a victory over state qualifier Joey Love of Gouverneur.
Drew also believes that the 126/132 pound weight classes are worth tracking this year in Division II. “Those weights look like they could be explosive,” he said. “Junior John Mazza of Mohawk and sophomore Triston Engle of Dolgeville put on some of the most entertaining head-to-head matches of the year last season. Throw General Brown senior Brian Lear and Onondaga sophomore Tyler Field into the mix and you have potentially the deepest weight class in the section. Those wrestlers faced off many times last year, and the results were rarely more than a point or two either way. Very interesting weight class to watch, for sure.” He added that Nick Tighe will of course be the strong favorite wherever he wrestles.
Team Race . . .
Canastota finished 24.5 points ahead of Phoenix last year (although the Firebirds came out on top of Division II statewide in Albany) and the two teams look like they will be fighting for the title again in February.
While both teams suffered significant losses to graduation, including Section finalists Anthony Finocchiaro, Steve Fallon and Travis Conklyn for the Raiders and state champion Tyler Button and Austyn Hayes for the Firebirds, the squads also return several formidable competitors.
In addition to Zupan, Canastota will boast Section runner up (at 113) Nate Walker, two third place finishers from a year ago, senior Wyatt Albanese and junior Jacob Morris and three other medalists – Connor Russ (fifth at 126), Joe Tiller (sixth at 145) and Jesse Puchales (sixth at 182).
For Phoenix, Tighe will lead the way while Rowdy Prior (fourth at 152) and fifth place wrestlers Brad and Nate Dietz will also put significant points on the board.
General Brown, which took third will also make some noise, with Ryan Snow and Tyler Silverthorn leading the charge. Corey Gaffney, who was fifth at 195 will be among the upperweight favorites.
South Jefferson belongs in the discussion as well. The squad went 24-4 last year and was a final four team at the Section 3 dual meet championship as well as fourth at the Section 3 tournament. The Spartans bring back runner up Logan LaFlamme, fourth place finishers Adam Hutchinson (106) and Dan Smith (160) as well as sixth place medalist Ryan Charlebois (195) and could fare very well in the dual meet competition this year.
Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)
Second Place: Shayne Brady, Carthage, 170 Pounds
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Dempsey King, New Hartford
106 Pounds: Kevin Paul, Baldwinsville
113 Pounds: Thomas Hill, Fulton
120 Pounds: Derrick Gray, Indian River
126 Pounds: Antonio Deluco, Rome Free Academy
132 Pounds: Connor Grome, West Genesee
145 Pounds: JT Romagnoli, Jamesville-Dewitt
Top Seniors . . .
Zupan and Tighe weren’t the only Section 3 grapplers in the Saturday night finals this past February. Shayne Brady of Carthage racked up a 38-2 record with 14 pins as a junior. After an end of December loss to Burke Paddock, Brady reeled off over 25 straight victories to earn a state finals bid against Plainedge’s Dan Spurgeon. After earning the silver medal, he’ll be looking to climb one rung higher on the ladder in 2013.
Derrick Gray, Indian River – The Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Section 3 tournament as a junior, Gray had a successful 2011-12 campaign. The senior went 41-4 a year ago with 28 pins and a host of quality victories, including wins against state qualifiers Pat Webster, Curtis Barney, Codey Bond and Rocco Russo. He was one round from making All-State and will no doubt be shooting for that achievement in his final season for Indian River.
Antonio DeLuco (Rome Free Academy) – DeLuco has been a section finalist three times, winning two titles. He was 38-7 last year and earned a victory by major decision in Albany. He will look to get on the medal stand in his final season for the Black Knights.
Tim Sposato (Baldwinsville) – After racking up a 36-5 mark last season, Drew believes the senior could be poised for breakout year in his final campaign. He picked up a win over multiple-time All-State grappler Ryan Snow of General Brown last season.
Also Keep an Eye On . . .
Dempsey King, New Hartford – King sported a 28-5 record in his freshman year, with two wins over state placer Alex Herringshaw of Holland Patent. His draw at states was difficult, as he dropped matches to the top two seeds, Kyle Kelly and Jon Haas, but he will be a threat to go further in 2013.
Ben Honis, Jamesville-Dewitt – Honis made his presence felt in Fargo, earning All-American honors in Cadet Greco and coming within one victory of doing the same in Freestyle. His success in the ultra-competitive event in North Dakota built off a strong sophomore season at 182 pounds, after moving up from 135 pounds as a freshman. Honis went 30-4 and was edged by a point in the Section 3 finals by Garrick Cook, who pinned him early in the season. It seems likely that summer momentum will help him go further in the postseason as a junior.
Mitchell Woodworth, Fulton – “Woodworth never stops wrestling,” Drew said. “I think he’s going to have a huge sophomore year in Section 3. He narrowly lost to Dempsey King in the section finals at 99 pounds (after defeating him in the class finals the week before) and he stood toe-to-toe with Chenango Forks two-time state champ Kyle Kelly at the Bradshaw Tournament last year before bowing out 6-0.” He is likely to move up after a summer of weight training.
Tom Quinlan and Patrick Quinlan, Fayetteville-Manlius – The Quinlan brothers saw a lot of success last season, with junior Tom registering a 34-6 record with second place showings in five different events. He’ll try to get over the hump from silver to gold this season while his brother, 30-9 a year ago will aim for a Section title.
Nick Toutant, Indian River – In his 37-3 freshman season at 106 pounds, Toutant lost three matches, each by a single point. Two of those setbacks came against state qualifiers. The Indian River lightweight also topped All-State wrestlers Alex Herringshaw and Cody Carbery.
Team Race . . .
Indian River was a 16.5 point winner over Fulton in 2012 and the Warriors will be tough again. Most Outstanding Wrestler Derrick Gray returns after a 41-4 season in which he came within one win of placing at states. The other two titlewinners for Indian River, Garrick Cook and Derrek Dalton graduated as did silver medalists Jordan Berry and Matt Simpson. Trying to make up for those losses will be runner up Nick Toutant (106) and senior Michael Mullins (third at 113) as well as a duo of sixth place finishers Sonny McPherson and Jody Brown.
Like Indian River, Fulton brings back a first, second, third and two sixth placers. Also like the Warriors, Fulton said goodbye to several standouts, including All-State grappler Adam Wallace, and Section victors Tony Torrese and Nick Woodworth. Junior Thomas Hill is the returning champion and Mitchell Woodworth the 2012 runner up. Also back are Austin Whitney (third at 106), Connor Aldash (sixth at 132) and Brennan Roberge (sixth at 285). Of course, another significant change for the squad is the loss of 500 match winner Mike Conners, the head coach who spent 25 years at the helm of the program. Chris Stalker will try to start a new legacy as he takes over for a legend.
Carthage could be in the mix based on the firepower in the lineup. Shayne Brady was 38-2 and will be a contender for a state title. Trevor Gibbons, who was second at 285 returns after a 33 win campaign as does third placer William Batey. Quintin Reid and Colin Ryan, fourth and fifth, respectively in 2012 will also be back in a Comets singlet as will Andy McFarland. The only major pointscorer not returning is Josh McFarland, who was third at 145.
For more previews:
Section 1 Feature: Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium