While the first tournament of the season is always something to look forward to, it’s a little more special for some of those headed to the Lynbrook High School this weekend.
“The start of competition is exciting every year,” said Long Beach head coach Ray Adams. “But this year, it’s definitely a little more exciting than usual.”
That has a lot to do with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, as Long Beach was one of the many communities devastated by the storm.
“Every kid was impacted in one way or another,” Adams said. “We had kids whose homes were destroyed, who lost cars, clothes, heat and so much more. Families were displaced. Not a good situation at all.”
Long Beach High School also suffered significant damage to the gym, wrestling room, team uniforms and much more.
It was unclear whether the ninth annual Long Beach “Battle at the Beach” would be held.
“We knew we couldn’t have it at our school,” Adams said. “But we really still wanted to keep the tournament going to start off the season. We knew a lot of teams would be looking forward to coming. We are thankful to Lynbrook coach Richie Renz and Athletic Director Tom Graham who have done so much. They stepped up and offered to run it there.”
While the tournament will be in a new location, it will still have the same tough competition. In addition to Long Beach and Lynbrook, a number of Long Island squads will be in attendance, including one of the state’s best teams – Wantagh. They will be joined by East Meadow, Clarke, South Side, Syosset and Hewlett. Representatives from the PSAL will also make the trip, including Eagle Academy, Wingate and a PSAL All-Star team as well as the CHSAA’s Kellenberg.
The full entry list hadn’t been submitted at the time of the interview, but Adams pointed to the 113-pound class as one that would feature many accomplished wrestlers. Adams mentioned the possibilty of Long Beach’s Steven Sewkumar, Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn and Syosset’s Nick Rondino competing in that bracket, among others.
“Practice has been really good for the kids after everything that happened,” Adams said. “It helped get everyone back with their friends and into a normal routine again. We’ve been traveling about 20 minutes to Calhoun every day to practice and everyone is working really hard. We’ve been trying to make the best out of the situation. We can’t wait to get the season started.”
In addition to the Battle at the Beach, there are a large number of high quality high school tournaments taking place this weekend as wrestling season kicks into high gear, including one not too far away at MacArthur which will include teams from Sections 1, 8, 9, the CHSAA and PSAL.
In fact, there are too many events to mention. However, one to keep an eye on is the Andersen Tournament at Cicero North Syracuse High in Section 3, featuring not only several strong programs in that Section, such as the host school, Canastota, Fulton and South Jefferson, (among many others), but also squads from Section 2 (Amsterdam), 4 (Chenango Forks, Greene, Windsor, Elmira), 5 (Canandaigua, Rush-Henrietta) and 10 (Massena, Canton-Potsdam).
Among the many storylines will be tournament debut of defending state champions Kyle Kelly and Zack Zupan at new weight classes and the start of a new era at Fulton under Chris Stalker after the departure of longtime coach Mike Connors. In addition, fans will have a chance to watch Christian Dietrich of Greene, who accomplished a rare feat when he was All-State as a seventh grader in the middleweights (152 pounds). After missing a full year due to injury, Dietrich made a successful return this week up at 195 pounds, with a pin against Dryden in just over a minute.
On the college scene, the biggest tournament of the weekend takes place in Nevada. Two of the Empire State’s squads, Cornell and Army, will participate in the 32-team Cliff Keen Invitational, which features close to 70 ranked wrestlers this year.
Kyle Dake was the champion in Vegas a year ago at 157 and will look to repeat at 165. In the 2011 version of the competition, the Big Red also had finalists at 125 (Frank Perrelli) and 184 (Steve Bosak).
Cornell’s new starting 125 pounder, Nahshon Garrett, is off to a 13-0 start in his freshman campaign and will look to go deep into the tournament in a class featuring six of the nation’s top 20. With Bosak not ready to return to the lineup yet, former Palmyra Macedon star Craig Scott will look to keep the Big Red on the podium at 184 and improve upon his 10-2 rookie record.
Both Mike Nevinger and Chris Villalonga have placed at this event in the past and will aim to do so again, at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively. The Big Red captured the tournament title in 2010.
Army will take part in the Cliff Keen for the second consecutive year. The Black Knights will be led by nationally-ranked 149 pounder Daniel Young and 184 pounder Collin Wittmeyer, who has compiled a 10-5 record to date. In his rookie campaign, Bryce Barnes has picked up nine wins at 197 pounds, matching the victory total of 165 pounder Paul Hancock.
In other Division I action, both Hofstra and Binghamton will be looking for their first ‘W” of the season when the Pride take on Penn, Lehigh and Drexel and Binghamton faces Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Buffalo will participate in the Nittany Lion Open in Pennsylvania.
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