By Mike Carey
Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)
285 Pounds: El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Columbia, Second Place
132 Pounds: Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa, Third Place
138 Pounds: David Almaviva, Shenendehowa, Third Place
113 Pounds: Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam, Fourth Place
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa
106 Pounds: Corey Ali, Shenendehowa
106 Pounds: Dominic Inzana, Saratoga
113 Pounds: Jesse Porter, Shenendehowa
120 Pounds: Zach Joseph, Shenendehowa
132 Pounds: Joey Butler, Burnt Hills
152 Pounds: Angelo Kress, Columbia
Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) – Arguably the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state, Kelley will have laser focus this season as he attempts to claim an elusive state title. His only loss last season came at the hands of state champion Jamel Hudson in the state tournament semifinals. Kelley has had a busy offseason highlighted by his fourth place finish at the Freestyle Junior Nationals in Fargo. In August, Kelley gave a verbal commitment to continue his career at Binghamton.
David Almaviva (Shenendehowa) – At last year’s state tournament, Almaviva lost his opening match to Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi . . . and then reeled off five straight victories and took home third place honors. Like Kelley, Almaviva placed in the prestigious tournament at Fargo, earning eighth place honors at 145 pounds. He will also be continuing his academic and wrestling careers at Binghamton.
El Shaddai VanHoesen (Columbia) – The heavyweight was one takedown away from a state title last year. The Columbia senior lost his “all-wildcard” final bout against Evan Kappatos of Syosset by a score of 3-2. His team’s competitive schedule affords the 285 pounder the opportunity to grapple against many of the top wrestlers in the state. Of his seven losses last year, five were at the hands of foes who finished in the top four in New York.
Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)
Corey Ali, Levi Ashley and Zach Joseph (Shenendehowa) – Seven Plainsmen competed at the state tournament a year ago and the Section 2 power will likely send a large group again. Ali, the defending Section 2 champion, is expected to be among them. He was not able to compete at the state tournament last year, but prior to the event, he posted victories over some impressive foes, including qualifiers Dominic Inzana and Kyler Harrington and All-State wrestler Johnny Stramiello from Section 9. Ali is motivated to make a run at a state title this year and it won’t be surprising if he does. Teammate Ashley didn’t get a bid to states last year after taking second in Section 2 behind Matt Lashway, who was the number two seed at the Times Union Center. However, he went 34-7 in 2011-12 including quality victories over wrestlers such as state placers Rrok Ndokaj, Andrew Jones and Tyler Morris (twice). Frank Popolizio said he believes Ashley “will shock some people” in 2012-13. Joseph is looking for a return trip to the state capital after going 1-2 in Albany after a season with over 30 wins.
Brandon Lapi (Amsterdam) – Without question, Lapi is extremely talented. He finished last season with a 50-4 record, with two of his losses coming in Albany to state champion Dylan Realbuto of Somers and third place finisher Patrick Skinner, who now wrestles for Rider. Both of those matches were tight, with a 4-3 decision against Realbuto and a 4-2 margin versus Skinner. It is likely that he’ll be high on the podium again in the state capital.
Angelo Kress (Columbia) – In a 41-6 sophomore season, Kress registered 26 pins and came within one win of making All-State at 152 pounds. He dropped his opening round match in Albany to eventual runner up Nicky Hall of Longwood but responded with a pair of victories in the wrestlebacks. The Columbia wrestler’s achievements go beyond the state borders, as he was an All-American at the NHSCA Nationals in both 2010 and 2011. He also showed his prowess in the international styles, going a combined 13-1 at the Cadet Freestyle and Greco Duals for Team New York in Florida. He will be a podium threat in February of 2013.
Blake Retell (Shaker) – After winning Section 2 titles in 2010 and 2011, Retell missed the postseason a year ago while injured. Up to that point, he had been impressive, notching a 28-2 record at 120 pounds, including a victory over Jesse Porter. He captured his bracket at the Journeymen Classic earlier this fall and after winning one match in each of his two visits to the state tournament, he’ll be looking to get back and win some more as a junior.
Joey Butler (Burnt Hills) – Butler racked up a 41-6 mark with 29 pins. He took second in the Section behind Kelley and got his hand raised once in Albany after receiving a wildcard bid. Now a junior, Butler is looking to go further in a follow up trip to the state capital. He is off to a 4-0 start.
Frank Nassivera (Queensbury) – Nassivera won over 30 matches as a sophomore at 160 pounds. A few weeks after the season was over, he earned All-America status at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach. At that tournament, he lost his first round match but responded with five straight victories in the wrestlebacks. After a loss, he came out on top in overtime in the fifth place bout. That performance could propel him to a breakthrough year in Section 2 in 2012-13.
Brendan Goldup (La Salle) – Goldup took sixth at 112 pounds as a ninth grader in 2010 at the state tournament. He’s also made an impact in the international styles, including taking fifth nationally in Greco Roman at Fargo this summer at 152 pounds. According to Columbia head coach Anthony Servidone, Goldup has what it takes not only to get back to the state tournament but to do some damage there.
John McHugh (Columbia) – McHugh took third at the Section 2 event a year ago to cap off a 42-8 campaign for Columbia. Servidone believes he’s primed for a breakout year. His younger brother Matt has earned All-America honors in Schoolboy events and is another wrestler to monitor after earning 20 wins as a seventh grader.
And A Few More to Keep Tabs On . . . (Sophomores and Younger)
Dominic Inzana (Saratoga) – Inzana went 44-8, primarily at 106 pounds as a ninth grader. Five of his losses were to New York placers, including a pair in Albany, where he came within one win of earning All-State honors.
Chris Tangora (Bethlehem Central) – As a freshman 182 pounder, Tangora won 26 matches with 18 pins for Bethlehem Central. His offseason work put him on the radar of wrestlers to watch when he earned All-America status at 195 pounds at the Cadet Nationals in Fargo.
Kevin Parker and Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa) – Parker won more than 30 matches as an eighth grader at 99 pounds, including solid wins over Division II placer Luis Weirebach and qualifier Tyler Hartinger. He earned a trip to Albany, where he went 0-2. Also making an appearance in the state capital was Porter after a 36-7 campaign at 113 pounds. Porter had a successful summer in the international styles, taking fourth in Greco Roman in Fargo at 132 pounds.
Kyle Greene (Columbia) – Greene went 41-7 as a freshman at 120 pounds in 2011-12, including a win over Zach Joseph. According to Servidone, he’s ready to take the next step this year and will be a contender in the lightweights.
Shenendehowa is currently the only Empire State squad in Intermat’s national rankings. There is little doubt that the Plainsmen will be a force. Servidone said simply, “Shenendehowa has an exceptional team.”
While the Plainsmen will be difficult to beat not only in Section 2 but statewide, there are several other large school teams to keep tabs on in Section II this year, according to Servidone, including Columbia, Burnt Hills, Queensbury and Averill Park.
Columbia did part with high quality wrestlers such as Evan Wallace, Matt Greene and Brendan Morgan, however the squad returns a pair of qualifiers from 2012 in state runner up Van Hoesen and Kress and several others ready to make an impact this season.
“We lost quite a lot of guys to graduation, but we still have a very good team,” Servidone said. “We’ll have some guys do very well this year.”
Burnt Hills welcomes back state qualifier Joey Butler as well as bronze medalist Race Viedt, fourth placer Jake Ashcraft and several other medalists, including Christian Gramuglia, Nolan Hale and Jack Hatton.
“I think Burnt Hills will be a very good and consistent dual team,” Servidone said. “They return almost everyone.”
Queensbury said goodbye to Section champion Matt Lashway and second placers Casey Jones, Josh St. John, Mike Hewitt and Alex Pontiff as well as medalists Tyler Wood and Nick Rouse. However, the squad returns plenty of talent and experience with bronze winners Evan Myers and Frank Nassivera as well as additional medalists Nick Robbins, Brandon Winchip and Brian Stevens.
“Queensbury graduated a number of guys, but they always put a lot of good guys out there. I expect they will again this year. I also think there will several other good teams in the mix, including Averill Park.”
Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)
285 Pounds: Alex Soutiere, Ravena CS, Second Place
182 Pounds: Tyler Morris, Salem, Fourth Place
99 Pounds: Luis Weierbach, Hoosick Falls, Fifth Place
170 Pounds: Brad Burns, Hoosick Falls, Sixth Place
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)
99 Pounds: Alexis Bleau, Schoharie
106 Pounds: Carter Merecki, Salem
106 Pounds: Jerome Gladney, Ravena CS
113 Pounds: Kyler Harrington, Hudson Falls
120 Pounds: Al Aubin, Whitehall
138 Pounds: John Diekel, Whitehall
145 Pounds: Geno Brancati, Hudson Falls
145 Pounds: Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg
152 Pounds: Nick Gallo, Schalmont
170 Pounds: Mike Green, Colbeskill-Richmondville
220 Pounds: Joe Sprung, Berne-Knox Westerlo
Alex Soutiere (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk) – Soutiere had a good regular season and an outstanding state tournament. In the semifinals, he pulled of one of the bigger upsets of the tournament when he upended Section 5 standout Kacee Sauer by a score of 5-3. Do not be surprised if Soutiere uses the momentum of last season’s finale to propel him to his ultimate goal, the state title.
Brad Burns (Hoosick Falls) – Burns had a 27-4 record last year, with all four of his losses coming to wrestlers who placed in the top 6 in New York. Expect Burns to have another stellar year and improve upon his sixth place finish in Albany.
Tyler Morris (Salem) – Morris earned fourth in New York in 2012 at 182 pounds for Salem. He began the state tournament with a loss in his opening bout but bounced back with four straight wins before dropping the bronze contest to Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer. With only three of the top eight finishers back in the bracket, Morris will look to move up the podium. Looking to join him on the stand is teammate Carter Merecki, a junior, who came within one victory over making All-State last year when he went 33-4 at 106 pounds.
Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)
Luis Weirebach (Hoosick Falls) – Weirebach won over 30 matches at 99 pounds and took fifth place in New York State. Now a junior, Weirebach will aim to move a bit higher on the podium in the lightweights.
John Diekel (Whitehall) Diekel had over 30 wins at 138 pounds, with a Section 2 championship and a 2-2 performance at the state tournament. He’ll try to make the medal stand in his final year of high school wrestling. Trying to do the same is Diekel’s teammate Al Aubin, who went to Albany as well after a 25-win campaign.
Mike Green (Cobleskill-Richmondville) – Green went 39-6 in his junior campaign at 170 pounds. In the Section 2 final, he dropped a one-point decision to All-State wrestler Brad Burns. He followed that up by going 1-2 at the Times Union Center and is looking for a return trip.
Joe Sprung (Berne-Knox Waterlo) – Sprung and teammate Matt Casullo were the first wrestlers in their school’s history to make the New York state tournament. Sprung lost a match the first weekend of the season and then reeled off over 30 straight victories to win the Section 2 title at 220 pounds. In Albany, Sprung came within one match of placing and will look to make more history for his school as a senior.
Youth Movement (Sophomores and Younger)
Nick Gallo (Schalmont) – As a freshman 152 pounder, Gallo went 41-7, including a pair of victories at the state tournament, which left him one victory short of making All-State. His losses were to the third (Tristan Hamner) and fourth place finishers (Dan Dickman, by a 4-3 score).
Geno Brancati (Hudson Falls) – Brancati recorded a 31-8 mark as a freshman at 145 pounds, earning the Section 2 title and a trip to Albany. He won a match at the state tournament, defeating fellow Section 2 grappler Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg 3-2. It was the second time Brancati had topped Lawrence by one point in a matter of weeks. Lawrence is also one to watch, as he went 39-8 as a ninth grader, and also made the journey to the Times Union Center. Brancati’s teammate Kyler Harrington, a senior, had over 40 wins at 113 pounds a year ago and went to the state capital. His opening bout was a loss to eventual state champion Sean Peacock, but he rebounded with a win by fall in his next match, which he will look to build on in 2012-13.
Alexis Bleau (Schoharie) – As an eighth grader, Bleau registered a 41-5 record at 99 pounds, taking second in the Section tournament and earning a wildcard spot at the Times Union Center. The first state qualifier in school history, Bleau will be looking for more in 2013.
Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George) – Hoffman is a wrestler we were told to keep an eye on over the next few years. He competed at 126 pounds as a seventh grader, winning 24 matches, and remained active in the offseason, including recent trips to Las Vegas and California to wrestle some of the West Coast’s best.
Thank you to Frank Popolizio and Anthony Servidone.
Season Preview Articles:
Section 11 Preview
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 9 Feature: Unstoppable: Vinny Vespa Wrestles Again After Confronting Cancer
Section 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak