Eastern States Recap: The Champions and Other Highlights from the Weekend in Section 9

Another Eastern States Classic is in the books. Wrestling fans were treated to a tremendous weekend of many of the best New York (and a few other states) have to offer.  Wantagh won the team title, led by heavyweight Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) Dan McDevitt, the champion at 170 pounds.  Also taking MOW honors were Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley (middleweights) and Shoreham-Wading River’s TJ Fabian (lightweights).  Fabian had more hardware to take home as well as he captured Champion of Champions honors after winning an absolutely loaded bracket at 126 pounds.

There were many highlights over the two days. Let’s take a look at some of them.

99 Pounds:

Champion: Chris Cuccolo of Pine Bush came into the event as the second ranked wrestler in his weight . . . in Section 9. (He took fifth in the section in 2012).  Cuccolo has had success on the national level in the international styles and came up with a huge weekend in folk, outscoring his opponents 14-4 plus a pin.

And Also . . .  The semifinal matchup between Jake Yankloski of Wayne and John Busiello of Eastport South Manor looked like a battle between two wrestlers we will hear from in the postseason.  (Yankloski won in the tiebreakers). Yankloski began the season dominant up at 106 and has continued to look good at 99 while Busiello won his first three matches by technical fall or pin before a solid win over top seed Andrew Flanagan for third.

106 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Champion: Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle was stingy on his path to the championship. After a first round technical fall, he shut out his next two opponents and defeated Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn in the title bout. Barbaria repeated victories over two of the state’s top grapplers  – Quinn and Corning’s Jimmy Overhiser on his way to gold.  He had defeated Quinn a few weeks ago and Overhiser at the Journeymen Classic.

And Also . . . Shoreham-Wading River’s James Szymanski, the eighth seed, impressed throughout the tournament, taking third.  He dropped a 3-2 battle to top-ranked Tony Recco in the quarterfinals but earned four straight wins in the wrestlebacks, including a pin against Overhiser and a major decision over Golan Cohen for bronze.  Cohen, the #10 seed from Colonie, also had a strong run in the consolations to take fourth.

113 Pounds:

Champion: Nick Piccininni began the event as the favorite and showed why as he cruised through a bracket filled with former state placers with a pair of technical falls, a pin, a major and a 5-0 victory in the finals against Gouverneur’s Dillon Stowell.

And Also . . .  There was only one wrestler on the podium at Eastern States who wasn’t All-State in 2012. Rafael Mateo of Midlakes, who made the medal stand in Loch Sheldrake after being seeded 14th, tallied four pins over the weekend and took eighth.

120 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Champion: Danbury’s Kevin Jack was an Eastern States Classic champion for the second straight year, this time at 120.

And Also . . .  It’s clear that Section 1 is stacked at 120 pounds as three of the four semifinalists – John Muldoon, Alex Delacruz and Nick Tolli were from that area. Muldoon went all the way to the finals while Tolli was fifth after making an early statement by defeating highly regarded Steve Michel of Lancaster.  Delacruz was in medal position before being disqualified. But that wasn’t all.  Blaise Benderoth, the ninth seed, grabbed third with an 8-1 showing. The North Rockland wrestler was pinned by Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro in the Round of 16 but then responded with six consecutive victories, including a win over state champion Sean Peacock and a 7-2 triumph over Passaro in the third place bout. Throw two-time state runner up Trey Aslanian of Edgemont and Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano into the mix (both were at the tournament) and it should be a very interesting postseason for Section 1 at this weight.

126 Pounds:

Champion: When the #8 seed is a recent national champion (Wantagh’s Chris Araoz), you know you have a tough bracket. Emerging above the rest in a field with a plethora of accomplished wrestlers was Shoreham-Wading River’s TJ Fabian, a fourth place finisher at the state tournament in 2012.  Fabian demonstrated his outstanding mat wrestling and his ability to come through in close matches on his way to the title.  He topped former state champions in both the semis and finals (William Koll and Dylan Realbuto, respectively).

And Also . . . There was a lot of talk about seventh grader Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield, and with good reason.  He placed at 126 pounds in a deep weight in which multiple All-State wrestlers didn’t make the medal stand. Gissendanner, who has made a rapid adjustment to the varsity level, reached the quarterfinals before losing to Koll.  He bounced back like a veteran, beating Grand Street’s Keanu Thompson (who was top 8 in Albany last year) in the consolations before edging 2012 state runner up Justin Cooksey to take seventh.  For more on Gissendanner, from an article we published back in May, see here.

132 Pounds:

Champion: Tristan Rifanburg, the number two seed, controlled his matches on the way to the crown. He picked up an opening round fall before outscoring his next three foes 20-0.  In the finals, he defeated Sam Melikian of Fordham Prep, 8-5.

And Also . . . Melikian came within one victory of placing in the state capital last year.  However, he seems to have taken his wrestling to the next level, dominating in his first five bouts before dropping the finals contest to Rifanburg.

138 Pounds:

Champion: Nick Kelley of Shenendehowa repeated as a champion at this event after winning at 132 last season.  Westfield’s Derek Arnold gave Kelley a battle in the semis (a 3-2 Kelley victory), but otherwise, the future Binghamton Bearcat cruised.  He notched pins in his first three bouts and recorded a 9-1 major over Lansing state champion Connor Lapresi for the title.

And Also . . . Unseeded Skylar Kropman of Penfield took fifth place, including victories over the number six and eight seeds, John Diekel of Whitehall and Joey Butler of Burnt Hills.  Rocky Point’s Tom Dutton, an All-American at both the NHSCAs and Fargo this offseason, once again was impressive to watch.  He took fourth after a pair of losses to Arnold, the Virginia native.

145 Pounds:

Champion: One of the matches we were looking forward to after the brackets were released was Mepham’s Louis Hernandez versus Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva, two of the best in the state.  Hernandez not only beat the number two seed Almaviva 4-2 in that match but also top-ranked Beau Donahue of Westfield, 7-3, to win the championship.  Hernandez came into the event seeded seventh, but will be a force in Albany.  A year ago, he went 1-2 wrestling with a significant injury at the Times Union Center.  This time, he expects much more.

And Also . . . There could be some great matches in late February between wrestlers who looked very good this weekend – Hernandez, Almaviva, Lancaster’s Eric Lewandowski and Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi. On the Division 2 side, Frank Garcia of Norwich, who came within a match of placing last year as a freshman, took fifth.  He had missed a chunk of the season with an injury but has made a nice return.

152 Pounds:

Champion: Not much doubt about the top wrestler here. Corey Rasheed of Longwood pinned his first three opponents, then won 15-4 and 13-0 to earn gold.  He has racked up numerous honors, including three All-State medals, in his career and is the favorite to win his first state title next month.

And Also . . . Although he lost to Rasheed in his last bout, Phoenix’s Rowdy Prior showed that he takes the “Pin2win” mentality of his head coach Gene Mills to heart. Prior registered falls in all four of his matches prior to the finals, including over the sixth and seventh seeds, Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis and Zach Joseph of Shenendehowa.

160 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Warsaw’s Burke Paddock positioned himself for a run at his first state title when he dispatched two top small school opponents in Mike Beckwith and Austin Weigel and then defeated Division I returning runner up Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills, 8-4.

And Also . . . While some New York fans may have been surprised by MacArthur’s Steve Schneider’s third place finish, those on Long Island certainly weren’t. The Nassau County wrestler lost to Grimaldi for the second time in the past few weeks, but captured his other six bouts and showed his ability to win the close ones.  All four of his consolation victories came by two points or less, including over the fifth-seed Nick Gallo and the sixth-seed Mike Beckwith.  The performance of Schneider’s third place match opponent, Andrew Psomas of Monsignor Farrell, should also be mentioned.  Psomas was unseeded coming into the event and went all the way to fourth, including victories over four seeded grapplers (Tyler Silverthorn, Stephen Aiello, Austin Weigel and Nate Bomysoad).

170 Pounds:  

Champion: If anyone was unsure whether Dan McDevitt could make the leap from 138 pounds to 170 and stay among the state’s elite, this weekend provided the answer. The Wantagh wrestler showed he belongs in the upperweights, topping Christian Dietrich of Greene 6-2 for the title. He also defeated the third and fifth place finishers, Joe Piccolo and Brett Perry.

And Also . . . Both Dietrich and Piccolo defeated top-ranked Troy Seymour, boosting their stock for the rest of the season.  It wouldn’t be very surprising to see a rematch of Dietrich’s 3-2 semifinal win over Seymour in the Saturday night finals in Albany for Division II gold.

 

182 Pounds:

Champion: Zack Zupan was in charge all the way through.  We may get to see him wrestle multi-time state placer Tim Schaefer again in Albany, after Zupan earned a 5-2 win over the Warsaw grappler in the championship tilt.

And Also. . . Several wrestlers outperformed their seeds.  Yorktown’s Thomas Murray was in the eighth spot in the bracket but came in fifth, with his losses to Zupan and in the tiebreakers to Shenendehowa’s Levi Ashley.  Speaking of Ashley, the Shenendehowa wrestler topped unseeded Andrew Grella from Beacon in the first round, 8-6, but Grella then won five straight to eventually grab sixth.  Also making a solid run was #15 Christian Araneo of Ward Melville, a freshman, who took eighth after three consolation wins.

195 Pounds:

Williams, Photo by BV

Champion: Reggie Williams had a very exciting and interesting weekend. He had two matches come down to the wire – his opening bout against Garrett Duval, which he won 12-11, and a 7-5 victory over Steven Sabella in which he scored the winning points close to the buzzer.  The Johnson City star also won two bouts by fall, including his title victory over Gouverneur’s Hunter Ayen.

And Also. . .  Ben Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt/CBA made a statement this summer when he earned All-America status at Fargo. He made another statement over the weekend when he took third place, including a win over All-Stater Tyler Smith of Midlakes. The only loss for Honis was a default in the semis against Ayen.

The opening round match between #15 seed Dan Fowler of Chaminade and Jeff Senecal of Duanesburg probably didn’t get much attention (Fowler won by fall).  However, both wrestlers made the medal stand, with Fowler defeating seeded wrestlers Deon Edmond and Scott Wymbs to take fifth and Senecal beating Wymbs and Canastota’s Wyatt Albanese to notch seventh.

220 Pounds:

Champion: Dan Breit of Nanuet breezed through the competition early with big wins in his first three bouts and then won close ones late, picking up 3-2 victories in the semis and finals against Dillon Hurlbert of Marathon and Mike Silvis of Holley, respectively.

And Also . . . During our Pick Your Champions contest, Minisink Valley’s Josh Bonneau received quite a few votes.  The #15 seed showed why. He lost to Breit in his first bout but then picked up six consecutive wins to finish third. Among the wrestlers he beat were Alex Ortiz of Middletown, Hurlbert and Holland Patent’s Josh Langley.

285 Pounds:

Van Hoesen, Photo by BV

Champion: El Shaddai Van Hoesen continued his winning ways.  It’s become customary for him to pin nearly everyone in his path and he did record three falls, including over Alex Soutiere in the title bout.  He also had an 8-1 decision and a 1-0 victory over Rocky Point’s Brennan Strovink.

And Also . . . Strovink proved that his close match with Van Hoesen wasn’t a fluke when the #16 seed made the podium in the sixth position after a solid tournament.  We also saw that the quality 285 pounders in Section 2 go beyond Van Hoesen and Soutiere. Austin DiCerbo of Colonie was pinned by Van Hoesen but picked up four falls of his own, including over Yorktown’s David Varian, on his way to third place.

Team: It was another great weekend for Wantagh. After capturing the Union-Endicott Duals last Sunday, the Warriors again finished on top with 138.5 points.  Shenendehowa was second with 111.5 while Westfield, Virginia (102.5) and Danbury, Connecticut (77) were next.  Tied for fifth were Colonie and Eastport South Manor with 73.5 points.

For full results, see here.

The results of our Pick Your Champions Contest will be released soon.

Congratulations to the Friends of Section 9 Wrestling, including Tournament Director Jeff Cuilty and the many others involved, who made this an outstanding event.  Thank you to SUNY Sullivan, especially Director of Athletics Chris DePew, for assistance with our live coverage.

And a huge thank you to Matt Diano for his incredible work on the live coverage on Saturday!

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