Qualifying for the state tournament last year in Section 11 at 120 pounds last year was an achievement. Three of the top four finishers in Albany (champion Sean McCabe of Conntequot, bronze winner Matt Leshinger of Sayville and fourth placer TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River) came from Suffolk County. In fact, a former state champion, Mark West of Hauppauge, took fourth in the Section and didn’t get a ticket to the Times Union Center.
There are sure to be some brackets at this weekend’s Sectional tournaments that similarly have a number of wrestlers who have the potential to notch All-State honors . . . if they get a bid to the state capital. Let’s take a look at a few of the Sectional battles we are interested in monitoring.
We’ve had three different Section 11 wrestlers in the top 8 of our state rankings this season. That’s because East Islip’s Jesse Dellevecchia, Eastport South Manor’s John Busiello and Huntington’s John Arceri all have the ability to make some noise in Albany. They’ve had some entertaining matches against each other in 2012-13. There was a one-point win for Dellevecchia over Busiello. And a pin for the Eastport South Manor wrestler over Arceri, followed by a 3-2 decision by Arceri over Busiello. Whoever makes it to the state capital from this group will be a contender.
Returning Section 9 qualifier Vinny Vespa is looking for his second consecutive trip to the biggest tournament of the season in late February. He will have a formidable competitor in his path, however, as Chris Cuccolo has had a very strong campaign. The Pine Bush wrestler has had a lot of success on the national level in Freestyle and Greco in the past and added some top-notch folkstyle victories this season, including his Eastern States Classic crown.
In a late January dual meet, fans were treated to a 7-5 sudden victory win for returning state bronze medalist Alex Tanzman over James Szymanski. Then, at least weekend’s Section 11 qualifiers, Tanzman, #1 in our individual state rankings, won round two between these competitors by fall. Could we see bout number three next week? We could, but you can’t ignore returning qualifier Steven Lee of West Babylon or others like Eastport South Manor’s Nick Garone and Central Islip’s Mike Figueroa, who have wrestled well all year.
It looked like this would be a showdown between 2012 All-State wrestler Drew Marra of Olean, returning state qualifier Pat McCarthy of Fredonia and Section runner up Andrew Shomers of Lewiston Porter. However, with McCarthy out last weekend for the Section 6 qualifiers, it looks like it could come down to a third bout between Shomers and Marra. Their first was a sudden victory win for Shomers.
Ask a number of wrestling fans around New York who will win the state title at 120 pounds, in either Division I or Division II, and you will be amazed at the wide array of answers. It appears to be wide open as to who will even be in the brackets.
Take Section 1. Even with an injury to Arlington’s Nick Tolli, there are a number of All-State quality wrestlers on both the Division I and II sides. In the large schools, Alex Delacruz of Ossining, Blaise Benderoth of North Rockland and John Muldoon of Pearl River are all capable of placing. The first two have previously competed in Albany. Who will earn the right do so this year?
In Division II, Trey Aslanian looks to get back to the state finals for the third consecutive year, however, even winning the Section won’t be easy as he’ll likely see Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano, a multi-time state qualifier.
Let’s move toward the island and look at Sections 8 and 11. Mike D’Angelo, who has faced Delacruz and Muldoon this season, has just one loss on his record and has looked as good as anyone in New York at times. After just missing out on a bid to the state capital last year despite only three losses all year (all to champion Nick Piccininni), he’ll have some hurdles to climb this season as well. Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro and Connetquot’s Steven Bulzomi have shown that they can wrestle with some of the nation’s best (both made the Round of 12 at the Super 32 Classic this year).
And in Nassau, Robert Person has made the podium in Albany before but has to get past some solid wrestlers like Simon Greebel of Hewlett (who he beat last weekend) and MacArthur’s Chris Cataldo (who beat Person at the Eastern States) to make a return visit to the Times Union Center medal stand.
And, how about a look at Section 6? Steve Michel and Anthony Orefice were the only two returning 2012 Division I medalists from this Section. The two have met twice this year, with Michel getting his hand raised on both occasions. Will they face off again?
We began this article with a discussion of Suffolk County’s 120-pound bracket last year. Two members of that class, TJ Fabian and Mark West, are now at this weight. When you add in others like Islip’s Brad Wade and Huntington’s Corey Jamison, you have a group of Section 11 wrestlers who are all more than capable of winning a bunch of matches in Albany.
Dakota Gardner of Fredonia took sixth a year ago in Albany as an eighth grader. He is undefeated thus far and looks to be a title contender. He won’t be the only one with state tournament experience in the Section 6 bracket this weekend, however. Majed Mohamed, a placer in Albany a few years ago, will compete as will returning qualifier Andrew Lazickas of East Aurora. Brandon Muntz of Falconer has had a strong year as well. One of his two losses came in sudden victory to Gardner.
Matt Leshinger won the 120-pound Suffolk title last season, edging McCabe in the semis and Fabian in the finals. He then took bronze in Albany. He’s looking to finish off his high school career by winning it all at the Times Union Center. He could have some tough bouts in Section 11 before getting there again, however. Sachem East’s Connor O’Hara is in our top 8 statewide and Hauppauge’s Chris Mauriello has wrestled well at a number of big competitions, including a NHSCA Middle School National championship. Sean O’Hagan of Sachem North and Gino Titone of Connetquot are among the others in the mix.
138 is wide open in the CHSAA. Matt Diano described it this way, “It is essentially a five person race where any one of them are capable of getting hot and emerging with the title. Making this weight so hard to predict is that in head-to-head matches, all five have taken turns knocking each other off. Hence, no one has really created that separation that you look for when forecasting an outcome.”
It’s that unpredictability that makes it intriguing. Who are the five? Two of them, Blaise Rufo and Chaminade’s Danny Jones battled for the CHSAA title at 120 pounds a year ago. Rufo was victorious and he won a match in Albany. Rufo’s Monsignor Farrell teammate Karl Weisner is also in the field, along with St. Anthony’s Kevin Jackson and St. Joseph’s Travis Berube.
As Diano said, things are as clear as mud based on head-to-head matchups between these wrestlers this season. We’ll just have to see how this is seeded and who comes out on top.
Section 6 has several very competitive wrestlers here. In Division I Eric Lewandowski will seek another medal to add to his state silver from a few years ago. On the Division II side, Drew Hull and Jude Gardner both come off All-State showings in 2012. Runner up Hull pinned Gardner a few weeks ago then edged him 1-0. What will happen the third time around?
Three PSAL second placers from 2012 will take the mat in Division I looking to break through for a title – Nigel Williams of Eagle Academy, Alex Palmer of Martin Luther King, and Marc D’Chiutiis of James Madison. Williams won the 2013 Mayor’s Cup over Palmer. D’Chiutiis has dropped a pair of matches to both Williams and Palmer in 2012-13.
Whitney Point’s Jordan Torbitt blanked returning qualifier Frank Garcia of Norwich 7-0 last weekend. The pair may meet again this weekend for the right to represent Section 4. Codie Nichols of Unatego will look to stop that rematch. He has compiled a 32-4 mark but has lost to both Torbitt and Garcia.
Tyler Spann’s 5-2 win over Rowdy Prior at the Section 3 championships in 2012 helped to send the Adirondack wrestler to the state capital, while Prior didn’t get a bid. Both wrestlers have had terrific seasons with Spann currently unbeaten and Prior with a runner up finish at the Eastern States Classic. Neither is the top seed in the Section 3 bracket, however. That belongs to Beaver River’s Isaiah Riccio, who is 23-4. Riccio has starred in Albany the past two seasons, placing third and fifth. There are also several other quality wrestlers in the bracket including Triston Engle of Dolgeville and Trevor Allard of Mexico.
Greene’s Dan Dickman was fourth in the Empire State last year but is the second seed for the upcoming Section 4 event behind Chenango Valley’s Kyle Halladay. Also lurking in the field are tough grapplers such as Unatego’s Kevin Thayer. Can the Greene wrestler get back to the Times Union Center and make the medal stand again?
Similar to Dickman, Tyler Silverthorn of General Brown made the podium a year ago, taking sixth at the state tournament. However, the path back will involve topping a strong field in Section 3. Matt Fisher of Oneida competed well in Albany in 2012, with a pair of one-point losses in a 1-2 showing. Tom Confer of Camden has looked good all season with over 30 wins but has dropped multiple contests to Fisher. In his only match against Silverthorn, however, Confer won 3-1.
Over the holiday break in Section 11, Carlos Toribio blanked Joe Piccolo in a dual between their squads. At the Islip Cup, Piccolo turned the tables and pinned the Brentwood senior in the first period. Who will take the potential rubber match? It’s hard to say, but there could certainly be another battle in Albany between the two state title hopefuls.
In Section 5, 2012 state qualifier Jeff Day of Letchworth will have to contend with a number of talented wrestlers to win the SuperSectionals. Among them are Jon Levchuk of Byron Bergen, with whom he has split matches this season. In addition, Collin Fox of Midlakes, Keith Vosburg of Alfred Almond and Aaron Paddock of Warsaw are all very much in the mix.
A year ago, two-time PSAL gold medalist Anatoliy Anchakov of Grand Street Campus defeated Cedrick Stephens of Wingate 14-1 in the semifinals of the PSAL tournament on his way to his second-straight PSAL title. However, Stephens flipped the script so far this season, beating Anchakov twice. Will Anchakov rebound to earn his third championship? Or will Stephens punch his ticket to the Times Union Center?
Tyler Morris of Salem was fourth at the state tournament last year at 182. Brad Burns of Hoosick Falls was sixth at 170. They will be the top two seeds in Section 2 this weekend. In Section 4, returning qualifier Mike Beers looks to get back to Albany but is in a tough group with Unatego’s Ryan Marszal and Greene’s Joel Roselle.
There could be a number of interesting rematches at this weight.
Ben Honis edged Baldwinsville’s Joe Nasoni last weekend and the two could square off another time for the Section 3 crown. Honis has some quality wins this year including over Tyler Smith of Midlakes, Wayne Burt of Colonie and Hunter Ayen of Gouverneur. Nasoni topped Canastota’s Zack Zupan. Who will get the nod for Section 3?
In Section 5, Colton Kells of Fairport has defeated Collin Pittman twice this year after beating the Spencerport grappler a number of times last season by pin. However, Kells said their matches continue to get closer and after the Fairport senior won the last battle in sudden victory, who knows what another meeting might bring?
Also in Section 5, Bryce Mazurowski of Avon and Tyler Smith of Midlakes both made the NYS podium in 2011-12 at 195 pounds, with the Avon wrestler the silver medalist and Smith fourth.
A number of Section 11 standouts have the potential to win matches at the state tournament. The challenge will be getting there. East Islip’s Chris Chambers pinned Nick Weber of Kings Park earlier this year. Both have had outstanding seasons and are ranked in the top 8 in New York. Look out for Cristian Nunez of Sachem East, who has also had a strong year.
Holley’s Mike Silvis was one of the few wrestlers to challenge returning state runner up Zack Bacon of Hornell last season. The two haven’t met thus far in 2012-13 but have a good chance of doing so at Section 5‘s SuperSectionals. Penn Yan’s John Martisch is a wildcard to keep an eye on as he dropped a one-point bout to Bacon recently.
Fredonia’s Chris Saden had an unblemished record going into last weekend. Tonawanda’s Steve Warthling changed that. They could meet again for Section 6 supremacy, although others such, as Alden’s Erik Feitshans, who has a win over Warthling, could be dangerous.
In Nassau County, Matt Mott of Lynbrook is undefeated and recently took over the top spot in the Section 8 rankings. However, prior to that, it was Calhoun’s Jenard Rosemond at #1 with last year’s Nassau runner up Thomas Sinclair of Island Trees third. The winner here will be very competitive in Albany.
In Section 9, the race looks intriguing with Monroe Woodbury’s Rob Kelly, Minsink Valley’s Josh Bonneau and Middletown’s Alex Ortiz. All three placed at the Eastern States, with Bonneau taking third, Kelly sixth and Ortiz seventh.
And in Section 11, returning state placer Nick Lupi of Huntington looks for another opportunity at a New York crown. However, this bracket is loaded with Sachem North’s Steven Mills, Sachem East’s John Vigh and Islip’s Ryan Hughes. Lupi has beaten Hughes twice this year – in the ultimate tiebreaker and in sudden victory.
Section 2 has several top heavyweights, including returning state silver medalists El Shaddai Van Hoesen (Division I) and Alex Soutiere (Division II). They won’t take the mat against each other, but Van Hoesen could meet another contender, Austin DiCerbo, of Colonie. (Van Hoesen has defeated DiCerbo).
Brandon Fayle of Lowville finished one match short of placing at the Times Union Center in 2012. However, he is the third seed for the Section 3 tournament after dropping a decision to Canastota’s Jacob Morris last weekend. The top seed in the bracket is Morrisville’s Wyatt Morris who beat Jacob Morris in the ultimate tiebreaker in January.
And the countdown to Albany marches on . . .