It’s not too often that the champions receive a trophy taller than themselves. But at the fourth Annual Northeast Youth Duals in Hoosick Falls, that’s exactly what happened for the titlewinners from Weaver Elite (Pennsylvania).
“We like to have special awards,” said event organizer Michael LaPorte. “This year, the first place trophy was a seven-footer with a three-foot base. You see the eyes light up when the kids see it.”
In an event that featured wrestlers from “14 or 15 states”, according to LaPorte, the crown was decided by the slimmest of margins. In the final round on Sunday, a pair of 7-0 teams met in an exciting dual that ended in a tie. However, Weaver Elite took the hardware on the first tiebreaking criterion over New York Elite, a squad run by Superior Wrestling Academy.
“When the first whistle blew before the scheduled starting time of 9:30 on Saturday, we knew we were off to a good start,” LaPorte said. “The competition was great, especially on the second day. Things tightened up on Sunday and we saw some unbelievable matches. You’d think you’re watching Cornell and Penn State going at it. The level of competition just blew me away.”
It wasn’t just the championship bout that came down to the wire. The fifth place meet, won by Olympic over Team Virginia, also ended in a deadlock. In that case, it took five tiebreaking criteria before the winner was determined.
A year ago, Apex NJ Elite took gold at the event, and this time the Garden State squad was third, defeating Team Maine for the bronze.
“The Maine team came in under the radar – I don’t think people knew what to expect from them,” LaPorte said. “They were a great bunch of guys and a great bunch of wrestlers that really impressed me.”
In addition to the showing of those squads, there were a number of standout individual performances. Taking home Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) honors was Dane Heberlein of NY Elite, a grappler who competed for Alexander High this season.
“Dane Heberlein is an animal,” LaPorte said. “Weaver Elite was especially adamant about having him as Most Outstanding Wrestler – they were very impressed by the way he wrestled. He’s an exceptional athlete. I believe he will be in the small school state finals this year at 99 pounds. He’s that good.”
According to LaPorte, a number of other competitors were in the mix for MOW, including last year’s winner Brian Courtney (G2 World Wrestling Academy) and a few wrestlers who didn’t give up a point, including Anthony Cirillo and Patrick Glory. Also in the running was Frankie Gissendanner, who was a state qualifier for Penfield at 126 pounds as a seventh grader in 2012-13.
Jace Schafer of Superior Wrestling Academy was the recipient of another honor handed out at the event – the Scott Kropman Never Give Up Award. Kropman, a coach at G2 World Wrestling Academy and tremendous supporter of wrestling, is battling cancer.
It wasn’t the only way Kropman was honored over the weekend. Donations by teams such as the Hoosick Falls Wrestling Club, NY Elite and Team Virginia as well as others in attendance resulted in over $400 to help Kropman with his medical expenses. In addition, all of the competitors signed the tournament banner for Kropman, who wasn’t able to be there.
“Last year, we had a similar award in honor of [Monroe Woodbury wrestler] Vinny Vespa,” LaPorte said. “Vinny obviously had a full recovery and not only recovered but wrestled this year [and placed at the state tournament]. It really means so much to be able to do something for these guys. If we can make any difference at all, we’ll give it the old college try to make it happen. I made a speech and told everyone that before they fall asleep at night to think of Scott Kropman and then fall asleep with good thoughts and hope something positive comes out of it.”
There were many positives during the weekend. And it looks like the 2014 version of the Northeast Youth Duals is on the path to even more good things. Despite expanding the event to 14 teams this year, LaPorte had to turn squads away. He said every group verbally committed to returning next summer, along with the strong possibility of some West Coast flavor.
“A team from Gilroy, California wanted to come this year,” LaPorte said. “But the date conflicted with their biggest fundraiser of the year. My phone rang on Sunday night and it was the California coach asking if we approved a date change for next year so they could be here. It will be exciting to have some California kids come out and roll with our East Coast kids. It will raise the level of the event.”
The level was high in 2013. And LaPorte wished to acknowledge the many people who helped make it happen.
“There were some great people who played important roles,” he said. “Our club secretary Shannon Roberson went beyond the call of duty with things like custom made scorebooks and brochures to make it a great experience for everybody. Chris Marsh and my brother Paco LaPorte were great. And it couldn’t happen without the whole community behind me. It was a true community effort in Hoosick Falls. I appreciate everything the village has done. Because of the efforts of so many and great competition, I think the event was even more well received than in the past.”
Weaver Elite – Lineup (*From Weaver Elite Website)
48 Ben Finelli
53 CJ Horvath
58 Evan Maag
63 Nico Nardone
68 Wil Guida
73 Tal Flemming
78 Josh Stahl
85 Cole Handlovic
93 LJ Khan
99 Ben Huber
105 Devon Britton
112 Reed Custer
119 Chase Anklum
126 Aiden Montiverdi
134 Mike Labriola
150 Kade Moisey