Fargo Recap: Honoring Jeff Blatnick, the Porters, Bringing Home National Titles and More

The 2013 ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo have come and gone.  Here are some thoughts and observations on Team New York’s highlights in North Dakota. 

The singlets worn by Team New York at the tournament said “Dream Big” on the back.  Underneath that phrase was a picture of the late, great Jeff Blatnick.

There’s no question that Blatnick would have been excited about some of the performances put together, including that of a competitor he worked with at the Journeymen Wrestling Club – Jesse Porter.

Porter, who was a Section 2 champion as a freshman in 2012, didn’t get a chance to shine in the postseason last year.  The Shenendehowa wrestler suffered an injury and was only able to compete in November and December for the Plainsmen as a sophomore.

Now healthy, he made a huge impact at the summer’s biggest event.  A year after taking fourth in Cadet Greco Roman at Fargo, he went to the finals at 152 pounds in the same tournament, where he earned the silver medal.  Then, in freestyle, Porter nabbed a fifth place finish, running his overall record in North Dakota to 14-3 against top-notch competition.  During the Greco Roman finals, one of the announcers said he wasn’t that familiar with Porter before the event, but he knew now that “Porter is a stud.”  It’s clear he’ll be a middleweight to watch in the Albany area . . . and beyond in 2013-14.

The Champions

Jesse Porter wasn’t the only member of his family to stand out for the Empire State.  His sister Alexis Porter captured gold again, winning the 148-pound championship in Junior Women’s Freestyle a year after taking gold in both Cadet and Junior competitions.  She was joined on the top of the podium by Rachel Hale, who won it all at 121 pounds.

It wasn’t just individual glory for the women, however.  Team New York made history, becoming the first squad other than California or Texas to win the Women’s Duals at Fargo.  In appropriate fashion, the group captured the title by defeating the prior titlewinners, dominating the Texans in the first match of the championship bracket before topping the Californians, 39-17.

In pool play, the team faced California and decided to rest the starters for a big run at the crown.  The move paid off for coach Rob Hirsch and the squad.  Later in the day, the rematch was a completely different story.  New York won nine of the 12 bouts, including five straight at the end to seal the victory.

During that event, many contributed key performances.  That included Alexis Bleau, who was the only woman to earn trophies in both the Cadet and Junior tournaments, taking second and fourth, respectively.  It also included Kelsey Gray, who went undefeated in the dual portion of the event, despite not placing individually. Alexis Porter, Rachel Hale and Rosemary Flores also sported unblemished records during the dual tournament.  Flores collected an individual bronze as well, as did Destane Garrick.

Speaking of Bronze . . .

Speaking of bronze, William Koll picked up his first medal in Fargo when he took third in Junior Greco at 126 pounds.  The Lansing Bobcat just missed making the medal stand in both events, as he went 4-2 in Freestyle.  Another two-time state finalist, Nick Casella of Locust Valley, also made his debut on the medal stand in Fargo after grabbing seventh at 120 pounds in Greco.

Something About 220

New York had more All-Americans at 220 pounds than any other weight.   James Bethel followed up his undefeated run at the Cadet Duals with a third place showing in Greco.  He was dominant in his victories, with all coming by pin or technical fall. He was joined on the podium in that tournament by Garyn Huntley, a sixth placer coming off a 20+ win campaign for Oxford Academy as an eighth grader.  In the Junior division there was another 220 pound All-American – Rafal Rokosz of Southampton, who was sixth with three pins along the way.

It wasn’t just Greco.  In Cadet Freestyle, Mamaroneck’s Youssif Hemida won four matches by technical fall to capture seventh place at 220.  Looks like there are some candidates for breakout years in the heavier weight classes in 2013-14.

(Another upperweight who made his mark was Roland Zilberman, who after sporting a perfect record at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma, continued his hot streak with a fifth place medal in Junior Greco).

And the Middleweights Too . . .

In addition to Jesse Porter’s performances at 152, the middleweights had a number of strong showings, including at 145 pounds in Cadet Freestyle.  Jordan Bushey of Peru, Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East and Gino Titone of Connetquot all finished with 5-2 records in pool action.  Titone, who had a 25-5 mark last season, fell just short of placing.  However, Bushey, who came within one win of All-State status in Albany at 138 in 2013, was seventh in Fargo (with an injury default victory over Restrepo, who took eighth).  Look for all three to make a serious push for the medal stand at the Times Union Center next February.

Another Year, Another Medal

Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo is very familiar with the awards handed out at Fargo as he placed in both 2011 and 2012. This year was no different, as he picked up another plaque with a sixth place showing at 106 in Greco.  Alpha Diallo of the PSAL was also an All-American in that bracket, earning seventh.

In Summary . . .

So, in the end, a total of 25 All-Americans were crowned, with at least one medalist in all competitions except Junior Freestyle.

New York walked away with a pair of individual national titles and a team championship on the women’s side.  And every time a New York wrestler took the mat, the memory of Jeff Blatnick was honored for everyone in the Fargodome to see.

 

All-Americans from New York, Fargo 2013

Cadet Greco Roman

Jesse Porter, 2nd at 152

James Bethel, 3rd at 220

Garyn Huntley, 6th at 220

Nick Casella, 7th at 120

 

Cadet Freestyle

Jesse Porter, 5th at 152

Jordan Bushey, 7th at 145

Jakob Restrepo, 8th at 145

Youssif Hemida, 7th at 220

 

Junior Greco

William Koll, 3rd at 126

Roland Zilberman, 5th at 195

Rafal Rokosz, 6th at 220

Chris Cuccolo, 6th at 106

Alpha Diallo, 7th at 106

 

Women’s Cadet

Alexis Bleau, 2nd at 143

Jennifer Juarez, 3rd at 108

Vivian Vu, 6th at 154

 

Women’s Junior

Rachel Hale, Champion at 121

Alexis Porter, Champion at 148

Rosemary Flores, 3rd at 125

Destane Garrick, 3rd at 172

Alexis Bleau, 4th at 139

Yuneris Taveras, 6th at 198

Kim Cardenas, 7th at 97

Kennedi Eddins, 7th at 159

Mariana Olalde, 8th at 172

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