Journey for the Journeymen: Albany-Area Club On the Way to Europe for a Wrestling and Cultural Experience

A contingent from the Journeymen Wrestling Club will soon be headed to Austria and Italy, staying for almost two weeks.  But it won’t quite be a European vacation.

“It will be fun, but it’s not a tour of those countries,” Journeymen’s Frank Popolizio said. “It’s not like we’re going to the Coliseum and spending the day there. We’ll see a little bit and do some excursions but we’ll mostly be seeing the mats.  We’ll be getting the feel of the European experience from a wrestling standpoint.”

The trip will continue an exchange program that the Journeymen Club has had with European wrestling over the past decade, especially with Italy.

According to Popolizio, it all started when he attended the 2003 World Championships in New York City.

“I went to see the best wrestlers in the world in our backyard, but I had a secondary thing in mind,” he said. “My brother was fourth on the Olympic ladder at the time, but Cael Sanderson was at his weight.  It didn’t look too promising for him to get the nod for the USA, so I started inquiring about wrestling for Italy since our entire family is from there.  I went with some information and materials to give to the Italian coach and in the process, wound up meeting Michele Liuzzi.”

Liuzzi, perhaps Italy’s best competitor at the time, was at the tail end of his career.  Popolizio saw a great opportunity to work with him in the United States.

“I reached out to him over and over,” Popolizio said. “I really wanted to bring him over for a clinic, but he didn’t want to – he had removed himself from wrestling.  But I was tenacious about it and it took years, but I finally got him to come over.”

A relationship was born.  Liuzzi consistently visited the Albany area and began to bring some Italian athletes with him.  In turn, Journeymen made the journey to Italy.  And an exchange ensued.

“This will be our third time going,” Popolizio said. “We’re bringing a really good lineup of dedicated, focused guys who are all very involved in our club.”

Indeed, the list includes multiple All-State wrestlers from 2013, including a pair of silver medalists – Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam and Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa.  In addition, Frank Nassivera of Queensbury (sixth at 170) made the podium while a number of other grapplers – Jake Ashcraft (Burnt Hills), Josh Logiudice (Guilderland), Connor Lawrence (Duanesburg), John McHugh (Columbia) and Blake Retell (Shaker) were all state qualifiers this February.  (For the full list of attendees, see the end of the article).

“I’m definitely excited,” said John McHugh, who attends Columbia High School. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity not only for wrestling but for the whole cultural experience and a chance to go overseas.”

The impressive group of wrestlers will get plenty of opportunities to hone their freestyle skills, first for five or six days in Austria and then in Italy.

“We’ll train there and then we’ll compete,” Popolizio said. “In Austria, we’ll have a quad meet with teams from Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  And the Italian camp has about 130 kids coming in from a bunch of European nations like Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and probably some others.”

The competition part is something both McHugh and Popolizio remember well from the last time the Europeans traveled to New York.

“When they were here, we had a dual meet with the Italians and Austrians,” McHugh said.  “That was a crazy experience.  It was at one of our gyms and tons of people showed up to watch. They’ve been wrestling Freestyle and Greco their whole lives, but we did pretty well.”

Popolizio agreed.

“When they came here last time, it was fun training with the guys all week and then there are the matches and it’s like, ok, now it counts,” Popolizio said. “Our style of wrestling in the United States isn’t as technical as the Europeans.  They’re putting a lot of time into freestyle, while it’s secondary for us.  Sometimes, our technique isn’t up to snuff, but from a competitive standpoint, we have an advantage.  When it was time to compete, the mindset changed and we lit them up.  They had no idea what hit them. It was a lot of fun.”

There will be some fun off the mat as well.  Popolizio said that the hosts will dictate the schedule, but he knows of an excursion including a hike climbing in the Alps where the group will wind up in a location that overlooks several different countries at once.

“That should be a pretty exciting day, even though we know we’re not primarily there to see Austria or Italy,” Popolizio said. “It will be heavy wrestling with some pleasure mixed in. We’re there to compete and have a cultural exchange to continue to build relationships with wrestlers in other parts of the world.”

 

Journeymen Wrestling Club – Attendees

Jake Ashcraft, Burnt Hills

Levi Ashley, Shenendehowa

Josh Bressette, Fort Ann

Steve Colbert, Galway

Christian Gramuglia, Burnt Hills

Dominic Inzana, Saratoga

Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam

Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg

Josh Logiudice, Guilderland

John McHugh, Columbia

Matt McHugh, Columbia

Frank Nassivera, Queensburg

Tony Papa, Burnt Hills

Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa

Blake Retell, Shaker

Cadet Freestyle Ends With Four NY All-Americans – Porter (5th), Bushey (7th), Restrepo (8th) and Hemida (7th)

On Friday, the final four All-Americans were crowned for New York at Fargo.  Jesse Porter collected his second medal of the week, this time in Cadet Freestyle, when he scored six points in the waning seconds of his last match to capture a 12-7 victory over Matt Ferraro of Illinois to grab fifth.

That performance came after the Shenendehowa wrestler took second at 152 in Greco earlier in the week. He compiled a stellar 14-3 record across the two competitions with his only two losses in Freestyle to the runner up (5-4 score) and the third placer (4-4 on criteria).

The Empire State took seventh and eighth in Cadet Freestyle at 145 pounds, with Peru’s Jordan Bushey and Sachem East’s Jakob Restrepo, respectively.  Bushey grabbed the seventh place bout over his state counterpart by injury default.  The Section 7 wrestler ended with a 6-2 record.

Youssif Hemida also earned a spot on the medal stand when he notched seventh at 220 pounds.  The upperweight earned a 13-1 triumph over Dustin Remer of Oklahoma that took just under a minute and a half for seventh place.  All four of his wins came by technical fall.

New York had eight grapplers begin the Junior Freestyle competition on Friday, however, none advanced to Saturday’s medal round.  Those wrestlers were:

113: John Twomey 4-2

120: Matthew Morris 3-2

126: William Koll 4-2

152: Trevor Hoffmier 3-2

160: Troy Seymour 5-2

160: Chris Koo 3-2

170: Andrew Psomas 3-2

182: Cedric Stephens 3-2

A full Fargo recap will follow in the next few days.

Porter, Restrepo and Bushey Clinch All-America Honors in Cadet FS; Hemida in Contention (Also See Who Survived Day 1 of Jr FS)

After the second day of Cadet Freestyle, three New York wrestlers clinched spots on the podium with another still in contention when action resumes on Friday.

Jesse Porter of Shenendehowa was the runner up in Cadet Greco earlier this week at 152 pounds and he assured himself two medals at Fargo in 2013 as he will compete for fifth place on Friday against Matt Ferraro of Illinois.  Porter compiled a 6-2 mark in Freestyle with five technical falls and a pin.  In his last match on Thursday, he came back from a late deficit to knot the score at 4, however, he lost on criteria.

Also earning All-America honors were a pair of Empire State grapplers who will take the mat against each other at 145 pounds.  Both Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East and Jordan Bushey of Peru racked up 5-2 records and will battle in the seventh place tilt on Friday. Also going 5-2 in that same bracket was Gino Titone of Connetquot, however, he fell just short of the medal stand.

Youssif Hemida stands at 3-1 and is one of five remaining wrestlers in his half of the 220 pound bracket. (Four of the five grapplers will make the podium).  Hemida’s victories have all been by technical fall and he’s looking for another when he squares off with Kyler Childers of Oklahoma in his next contest.

Also seeing action for New York on Thursday in the Cadet event, but finishing their runs at the tournament, were Ben Lamantia (who finished 4-2), Leonard Merkin (4-2), Gino Titone (5-2), Jacob Woolson (3-2), Tyler Hall (2-2), James Bethel (2-2) and Peter Strassfield (1-2).

JUNIOR FREESTYLE

Junior Freestyle got underway on Thursday and after the first two sessions, the following wrestlers are still alive for Team New York (with record in parenthesis):

113: John Twomey 3-0

120: Matthew Morris 3-1

126: William Koll 4-1

152: Trevor Hoffmier 3-1

160: Troy Seymour 4-0

160: Chris Koo 3-1

170: Andrew Psomas 3-1

182: Cedric Stephens 3-1

Porter, Titone, Bushey and Restepo Undefeated on Day 1 of Cadet Freestyle; NY Women Win Dual Meet Championship

With Greco Roman finished at Fargo for 2013, the Cadet Freestyle tournament got underway on Wednesday.  New York will be well represented as the competition continues on Thursday with more than 10 wrestlers remaining.

Cadet Greco Roman runner up Jesse Porter continued his strong run in North Dakota with a 5-0 record at 152 pounds.  The Shenendehowa grappler wasn’t the only unbeaten New Yorker, as Leonard Merkin won all four of his bouts at 132 and a trio of 145 pounders – Gino Titone, Jordan Bushey and Jakob Restrepo – all went undefeated.

The following is the list of Empire State wrestlers who are in the hunt for medals in Cadet Freestyle:

120: Ben Lamantia 4-1

132: Leonard Merkin 4-0

145: Gino Titone 5-0

145: Jordan Bushey 4-0

145: Jakob Restrepo 4-0

152: Jesse Porter 5-0

170: Jacob Woolson 2-1

195: Tyler Hall 2-1

220: Youssif Hemida 2-0

220: James Bethel 2-1

285: Peter Strassfield 1-1

(To see the additional wrestlers that competed in Cadet Freestyle, see the end of this page).

New York – Dual Meet Champions

In addition to boasting a pair of national champions (Alexis Porter and Rachel Hale), Team New York celebrated an additional title on Wednesday as the squad finished in first place in the Women’s Dual Meet event.

The team began with a 33-22 victory over Washington before losing to California while forfeiting seven bouts.

In the championship bracket, the team trounced Texas 49-8 while winning 10 of 12 matches. In the title meet, New York faced the Golden State group for the second time of the day and came out on top 39-17.  After California captured the opening bout, New York grabbed four consecutive matches, including two technical falls and a pin, to take control.  The West Coast group rebounded with two wins, but New York sealed the crown with triumphs in the final five contests.

Going undefeated on the day were Kelsey Gray (112), Rachel Hale (121), Rosemary Flores (125) and Alexis Porter (148).

 

The following wrestlers also took the mat for New York in Cadet Freestyle action on Wednesday:

88: Drew Schafer, Justin Lopez, Oscar Lainez

106: John Luke DeStefano, Vinny Vespa, Johnathan Lauricella, Sean Miller

113: Evan Barczak, Taylor Picciano

120: Nick Casella

126: Christian Briody, Michael Berkowitz, Ian Lupole

138: Zachery Bendick, Wyatt DeMarree, Sam Ward, Frank Jilling

145: Kevin Parker

152: William Marcil, Brandon Aviles, Collin LaBombard, John Vouzonis

160: Zafar Iskandarov, Andrew Cummings, Vance Cuffie, Logan Burnick

182: Colby Stayley, Joseph Sabia

195: Aidan Mathews, Nick McShea

220: Garyn Huntley

285: Alex Gonzolez

 

National Champs! Alexis Porter and Rachel Hale Earn Titles For Team NY While Seven Others Place

Last year, the Empire State squad left Fargo with three national titles in the women’s competition.  Once again, multiple first place plaques will be making their way back East as Team New York’s Rachel Hale (121) and Alexis Porter (148) captured gold.

For Porter, it was a familiar story at Fargo as she captured championships in both Cadet and Junior competition last July.  In 2013, the Shenendehowa wrestler only took the mat in the Junior bracket but was once again dominant, going 5-0 while outscoring the opposition by a combined 44-2 (plus a pin).

Hale was also 5-0 without a close match.  She notched a 14-2 technical fall over Cassidy Jasperson of Texas in the title bout and her smallest margin of victory was 10 points.

Both Rosemary Flores and Destane Garrick garnered third place, at 125 and 172 pounds, respectively.  Flores, a former double titlewinner at Fargo, picked up four victories – all by fall.  In fact, she pinned Taylor Alva of Texas in just over a minute to take bronze.  Garrick also got her hand raised four times, including a 13-2 result against Michigan’s Kaitlyn Hill for third.

Alexis Bleau collected her second medal of the week on Tuesday night.  After taking silver in the Cadet division a few nights ago, she nabbed a fourth place finish in the Junior bracket at 139.

Also representing the Empire State on the medal stand were Yuneris Taveras (sixth at 198), Kim Cardenas (seventh at 97), Keneddi Eddins (seventh at 159) and Mariana Olalde (eighth at 172).

For full results, see http://www.trackwrestling.com.

 

Junior Greco Roman Recap: Koll Takes Third; Cuccolo, Zilberman, Rokosz and Diallo Capture All-America Honors

At the Cadet level, four New York wrestlers claimed spots on the podium in Greco Roman.  After the Junior competition, another five Empire State grapplers can be added to the All-American list.

Koll, Photo by BV

Two-time state champion William Koll of Lansing put together a 7-1 tournament, taking third at 126 pounds.  Along the way, he notched five technical falls, including a 10-3 win over Dante Rodriguez of Nebraska in the bronze bout.

A trio of wrestlers competed in the fifth place contest on Tuesday.

After going undefeated at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma a few weeks ago, Roland Zilberman continued his hot streak, nabbing fifth at 195 pounds after a 6-2 tournament in which all of his victories were by fall or technical fall. That included his 10-2 triumph over Eugene Martin of South Dakota in the medal round, which was over after only about two minutes of action.

Another upperweight making an impact for New York was Rafal Rokosz, who picked up sixth at 220 pounds after an unblemished record on Day 1 of the event. He pinned three of his foes during the event.

Also grabbing sixth was Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo, who has placed at this event multiple times in the past.  Cuccolo collected three wins during the course of the competition.

Alpha Diallo rounded out the placewinners for the Empire State when he earned seventh at 106 with a technical fall over Tyler Almaguer of Washington in less than 30 seconds.  He also had a pin and a technical fall during pool play.

A pair of wrestlers who captured All-America honors at Fargo in the past, Renaldo-Rodriguez Spencer (138) and Burke Paddock (160) also were eligible for Tuesday’s action. Rodriguez-Spencer won all five of his contested matches before injury defaulting out of the competition, while Paddock finished with a 5-2 mark with five technical falls.  Section 2’s Golan Cohen (113) also took the mat on the tournament’s second day, ending with a 4-2 record.

For full results, see http://www.trackwrestling.com.

More on the Women’s Junior Freestyle tournament will be posted after that event concludes Tuesday night.

 

Who Advanced to Day 2 of Junior Greco Roman and Junior Women's Freestyle from New York?

On Monday, the Cadet Greco Roman tournament concluded with Jesse Porter, James Bethel, Garyn Huntley and Nick Casella making the podium.  For a recap, see This link.

In addition, the first few sessions of Junior Greco Roman and Women’s Junior Freestyle took place.  See below for the wrestlers who are moving on in those competitions and those who also took the mat for the Empire State on Monday.

The following wrestlers are still in the running to place:

JUNIOR GRECO ROMAN

106: Alpha Diallo 3-1

106: Chris Cuccolo 3-0

113: Golan Cohen 4-1

126: William Koll 5-1

138: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer 5-1

160: Burke Paddock 5-0

195: Roland Zilberman 4-1

220: Rafal Rokosz 4-0

 

JUNIOR WOMEN’S FREESTYLE 

97: Kim Cardenas 1-0

112: Kelsey Gray 2-1

121: Rachel Hale 2-0

125: Rosemary Flores 2-0

130: Shannon Henry 1-0

139: Alexis Bleau 2-0

148: Alexis Porter 1-0

159: Vivian Vu 1-0

159: Keneddi Eddins 1-0

172: Mariana Olalde 0-1

172: Destane Garrick 1-0

198: Yuneris Taveras 1-0

 

Other wrestlers who took the mat for New York but have completed competition in Junior Greco Roman are:

106: Dolan McColgan, Dominic Riccio

120: Ryan Burns, Matthew Morris, Rashid Powell, Andrew Taber, Pedro Rosales, Cheick Ndiaye

126: Richard Antonacci

132: Nathan Hayes, Carl Rouse, Freddie Dunau, Ryan Snow

138: Jay Oakes, Saidyokub Kahramonov

145: Codie Gillette, Nathaniel Palmer

152: James Black, Maksimilian Garkusha, Trevor Hoffmier, Tanner Phillips, Nigel Williams

160: Troy Seymour, Alex Smythe

170: Andrew Psomas, Konstantin Parfiryev, Daniel Smith

182: Ben Honis, Cedric Stephens, Isaiah Zimmer

195: Allan-Michael Rios, Nick Weber, Reggie Williams, Nathanael Rose

220: Sam Eagan, Luke McKee

285: Gregory LaValley, Matthew St. Onge, Jeff Urbina, Matthew Abbott, Nolan Terrance

 

Others Taking the Mat for New York who have completed competition in Junior Women’s Freestyle are:

105: Jennifer Juarez

112: Susan Yang

117: Sara Andresen, Samantha Ouye-Gonzalez

130: Shirley Duman