Last year, we previewed each Section prior to the start of the high school season. We began with Section III earlier this week. Now, here’s a look at Section 10.
Only one school in New York had multiple state champions at the Times Union Center in February. It was Section 10’s Gouverneur, which saw a pair of seniors – Dillon Stowell (113) and Hunter Ayen (195) – win it all in Albany to end their high school careers on top.
“It was awesome,” said Gouverneur coach Joel Baer. “It took a while after the season was over to even digest it and believe it. It was wild, with one champion in the lightweights and one on the other end. For Dillon [Stowell], it was his fourth time placing. He came into the year expecting to be a state champ. Hunter [Ayen] seemed to come out of nowhere and surprised a lot of people. We expected he would do really well this year but he wasn’t as well known around the state. He’s someone that didn’t even have 100 career matches – forget about 100 wins. His body matured later – he grew four or five inches later on and the next thing you knew – wow.”
‘Wow’ described Ayen’s state tournament performance. He pinned his first three opponents, but then fell behind 6-0 in the championship match against returning finalist Bryce Mazurowski of Avon. He stormed back, however, to capture a 9-6 decision.
“I’ll never forget his comeback,” Baer said. “To fall behind 6-0 and look like you’re out of the match and come back the way he did was crazy. I thought he had the pin and four matches and four falls at the state tournament would have been amazing, but Hunter told me he was happy to win the way he did.”
Another Ayen, Hunter’s cousin Zach, will look to follow up with a memorable senior year of his own. Zach Ayen is no stranger to the medal stand – he took fifth in Albany in 2012. Last season, he competed at the Times Union Center at 132 pounds.
“Zach has definitely put in the time,” Baer said. “This is his last go round and he saw what the others had to endure and put in to become champions. He did lots of freestyle in the spring and early summer and did a lot of lifting. He won some matches in Virginia Beach. I definitely think he has the potential to place again. He had two heartbreaking losses at the state tournament, in the first round to the kid who went on to take third. He knows he’s not far away and he’s capable of having a great last year.”
Ayen isn’t the only Section 10 wrestler with All-State accolades. Ogdensburg Free Academy’s Tanner Lapiene earned fourth at 99 pounds as an eighth grader with a strong showing in the state capital. He began with a 14-0 major in his opening bout before upsetting the bracket’s top seed, Hunter Olena of East Rochester, by a 3-1 score. After being edged by Port Jefferson’s Matteo Devincenzo in the semifinals, he bounced back to grab fourth.
According to Baer, Lapiene will be a contender again as a freshman, although most likely at either 106 or 113.
“Tanner will be right there,” Baer said. “He has a unique style of wrestling. He’s a grinder, with really good hips and he likes to scramble and get funky. He’s a tough kid.”
According to Baer, Lapiene was the first Ogdensburg Free Academy wrestler to ever place at the state tournament. Baer added that one of Lapiene’s training partners, Brody Sheppard “has a lot of potential” and is someone to watch this year.
Sheppard qualified for the state tournament last season at 106 pounds as a seventh grader. Those two lightweights will be joined by three other returning Section champions for Ogdensburg– Josh Wangler, Alex Cole and Cody-Allen David.
So while Gouverneur has been the team to beat in the Section in Division II, Baer believes things could be interesting when the squads collide in 2013-14.
“I think we’ll probably be the favorite,” he said of his team. “But [Ogdensburg] has a bunch of guys that we probably won’t beat and it may come down to who gets pinned. I expect it to be a competitive dual – the most competitive dual we have in the Section.”
Other than Ayen, who will win a lot of matches for Gouverneur this year? Joey Love, Aaron Bush and Mike Mandigo all went to the state tournament a year ago.
“We’ve had some success and we’re hoping to bring our kids along to keep improving,” Baer said. “As a Section we were pretty happy to place where we did last year, scoring 69 points. We don’t have numbers, so it was pretty neat for us. We’re hoping to get some more people on the podium this year again.”
There will certainly be experience back in Division I this year. 12 of the 15 wrestlers who represented Section 10 at the state tournament in 2013 are scheduled to return. Who can break through for some victories and a shot at a medal?
One wrestler to certainly keep tabs on is Massena’s Nathan Marshall, who did not compete a year ago, as he was abroad. In 2011-12, however, he went 29-3 at 106 pounds, including a major decision at the Times Union Center.
“[Marshall] wrestled with us at the 1000 Islands Duals in August and he looked good,” Baer said. “He said when he was in Brazil he didn’t wrestle at all, but he looked pretty tough for his first time on the mat in a while. He may be a 113-pound senior and he could wrestle his way onto the podium. I know that’s his goal.”
Marshall is unlikely to be the only Massena wrestler to challenge in Albany. In fact, seven other returning grapplers from that school wore the Section 10 singlet at the state event in 2013. One of them, heavyweight Nolan Terrance, is one to watch. He saw success in the offseason with second place showings in both Freestyle and Greco at the New York State tournament in May.
“[Terrance] has wrestled everywhere,” Baer said. “He was at Fargo, up in Canada at the Canadian Games – all over. He did a lot of freestyle and Greco and wrestled non-stop. He’s a big kid and he definitely had a good offseason.”
Also having a good offseason was Malone’s Jamiel Stapleton, a multi-time New York qualifier.
“[Stapleton] had a great summer,” Baer said. “He got better and better. He went to wrestling camps and to dual tournaments and he beat some good kids. He’s tough.”
Another wrestler who comes back with over 20 wins and more than one trip to Albany is Canton’s Ryan Brown. The lightweight has beaten Lapiene in the past (although Lapiene came out on top three out of four times last season). Could this be the breakthrough season for Brown?
“If he can get certified for one of the lightest weights, he’ll be hard to handle,” Baer said. “He’s good, but he’s always been too light. Now, he’s gotten taller and filled out. He’s older and has more confidence. He could do very well.”
With the significant number of returning Section champions, Massena appears to have the upper hand in the team race.
Thank you to the contributors to this article, especially coach Joel Baer.
A year after boasting two state champions, can wrestlers from Section 10 do it again? We’ll have to wait until 2014 to find out, but here are the grapplers returning with 2013 Albany experience.
Returning Qualifiers from 2013
Ryan Brown, Canton 99
Michael Brown, Massena 106
Skyler Cameron, Massena 113
Konner German, Massena 120
Austin Learned, Malone 126
Jamiel Stapleton, Malone 145
Hunter Perrine, Massena 152
Jared Cascanette, Canton 160
Nate Moose, Canton 170
Joseph Ferrera, Massena 182
Jeremy Malone, Massena 195
Nolan Terrance, Massena 285
Returning Placer from 2013
Tanner Lapiene, Ogdensburg Free Academy 99, 4th
Returning Qualifiers from 2013
Brody Sheppard, Ogdensburg Free Academy, 106
Aaron Bush, Gouverneur, 120
Josh Wangler, Ogdensburg Free Academy, 126
Zach Ayen, Gouverneur, 132
Joey Love, Gouverneur, 138
Cody-Allen David, Ogdensburg Free Academy, 160
Alex Cole, Ogdensburg Free Academy, 182
Mike Mandigo, Gouverneur, 220