Five state champions (and two silver medalists) graduated from Section 11 in 2013. However, the cupboard is full of potential titlewinners again, including two of the top pound-for-pound wrestlers in the state – Nick Piccininni and Corey Rasheed.
Piccininni, ranked fifth nationally at 120 pounds by Intermat, continued to show he’s among the country’s elite. WIN Magazine named him New York’s Wrestler of the Year for the 2012-13 campaign after he compiled his second consecutive undefeated state championship season. He continued to impress by taking second at the FloNationals in the spring and going undefeated at the Disney Duals, Waterway Duals, Journeymen Classic and Iron Horse Invitational. The Ward Melville wrestler completed the offseason with a fourth placing showing at the Super 32 Challenge. For more on Piccininni see here.
You can also find Rasheed in the national rankings. The Longwood senior sits in the number six spot at 160 pounds, according to Intermat and both that website and FloWrestling rank Rasheed as one of the top 60 seniors in the country. The three-time state finalist got his hand raised in the championship match in Albany for the first time in 2013 when he pinned Chris Koo of Great Neck South in less than a minute. It wasn’t an unusual outcome for Rasheed, who picked up 22 falls in 34 matches. For more on Rasheed, see here.
In addition to Rasheed, who are some other seniors ready for stellar seasons in Suffolk?
Travis Passaro certainly qualifies. After a third place medal in his first appearance at the Times Union Center, the Hofstra recruit took eighth at the FloNationals at 120 pounds, went 10-1 at the Disney Duals and won the Journeymen Classic. He’ll be among the title favorites at 126 pounds.
That Disney Duals squad also included Kings Park’s Nick Weber, who notched fifth in the state at 195 pounds a year ago. Weber, who stayed active in the offseason, will be a force in the upperweights this season.
We haven’t forgotten about Joe Calderone of Walt Whitman. The 2012 All-State grappler put together another solid campaign as a junior, before falling one match short of repeating on the podium. He wasn’t the only senior who finished in the top 8 in Albany. That was also true of Dennis Ferro of East Islip who won two matches in Albany and then put together some solid offseason results, including making the top 16 at the Super 32 Challenge.
Anthony Puca of Huntington wrestled three matches in Albany – and spent a lot of time on the mat with multiple bouts that went beyond regulation. In round one, he defeated eventual placer Ian James in three overtimes before dropping matches to state champion Mike Hughes and to David Varian of Yorktown (in another three overtime contest). He’ll be among the top heavyweights in New York.
Of course, it won’t just be seniors who will be threats to win it all this year.
After earning fourth at 99 last year, Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip showed he is one to watch again when he defeated defending state champion Kyle Quinn at 113 pounds at the Journeymen Classic in September. Dellavecchia also nabbed fifth at 106 pounds at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals in Virginia Beach. 99 pounds was loaded last year and the wrestler who captured the Section 11 title – Huntington’s John Arceri – will also be a force, after a 37-4 season full of quality victories.
A trio of other returning qualifiers could all climb very high on the medal stand. Tommy Dutton of Rocky Point (fourth at 138) and Mike D’Angelo of Commack (fifth at 120) both picked up All-State accolades for the first time in 2013 and will look to do so again while moving up in weight. Look for D’Angelo to make his presence felt at 132. In the fall, Dutton twice beat highly ranked Gary Dinmore, a two-time New Jersey state runner up, including at the Super 32 Challenge where the Rocky Point wrestler made the podium at 145 pounds with a seventh place showing.
Speaking of making the national podium, Chris Mauriello of Hauppauge, who won a match in the state capital as a freshman, followed up his ninth grade campaign in Suffolk with his second consecutive title at the NHSCA National championships in Virginia Beach, this time at 132 pounds.
Corey Jamison of Huntington wasn’t at the state tournament last year after coming in as the number two seed in 2012. However, he did achieve something no one else in New York did last year. He defeated both the Division I and Division II state champions at 126 pounds – TJ Fabian and William Koll. He has another shot to return to Albany and earn hardware of his own.
Those wrestlers all have some experience in Albany. It seems every year, however, that some Suffolk grapplers make a significant splash in the Times Union Center during their first appearance. Last year, for example, Brentwood’s Carlos Toribio captured the New York championship in his initial trip to the event. Who could make that kind of impact?
Sachem East’s Jakob Restrepo definitely comes to mind, as he has been on a roll, earning All-America honors at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach and then again in Freestyle at Fargo at 145 pounds. He then won the Super 32 Shippensburg qualifier before topping a trio of NYS silver medalists (Frank Garcia and Brandon Lapi at the Journeymen Classic and Vincent DePrez at the Iron Horse Invitational). In the same bracket as Restrepo at Fargo was Gino Titone of Connetquot, who just missed making the medal stand in North Dakota while collecting five victories in the nation’s toughest summer event.
Who are some others to look out for in the middleweights? Sean O’Hagan was a double finalist at the New York States in Freestyle and Greco after winning more than 35 matches for Sachem North, while James Matias of Rocky Point ended one spot higher than O’Hagan on the Suffolk podium at 132, taking fourth. Erik Adon of East Islip earned a finals spot in the county championships at 152 in 2013.
How about some All-Americans? Michael Pistone, a multi-time placer at the NHSCA Nationals, had 37 wins at 152 a year ago for Sachem East, including a bronze finish at the Suffolk tournament. And Brandon Aviles of Newfield took sixth at 145 at the NHSCA Nationals event after earning All-County honors in February. Right behind Aviles at the Suffolk championships was Zach Lugo of Deer Park after winning around 30 matches in 2012-13.
And while they might not be on the radar for everyone yet, Greg Chery (fifth at 138 at the Section 11 championships) and Evan Mayer (Comsewogue) sought out tough competition in the offseason and look to translate that to success in the upcoming campaign. The same could be said for Eduardo Ramirez of Amityville, who compiled 30 victories a year ago at 145 pounds and followed with a strong showing at the Summer Heat tournament, taking first with a win over Suffolk finalist Jimmy Leach. Ramirez also went undefeated at the Waterway Duals and won his bracket at the Journeymen Classic.
Moving Down in Weight . . .
How about some lower weights? Last year’s 126 pound state champion, TJ Fabian, won his New York crown after taking third at the Suffolk championships a few weeks before Albany. Grabbing second in the Section 11 event was Eastport South Manor’s Jimmy Leach, who has competed all over this offseason and may be ready for a run of his own. He was one of many 126 pounders to have over 30 wins a year ago. Anthony Messina of Sachem East, BJ Jackson of Brentwood and Brad Wade of Islip were some of the others who will be formidable again this year. Wade, who is looking to become the fourth Wade brother to win a state championship in New York, topped Jamison twice a year ago, as well as Leach.
There’s no doubt that 126 pounds was loaded last year. The same could definitely be said of the 99 pound class, which sent three wrestlers to the state tournament (the previously mentioned Dellavecchia and Arceri as well as John Busiello, who is now at Wyoming Seminary). But several others who were in that class are ready to make an impact, including a number of grapplers who went on to earn All-America honors at the NHSCA Nationals such as Suffolk fourth placer Zach Ancewicz of John Glenn, Rocky Point’s Anthony Cirillo, Smithtown East’s James Trezza and Hauppauge’s Ben Tepperman.
In addition, last year’s fifth place finisher at 99, Bobby Pease of Pat-Med, Huntington’s Kyle Mock, Deer Park’s Tommy Cox, North Babylon’s Anthony Sparacio and Hauppauge’s Jake Silverstein will all be in the 99/106 pound lightweight mix. CJ Archer of Rocky Point had over 30 wins at 99 a year ago, but is likely to move up several weights this season, possibly to 126/132.
While discussing the lightest weights, it’s worth mentioning that Adam Busiello will make his debut as a seventh grader for Eastport South Manor. His list of achievements is long, including multiple national youth championships and his second-straight Super 32 title a few weeks ago. He is currently ranked as the #30 Junior High wrestler in the land by FloWrestling.
Staying in the lower classes, James Szymanski excelled at the Eastern States Classic in 2013, grabbing third place. Although he didn’t earn a spot in Albany, he has a strong chance to do so this year. Danny Murray of Brentwood also had a solid season at 106 and followed with an All-America showing – seventh at 106 in Virginia Beach. The wrestler who topped him for third at the state qualifier, Kyle Scully of Newfield, could have another strong year. Some young guns to keep an eye on are Anthony Sobotker of North Babylon and 106 or 113 pounder Eddie Matyka from Riverhead, who is back after injuries kept him off the mat. Additional All-County wrestlers that will be in the mix this year are Austin Munro of Hauppauge (fourth at 120) and Tim Johnson of Harborfields (fifth at 113).
While state champion Mike Hughes is now competing for Hofstra, there is still a lot of talent in the upperweights. Looking to take the top spot at 285 now will be the previously mentioned Anthony Puca of Huntington (Another Puca, JP, had a win over All-Stater Dan DeCarlo in 2013). In addition, there are other solid heavyweights, such as John Glenn’s Edwin Rubio. Rubio took second in the country at the NHSCA Freshman Nationals in the spring after a strong ninth grade year, as did 182 pounder Christian Araneo of Ward Melville, another wrestler to follow.
Some other upperweights we’ll be watching include the Islip duo of Ronnie King and Craig Hinrichs, Steven Lee of Kings Park, Jake Horton of Patchogue-Medford, as well as Vincent Feola of Walt Whitman, who picked up All-America status in Virginia Beach at 220 and then again at the Super 32, where he was fourth. Also making an impact at that event was Rocky Point’s Joe Russo, a returning fourth place finisher in Suffolk, who battled into day two in North Carolina. He dropped the bronze bout in the county to Sachem East’s Mark Tracy, who won more than 30 times last year. Another participant in the third place matches a year ago, Dom Pirraglia of Shoreham-Wading River, could do big things, likely at 182.
Last year, Sachem East captured the Section 11 tournament title without an individual champion. The Flaming Arrows were fueled by seven placers, including a runner up (the graduated Jackson Mordente) and five bronze medalists. Three of those All-County grapplers from 2013 return – Jakob Restrepo (fourth at 138 last year), Michael Pistone (third at 152) and Mark Tracy (third at 160). When you add competitors like Anthony Messina and Connor Farrell into the mix, the squad will have a solid shot of making it two in a row.
But there will be strong challengers, who are all capable of taking the top prize if the chips fall their way.
One is certainly Rocky Point. The Eagles were third in Suffolk last year and boast 2013 Section 11 champion Tommy Dutton as well as returning placers Joe Russo (fourth at 160) and James Matias (fourth at 132). Grapplers such as Sean Ferguson, Anthony Cirillo, Nick Pagnotta, Jack Gold and CJ Archer all have the ability to tack on points and make the team a strong title threat.
It’s also worthwhile to track 2013 runner up East Islip, a team that lost some standouts to graduation, but still has plenty of talent coming back. That includes the previously mentioned Jesse Dellavecchia, Dennis Ferro and Erik Adon as well as others such as Sal Cipolla and Jonathan Wilson.
Huntington, Hauppauge and Islip all finished within two points of each other at last year’s Suffolk championships (in sixth, seventh and eighth place). Huntington looks prepared to make a run, with the return of two finalists (champion John Arceri and heavyweight Anthony Puca) as well as fourth placer Corey Jamison. In addition, Kyle Mock, Brandon Mendez and JP Puca will bolster the squad and provide significant points.
Meanwhile, Hauppauge welcomes back All-County wrestlers Chris Mauriello, Austin Munro and Dominic Holder, as well as lightweights ready to make waves such as Jake Silverstein and Ben Tepperman. And Islip has a formidable core of Brad Wade, Ronnie King, Craig Hinrichs and Pat Sheppard while Sachem North will be tough as well with wrestlers like Sean O’Hagan, Matt Marino and Anthony Nunziatta.
Other squads to keep an eye on include Eastport South Manor, led by Travis Passaro, Jimmy Leach, Nicky Garone and Dylan Kane and Ward Melville, driven by Nick Piccininni, Cristian Araneo and Don Donnelly.
The race can shake out in numerous ways. We’ll see what team rises to the top in February.
Last year, Mattituck won the Division II tournament. With a number of contributors returning, the squad could very well make it two in a row, led by state qualifier Bobby Becker.
“Mattituck had a pretty young squad, so they’ll have a lot of guys returning,” said Bayport-Blue Point head coach Rich Reilly. “They’re looked at as the favorite to repeat and rightfully so.”
But there will certainly be challengers. One could be Port Jefferson, a group that has significant upperclassmen presence, according to Reilly.
“Port Jefferson will have a senior laden team and they’re pretty deep,” the coach said. “They’ll be right in the thick of things for the title. It’s a long season. It often comes down to who shows up when it’s most important – what kids peak at the right time and stay hungry out there.”
Reilly’s Bayport-Blue Point team gave Mattituck a run for the money at last year’s championships, but after graduating double digit seniors, the squad will have several new faces in the lineup.
“We’ll be a little on the young side, but we’ll be okay,” Reilly said. “When it comes time for the sectional tournament, we’ll have nice depth and we may be able to do some good things.”
Let’s take a look at some of the individuals expected to shine in the small school division of Section 11 this season.
Matteo DeVincenzo of Port Jefferson had a fantastic freshman campaign, going all the way to the state finals at 99 pounds and taking silver. He didn’t stop working after finding that success, however, as he participated in a number of offseason events, including the NUWAY Nationals, the Waterway Duals, the Journeymen Classic and the Iron Horse Invitational. Expectations are once again high for the upcoming campaign.
“I thought DeVincenzo was going to win the state title,” Reilly said. “He was dominating that match [against Adirondack’s Derek Spann] on his feet. He’s been wrestling a lot and doing really well. He’s definitely a legitimate title threat again.”
DeVincenzo has some other teammates who will look to break through as well. They include Tristan DeVincenzo, who was third in the county at 120 a year ago with close to 25 wins and also has done significant travel and competition this offseason. In addition, Ryan Woodward made an appearance in Albany representing Suffolk after a 27-7 regular season and looks for another trip to the state capital. Reilly mentioned Tyler D’Accordo and Paul Cavanagh as two other wrestlers who will be in contention for titles. Both were second in the county in 2013, however, Cavanagh wrestled at the Times Union Center in 2012.
Two other wrestlers that stayed very active after the end of the high school slate were Southampton teammates Rafal Rokosz and Peter Strassfield. Rokosz earned All-America status in Greco Roman at Fargo this summer, while both competed at other tournaments, including the Super 32 Challenge. After getting experience at the NYS tournament in 2013, both are looking to get their hand raised in Albany this time around. Strassfield was 25-2 with 21 pins going into the Times Union Center, while Rokosz had 30 wins.
“Southampton doesn’t have a lot of kids on the team, but the ones they have are talented,” Reilly said. “They’re doing a great job, taking the guys around and working to get better. Rokosz and Strassfield have been wrestling all over and improving.”
One wrestler who did get his hand raised at the Times Union Center in 2013 was Cody Nolan of Hampton Bays. After he took second at the Suffolk qualifier, it looked like his season was over. However, he got a ticket to Albany when Babylon’s Brian Loskamp was unable to attend. And he took full advantage of the opportunity, coming within one win of placing at the state level. After losing to eventual champion Zack Zupan in round one, Nolan earned a pin and then a decision over returning medalist Andy Martinez. He then dropped a double overtime bout to Brad Burns of Hoosick Falls, a wrestler who has made the medal stand two straight years.
“Nolan did a nice job,” Reilly said. “He went from not qualifying to almost placing. He wrestled well and should do well again this year.”
Like Nolan, William Hamilton took second in the Section 11 tournament. (He was at 195 pounds). The Center Moriches grappler looks to climb a spot higher this time around.
“Hamilton will be very tough to beat,” Reilly said.
In addition, Dominick Mazzella of Babylon collected a win at the state tournament in a 29-5 year at 106. He and teammate Brett Frole (second behind DeVincenzo at 99) are wrestlers to keep tabs on, according to Reilly.
“They’re both very talented, tough kids,” Reilly said. “Wherever we go, we see Frole – he works really hard.”
Speaking of lightweights, Ayan Mandal of Stony Brook, the silver medalist at 106 at the qualifier, was also mentioned as a “tough, scrappy” wrestler. (State qualifier Hunter Hulse is no longer at Stony Brook, according to Reilly).
Like Hulse, the previously mentioned Bobby Becker of Mattituck collected a win in Albany. He’ll be looking for more after a 25-win campaign at 138 pounds. Expectations are also high for his teammates James Hoeg and Brian Pelan.
“Bobby Becker is a key guy for them,” Reilly said. “They also have Hoeg and Pelan, who came on really strong in the sectional tournament. I really like them and think they’ll do very well. Lucas Webb was a state qualifier [in 2012] and he’s tough and talented and will be in the mix too.”
Always in the mix is Bayport Blue Point’s Joey Palma, a three-time Suffolk DII silver medalist.
“Joey unfortunately has come close but hasn’t won it yet,” Reilly said. “He’s a senior now and his main goal is to get up to Albany after falling short three times in the finals. He’ll make a jump in weight from 120 to 138 or 145. He’s a very good wrestler and we’d like to see him have that chance in his last year.”
Thank you to all the contributors to this article. Special thanks to John Passaro and Rich Reilly.
We will continue to post Section previews as the season approaches. Here are some others already released: