Grapple at the Garden Preview: What to Watch for as New York Teams Take the Mat in NYC

Three of New York’s Division I teams will compete at the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals on Saturday.  (The preview is here). The other three – Cornell, Hofstra and Army – will be in action in another part of the state as they travel to New York City for the second annual Grapple at the Garden.  The Empire State will also be well represented with Stony Brook, Westchester CC, NYU and middle school and high school grapplers taking the mat.  For some things to watch, read on.


#6 Cornell (vs. Maryland and #7 Illinois)

Bennett, Photo by BV

In the upperweights, there could be be two matches with ranked wrestlers on both sides.  At 184, Big Red freshman Gabe Dean will clash with All-American Jimmy Sheptock, while Jace Bennett is set to take on former Brockport High School star Christian Boley at 197.  Dean has gotten off to a strong start to his college career, including four pins and a technical fall last weekend and a #12 spot in the polls.  Sheptock, ranked third nationally, is undefeated this year.  Meanwhile, Boley and Bennett, both NCAA qualifiers in 2013, both sit in the top 15 nationally.

Six of the other matches will feature one ranked wrestler.  (Five times the Cornell wrestler is in the polls). Those include Nahshon Garrett (#2 at 125), Mark Grey (#10 at 133), Chris Villalonga (#14 at 149) and Brian Realbuto (#12 at 157).  In addition, #4 Mike Nevinger could make his return to the lineup at 141, where he would face a quality opponent in Shyheim Brown, a freshman who is off to an unbeaten start.  On the flip side, at heavyweight, the Terps bring #7 Spencer Myers to the table against unranked Stryker Lane.

In the premier dual of the Grapple at the Garden event, #6 Cornell will take on #7 Illinois.  If the meet starts at 125, the spotlight bout will take place right away, with #2 Nahshon Garrett of the Big Red battling defending national champion and #1 Jesse Delgado.  Garrett has lost to four opponents during his career – and he has come back to beat each one of them – except Delgado.  The two only met once, in the NCAA semifinals in Des Moines in 2013.  We’ll see if Garrett can continue his streak of avenging defeats when he gets his second shot at the Illini junior.

Grey, Photo by BV

That may be the most high profile bout, but there will be plenty of other intriguing ones.  At 133, two excellent freshmen, #10 Mark Grey and #11 Zane Richards, will square off in a rematch of the 60 kg Junior World Team Trials title bout.  Grey bested Richards in two straight matches to make the World Championships, where he finished fifth.  Speaking of rematches, #14 Jace Bennett of Cornell met #7 Mario Gonzalez in the pigtail round at Nationals in 2013, with the Illinois grappler taking a decisive victory.  Gonzalez didn’t compete at the Chicago Quad in mid-November for the Illini, but if he’s back, we’ll see if Bennett can turn the tide.

At 157 and 184, fans will be treated to four highly ranked recruits from the high school class of 2012 –#12 Brian Realbuto vs. #15 Zach Brunson at the former weight and #12 Gabe Dean vs. Nikko Reyes at the latter.  And just one spot in the rankings separates the two wrestlers at 149 – Cornell’s Chris Villalonga is #14 while Caleb Ervin is #15.

When it comes down to it, Cornell has the higher ranked wrestler in five classes – 133, 141, 149, 157 and 184 – while the same can be said for Illinois at four weights – 125, 165, 174 and 197.  Neither heavyweight appears on the national lists.  It should be an entertaining dual for the fans in New York City.


Army vs. Hofstra

Hudson, Photo by BV

Two Empire State teams will do battle with Army taking on Hofstra at 10 a.m..  Both teams were at the New York State Intercollegiates last weekend, with the Pride putting wrestlers into the finals of the tournament at the first six weights.  Jamie Franco (125), Luke Vaith (141) and Joe Booth (165) captured titles, while Jamel Hudson (133), Cody Ruggirello (149) and Nick Terdick (157) picked up second place.  At this point, Hofstra looks like the favorite at those classes for the dual, although there were only two head-to-head matches in those weights in Ithaca. Terdick defeated Paul Hancock 12-9 and Booth topped Chandler Smith by major decision.  (Both Smith and Coleman Gracey placed at the New York States at 165 for the Black Knights). Hofstra is also likely favored at heavyweight, since Mike Hughes of the Pride bested Army’s Stephen Snyder 3-0 in the fifth place contest at 285.

Meanwhile, Army had higher finishers last weekend at two of the upper weights.  At 174, Brian Harvey grabbed third while his teammate Alex Smith was fourth.  The Hofstra duo of Frank Affronti and Victor Pozsonyi was seventh and eighth in that bracket.   At 197, Bryce Barnes was the runner up for the West Point squad, while both teams had contributors out of the lineup at 184.  (Brockport/Oklahoma Invitational champion Ryan Tompkins didn’t take the mat in Ithaca, nor did Pride starter Dwight Howes).

After the opening round, Hofstra and Army will each also square off with one other EIWA squad on Sunday.   The Pride will meet Boston while the Black Knights will see Princeton.  Let’s take a look at those contests.

Several Terriers made the podium at the Keystone Classic last Sunday and could provide some interesting challenges for the Long Island-based squad.  What are some potential matches to watch?  Chris McGinley was sixth last weekend and will provide a solid opponent for Jamie Franco at 125, while NCAA qualifier Dane Harlowe will do the same at 133 for freshman Jamel Hudson. A pair of third place finishers at the Keystone – Tyler Scotton (141) and Nestor Taffur (157) will look to test Luke Vaith and Nick Terdick after their strong performances at the New York State Intercollegiates.

It will be a battle of New York natives at 165 as Hofstra’s Joe Booth (Bayville) squares off with Mitch Wightman (Warwick).  And although he recently dropped out of the rankings, NCAA qualifier Kevin Innis of Boston will look to get back on track against Mike Hughes at heavyweight.

At the same time as that dual occurs, Army will compete against Princeton.  The Tigers are coming off a third place showing at the Navy Classic where three team members nabbed silver – Garrett Frey (125), Adam Krop (141) and Abram Ayala (197).  Those grapplers should be part of interesting contests against Hunter Wood, Mark Marchetti and Bryce Barnes, respectively.

In addition, there should be good bouts at 165 and 174, where both Army and Princeton had several wrestlers place high in last weekend’s competitions. (Judd Ziegler was fifth at 165 for Princeton, while Brett Harner finished in the same spot at 174).  We’ll also be watching the 133 match closely, as Long Island native Chris Perez will battle Army’s Logan Everett.


More than Division I . . .

As we discussed in this article (and this one), the event will also feature some local teams, as Stony Brook and Westchester will battle on Sunday, as will Division III squads NYU and Stevens Institute of Technology.

And the event isn’t limited to just college action.  The championship bouts of the inaugural Grapple at the Garden Middle School tournament will be part of the day, as will the finals of the Beat the Streets PSAL Thanksgiving Dual Meet Invitational, featuring many of the top schools in New York City.

One match that won’t take place is the scheduled freestyle contest between Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Bubba Jenkins because Dake suffered a fractured hand last weekend while in Baku.  However, Frank Molinaro will step in and wrestle Jenkins in a meeting of former Penn State grapplers.

The full list of dual meets taking place at the college level on Sunday are:

10 a.m.

Cornell vs. Maryland

Rutgers vs. George Mason

Illinois vs. Bloomsburg

Hofstra vs. Army

Boston vs. Penn

Drexel vs. Princeton

Stony Brook vs. Westchester CC



Cornell vs. Illinois

Hofstra vs. Boston

Army vs. Princeton

Rutgers vs. Maryland

Bloomsburg vs. Penn

George Mason vs. Drexel

NYU vs. Stevens



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s