Heavyweight State Placer Ian James Chooses University at Buffalo

Making it to the state tournament.  That was the main goal of Greece’s Ian James going into his junior season in November of 2012.

That objective was within his reach as he took the mat in the 285-pound SuperSectionals title bout last February.  The task wouldn’t be easy, however, as he was set to face a familiar foe – Spencerport’s Austin Coleman.

The two heavyweights had already met three times during the season.  In the first match, James came out on top 3-1, however, Coleman had captured the last two.  To ensure a spot in Albany – and achieve his goal – James knew he had to even the score.

“By the fourth time wrestling him, I was confident,” James said. “I stuck to what I did the first time and was able to win the match.”

Indeed, he was, earning the Section 5 title and a ticket to the Times Union Center with a 4-1 triumph.

Courtesy of Ian James

“It was a really big step for me,” he said. “It felt great to accomplish that – I knew I worked hard enough to get it done.”

But there were still more achievements on the way in Albany, although James didn’t have the start he was looking for in the state capital.

“Going into my first match was nerve-wracking,” he said. “It felt like my first time ever wrestling. The nerves stuck with me the whole match. I felt flat; not on top of my game at all.”

That opening bout with Anthony Puca of Huntington was a battle that went three overtimes before the Suffolk County grappler came out on top, 3-2.

But after focusing all year on getting to the state tournament, James wasn’t going to make it a short, two-bout experience.

“I felt like after my first match, all the jitters were gone,” he said.  “I just got into my zone where I wanted to be and focused on what I wanted to do.  After being down, I pushed myself to do better.  Those were the hardest matches of the year with everyone going for the same goals.  My wins were probably the best wrestling I did all year.”

He captured three contests in a row, beginning with an overtime victory over Chris Alianakian.  He then won 5-1 against Andrew Brinser of Union-Endicott and 7-5 versus Terrence Cheeks of Newburgh to clinch All-State status.  He finished with one-point losses to bronze medalist James O’Hagan of Seaford and Mike Manni of Tappan Zee to nab sixth place in the state.

Afterwards, he continued to pick up quality wins, including at the Section 5 vs. Finger Lakes Wrestling Club dual meet that was part of the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge in March.

In that competition, James pinned Connor Calkins of Alfred-Almond, a Division II state placer who had some impressive offseason results, including crowns at the Journeymen Classic and the Freak Show.

“It felt good to be selected to be in that kind of event,” James said.  “It was the best kids in the Section doing what they love to do most.  I felt honored and kind of nervous to be in that environment – at Cornell, with great high school and college wrestlers around.”

He soon will be a college wrestler himself, as he committed to the University at Buffalo.

“I decided on Buffalo for a lot of reasons,” James said. “It’s close to home and it’s a program on the rise.  I like where the program is going and I want to be a part of it.  It’s also good that there will be a lot of Section 5 kids there.”

Speaking of Section 5 kids, James keeps thinking about his rival last year, Austin Coleman, who went on to the state finals after James defeated him at the state qualifier.

“It’s something that drives me, that I beat someone who took second in the state,” James said. “The way I’m working in the practice room, I feel like I can win states this year. That’s my goal. I was pretty excited to place last year.  It got me ready for this year, where I plan to come back and win it all.   Last year was just a stepping stone.”

A stepping stone to potential state glory.  And a stepping stone to college wrestling at Buffalo.


Ian James wanted to thank all of the coaches who helped him through the years, since he started wrestling in seventh grade.


World Team Member Alexis Porter of Shenendehowa Commits to McKendree University

It’s been quite a week for Alexis Porter.  On Saturday, she picked up a dominant win in international action in her home gym.  And just a few days later, she committed to McKendree University in Illinois, where she will receive a full athletic scholarship.

“I took a visit and I really, really liked the campus,” Porter said. “The school is a good size and there are really good academic programs in areas I’m interested in.  I thought it was the best fit for me.”

It didn’t hurt that the Bearcats have already seen success in their debut season (with wins over the #4 and #5 teams in the nation). And there are plans in place to build a dedicated wrestling building.

Photo by Justin Cummings/Spotlight News Sports Photographer

“The brand new facility wasn’t the deciding factor, but it influenced me,” she said. “I’m definitely excited about it.”

Porter, a four-time national champion who represented Team USA at this summer’s Cadet World Championships in Serbia, also considered King, Campbellsville and Lindenwood.

She said she will finish her last high school season with Shenendehowa, but then looks forward to transitioning away from folkstyle – for good.

“In women’s college wrestling, it’s just freestyle,” she said. “I think I’m better at freestyle and I enjoy it more.  It will keep me on track for my international goals.”

Porter put on a great display of international wrestling this past weekend.  Prior to the USA vs. Russia Dual at Shenendehowa High School, Porter took on Canadian Keagin Collie at 65 kg.  She took command from the start, racing out to a 6-0 lead after the first period and winning by 7-0 technical fall early in the second stanza.

“It was an incredible event,” Porter said. “It was a packed gym and being able to wrestle in front of the home crowd at my own school was amazing.  Not too many people can say that they represented their country at their own school. I felt the adrenaline and really enjoyed it.  It was a great opportunity for me.”

Photo by Justin Cummings/Spotlight News Sports Photographer

Porter will have more opportunities on the world wrestling scene after going 0-1 at the World Championships a few months ago.  She has a developmental camp coming up in Philadelphia and plans to compete in Sweden in February and then in Austria in June.

“I definitely didn’t finish where I expected or hoped at the Worlds,” she said. “Sometimes you learn more from your failures than your successes.  I took a lot from that trip.  I have some more chances coming up to get some redemption and prove myself on the international stage.  I expect there to be a much different outcome.”

For now, though, Porter is excited to go through her senior year of high school with her future much more clear.

“I’m glad to be done with the recruiting process,” she said. “I enjoyed it – it was definitely an experience.  But now I can settle in and prepare for next year.  There were a lot of decisions to be made and places to look at, but I’m really happy with my decision and how it all turned out.”


Alexis Porter wanted to thank her family, coaches and friends, saying that she “wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without all of them.”

St. Anthony's "Renaissance Man" Freddie Dunau, a Two-Time State Placer, Chooses Penn

Freddie Dunau is a national champion.

In 2011, he and his cousin captured a title at the Hershey Nationals – in hip hop dancing.

That’s the just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extra curricular activities for the St. Anthony’s senior, a student with a weighted average over 100 and a 2220 SAT score.  He coaches a breakdancing team and a gymnastics squad.  (Dunau is a gymnast as well).  He rides unicycles.  And, of course, he’s an accomplished wrestler.

“He’s a very special kid,” said his club coach, Craig Vitagliano of Ascend. “He’s a Renaissance man.”

Indeed he is.  A number of elite schools noticed his impressive resume during the recruiting process.  However, he’s now off the market as he announced recently that he will attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania after considering colleges such as Columbia, Harvard and NYU.

Photo courtesy of Freddie Dunau

“After my visit to Penn, I felt like I knew where I wanted to be,” the future Division I 149-pounder said. “Everyone was very welcoming and it seemed like a really good environment for me. It’s nice to know where I’m going.  Now I have a lot of pressure off for the rest of the year.”

Dunau will be joining another CHSAA alum, Andrew Lenzi (Fordham Prep), in Philadelphia. Lenzi was a New York State champion, an accomplishment that Dunau hopes to repeat.  But first, he has another goal in mind.

“I want to be a four-time Catholic [CHSAA] state champion this year,” Dunau said. “A few people placed four times, but not many have won it all four years.  I would be part of a select group to accomplish that.”

He’ll be the favorite to do so, likely at 138 pounds.  He won his first CHSAA title as a freshman 96 pounder and then went on to make an impact at the state tournament.

“I knew I wanted to wrestle in Albany,” he said of his ninth grade campaign. “Getting there was awesome.  When I first got there, I was a little bit nervous, but once I was on the mat, I blocked everything out and it was just like any other match.  I didn’t pay attention to the crowd.”

It’s no surprise that a loud arena didn’t faze Dunau. After all, he performed in front of larger audiences at Madison Square Garden as a four-year member of the Knicks City Kids.

“I was on the dance team that performed at Knicks home games until I was 13,” he said. “We’d do hip hop routines, flips and all kinds of tricks.”

No tricks were needed by Dunau in that first appearance in the state capital in 2011 as he took fifth place at 96 pounds as a freshman with three wins, including a major and a pin.

He expected to achieve more as a sophomore at 106 pounds.  However, Dunau’s return trip to Albany didn’t quite go as planned.

“I thought I had a really good shot to win the state championship that year,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling well and when it came time to weigh in, I had 102 fever.  It was extremely challenging to make weight.”

He did, and actually pinned his first opponent.  However, he lost his next two bouts and went home without a second medal.

“One of the things I always pride myself on is good endurance,” he said. “I don’t think up to that point I had ever lost a match because I got tired. But I felt like I had no energy whatsoever.  When I watch the videos of myself, it was like I was crawling to the center of the mat.  It was disappointing. It made me angry that I didn’t wrestle the way I knew I could. It definitely motivated me.”

That motivation paid off in a 24-3 record as a junior in 2012-13 at 126 pounds.

When the brackets were released for the New York championships, Dunau saw that he was set to face former NYS champion and fourth seed Mark West of Hauppauge in round one.  West was one of the favorites after capturing the Suffolk County crown in a loaded bracket in which eventual state champion TJ Fabian (now at Sacred Heart) took third.

“At first, I was a little bit nervous, but then I figured if I was going to wrestle [West] at some point, it might as well be first,” Dunau said. “I found that my style works well against his because he did a lot of moves that I have counters for. It worked out well.”

It did, as Dunau came out on top by a 7-3 score.  He continued on with a 1-0 victory over Mike Raccioppi of Minisink Valley before losing in the semifinals to Fabian.  Dunau then split a pair of bouts in the consolations to earn fifth place for the second time in his career.

But despite the podium finish, that contest against Fabian remains fresh in his mind.  Especially since he estimates that he’s viewed it at least 60 times.

“I watched that match over and over and over again and I know what mistakes I made,” he said. “I’ve been working hard to correct them and hopefully that leads me to win it this year.”

Adding a state title to the resume?  It would just be another achievement for a “Renaissance Man” heading to the Ivy League.


Freddie Dunau wanted to thank the members of his family.  He said “they take me everywhere I need to go, support me at all my matches, whether they’re in Ohio or Long Island, and are just great people.”


Destination, Buffalo: Shaker's Blake Retell Picks the Bulls

Wrestling has taken Shaker’s Blake Retell to numerous places in the United States.  This summer, the sport took him even further, as he traveled to Italy and Austria with the Journeymen Wrestling Club.

Now, wrestling will lead Retell to another location – Buffalo – as the three-time state qualifier committed to head coach John Stutzman and the Bulls.

“I really liked Coach Stutzman and his philosophy on the program,” Retell said. “I like the style of wrestling and what it leads to. The campus was really nice and so was the wrestling room.”

Photo courtesy of the Retell family

Retell, who projects to wrestle at 133 pounds in college, has been around wrestling rooms since first grade, when he first ventured into the sport.  He said he joined Journeymen while in elementary school and spends two to three days per week at the club year round.

“Every day I can go there, I go,” he said.  “I’ve been able to learn from some of the best coaches and wrestlers in the world.  It’s really made me a better wrestler, especially technique-wise.”

A few years after starting club wrestling, Retell began his career at Shaker High, where he competed at 96 pounds as a seventh grader.

“My high school coach Dan Gibson picked me up in the mornings and really pushed me when I first started on varsity,” Retell said. “He got me mentally better, in shape and stronger.”

It showed as he piled up victories.  In his eighth and ninth grade years, Retell combined to win over 80 matches with just eight losses at 103 and 112 pounds, respectively. Both times, he qualified for the state tournament and won a match.

It looked like he was headed for the Times Union Center to compete again as a sophomore at 120 pounds before his season was cut short.

“I broke my hand the week before the qualifiers,” Retell said. “I went to the state tournament and watched a little, but it was so tough to watch because I couldn’t wrestle.”

He bounced back with another strong campaign as a junior, notching over 40 wins at 120.  He nabbed seventh at the Eastern States Classic in January, pinning eventual Division II state champion Trey Aslanian of Edgemont and topping All-State grappler Santo Curatolo of Tottenville.

In his third trip to the NYS championships this past February, Retell recorded a pair of pins and fell one win shy of making the podium.

“I felt like I should have wrestled better,” he said. “I messed up a couple of times. Not big mistakes, but little mistakes that cost me matches.”

A few weeks later, Retell again advanced to the placement round at a big event, this time the NHSCA Junior Nationals in Virginia Beach, where he went 4-2 at 126 pounds, just missing All-America status.

The Section 2 competitor was far from done, however. He finished in the top three in both Freestyle and Greco at the New York States in May, wrestled against European grapplers on the July trip with his club and also competed at the Iron Horse Invitational.

But after his journeys, Retell said there’s only place he’s interested in being on the first day of March – the Times Union Center.

“This year, I’m looking to win a state championship,” he said, noting that he’s currently targeting 126 pounds but may be at 132. “It’s all about how you end.”

He hopes to end high on the podium in the state capital.  And after that and all his travels, his destination will be Buffalo.


Family Affair: Beacon's Andrew Grella Joins Binghamton's Recruiting Class

Thoughts of attending Binghamton entered Andrew Grella’s mind as soon as his older brother Vincent, the squad’s current 165-pound starter, decided to become a Bearcat a few years ago.

“I’m close with my brother, and I’ve always wanted to do what he does,” Andrew Grella said. “I thought it would be a good place because of my brother and because it’s such a good school.”

If the future 197-pounder wasn’t already convinced, he became sure of his decision when he made his official visit to campus.

“It was a really fun time,” he said. “We went out to dinner and lunches and played paintball. It was cool to be a part of that team bonding.  I walked around campus and went fishing with a bunch of the guys, which was great.”

Indeed, for Grella, who wants to study environmental science, the opportunity to pursue outdoor activities was a big selling point.

“I’m a really big outdoors guy. One of the first questions I asked when I got there was whether there were good spots for hunting and fishing around there,” he said. “They just laughed.”

Grella’s road to Division I wrestling is slightly atypical.  After enduring a difficult season as a ninth grader at 152 pounds, Grella said he didn’t compete during his sophomore year at Beacon High School.

“I got my butt kicked as a freshman as a middleweight,” he said. “I wasn’t strong enough and wrestled a lot of tough seniors. My brother was at 152 too, so I didn’t even get that many matches.  I decided to take a year and focus on getting really strong, getting in great shape and improving my technique.”

Photo by Dawn Sela, Courtesy of Andrew Grella

His work seemed to pay dividends when he took the mat at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals in Virginia Beach at 170 pounds, coming within one win of All-America status at the event.

Then, it was time to return to New York high school action.  He did so with a flourish, racking up a 27-3 mark at 182 pounds (prior to Sectionals) as a junior in 2012-13. All of his losses were to wrestlers who finished in the top four at the New York state tournament, including a pair of silver medalists.

In fact, his first bout at the Eastern States Classic in January was against eventual 195-pound NYS second place finisher Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa.  In a hard fought contest, Ashley came out on top 8-6.

“I didn’t have credentials or seeding criteria, so I knew I’d probably get a great wrestler right off the bat,” Grella said. “I knew it would be a tight match and he hit me with the same move twice to beat me.  It was disappointing.”

He rebounded well, however, capturing five straight matches in the wrestlebacks, including over state placers Andrew Martinez of Liberty and Matt Roberts of Monsignor Farrell as well as qualifier Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy.  His streak was stopped by 182-pound state finalist James Corbett of Wantagh and he later forfeited to take sixth.

“I had a hip injury after my first two wins,” he said. “I wrapped it up and won a few more after that.  I could barely walk back to the center of the mat without falling over.  It was bad. But I showed I could compete with some very good wrestlers.”

He continued to pile up wins before dropping the Section 1 championship bout to Thomas Murray of Yorktown, 3-0. [Murray went on to take fourth in Albany in 2013, a year after losing a close match in the Section 1 title bout and not getting a bid to the Times Union Center].

Murray’s path of second in Section 1 to All-State status a year later is one that Grella hopes to emulate – at least somewhat.

“That’s the plan I want to follow, except I plan to win it all,” he said.  “I expect to do big things this year, including winning a 195-pound state championship.”

And if he needs a tough partner to work with, he knows he can find one whenever his brother returns from Binghamton.

“Whenever he’s home, we wrestle,” Andrew Grella said. “Someone’s always bleeding.  I’d say I get the best of it, but if you ask him, you’ll get a different answer.”

Soon enough, the Grella brothers will have more opportunities to “bleed” together, as teammates for the Bearcats.


Andrew Grella thanked his parents and acknowledged the significant contributions of the Olympic Wrestling Club in New Jersey.


On to Buffalo: State Champion Sean Peacock Commits to the Bulls

Sean Peacock took third place in New York as a freshman at 96 pounds, but when it came time for the next season, the Midlakes wrestler wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I went up two weight classes [to 113],” he said. “People were surprised I didn’t certify at 108.  Going up those two classes, I expected less than the year before – I definitely wanted to place but I didn’t know what would happen.”

Photo by BV

But as the season progressed and Peacock continued to pile up victories at his new weight, his goals began to change.  In fact, despite enduring his second loss of the campaign at the SuperSectionals to Austin Keough of Warsaw, Peacock shared a prediction with his mother while traveling to the Times Union Center.

“When it came time for the state tournament, I felt more confident in myself,” he said.  “I told my mom on the way to Albany for the tournament that I somehow knew I would come away a winner that year.”

He did, in more ways than one.  In a loaded bracket full of medalists and champions, such as William Koll, Dillon Stowell and Trey Aslanian, Peacock earned New York State gold.

“Everything just kind of flowed and I had some good matches and ended up winning,” he said.  “It was kind of surreal.  It was shocking to know that I beat everyone in my bracket and for Division II, I was the #1 guy in the state.  It’s something I can’t describe.”

But Peacock said it wasn’t necessarily the highlight of the year.

“I think the biggest accomplishment was winning the [dual] state title as team,” he said. “I grew up with those guys and we’ve been working together for so long – since seven years old.  We’ve wrestled year round together, always putting in the time. The team part was very meaningful.”

A similar sense of team was one of the reasons Peacock recently decided to continue his academic and athletic pursuits at the University at Buffalo, where he projects to compete at 133 pounds.  (Peacock said he also considered Old Dominion and Bucknell).

After traveling to the campus in early September, he knew he wanted to return for an official visit.

“As soon as I met the team and witnessed how things were with them, I knew it was the right fit for me,” he said.  “Everyone seemed to mesh together really well and I really liked the coaching staff and the academic support they have in place. Knowing a lot of the New York guys was a factor too.”

Before he gets there, Peacock has things left to do in Section 5 and statewide.  Right now, for the three-sport athlete, that includes finishing the cross country season. (He plays lacrosse as well).  But no matter how many squads he’s a part of, Peacock always finds significant time for wrestling.

That time has been well spent over the years and has resulted in multiple All-America finishes at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach (including seventh at 120 in 2013) as well as a rewriting of the Midlakes record books.  Peacock already is the leading pinner in Screaming Eagles history, with over 100 falls in his career.

The individual state title he captured was the first ever for a Midlakes wrestler.  He tried to make it two golds in 2013, earning a spot in the New York championship match for the second straight year against Edgemont’s Trey Aslanian.  This time, however, the current Princeton grappler came out on top, 4-2.

“Last season wasn’t my best performance,” Peacock said. “Even though I was second last year and third as a freshman, I feel like my freshman year was more successful.  I realized that I needed to improve a lot more.  It’s definitely a motivator for me now.”

Peacock feels that he has improved this offseason, especially on his feet. He credits his frequent sessions with Wayne’s Bryan Lantry and Webster Schroeder’s Tom Lancie for some of his progress.

“My neutral has gotten a lot better and we’ve been working on a lot of different situations,” he said. “I’ve fine tuned my work on top.  I’m more prepared now.”

He’s prepared to take on all comers at 132 pounds, looking for another magical weekend in the state capital.

“That was one of the best weekends of my life,” Peacock said. “Wins or pin records aren’t important.  I’m going out to be a state champ, nothing less.”


Sean Peacock wanted to thank his parents, his teammates, Coach Steve Howcroft, Coach LaPaglia, Papa Brooks, and everyone he’s trained with over the years.


Teammates Now and in the Future: Newark Valley's Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb Commit to Buffalo


Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb have been friends and teammates since they were five years old.  They are entering their senior seasons at Newark Valley, but they recently ensured that they will be on the same squad for several more years, as both committed to the University at Buffalo.


“It’s going to be great going to college with someone who is one of my teammates and best friends,” Hoffmier said. “It’s someone I’ve always wrestled with and am comfortable with but also someone who I know is dedicated to his studies and will always be focused and helpful in both the academic and athletic aspects.”

Hoffmier, a two-time Section IV champion, was also looking at Bucknell and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  The future 157-pounder was planning to visit the latter school shortly after going to Buffalo, but after touring the Buffalo campus, he knew where he belonged.

“Coach [John] Stutzman made my decision easy,” Hoffmier said. “I love how he coaches and presents himself.  I have a lot of confidence that he can help me become successful.”

Hoffmier has already been successful in his high school career, racking up more than 25 wins as a sophomore and 32 victories as a junior while making appearances at the state tournament both years (and winning a match each time).  In 2013, he got his hand raised in Albany at 145 pounds against Jamiel Stapleton, sandwiched in between a pair of one-point losses to state placers.

Holcomb had a similar path at the Times Union Center after earning his first Section IV crown with an overtime win at 160 pounds over All-State wrestler Alex Francik, a future teammate with the Bulls.  In Albany, Holcomb, who went 35-3 overall as a junior with 25 bonus wins, picked up a victory before losing in extra time to eventual fifth placer Andrew Psomas of Monsignor Farrell.

Holcomb, who projects at 165 or 174 pounds in college, responded well with a standout showing at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach in the spring, nabbing All-America honors with a seventh place finish at 152 pounds.  He pinned his first opponent before dropping a close decision to Terrence Mason of Nevada in round two.  Holcomb then got to work in the wrestlebacks, collecting five straight victories before beating Mason in a rematch to grab seventh.


It was actually the second consecutive seventh place medal for Holcomb at that event, as he took the same spot at 152 in the NHSCA Sophomore competition in 2012 with a similar run in the consolation bracket.

The strong performances continued at the recent Journeymen Classic as Hoffmier went undefeated at 152 pounds, while Holcomb went 3-1 with a 1-0 victory over NYS champion Adis Radoncic at 170 as well as wins over Pennsylvania state qualifier Johnny Dambro and New England runner up Brad Drover.

Now, the teammates will try to collect some hardware for the Cardinals. According to cnywrestling.com, Newark Valley’s last state champion was Barry Sutter in 1964 and the last placer was in 2000.  Hoffmier and Holcomb look to change the record books before getting their college careers started.

Holcomb called the recruiting process, in which he also considered Binghamton and Bucknell, “very exciting, however very stressful.” In the end, the Buffalo staff won him over.

“I really connected with the coaches and enjoyed the great facilities,” Holcomb said. “I also thought the campus was the best fit for me and my major.”

It didn’t hurt that a familiar face, Hoffmier, had provided his verbal pledge to the MAC institution just a few days before.

“We’ve been partners since five years old,” Holcomb said. “We have molded each other into the wrestlers we are today. I’m happy that everything worked out and we will be able to push for our common goals together.”