Waterway Duals Recap: Six NY Teams Compete; 631 Elite Earns Third Place

A year ago, a team from Long Island captured the title at the Waterway Duals in Pennsylvania.  On Saturday, Long Island was again well represented at the 2013 version of the tournament, as 631 Elite grabbed third place in the 26-team field.

“This is a great event,” said John Passaro, who was an assistant for the team. “There are quality matches all over the place. You go to tournaments like these to be exposed to great competition and to see what you need to work on. This time of the year, every match is important. September and October are about preparing for states and nationals in February and March.  The tremendous competition at Waterway Duals definitely helps to do that.”

631 Elite began with a bye and then had a meeting with Malvern in a rematch of last year’s Waterway Duals finals.  Things didn’t get off to an ideal start.

“Momentum wasn’t going our way at first – it was a little bit scary,” Passaro said. “We got pinned in the first match and then Vito [Arujau] was thrown to his back right away at 113 [pounds].  We could have been down 12-0. But Vito fought off his back and came back and showed tremendous heart.  He not only won the match with a pin, but he turned around the whole dual.”

Vito Arujau, Photo by BV

Arujau’s fall knotted the score at 6 and the Long Islanders took over from there, with Nick Piccininni (120) and Travis Passaro (126) giving the squad the lead for good with back-to-back triumphs.  In the end, 631 Elite won 12 of the 14 bouts in a 52-9 result.

Next up was another Empire State group – Journeymen, which had notched victories in the first two rounds.  In the quarterfinal showdown, 631 came out on top 39-15 behind bonus point wins by Arujau, Piccininni, Jimmy Leach (145), Steve Schneider (170), Nick Weber (195) and Peter Strassfield (heavyweight).  According to Passaro, one of the most exciting contests was at 132 where Journeymen All-American Kevin Jack (an Eastern States champion for Danbury, CT) edged NHSCA Freshman National Champion Chris Mauriello, 3-2.

In the semifinals, 631 met Bison Legend, another Pennsylvania squad.  It was close early, with Arujau and Piccininni giving the team a 7-3 advantage after the first three weights.  However, the Keystone State squad then took control, ending with a 37-10 victory.  (Also coming out on top for the Long Island group was Mepham state champion Louis Hernandez, who had an 11-5 decision at 152).

“Bison came in with a stacked lineup – Fargo All-Americans and quality guys up and down the lineup,” Passaro said. “They were accomplished, hungry and in shape. There were a bunch of close matches that could have gone either way and we lost all of them. But that’s the exact reason to wrestle there.  We got humbled a little bit, but we know what we need to work on.  You want to wrestle those elite kids.”

631 rebounded well, finishing the day on a high note in the third place contest with a 49-12 win over Defiant.  The Long Island wrestlers registered nine wins in the 14 matches, including pins by Leach, Hernandez and Weber.

“The team wrestled really well in the third place match,” Passaro said. “These kids have been doing this long enough to know you only remember your last match on the ride home.  They wanted to have a good ride home and they did.”

Going unbeaten for 631 were Vito Arujau, Nick Piccininni and Louis Hernandez. Meanwhile, Travis Passaro, Jimmy Leach, Greg Cherry, Steven Schneider and Nick Weber all compiled 3-1 records. (The full roster of the bronze medal team is listed at the end of the article).

While 631 Elite earned third with a 3-1 record, another New York squad also registered a 3-1 mark on Saturday.   Team Long Island opened against Contender in a close match that finished deadlocked at 30. After the tiebreaking criteria were applied, Contender was declared the winner, sending Team Long Island out of the placement bracket. (According to Passaro, both teams had two falls during the dual, but a forfeit by Long Island was counted as a fall and Contender moved forward on the ‘most pins’ criterion).

The team bounced back strong, outscoring its opponents 164-18 to win the last three duals in commanding fashion.  Leading the way were undefeated wrestlers James Szymanski (120), Jack Taddeo (132), Sean O’Hagan (138), Ed Ramirez (145) and Gino Titone (152).

“Being in that tournament, in that environment will only help everyone’s development,” Passaro said. “It was tough to lose on the tiebreakers like that, but the positive way to look at it is that the team had three matches where they did extremely well afterwards.”

Also doing extremely well were a number of other wrestlers.  For Journeymen, Kevin Jack, Brett Perry (182) and Youssif Hemida (220) collected four victories apiece, according to the online results.

That wasn’t all for New York wrestling. Iowa Style also took the mat on Saturday, nabbing a victory over fellow Empire State grapplers from Beat the Streets Red.

Beat the Streets brought two teams to the event and the Blue squad notched a 2-2 record with wins over two Pennsylvania foes – 36-16 over Turks Head and 46-21 against MWA.   State champion Adis Radoncic picked up three wins, as did Saidyokub Kahramonov at 145 and Miguel Perez at 220.

One additional standout showing from New York at the event was that of Hilton state champion Yianni Diakomihalis.  The Section 5 star went 4-0 at 106 pounds for the first place team (Griffin Select, Pennsylvania), with three victories by bonus points.


Passaro mentioned a number of individuals who coached and/or contributed heavily to the success of the Long Island teams, including Mike Patrovich, Ed Ramirez, Matt DeVincenzo, Nick Mauriello, Vougar Oroudjov, Les Ware and Lance Banfi.


631 Elite – Third Place Roster

106 Matteo DeVincenzo

113 Vito Arujau

120 Nick Piccininni

126 Travis Passaro

132 Chris Mauriello

138 Evan Meyer

145 Jimmy Leach

152 Louis Hernandez

160 Greg Cherry

170 Steve Schneider

182 Dom Pirraglia

195 Nick Weber

220 Rafal Rokosz

Hwt Peter Stassfield


Nick Piccininni, Travis Passaro and Conor O'Hara Win Titles at Super 32 Qualifier in Pennsylvania

Nick Piccininni, Photo by Boris V

Every year, late in the fall, the Super 32 Challenge in North Carolina features huge brackets full of some of the nation’s top high school wrestlers.  This past weekend, a number of New York competitors qualified for early entry into the event by placing in the top four at the Super 32 Qualifier in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  Talent from numerous states, including Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia took the mat and at the end of the day, the Empire State boasted three champions (Nick Piccininni, Travis Passaro and Conor O’Hara) as well as several other placewinners.

Piccininni, a 2012 undefeated state champion from Ward Melville, cruised through his five matches, none of which were close, to win the 113 pound title.  Representing 631 Elite, he opened with a 11-2 major over Eric Hunt of Pennsylvania and proceeded to win his next four bouts by the combined tally of 35-1.  He blanked Tanner Shoap, a multi-time state medalist in Pennsylvania, 10-0 in the final.

In the same bracket, St. Anthony’s Ben Lamantia also placed, taking fourth.  The Friar wrestler earned victories in his first three contests before dropping a one-point decision to Bryan Damon of New Jersey to move into the consolations.   Lamantia recorded a fall and two shutout wins in the wrestlebacks before losing to Damon again by a point in the bronze medal bout.

Piccininni wasn’t 631 Elite’s only champion.  Also winning a title from the Long Island club was Travis Passaro, who earned his crown with a 2-0 triumph in sudden victory at 120 pounds.  The Eastport South Manor wrestler was in control throughout the day, yielding only two points in his five matches, while scoring 18 and registering a pin.  Passaro was joined on the podium at 120 by Technical Edge’s Freddie Dunau, whose four victories included a major and a fall.

The third Empire State champion was Sachem East’s Conor O’Hara.  The Suffolk County grappler won his finals bout handily, 9-0, over Dixon Myers of Pennsylvania to top off a 5-0 day in which he won three bouts by two points or less.

Also making the finals was Journeymen’s Austin Weigel, who outscored his first three foes 14-3 before being edged 5-3 in the title bout by nationally-ranked Garrett Peppelman of Pennsylvania at 170 pounds.

The last New York wrestler to make the top four was Christian Briody of Chaminade and he put in quite an effort to get there, winning eight matches to take third at 106 pounds.  He began his day with a 5-4 victory and followed up with another decision, this time 8-1 over Alex Zangrilli of New Jersey before dropping a 5-3 bout to Triston Law of Pennsylvania.  Briody then faced a long road to make the top four and spent little time getting to work, pinning his first wrestleback opponent in 34 seconds before reeling off five more victories in which he outscored his opponents 25-9.

New York Top Four Placers – Super 32 Qualifier

106: Christian Briody (Chaminade), 3rd Place (8-1)

113: Nick Piccininni (631 Elite), 1st Place (5-0)

113: Ben Lamantia (St. Anthony’s), 4th Place (6-2)

120: Travis Passaro (631 Elite), 1st Place (5-0)

120: Freddie Dunau (Technical Edge), 4th Place (4-2)

132: Conor O’Hara (Sachem East), 1st Place (5-0)

170: Austin Weigel (Journeymen), 2nd Place (3-1)

New York Wrestlers Earn Titles at the War at the Shore

Close to 1800 wrestlers traveled to Wildwood, New Jersey this holiday weekend for the 9th Annual War at the Shore Folkstyle Nationals.  Some of New York’s finest were among the grapplers in attendance, battling with opponents from up and down the East Coast and around the country.

Six Empire State participants won individual titles on Saturday with more than 30 placing fourth or better in their weights.

Darien resident Dane Heberlein continued his winning ways after earning a national title at the NHSCA Middle School tournament in Virginia Beach the previous Saturday (and a NYWAY State Championship the weekend before). Heberlein cruised to five straight wins, including a 4-2 decision in the finals over Trevor Tarsi of Nazareth, PA at 85 pounds in Division 4.

A pair of representatives from 631 Elite stood on top of the podium in Division 3, as Adam Busiello took the 77-pound crown and Peter Pappas prevailed in the 82-pound class.  Busiello outscored his opponents 49-7 over his five bouts while Pappas opened with three commanding victories before coming out on top in one-point matches in the semis and finals. 631 Elite had a strong tournament overall, with eight competitors finishing in the top four at the event.

Another Suffolk resident atop the podium was Sachem East’s Jakob Restrepo, who was the victor at 140 pounds in Division 4.  Restrepo, who was 28-1 during the high school season at 120 and 126 pounds according to the NWCA Scorebook, yielded just two points in his five matches while notching a pin and a major decision.  He defeated Delaware’s Lucas Monson 5-0 for the championship.

Benny Baker of Newark Valley took the title at 83 pounds while representing JGold.  The NYWAY State Champion made quick work of his first two foes, winning by fall in less than two minutes in both bouts.  He then followed with a 4-1 semifinal triumph and a 4-0 victory over 631 Elite’s Ryan Burgbacher in the finale.

The final New York champion was Kevin Mulligan of the Olympic Club, who took his first three bouts by a combined score of 20-0 at 165 pounds before topping Will Lang of Utah 7-2 to earn the title.

For a list of top four medalists from New York*, see below:



Benny Baker (JGold) – 83 Pounds, Division 2

Adam Busiello (631 Elite) – 77 Pounds, Division 3

Dane Heberlein (Viper Garage Elite) – 85 Pounds, Division 4

Kevin Mulligan (Olympic) – 165 Pounds, Division 4

Peter Pappas (631 Elite) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Jakob Restrepo (Sachem East) – 140 Pounds, Division 4


Second Place

David Berkovich (Elite Wrestling Academy) – 78 Pounds, Division 2

Ryan Burgbacher (631 Elite) – 83 Pounds, Division 2

Nicholas Casella (Covert) – 102 Pounds, Division 4

Billy Ciccarelli (West Point WC) – 125 Pounds, Division 3

Justin Corradino (Olympic) – 127 Pounds, Division 5

Thomas Cox (631 Elite) – 75 Pounds, Division 4

Joey Gates (Suffolk) – 137 Pounds, Division 5

Josh Logiudice (Guilderland) – 95 Pounds, Division 5

Cody Phillips (Cobra) – 90 Pounds, Division 1

Jose Rodriguez (Ascend) – 107 Pounds, Division 5

Dylan Rider (631 Elite) – 67 Pounds, Division 3


Third Place

CJ Archer (Rocky Point Elite) – 90 Pounds, Division 4

Timothy Castillo (Port Wrestling) – 140 Pounds, Division 3

Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) – 96 Pounds, Division 4

Tyler Joseph (Olympic) – 70 Pounds, Division 1

Jake Murphy (Wantagh) – 56 Pounds, Division 1

Nicholas Pagnotta (Rocky Point Elite) – 80 Pounds, Division 4

Sean Romanski (NY Titan) – 137 Pounds, Division 5

Jake Silverstein (631 Elite) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Sam Ward (VHW) – 128 pounds, Division 4


Fourth Place

Vitali Arujau (VHW) – 99 Pounds, Division 3

Nick Bernardo (VHW) – 200 Pounds, Division 3

AJ Burkhart (IWC) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Christian Gannone (631 Elite) – 62 Pounds, Division 3

Ethan Mackie (Lindenhurst), 75 Pounds, Division 1

Sean Miller (Connetquot) – 90 Pounds, Division 4

Mathew Seitz (Apex) – 102 Pounds, Division 4

Gino Titone (Connetquot) – 140 Pounds, Division 4

Jordon Wellington (631 Elite) – 58 Pounds, Division 2

Dale White (John Jay) – 162 Pounds, Division 5


*Some results were not complete. If you notice a missing top four placewinner, please contact us.