World Team Trials Day 2: Army Graduate Anderson Makes the Finals; Gwiazdowski Takes Third in Challenge Tournament and More

 
 
The World Team Trials continued on Saturday with action in men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco Roman.

Anderson, pilotonline.com

Numerous wrestlers with New York ties took the mat, with West Point graduate Jon Anderson making it all the way to the best-of-three championship series against Andy Bisek in Greco at 74 kg/163 pounds.  Anderson began his journey with a 6-0 victory over Corey Hope and followed it up with a pin of Jake Fisher, the number two seed.  Fisher, a former World Team member, had taken a significant lead over Anderson early in the match, but the former Black Knight fought back to not only tie the score but also get the fall.

That set up the meeting with Bisek. In the first match, there was a lot of action early, but the first points weren’t put on the board until there were just seconds left in the opening period as Anderson grabbed a 1-0 advantage. Bisek didn’t waste much time tying things up in the second and with two minutes to go, the Minnesota Storm wrestler pulled ahead 3-1. Anderson stayed aggressive, but his opponent effectively countered multiple times, resulting in a 10-1 Bisek triumph in match one.

In the second match, Anderson went ahead with a push out less than a minute into the bout for a 1-0 lead.  Seconds later, however, Bisek responded with a takedown and after a series of turns, it was 7-1.  Toward the end of the stanza, Anderson looked in position for a big throw, but Bisek was able to fight it off and in the second period, Bisek ended the bout 9-2 with a pushout to take the World Team spot.

Anderson wasn’t the only placer with Empire State connections on Saturday, as three freestylers made the top four in the Challenge Tournament.

Former Duanesburg star Nick Gwiazdowski, who competes for North Carolina State, took bronze at 120 kg after racking up a 3-1 record.  That included a pair of wins over two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota.  In fact, Gwiazdowski started the day against the Golden Gopher, getting to his legs often and piling up points in a 9-0 technical fall that ended midway through the second period.  After dropping his next contest to Zach Rey, Gwiazdowski notched a 9-1 triumph over Kyle Massey before beating Nelson for third, 6-4.

Hall, wrestlersarewarriors.com (Tony Rotundo)

Also making the bronze match in the Challenge Tournament were Cornell graduate Cam Simaz (84 kg) and Columbia assistant Adam Hall (66 kg), who both took fourth with 2-2 marks.  Simaz opened and concluded with losses to Jon Reader. In between, he toppled Max Askren and Enock Francois by 7-0 and 9-2 scores, respectively.  Hall’s setbacks came to Challenge Tournament champion Brent Metcalf and third placer Chase Pami while he defeated Kyle Ruschell and Phillip Simpson.

Speaking of Simpson, the Army graduate went 3-2 with wins over Rollie Peterkin, Jason Chamberlain and Kyle Borshoff.  Borshoff, an American assistant coach originally from the Rochester area, dropped a one-pointer to Kyle Ruschell in round one before facing Simpson.

Another Simpson – William Simpson – picked up one victory at 60 kg in Greco with a pin, while Army assistant Enock Francois also had a 1-2 mark (at 84 kg) with a 7-0 win over Austin Trotman.

Yet another West Point coach, Danny Mitcheff, also collected a victory (at 55 kg), eliminating Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli in the consolations.  Mitcheff was then knocked out of the competition by former Buffalo grappler Mark McKnight, who also went 1-2.

On the women’s side, Jenna Burkert, recorded a technical fall at 63 kg against Lauren Louive, while another New York native, Joe Uccellini, competed at 74 kg in Greco.

Wrestling continues on Sunday in Stillwater with the Junior World Team Trials in both Freestyle and Greco.

For full results, see here.

 

What to Watch For From NY Wrestlers at the World Team Trials Beginning on Friday

 
 
On Friday and Saturday, many of the nation’s top wrestlers will take the mat at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma. A number of New York wrestlers will see action during the two-day competition, with representatives in most of the men’s freestyle classes and qualifiers in women’s freestyle and Greco Roman.  For a preview of what to look for from the Empire State grapplers, read on.

Men’s Freestyle

55 kg/121 pounds:

The Frontrunners: 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel and US Open champion Obe Blanc are among the favorites in a deep field.

The New York Connection: Former Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli went all the way to the championship bout at the US Open earlier in the spring and has registered a number of quality victories at 55 kg/121 pounds recently.  He also took bronze in 2013 at the Cerro Pelado International and looks to challenge for the title in Stillwater. In addition, Mark McKnight, a wrestler who spent some time in the Empire State while wrestling for Buffalo, was the Pan American Championships gold medalist earlier this year and the fourth place finisher at the US Open.

Also taking the mat will be Army assistant coach Danny Mitcheff, who gained entry via a sixth place showing at the U.S. Open at 60 kg/132 pounds.  He is currently seventh in the Senior National rankings at that class, but is in the field at the lightest weight for this weekend. Lucas Malmberg, a state champion for Marathon High, who trained with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club this season, qualified for the event by virtue of winning the Northeast Regional Championship but was not registered as of Thursday morning.

60 kg/132 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Coleman Scott earned Olympic bronze in London, but he’ll be challenged by US Open champion Reece Humphrey (who goes right into the championship series) and two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber, who looked impressive in beating the World’s number one ranked grappler Opan Sat of Russia this spring.

The New York Connection: Cornell freshman Mark Grey captured the Northeast Regional title to earn a spot at the event, however, he will instead compete at the Junior World Team Trials on Sunday at 60 kg.

 66 kg/145.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Kellen Russell clinched a spot in the championship series with his title at the US Open. In that event, he defeated another two-time NCAA champion, Jordan Oliver, in the finals.  Oliver will again be a threat, as will former World Team member Brent Metcalf.

The New York Connection: At the US Open, current EIWA assistants made the podium with Columbia’s Adam Hall notching fourth and American’s Kyle Borshoff, a Section 5 native, grabbing seventh. In addition, Army graduate Phillip Simpson was sixth.

74 kg/163 pounds:

The Frontrunners: This bracket has a huge ‘wow’ factor.  Jordan Burroughs, perhaps the world’s best wrestler over the past year or two, comes in as the favorite.  He is still a flawless 54-0 in Senior level freestyle action.  The weight boasts a number of impressive challengers, however, including Kyle Dake, Andrew Howe, Trent Paulson and David Taylor.

Dake, Phototrens.com

The New York Connection:  Dake made a successful international debut against Iran at the Rumble on the Rails and will look to continue his freestyle success. A year ago at the Olympic Trials, Dake defeated solid freestylers Colt Sponseller and Nick Marable and pinned Taylor.  He also dropped a three-period contest to former World Team member Trent Paulson. Dake will get a chance to avenge that outcome right away, as Paulson will be his opening round opponent on Friday. If he wins that one, his next bout could be a rematch with David Taylor.

Speaking of Taylor, the Nittany Lion will open action against the winner of the Moza Fay vs. Dan Vallimont tilt. Vallimont, a Hofstra assistant coach, registered a seventh place showing at the US Open and a Northeast Regional crown.  He will look to make his presence felt in Oklahoma at 74 kg, while Monsignor Farrell alum Kevin Hartnett, who competes for Bloomsburg, is also eligible join the fray after taking the Northeast Regional championship at 70 kg.

84 kg/185 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Keith Gavin won the US Open and will be challenged by a solid field, including those who finished right behind him in Vegas –  Clayton Foster, Jon Reader, Ed Ruth and Phil Keddy.

The New York Connection: Cam Simaz and Enock Francois battled at the US Open and at the Northeast Regionals. Francois, an assistant at West Point, won the first meeting on the way to a seventh place finish, however, Simaz rebounded to control the rematch.  In the interim, Simaz, the former Cornell NCAA champion, recorded a silver finish at the University Nationals. Both wrestlers have the potential to make noise in this bracket over the weekend. The same could be said for former Section 1 resident Max Askren, who placed second at the Dmitry Korkin International in 2012.

96 kg/211 pounds:

The Frontrunners: London gold medalist Jake Varner isn’t registered for the event. JD Bergman, the US Open champion, will go directly to the best of three championship series, where he could face the foe he defeated for the title in Las Vegas – Chris Pendleton. Another name to watch, Wynn Michalak, took third at the US Open behind Bergman and Pendleton.

The New York Connection: Former Buffalo All-American Kyle Cerminara, who is currently 9th in the US Senior rankings, qualified for the tournament with a Northeast Regional championship. However, he is not in the brackets.

120 kg/265.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Tervel Dlagnev was the 2012 Olympian, but he was upended by Dominique Bradley at the US Open. (Bradley will not compete). Taking third at that event was Tyrell Fortune, who was impressive in winning the University Nationals.  And what about competitors like Zach Rey and Tony Nelson? All could challenge for the top spot, along with Nick Gwiazdowski (see below) and others.

The New York Connection:  Former Duanesburg standout (and current North Carolina State wrestler) Nick Gwiazdowski was seventh at the US Open and third at the University Nationals.  He’ll look to be in the thick of things in a talented heavyweight class.

Women’s Freestyle

Since only the four Olympic weights will be contested in Stillwater (48, 55, 63, 72 kg), a number of wrestlers may move up or down in weight to challenge for World Team positions. This should add excitement to the competition and could lead to some surprises.

At least three New York natives are eligible to compete over the weekend.  Suffolk County’s Jenna Burkert recently earned a fourth place finish at the US Open at 59 kg. There won’t be competition at that weight this weekend, but Burkert, who will represent the USA at the Junior Worlds again this summer, will wrestle at 63 kg.

Mary Westman of Cattaraugas picked up a sixth place finish in Las Vegas at 72 kg, and will look to climb the ladder in that bracket in Oklahoma.

In the lightweights, Fredonia’s Carlene Sluberski recently represented the United States at the “Battle of the Falls” showcase at the end of May. Her third place finish at 51 kg at the US Open qualified her for the weekend, although she was not in the field as of Thursday morning.

Greco Roman

At 55 kg, Brooklyn’s Dmitry Ryabchinsky is always in the mix.  He recently notched fifth at the US Open and will be looking to move up to challenge frontrunners Spenser Mango and Max Nowry.

William Simpson, an Army alum, is entered at 60 kg, while fellow West Point grad Jon Anderson will be at 74 kg. Anderson has seen a lot of success in recent years and has represented the United States in international action. He was third at the Olympic Trials, the 2013 US Open and the Haparanda Cup. He may be joined in the field by another Empire State grappler, Joe Uccellini of Troy, the 79 kg champion at the Northeast Regionals.

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World Team Trials action begins on Friday, June 21 with competition in men’s freestyle (60 kg, 74 kg and 96 kg); Greco (55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg and 120 kg) and women’s freestyle (55 kg and 72 kg).

What Happened in Vegas: US Open Recap for NY, Including Runner Up Finish for Perrelli

 
 
Many of the nation’s top wrestlers descended upon Las Vegas this weekend for the U.S. Open. New York wrestlers certainly made an impact, with placers in both the men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco Roman competitions. In addition, the Empire State had success in the FILA Juniors tournaments that also took place in the same location. (For more on the Juniors competition, see here.)

Perrelli, Photo by BV

Going all the way to the finals was former Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli at 55 kg. Perrelli entered the event as the #7 seed, but won his first three bouts over Britain Longmire, Zach Sanders and Ben Kjar to earn his spot in the championship contest. In that match, top seeded Obe Blanc came out on top.

Also making the podium in freestyle were a number of coaches with ties to New York. At 66 kg, Columbia assistant Adam Hall took fourth while American assistant Kyle Borshoff (a former Section 5 star) grabbed seventh. In that same bracket, Army graduate Philip Simpson was sixth.

In addition, a pair of coaches notched seventh place (Hofstra’s Dan Vallimont at 74 kg and Army’s Enock Francois at 84 kg) while Duanesburg High School graduate (and current North Carolina State grappler) Nick Gwiazdowski was also seventh, at 120 kg.

In Greco, a pair of former New York high schoolers – Dmitry Riabchinsky of New Utrecht and Jason Chudzinski of Colonie – placed in the lightweights. Riabchinsky was fifth at 55 kg while Chudzinski took eighth at 60. Meanwhile, Army graduate Jon Anderson picked up bronze at 74 kg.

In women’s action, Carlene Sluberski recorded a third place finish at 51 kg while Jenna Burkert was fourth at 59. Joining them on the medal stand was Mary Westman, who was sixth at 72.

 

U.S. Open

Men’s Freestyle

55 kg: Frank Perrelli (NYAC/FLWC, Cornell graduate) – 2nd place

66 kg: Adam Hall (NYAC, Columbia assistant coach) – 4th place

66 kg: Philip Simpson (Army WCAP, Army graduate) – 6th place

66 kg: Kyle Borshoff (DCAC, Pittsford) – 7th place

74 kg: Dan Vallimont (Blue & Gold WC, Hofstra assistant coach) – 7th place

84 kg: Enock Francois (West Point WC, Army assistant coach) – 7th place

120 kg: Nick Gwiazdowski (NYAC, Duanesburg) – 7th place

Greco

55 kg: Dmitry Riabchinsky (NYAC/USOEC, New Utrecht) – 5th place

60 kg: Jason Chudzinski (USEOC, Colonie) – 8th place

74 kg: Jon Anderson (Army WCAP, Army graduate) – 3rd place

Women’s Freestyle

51 kg: Carlene Sluberski (NYAC, Fredonia) – 3rd place

59 kg: Jenna Burkert (NYAC, Rocky Point) – 4th place

72 kg: Mary Westman (Jimmie Wrestling Club, Cattaraugus) – 6th place

On to the Next Goal: Columbia's Steve Santos Wins EIWA Title and is Now Focused on the NCAA Podium

 
 
On Feb 16, Steve Santos scored a dramatic takedown and back points in the waning seconds of the third period to defeat Penn’s Andrew Lenzi, 7-4, in a bout he trailed most of the way.

A rematch seemed imminent when the EIWA Tournament brackets were released with Santos as the top seed and Lenzi in the eighth spot. Could Lenzi finish off the upset this time?

Santos never gave him a chance. Late heroics were unnecessary as the Columbia senior got out to an early lead and then made quick work of the Quaker with a second period fall.

“I was really looking forward to improving on my performance,” Santos said. “It was a totally different match. I was able to get a takedown and a couple sets of back points to build up a lead before the pin.”

Photo courtesy of Brock Malone/Columbia Athletics

“Steve had a couple of close matches in February so I’m sure some people in the weight thought they had a shot at him,” said Columbia head coach Carl Fronhofer. “He was pretty dinged up then, but we finally got him healthy at the right time. Steve’s pretty hard to beat anytime. But he’s really hard to beat when he has extra motivation like he did [against Lenzi].”

Extra motivation was also there for his next bout with Cornell’s Chris Villalonga in the semifinals, the wrestler who topped Santos in the EIWA third place bout in 2012.

“I was looking forward to facing him again,” Santos said. “It’s always good to get revenge for a loss. I wasn’t able to wrestle him in the dual meet this year because I was still injured, but he’s had a good season. Getting the win was a big confidence boost for me.”

Villalonga got on the board first with a takedown, but Santos controlled the latter portions of the match, something Fronhofer said has happened many times over the years.

“Without question, his work on top in that match was key,” Fronhofer said. “But Steve’s good in every position. The thing is, if you look at his matches, they’re all pretty competitive for the first three or four minutes. But at the four-minute mark or so, the tide turns in his favor. He just has another gear to go to that I think some guys have a hard time keeping pace with.”

That trait has helped Santos compile a 26-2 record this season and the EIWA championship over Army’s Daniel Young. And, according to Fronhofer, this was one of the reasons Santos made an instant impact for the Lions as a highly-touted rookie out of Brick, New Jersey.

“He was thrown right in there as a freshman and he could compete with the best right away,” Fronhofer said. “He didn’t always win, but you know you have a special kid when he’s in every match. He’s a guy who doesn’t care how good you are. He wrestles his match regardless of who you are. He’s always had the ability to finish matches strong. Sometimes early in his career, he’d be down big after the first period and still come back to win or at least make it really interesting.”

“As a freshman, I made up for inexperience with being able to wrestle hard and wearing guys down,” Santos added. “Just having good conditioning and really being able to win that third period really helped me have some level of success right away.”

But on top of that seven-minute intensity, Santos had another characteristic from the start that the head coach said set the captain apart.

“Steve doesn’t get scared or nervous; even at the beginning of his career that was true,” Fronhofer said. “He’s just excited to compete. That’s an attribute that can’t be overstated in its importance.”

“Generally, I love to compete, especially in big matches,” Santos said. “I’m always excited to have a chance to knock someone off. I feel like I generally keep my cool and don’t take myself out of matches no matter what the score is because I’ve come from behind to win so many times.”

He certainly has embraced some big moments in the past. He has beaten some highly ranked competitors such as Mario Mason when he was in the nation’s Top 10, Donnie Vinson (twice) and David Habat.

His victory over the Edinboro grappler was a part of his run at the NCAA tournament last year, in which he came within one victory of making the podium, dropping a 5-0 decision to Oklahoma’s Nick Lester in the Round of 12.

“I was definitely upset about my performance,” Santos said. “The goal is always to be an All-American and a National Champion. I came close to the first one but didn’t get it. Right after that match, I thought about having only one chance left. I went right to work. I put in a lot of time this summer thinking about reversing some outcomes and getting on the podium this year.”

Much of that training came with frequent workout partner (and fellow two-time NCAA qualifier at 157) Jake O’Hara. In addition, the presence of former All-American Adam Hall in the Columbia room played a key role.

“Having someone on [Hall’s] level definitely helped me a lot,” Santos said. “He’s able to share his experiences and the fact that he’s still training hard for his own personal goals pushes everyone harder. It brings a whole extra level of competitiveness to our team.”

That team improvement was evident this past weekend. The Lions had three conference finalists (Santos, plus Matt Bystol and Josh Houldsworth, who took second at 133 and 165, respectively). That trio plus O’Hara, who grabbed fourth at 157, secured four bids at the NCAAs for Columbia. (174-pounder Stephen West could make it five Lions heading to Des Moines, as he is a strong candidate for an at large bid and will find out his fate on Wednesday).

“I think the program has really turned around since my freshman year,” Santos said. “We had a really small team then and every year it has grown and we’ve made progress. Having four NCAA qualifiers and possibly five is a great thing and shows all the hard work this team has put in.”

There are a lot of reasons for the results, but Fronhofer pointed out that Santos and his classmates are one of them.

“Steve is a true pleasure to coach,” Fronhofer said. “He and the rest of our senior class did a lot to shape the culture of Columbia wrestling. It’s a special group to me because it’s the first class I had a chance to help recruit as an assistant. All eight of them are still on the team and will be graduating. Those guys as a whole will definitely be missed. Steve is a leader among leaders. He’s quiet; he doesn’t say too much because he doesn’t need to. All the guys should strive to have a work ethic like him in the wrestling room and in the classroom. If guys follow what he does, they’ll be successful.”

Santos was successful at the EIWAs, making the finals for the first time and earning the championship. He said that was one of his senior year goals and with that checked off the list, making the medal stand at NCAAs is next.

He ended the campaign as the nation’s fifth ranked wrestler in both the Coaches’ Panel and the RPI. That will likely translate into a seed that should put him in good position to end his career on a high note. Fronhofer believes it could be a very high note.

“Steve’s goal has been a National Championship from the start of the year,” Fronhofer said. “He has the experience and the ability to get it done. It’s clearly a loaded class like the middleweights usually are and there are some uber talented wrestlers. We’ll have to have a good gameplan and he’ll have to wrestle smart to get there.”

Santos believes he’s prepared for his last few days as a college wrestler, before likely staying in New York City to work in the finance field.

“I think that I’m really starting to peak at the right level,” he said. “I had a break in the middle of the season when I was hurt and it took me a little while to get back. But my performance at EIWAs gave me a lot of confidence. I come from a wrestling family and have been competing since elementary school. I know I’ve worked hard toward my goals and I think I’m ready for the big matches.”

He’s ready. Whoever steps on the mat with him better be ready too – for seven full minutes.

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Steve Santos wished to thank his parents for all their support. “My mom and dad took me to all those tournaments, pushed me and gave me the opportunities to do something I love.”

He also wished to thank his coaches and Columbia wrestling for “providing me with everything I needed to compete at this level and being a huge part of my success.”