Going With the Flo: Many New York Wrestlers Prepare for 2013 FloNationals

According to organizers, it will have the “feel of an NCAA championship.” Riding time will be a factor, seasoned college referees will officiate, video review will be used for challenges and many of the nation’s top wrestlers will take the mat.

The scene won’t be Des Moines, Iowa but instead Indiana, Pennsylvania for the FloNationals, beginning on April 5.

Competition will start at 9 a.m. on Friday in the high school division on 12 mats and will continue through the finals on Saturday evening. The action doesn’t stop then, however, as the middle school and elementary tournaments take place on Sunday, beginning at 10.

Kelley, Photo by BV

A year ago, the Empire State featured eight All-Americans at FloNationals. This time, New York will once again be well represented, with over 85 entries as of press time, including state champions such as Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), Luis Weierbach (Hoosick Falls), Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville), Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa), Tyler Grimaldi (Half Hollow Hills West) and Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell).

In addition, a number of medalists, including 2013 top three finishers Vincent DePrez (Hilton), Christian Dietrich (Greene), David Almaviva (Shenendehowa), Joe Mastro (Yorktown), Alex Soutiere (Ravena), Travis Passaro (Eastport South Manor) and Sam Melikian (Fordham Prep) will look to add All-American honors to the All-State accolades they picked up in February.

Registration remains open until Wednesday at midnight here. But for those who won’t be present in person, there are still ways to keep tabs on the New Yorkers as they strive for national titles.

Each match will be streamed live on FloWrestling.org with a Tech Wave subscription, and according to organizers, viewers will be able to see the score and time on the screen to make the bouts easy to track. (In addition, results will be updated throughout the weekend on http://www.trackwrestling.com).

“I think it’s exciting that every match will be shown live on the internet so people back home can watch,” said two-time state champion Nick Piccininni. “It also lets college coaches watch.  I know some coaches will be there in person too and even though I can’t talk to them yet, I want to put myself on their radar for the future.”

Indeed, FloNationals is a place where coaches are on the lookout for potential recruits.  Just ask 2013 New York State bronze medalist Joe Mastro of Yorktown, who recently committed to become a part of Pat Popolizio’s Wolfpack.

“FloNationals was the place that first got the NC State coaches interested in me,” Mastro said. “I’ve been going since my sophomore year and the competition gets tougher each year.  I think it’s really become the premier postseason national tournament.”

Both Mastro (preseeded ninth at 152) and Piccininni (preseeded #1 at 113), fell just short of the podium a year ago.  Both expect better this time.

“Last year, I came within a round of placing,” Mastro said. “The goal is to definitely come home with All-American honors. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since last year.”

“I definitely wasn’t happy with the outcome last year,” Piccininni added. “It doesn’t really matter that I’m preseeded #1. I’m just trying to go out there, wrestle my toughest and dominate each match. It’s a really tough tournament, but my goal is to win the national championship.”



Team New York Sweeps Three Duals at Pinning Down Autism Event; Prepares for Battle With New Jersey on Sunday

3-0 and looking for one more win.

That’s the story for Team New York after Day 1 at the Pinning Down Autism All-State Weekend Festival at West Orange High School.  The event, which benefits Autism New Jersey, includes All-Star squads from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan and New England.  For more background, see our preview here.

Yianni Diakomihalis, Photo by BV

On Saturday, the Empire State group began with a 47-18 victory over the Michigan Lumberjacks and next drubbed Delaware 64-6.  To complete Day 1 action, the team defeated New England by a 43-28 tally. For details of those meets, see the end of this story.

Now, it’s time to continue the big rivalry. On Sunday at 1 p.m., New York will look to knock off rival New Jersey for the third consecutive year.  According to the lineups provided earlier in the week, the following are the weight-by-weight matchups for the clash.   Every member of the Empire State squad has won a state title (and 14 of the 15 captured gold in 2013).  New Jersey will counter with a trio of state champions as well as several silver and bronze medalists.

Will New York make it three victories in a row over the Garden Staters?

99 POUNDS: Yianni Diakomihalis, Hilton (State Champion) vs. Alec Kelly, St. Peter’s (State Qualifier at 106)
106 POUNDS: Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (State Champion) vs. Ryan Freeman. St. Joseph
113 POUNDS: Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (State Champion) vs. AJ Vindici, Randolph (State Third)
120 POUNDS: Alex Delacruz, Ossining (State Champion) vs. Marc Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights (State Qualifier)
126 POUNDS: TJ Fabian, Shoreham Wading River (State Champion) vs. Anthony Giraldo, North Bergen (State Champion)
132 POUNDS: Tristan Rifanburg, Norwich (State Runner Up, Champion in 2010) vs. Jason Estevez, Livingston (State Third)
138 POUNDS: Nick Tighe, Phoenix (State Champion) vs. Richie Lewis, Toms River East (State Third)
145 POUNDS: Louis Hernandez, Mepham (State Champion) vs. BJ Clagon, Toms River South (State Champion)
152 POUNDS: Corey Rasheed, Longwood (State Champion) vs. John Faugno, Glen Ridge
160 POUNDS: Tyler Grimaldi, Hills West (State Champion) vs. Josef Johnson, Delbarton (State Qualifer)
170 POUNDS: Adis Radoncic, RKA (State Champion) vs. Ethan Ramos, Hawthorne (State Champion)/Jadaen Bernstein, Voorhees (State Runner Up)
182 POUNDS: Shayne Brady, Carthage (State Champion) vs. Ali Yildiz, South Brunswick (State Third)
195 POUNDS: Dan Choi, Syosset (State Champion) vs. Anthony Messner, Franklin (State Runner Up)
220 POUNDS: Rich Sisti, Monsignor Farrell (State Champion) vs. Zack Chakonis, Don Bosco (State Runner Up)
285 POUNDS: Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (State Champion) vs. Eric Chakonis, Unattached

Results from Saturday

New York 47, Michigan 18 Details

New York 64, Delaware 6 Details

New York 43, New England 28 Details


Section 2 Overview: Kelley and Almaviva Lead Nationally-Ranked Shenendehowa; Finalists Van Hoesen and Soutiere Look for Titles


By Mike Carey


Division I

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

285 Pounds:  El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Columbia, Second Place

132 Pounds: Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa, Third Place

138 Pounds: David Almaviva, Shenendehowa, Third Place

113 Pounds: Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam, Fourth Place


Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa

106 Pounds: Corey Ali, Shenendehowa

106 Pounds: Dominic Inzana, Saratoga

113 Pounds: Jesse Porter, Shenendehowa

120 Pounds: Zach Joseph, Shenendehowa

132 Pounds: Joey Butler, Burnt Hills

152 Pounds: Angelo Kress, Columbia


Top Seniors

Nick Kelley, Photo by BV

Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) – Arguably the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state, Kelley will have laser focus this season as he attempts to claim an elusive state title.  His only loss last season came at the hands of state champion Jamel Hudson in the state tournament semifinals.  Kelley has had a busy offseason highlighted by his fourth place finish at the Freestyle Junior Nationals in Fargo.  In August, Kelley gave a verbal commitment to continue his career at Binghamton.

David Almaviva (Shenendehowa) – At last year’s state tournament, Almaviva lost his opening match to Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi . . . and then reeled off five straight victories and took home third place honors. Like Kelley, Almaviva placed in the prestigious tournament at Fargo, earning eighth place honors at 145 pounds. He will also be continuing his academic and wrestling careers at Binghamton.

El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Photo by BV

El Shaddai VanHoesen (Columbia) – The heavyweight was one takedown away from a state title last year.  The Columbia senior lost his “all-wildcard” final bout against Evan Kappatos of Syosset by a score of 3-2.  His team’s competitive schedule affords the 285 pounder the opportunity to grapple against many of the top wrestlers in the state.  Of his seven losses last year, five were at the hands of foes who finished in the top four in New York.


Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)

Corey Ali, Levi Ashley and Zach Joseph (Shenendehowa) – Seven Plainsmen competed at the state tournament a year ago and the Section 2 power will likely send a large group again. Ali, the defending Section 2 champion, is expected to be among them.  He was not able to compete at the state tournament last year, but prior to the event, he posted victories over some impressive foes, including qualifiers Dominic Inzana and Kyler Harrington and All-State wrestler Johnny Stramiello from Section 9.  Ali is motivated to make a run at a state title this year and it won’t be surprising if he does.  Teammate Ashley didn’t get a bid to states last year after taking second in Section 2 behind Matt Lashway, who was the number two seed at the Times Union Center.  However, he went 34-7 in 2011-12 including quality victories over wrestlers such as state placers Rrok Ndokaj, Andrew Jones and Tyler Morris (twice).  Frank Popolizio said he believes Ashley “will shock some people” in 2012-13.  Joseph is looking for a return trip to the state capital after going 1-2 in Albany after a season with over 30 wins.

Brandon Lapi (Amsterdam) – Without question, Lapi is extremely talented.  He finished last season with a 50-4 record, with two of his losses coming in Albany to state champion Dylan Realbuto of Somers and third place finisher Patrick Skinner, who now wrestles for Rider.  Both of those matches were tight, with a 4-3 decision against Realbuto and a 4-2 margin versus Skinner. It is likely that he’ll be high on the podium again in the state capital.

Angelo Kress (Columbia) – In a 41-6 sophomore season, Kress registered 26 pins and came within one win of making All-State at 152 pounds.  He dropped his opening round match in Albany to eventual runner up Nicky Hall of Longwood but responded with a pair of victories in the wrestlebacks.  The Columbia wrestler’s achievements go beyond the state borders, as he was an All-American at the NHSCA Nationals in both 2010 and 2011.  He also showed his prowess in the international styles, going a combined 13-1 at the Cadet Freestyle and Greco Duals for Team New York in Florida. He will be a podium threat in February of 2013.

Blake Retell (Shaker) – After winning Section 2 titles in 2010 and 2011, Retell missed the postseason a year ago while injured.  Up to that point, he had been impressive, notching a 28-2 record at 120 pounds, including a victory over Jesse Porter.  He captured his bracket at the Journeymen Classic earlier this fall and after winning one match in each of his two visits to the state tournament, he’ll be looking to get back and win some more as a junior.

Joey Butler (Burnt Hills) – Butler racked up a 41-6 mark with 29 pins.  He took second in the Section behind Kelley and got his hand raised once in Albany after receiving a wildcard bid.  Now a junior, Butler is looking to go further in a follow up trip to the state capital.  He is off to a 4-0 start.

Frank Nassivera (Queensbury) – Nassivera won over 30 matches as a sophomore at 160 pounds.  A few weeks after the season was over, he earned All-America status at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach.  At that tournament, he lost his first round match but responded with five straight victories in the wrestlebacks.  After a loss, he came out on top in overtime in the fifth place bout.  That performance could propel him to a breakthrough year in Section 2 in 2012-13.

Brendan Goldup (La Salle) – Goldup took sixth at 112 pounds as a ninth grader in 2010 at the state tournament.  He’s also made an impact in the international styles, including taking fifth nationally in Greco Roman at Fargo this summer at 152 pounds. According to Columbia head coach Anthony Servidone, Goldup has what it takes not only to get back to the state tournament but to do some damage there.

John McHugh (Columbia) – McHugh took third at the Section 2 event a year ago to cap off a 42-8 campaign for Columbia.  Servidone believes he’s primed for a breakout year.  His younger brother Matt has earned All-America honors in Schoolboy events and is another wrestler to monitor after earning 20 wins as a seventh grader.


And A Few More to Keep Tabs On . . . (Sophomores and Younger)

Dominic Inzana (Saratoga) – Inzana went 44-8, primarily at 106 pounds as a ninth grader.  Five of his losses were to New York placers, including a pair in Albany, where he came within one win of earning All-State honors.

Chris Tangora (Bethlehem Central) – As a freshman 182 pounder, Tangora won 26 matches with 18 pins for Bethlehem Central.  His offseason work put him on the radar of wrestlers to watch when he earned All-America status at 195 pounds at the Cadet Nationals in Fargo.

Kevin Parker and Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa) – Parker won more than 30 matches as an eighth grader at 99 pounds, including solid wins over Division II placer Luis Weirebach and qualifier Tyler Hartinger.  He earned a trip to Albany, where he went 0-2.  Also making an appearance in the state capital was Porter after a 36-7 campaign at 113 pounds.  Porter had a successful summer in the international styles, taking fourth in Greco Roman in Fargo at 132 pounds.

Kyle Greene (Columbia) – Greene went 41-7 as a freshman at 120 pounds in 2011-12, including a win over Zach Joseph. According to Servidone, he’s ready to take the next step this year and will be a contender in the lightweights.


Team Talk

Shenendehowa is currently the only Empire State squad in Intermat’s national rankings.  There is little doubt that the Plainsmen will be a force.  Servidone said simply, “Shenendehowa has an exceptional team.”

While the Plainsmen will be difficult to beat not only in Section 2 but statewide, there are several other large school teams to keep tabs on in Section II this year, according to Servidone, including Columbia, Burnt Hills, Queensbury and Averill Park.

Columbia did part with high quality wrestlers such as Evan Wallace, Matt Greene and Brendan Morgan, however the squad returns a pair of qualifiers from 2012 in state runner up Van Hoesen and Kress and several others ready to make an impact this season.

“We lost quite a lot of guys to graduation, but we still have a very good team,” Servidone said. “We’ll have some guys do very well this year.”

Burnt Hills welcomes back state qualifier Joey Butler as well as bronze medalist Race Viedt, fourth placer Jake Ashcraft and several other medalists, including Christian Gramuglia, Nolan Hale and Jack Hatton.

“I think Burnt Hills will be a very good and consistent dual team,” Servidone said.  “They return almost everyone.”

Queensbury said goodbye to Section champion Matt Lashway and second placers Casey Jones, Josh St. John, Mike Hewitt and Alex Pontiff as well as medalists Tyler Wood and Nick Rouse. However, the squad returns plenty of talent and experience with bronze winners Evan Myers and Frank Nassivera as well as additional medalists Nick Robbins, Brandon Winchip and Brian Stevens.

“Queensbury graduated a number of guys, but they always put a lot of good guys out there. I expect they will again this year.  I also think there will several other good teams in the mix, including Averill Park.”


Division II

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

285 Pounds: Alex Soutiere, Ravena CS, Second Place

182 Pounds: Tyler Morris, Salem, Fourth Place

99 Pounds: Luis Weierbach, Hoosick Falls, Fifth Place

170 Pounds: Brad Burns, Hoosick Falls, Sixth Place


Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Alexis Bleau, Schoharie

106 Pounds: Carter Merecki, Salem

106 Pounds: Jerome Gladney, Ravena CS

113 Pounds: Kyler Harrington, Hudson Falls

120 Pounds: Al Aubin, Whitehall

138 Pounds: John Diekel, Whitehall

145 Pounds: Geno Brancati, Hudson Falls

145 Pounds: Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg

152 Pounds: Nick Gallo, Schalmont

170 Pounds: Mike Green, Colbeskill-Richmondville

220 Pounds: Joe Sprung, Berne-Knox Westerlo


Top Seniors

Alex Soutiere, Photo by BV

Alex Soutiere (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk) – Soutiere had a good regular season and an outstanding state tournament.  In the semifinals, he pulled of one of the bigger upsets of the tournament when he upended Section 5 standout Kacee Sauer by a score of 5-3.  Do not be surprised if Soutiere uses the momentum of last season’s finale to propel him to his ultimate goal, the state title.

Brad Burns (Hoosick Falls) – Burns had a 27-4 record last year, with all four of his losses coming to wrestlers who placed in the top 6 in New York.  Expect Burns to have another stellar year and improve upon his sixth place finish in Albany.

Tyler Morris (Salem) – Morris earned fourth in New York in 2012 at 182 pounds for Salem.  He began the state tournament with a loss in his opening bout but bounced back with four straight wins before dropping the bronze contest to Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer. With only three of the top eight finishers back in the bracket, Morris will look to move up the podium.  Looking to join him on the stand is teammate Carter Merecki, a junior, who came within one victory over making All-State last year when he went 33-4 at 106 pounds.


Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)

Brandon Lapi, Photo by BV

Luis Weirebach (Hoosick Falls) – Weirebach won over 30 matches at 99 pounds and took fifth place in New York State.  Now a junior, Weirebach will aim to move a bit higher on the podium in the lightweights.

John Diekel (Whitehall) Diekel had over 30 wins at 138 pounds, with a Section 2 championship and a 2-2 performance at the state tournament. He’ll try to make the medal stand in his final year of high school wrestling. Trying to do the same is Diekel’s teammate Al Aubin, who went to Albany as well after a 25-win campaign.

Mike Green (Cobleskill-Richmondville) – Green went 39-6 in his junior campaign at 170 pounds.  In the Section 2 final, he dropped a one-point decision to All-State wrestler Brad Burns.  He followed that up by going 1-2 at the Times Union Center and is looking for a return trip.

Joe Sprung (Berne-Knox Waterlo) – Sprung and teammate Matt Casullo were the first wrestlers in their school’s history to make the New York state tournament.  Sprung lost a match the first weekend of the season and then reeled off over 30 straight victories to win the Section 2 title at 220 pounds.  In Albany, Sprung came within one match of placing and will look to make more history for his school as a senior.


Youth Movement (Sophomores and Younger)

Nick Gallo (Schalmont) – As a freshman 152 pounder, Gallo went 41-7, including a pair of victories at the state tournament, which left him one victory short of making All-State.  His losses were to the third (Tristan Hamner) and fourth place finishers (Dan Dickman, by a 4-3 score).

Geno Brancati (Hudson Falls) – Brancati recorded a 31-8 mark as a freshman at 145 pounds, earning the Section 2 title and a trip to Albany.  He won a match at the state tournament, defeating fellow Section 2 grappler Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg 3-2.  It was the second time Brancati had topped Lawrence by one point in a matter of weeks.  Lawrence is also one to watch, as he went 39-8 as a ninth grader, and also made the journey to the Times Union Center. Brancati’s teammate Kyler Harrington, a senior had over 40 wins at 113 pounds a year ago and went to the state capital.  His opening bout was a loss to eventual state champion Sean Peacock, but he rebounded with a win by fall in his next match, which he will look to build on in 2012-13.

Alexis Bleau (Schoharie) – As an eighth grader, Bleau registered a 41-5 record at 99 pounds, taking second in the Section tournament and earning a wildcard spot at the Times Union Center.  The first state qualifier in school history, Bleau will be looking for more in 2013.

Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George) – Hoffman is a wrestler we were told to keep an eye on over the next few years. He competed at 126 pounds as a seventh grader, winning 24 matches, and remained active in the offseason, including recent trips to Las Vegas and California to wrestle some of the West Coast’s best.


Thank you to Frank Popolizio and Anthony Servidone.

Season Preview Articles:

Section 1 Preview

Section 3 Preview

Section 4 Preview

Section 5 Preview

Section 6 Preview

Section 7 Preview

Section 8 Preview

Section 9 Preview

Section 10 Preview

Section 11 Preview

CHSAA Preview

PSAL Preview


Section 1 Feature:  Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium

Section 4 Feature: Looking for “Number Nine”: Reggie Williams Aims to Make History at Johnson City

Section 5 Feature: The “Miracle” Continues: The Return of Aaron Paddock

Section 9 Feature: Unstoppable: Vinny Vespa Wrestles Again After Confronting Cancer

Section 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak



All-State Wrestlers Piccininni, Kelley, Almaviva, Fabian and McDevitt Ready For Tests at the Iron Horse Invitational

Photos of Piccininni, McDevitt and Kelley by Boris V

Last weekend, many New York wrestlers tested themselves against competition from all over the country at the Journeymen Wrestling Classic near Albany.  As the start of the season inches closer, many of the same competitors will travel to New Jersey on Sunday to once again challenge themselves against some of the best from the Garden State, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and Vermont at the Iron Horse Invitation in South Plainfield.  The round robin tournament includes champions from the states listed above and a plethora of additional placers in the field of about 150 grapplers.

Several wrestlers who won titles in the “A” bracket last weekend at the Journeymen will once again take the mat, including New Yorkers Nick Piccininni and Nick Kelley as well as New Jersey’s Sal Profaci, Anthony Giraldo, Scott Delvecchio, Maaziah Bethea, Chad Walsh and Jon Schleifer.

In addition to state champion Piccininni and Binghamton-bound Kelley, a number of top contenders for All-State honors in the Empire State will compete on Sunday.  The expected entrants from New York are:

Section 1: 

John Muldoon (Pearl River)

Vinny Skokos (Nanuet, state qualifier)

Section 2:

David Almaviva (Shenendehowa, Fargo All-American, Binghamton recruit)

Levi Ashley (Shenendehowa, state qualifier)

Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa, Fargo All-American, Binghamton recruit)

Blake Retell (Shaker, won the 120B bracket at the Journeymen Classic)

Joe Sprung (Berne Knox Westerlo, state qualifier)

Section 8:

Chris Araoz (Wantagh, NHSCA National Champion in 2012)

Dan McDevitt (Wantagh, NHSCA All-American, NYS fifth)

Section 11:

Tom Dutton (Rocky Point, Fargo and NHSCA All-American)

TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River, NHSCA All-American, NYS fourth)

Travis Passaro (Eastport South Manor, NHSCA All-American)

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville, NYS champion in 2012)


Sam Melikian (Fordham Prep, state qualifier)


**Entries provided by Iron Horse