Videos from the Journeymen Classic: See State Champions and Finalists Battle

Numerous state finalists and champions took the mat at the Journeymen Classic on Sunday.  Here are a few videos of some top notch New York wrestlers from the event:

(For results, see here.  For a recap/summary, see this link).

Rematch of the 2013 99-pound state final (this time at 113) – Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Vito Arujau

 

National (and state) champion Corey Rasheed (Longwood) vs. Fargo Finalist Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa)

 

Nationally ranked (and state finalist) Christian Dietrich vs. Araad Sarrami of California

 

State champion Adis Radoncic vs. state finalist Steve Schneider (170)

 

Nassau County battle: State champion Kyle Quinn vs. state finalist Vito Arujau (113 third place bout)

 

All-American (NYS Third) Travis Passaro vs. State Placer Mike D’Angelo (Rematch of Section 11 finals)

 

Two State Finalists Wrestle at Journeymen: Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam vs. Frank Garcia of Norwich

 

 

Lapi vs. Garcia, Photo by BV

Permission to post videos granted by Journeymen.

 

Journey for the Journeymen: Albany-Area Club On the Way to Europe for a Wrestling and Cultural Experience

A contingent from the Journeymen Wrestling Club will soon be headed to Austria and Italy, staying for almost two weeks.  But it won’t quite be a European vacation.

“It will be fun, but it’s not a tour of those countries,” Journeymen’s Frank Popolizio said. “It’s not like we’re going to the Coliseum and spending the day there. We’ll see a little bit and do some excursions but we’ll mostly be seeing the mats.  We’ll be getting the feel of the European experience from a wrestling standpoint.”

The trip will continue an exchange program that the Journeymen Club has had with European wrestling over the past decade, especially with Italy.

According to Popolizio, it all started when he attended the 2003 World Championships in New York City.

“I went to see the best wrestlers in the world in our backyard, but I had a secondary thing in mind,” he said. “My brother was fourth on the Olympic ladder at the time, but Cael Sanderson was at his weight.  It didn’t look too promising for him to get the nod for the USA, so I started inquiring about wrestling for Italy since our entire family is from there.  I went with some information and materials to give to the Italian coach and in the process, wound up meeting Michele Liuzzi.”

Liuzzi, perhaps Italy’s best competitor at the time, was at the tail end of his career.  Popolizio saw a great opportunity to work with him in the United States.

“I reached out to him over and over,” Popolizio said. “I really wanted to bring him over for a clinic, but he didn’t want to – he had removed himself from wrestling.  But I was tenacious about it and it took years, but I finally got him to come over.”

A relationship was born.  Liuzzi consistently visited the Albany area and began to bring some Italian athletes with him.  In turn, Journeymen made the journey to Italy.  And an exchange ensued.

“This will be our third time going,” Popolizio said. “We’re bringing a really good lineup of dedicated, focused guys who are all very involved in our club.”

Indeed, the list includes multiple All-State wrestlers from 2013, including a pair of silver medalists – Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam and Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa.  In addition, Frank Nassivera of Queensbury (sixth at 170) made the podium while a number of other grapplers – Jake Ashcraft (Burnt Hills), Josh Logiudice (Guilderland), Connor Lawrence (Duanesburg), John McHugh (Columbia) and Blake Retell (Shaker) were all state qualifiers this February.  (For the full list of attendees, see the end of the article).

“I’m definitely excited,” said John McHugh, who attends Columbia High School. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity not only for wrestling but for the whole cultural experience and a chance to go overseas.”

The impressive group of wrestlers will get plenty of opportunities to hone their freestyle skills, first for five or six days in Austria and then in Italy.

“We’ll train there and then we’ll compete,” Popolizio said. “In Austria, we’ll have a quad meet with teams from Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  And the Italian camp has about 130 kids coming in from a bunch of European nations like Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and probably some others.”

The competition part is something both McHugh and Popolizio remember well from the last time the Europeans traveled to New York.

“When they were here, we had a dual meet with the Italians and Austrians,” McHugh said.  “That was a crazy experience.  It was at one of our gyms and tons of people showed up to watch. They’ve been wrestling Freestyle and Greco their whole lives, but we did pretty well.”

Popolizio agreed.

“When they came here last time, it was fun training with the guys all week and then there are the matches and it’s like, ok, now it counts,” Popolizio said. “Our style of wrestling in the United States isn’t as technical as the Europeans.  They’re putting a lot of time into freestyle, while it’s secondary for us.  Sometimes, our technique isn’t up to snuff, but from a competitive standpoint, we have an advantage.  When it was time to compete, the mindset changed and we lit them up.  They had no idea what hit them. It was a lot of fun.”

There will be some fun off the mat as well.  Popolizio said that the hosts will dictate the schedule, but he knows of an excursion including a hike climbing in the Alps where the group will wind up in a location that overlooks several different countries at once.

“That should be a pretty exciting day, even though we know we’re not primarily there to see Austria or Italy,” Popolizio said. “It will be heavy wrestling with some pleasure mixed in. We’re there to compete and have a cultural exchange to continue to build relationships with wrestlers in other parts of the world.”

 

Journeymen Wrestling Club – Attendees

Jake Ashcraft, Burnt Hills

Levi Ashley, Shenendehowa

Josh Bressette, Fort Ann

Steve Colbert, Galway

Christian Gramuglia, Burnt Hills

Dominic Inzana, Saratoga

Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam

Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg

Josh Logiudice, Guilderland

John McHugh, Columbia

Matt McHugh, Columbia

Frank Nassivera, Queensburg

Tony Papa, Burnt Hills

Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa

Blake Retell, Shaker

Disney Duals Recap: New York Kong Captures Second at the Prestigious Event With an Impressive 10-1 Record

 
 
40 teams began the competition in the All-Star bracket at the AAU National Duals (Disney Duals) in Orlando on Saturday.

When the competition ended at the prestigious event on Tuesday evening, New York Kong captured second place after compiling a 10-1 record with victories over squads from places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and South Dakota.

“It was just a great tournament,” said John Passaro, who made the trip and whose son Travis competed at 120 pounds. “The facilities were great, the experience was great. Taking second shows the direction New York wrestling is going. The team had some amazing wins.”

Indeed, after capturing eighth at this event in 2012, the group made it all the way to the finals, shown live on ESPN3.com. To get to that championship bout, the squad picked up a meaningful semifinal victory over Diesel, a Pennsylvania team that defeated the New Yorkers a year ago at this tournament.

“We wrestled lights out overall and especially in the semifinals against Diesel,” said Steve Hromada, who coached the team along with Anthony Ciolino. “Everyone was amped up and excited for that one, especially since they beat us pretty badly last year.  Getting payback was nice, but it wasn’t just that match.  The kids came together more and more as time went on – the more matches we wrestled, the hungrier and better they looked.”

That semifinal win was a hard fought one, with a 30-12 final score. The Ohio Hawks also provided a challenge in a 30-18 contest in the quarters.

However, the outcome in most of the earlier meets was never in doubt. In fact, the team won at least 12 of the 14 matches in each of the first seven duals, including shutouts.  The dominance wasn’t surprising considering the team featured state finalists at 10 weights and every spot in the lineup was filled by a top five NYS finisher (see roster below).

The first place tilt was a different story, however as the powerful Young Guns squad from the Keystone State came out on top convincingly.

“You never know how good you can be until you see a certain level,” Hromada said. “It was a humbling experience. We have very accomplished wrestlers who were fantastic, but the finals showed that you can always get better. Our state champs want to be more than that – they want to be national champs too.”

One national champion, Spencer Lee of Young Guns (ranked #2 in the country by FloWrestling at 106), began with a major decision for the Pennsylvania squad in the championship dual.

However, Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni, who was a perfect 11-0 at Disney, responded with a decision over another highly-regarded foe, Luke Pletcher, at 113. (Pletcher sits fourth in the national rankings).

At that point, Young Guns led 4-3 on the scoreboard, but they took over from there, collecting several bonus point wins.

Gaining bonus points of his own was Hofstra-bound Mike Hughes of Smithtown West who ended the dual with a 9-1 major decision over Luke Fleck at heavyweight to complete an undefeated tournament. In addition to Piccininni and Hughes, 152-pounder Joe Mastro, who will attend North Carolina State, also notched an unblemished 11-0 mark on the trip.

“[Piccininni] is a true warrior and he has the attitude and tools needed to be an elite wrestler. It showed when he beat the competition he faced,” Hromada said. “Having Hughes as the anchor of your team is the best feeling. You know that you’re always in a good position at the end of the match and that you’ll end on a positive note. And Joe Mastro is a diamond in the rough. He has great technical skills, endurance and toughness.”

In addition to the unbeaten wrestlers, a number of others picked up “silver status” at the event with a single loss. According to Hromada, those included Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro (120), Columbia-bound Matt Leshinger (132) and future Binghamton Bearcat Nick Kelley (138). Despite an injury, Minisink Valley graduate Josh Bonneau (220) also racked up wins.

While the squad was looking for one more victory, the journey was seen as an undeniable success.

“We took out some great teams,” Hromada said. “We showcased ourselves and it was an eye-opening experience for some people. We had a bunch of people walk up and say they didn’t know New York could be that tough. It was a nice feeling.”

Leading the charge were coaches Ciolino and Hromada, who put together the very formidable crew to represent the Empire State.

“Anthony Ciolino and Steve Hromada assembled a great team,” John Passaro said. “There is so much that goes into assembling a team of accomplished wrestlers like this. There were no egos — all the kids, who are competitors with each other back home, were teammates this week. It’s very hard to coordinate schedules, meals and travel for 17 wrestlers and also wrestle at such a high level. The coaches did a wonderful job.”

The same could be said for the New York Kong wrestlers. They went from eighth in 2012 to second in 2013 at the Disney Duals. And they’ll be back for more in 2014.

“We’re working to perfect the system,” Hromada said. “We learned from last year and did things better this year and we’ll be even better prepared for next time. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to coach the elite athletes in New York this week and we’ll up the ante and go back looking to win it all next year.”

New York Kong – 2nd Place Disney Duals

106 Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (2013 State Champion)

106 Jesse Dellavecchia, East Islip (2013 State 4th)

113 Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (2013 State Champion)

120 Travis Passaro, Eastport South Manor (2013 State 3rd)

126 Alex Delacruz, Ossining (2013 State Champion)

132 Matt Leshinger, Sayville (2013 State Champion)

138 Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (2013 State Champion)

145 Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam (2013 State 2nd)

145 Frank Garcia, Norwich (2013 State 2nd)

145 Jakob Restrepo, Sachem East

152 Joe Mastro,Yorktown (2013 State 3rd)

160 Steven Schneider, MacArthur (2013 State 2nd)

170 Carlos Toribio, Brentwood (2013 State Champion)

182 James Corbett, Wantagh (2013 State 2nd)

195 Nick Weber, Kings Park (2013 State 5th)

220 Josh Bonneau, Minisink Valley (2013 State 4th)

285 Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (2013 State Champion)

Team NY Kong Moves to 5-0 at Disney Duals After Three Lopsided Wins on Sunday

 
 
On Saturday, Team New York Kong cruised through the competition on the way to two dominant dual victories. On Sunday things were even more lopsided in the squad’s three victories over Doughboy Blue, South Dakota Red and Team Ohio Mafia.  In fact, the Empire State grapplers shut their opponents out in the first two meets and overall captured 40 of the 42 individual matches during the trio of dual wins, according to John Passaro.

Day three of action on Monday will begin bright and early for the New Yorkers, as they start at 8 a.m. against Brawlers Fire. After that, it will be a match with Michigan Freeze in the early afternoon.

And then, the “playoff” portion of the event begins as a national championship team will be crowned. Stay tuned for further updates.

Team New York Kong

106 Kyle Quinn

106 Jesse Dellavecchia

113 Nick Piccininni

120 Travis Passaro

126 Alex Delacruz

132 Matt Leshinger

138 Nick Kelley

145 Brandon Lapi

145 Frank Garcia

145 Jakob Restrepo

152 Joe Mastro

160 Steven Schneider

170 Carlos Toribio

182 James Corbett

195 Nick Weber

220 Josh Bonneau

285 Mike Hughes

All Tied Up: Long Island and Upstate All-Star Squads Battle to 27-27 Result in Ithaca

 
 
The poster for the first annual Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge said, “The Debate Will Finally Be Settled.”  But after a great day of wrestling, neither team earned bragging rights as the squads battled to a 27-27 tie at the Friedman Center on the campus of Cornell University.

It’s fair to say that neither team was thrilled with the outcome.

“We weren’t happy.  I actually think were kind of shocked to have tied,” said Long Island 120-pounder Travis Passaro. “I didn’t think it would be a blowout, but I thought we would win.”

Upstate 195-pounder Reggie Williams wasn’t pleased either.

“Even after they tied it up, we were hoping we would still win on criteria,” the Johnson City star said. “We would have won if they went to criteria. We really wanted to win this in the first year of the event.”

The dual featured some of New York’s best wrestlers, including 13 state champions and another 15 placers.  As a result, the fans were treated to a back and forth affair that came down to the final bout, where Connetquot’s Brendan Dent edged Hilton’s Vincent DePrez at 145 pounds 5-4 to complete Long Island’s comeback from eight points down with just two matches remaining.

Photo by BV

The main event began with a pair of 99 pounders who took first (Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton) and third (John Busiello of Eastport South Manor) in Albany.  Diakomihalis took charge early and never relented, winning a 9-3 decision and giving Upstate a 3-0 advantage.

Long Island responded, however, as state champion Mike Hughes of Smithtown West used a late charge to top Columbia’s El Shaddai Van Hoesen 5-4 at heavyweight.  The Columbia wrestler scored the first takedown and later added a reversal, but Hughes rebounded to knot the team score at 3.

Next to the mat was yet another state gold medalist – 106-pounder Kyle Quinn of Wantagh.  He took an early lead against third placer Jon Haas of Spencerport, but it was Haas who picked up the pace as the match continued, erasing the early deficit and coming from behind to win 7-4.

Building on that momentum for the Upstate team was Holley’s Mike Silvis at 220.  He used a big throw to propel himself to a 7-3 decision over New York runner up Steven Mills and pushed the Upstate group’s advantage to 9-3.   On top of that, the Long Island squad was docked a team point, which would prove costly at the end of the day.

Ready to turn the tide was two-time state titlewinner Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville.  The Section 11 star got his team back on track with a 6-0 blanking of Lockport’s Anthony Orefice at 113 to pull Long Island within 9-5, bringing up a rematch of a quarterfinal tilt at the Times Union Center.

At the state tournament, Syosset’s Dan Choi upended top-seeded Reggie Williams of Johnson City 14-4 on his way to the NYS crown.  Williams couldn’t wait to take another shot at the Section 8 grappler.

“I was really excited to have a rematch because I wasn’t at my best at the state tournament,” Williams said. “I was really looking forward to it.  I wanted to prove that I just had a bad weekend.”

He definitely had a better day on Saturday in an entertaining clash that featured a number of throw attempts by the 195-pounders.  With a lead in the third and time winding down, Williams picked up significant points for the Upstaters when he put Choi to his back and recorded the fall.

“Ending it that way did mean a little more,” Williams said. “I know [Choi] committed to Cornell and he’ll be scarred with his first experience there losing by pin. Getting a pin at this level of competition, at an event like this was big. It really helped my team out.”

It definitely did, giving Upstate a 15-5 lead. With that 10-point deficit, Long Island sent bronze medalist Travis Passaro out to face 120-pound champion Alex Delacruz of Ossining.  Thanks to some outstanding work on the mat, including a number of turns for near fall, the Section 11 standout beat Delacruz by major decision to pull his squad within striking distance, 15-9.

“I really wanted to wrestle him; I felt like I should have been in the state finals,” Passaro said. “It was a big match for me. Top is one of my best positions and when I got on top, I was able to work for turns and score a lot of points.  I wasn’t expecting to score so much, but I wasn’t surprised.  I felt like I did what I should have done.”

And not too long afterwards, Gio Santiago answered the pin by Williams with a fall of his own to bring the scoreboard to a 15-15 tie.  Santiago, a prolific pinner throughout his career, ended his bout with Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer with an exclamation point.

Photo by BV

“Gio Santiago came through with a huge pin to tie it up and bring us right back into it,” Passaro said. “That was really big.”

So, eight matches down, seven to go and it was deadlocked between the squads.  What could make things even more exciting?  How about a clash between a pair of 2013 state champions?

TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River and William Koll of Lansing met at 126 pounds at the Eastern States Classic in January, with the Long Island wrestler walking away with the triumph and the tournament title.  This time, the tables were turned as Koll jumped out to a quick lead with a takedown and back points.  Despite Fabian’s strong top work in the third period which earned points both for riding time and stalling against the Section 4 wrestler, Koll came away a 5-4 winner and pulled the Upstate squad ahead 18-15.

Long Island then briefly took its last lead of the day on the strength of Danny McDevitt’s major decision over Clarence’s Jake Weber at 170.  McDevitt showed his dominance on the mat, reversing his opponent on multiple occasions and collecting nearfall to put the Section 8 and 11 squad up 19-18.

However, the next three bouts went to the Upstaters as Brandon Lapi and Connor Lapresi both registered shutouts over their opponents, Chris Mauriello and Vinny Turano (at 132 and 138).  Both Lapi and Lapresi notched first period takedowns and then demonstrated strong work on the mat, with significant riding time.

In between those two performances came one of the most anticipated matches of the event – a meeting between Division I state champion Tyler Grimaldi and his Division II counterpart Burke Paddock at 160 pounds.  Grimaldi said before the weekend that it was the “grudge match” as he had beaten Paddock in Freestyle while Paddock had returned the favor at the Eastern States.

After some early handfighting, the Warsaw junior grabbed control, throwing Grimaldi to his back for a 5-0 advantage.  He added to his lead in the second to enter the third up 7-1.  Despite a comeback from the Hills West star, who earned some takedowns late, Paddock came away with a 9-5 victory.

And so entering the final two bouts of the afternoon, at 152 and 145 pounds, Upstate was in front 27-19.

“I was confident in [Corey Rasheed and Brendan Dent]; I felt like they could both win,” Passaro said. “I thought we had a chance to win the dual.”

Rasheed, one of the most dominant grapplers in all of New York this year was set to face  fellow 152-pound state champion Kevin Thayer of Unatego.

Photo by BV

Those present at the Times Union Center saw Rasheed cradle his opponent and end the state title bout in less than a minute.  That move led to many falls during the campaign for the Longwood junior.  He slapped that cradle onto Thayer more than once, but the Section 4 wrestler refused to give in, fighting off his back multiple times.  In the end, Rasheed was just too much and with less than 20 ticks left in the third period, he finished off a 15-0 technical fall, putting his squad behind by just three points, 27-24.

“Kevin Thayer is a good wrestler who goes hard, but Corey Rasheed is just a really, really tough kid,” Williams said. “I was proud of Kevin because even though he was losing, he kept fighting. He never stopped fighting and he didn’t give up the pin.”

So it all came down to the 145 pound contest.  It was two-time state runner up Vincent DePrez of Hilton for the Upstate squad, (second at 138 in 2013) against NYS fourth placer Brendan Dent of Connetquot.

Dent got on the board first with a takedown and ended the first ahead 2-1. He added to his lead with an escape in the second, but DePrez made it 3-3 with a takedown in the middle stanza. In the third, DePrez moved ahead 4-3 when he got out from bottom, but Dent answered with a takedown with just over a minute remaining to lead 5-4. DePrez worked for the reversal as time ticked down, but Dent held on for the 5-4 victory.

Following the match, the scoreboard changed to 27-all and that’s how it would end. One thing was unanimous – neither team liked that deadlocked tally.

“There’s always tension between Upstate and Long Island,” Passaro said. “It was a really fun weekend, but we wanted to win it.”

Williams felt the same way.

“We had a great time as team; did a lot of bonding.  When good wrestlers get together, you learn a lot and make new friendships.  It was a good weekend, but no one wants to end on a tie,” he said. “We really wanted to come out on top in the first year. But, there’s always next year.”

 

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

Features:

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