Fargo Recap: Honoring Jeff Blatnick, the Porters, Bringing Home National Titles and More

The 2013 ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo have come and gone.  Here are some thoughts and observations on Team New York’s highlights in North Dakota. 

The singlets worn by Team New York at the tournament said “Dream Big” on the back.  Underneath that phrase was a picture of the late, great Jeff Blatnick.

There’s no question that Blatnick would have been excited about some of the performances put together, including that of a competitor he worked with at the Journeymen Wrestling Club – Jesse Porter.

Porter, who was a Section 2 champion as a freshman in 2012, didn’t get a chance to shine in the postseason last year.  The Shenendehowa wrestler suffered an injury and was only able to compete in November and December for the Plainsmen as a sophomore.

Now healthy, he made a huge impact at the summer’s biggest event.  A year after taking fourth in Cadet Greco Roman at Fargo, he went to the finals at 152 pounds in the same tournament, where he earned the silver medal.  Then, in freestyle, Porter nabbed a fifth place finish, running his overall record in North Dakota to 14-3 against top-notch competition.  During the Greco Roman finals, one of the announcers said he wasn’t that familiar with Porter before the event, but he knew now that “Porter is a stud.”  It’s clear he’ll be a middleweight to watch in the Albany area . . . and beyond in 2013-14.

The Champions

Jesse Porter wasn’t the only member of his family to stand out for the Empire State.  His sister Alexis Porter captured gold again, winning the 148-pound championship in Junior Women’s Freestyle a year after taking gold in both Cadet and Junior competitions.  She was joined on the top of the podium by Rachel Hale, who won it all at 121 pounds.

It wasn’t just individual glory for the women, however.  Team New York made history, becoming the first squad other than California or Texas to win the Women’s Duals at Fargo.  In appropriate fashion, the group captured the title by defeating the prior titlewinners, dominating the Texans in the first match of the championship bracket before topping the Californians, 39-17.

In pool play, the team faced California and decided to rest the starters for a big run at the crown.  The move paid off for coach Rob Hirsch and the squad.  Later in the day, the rematch was a completely different story.  New York won nine of the 12 bouts, including five straight at the end to seal the victory.

During that event, many contributed key performances.  That included Alexis Bleau, who was the only woman to earn trophies in both the Cadet and Junior tournaments, taking second and fourth, respectively.  It also included Kelsey Gray, who went undefeated in the dual portion of the event, despite not placing individually. Alexis Porter, Rachel Hale and Rosemary Flores also sported unblemished records during the dual tournament.  Flores collected an individual bronze as well, as did Destane Garrick.

Speaking of Bronze . . .

Speaking of bronze, William Koll picked up his first medal in Fargo when he took third in Junior Greco at 126 pounds.  The Lansing Bobcat just missed making the medal stand in both events, as he went 4-2 in Freestyle.  Another two-time state finalist, Nick Casella of Locust Valley, also made his debut on the medal stand in Fargo after grabbing seventh at 120 pounds in Greco.

Something About 220

New York had more All-Americans at 220 pounds than any other weight.   James Bethel followed up his undefeated run at the Cadet Duals with a third place showing in Greco.  He was dominant in his victories, with all coming by pin or technical fall. He was joined on the podium in that tournament by Garyn Huntley, a sixth placer coming off a 20+ win campaign for Oxford Academy as an eighth grader.  In the Junior division there was another 220 pound All-American – Rafal Rokosz of Southampton, who was sixth with three pins along the way.

It wasn’t just Greco.  In Cadet Freestyle, Mamaroneck’s Youssif Hemida won four matches by technical fall to capture seventh place at 220.  Looks like there are some candidates for breakout years in the heavier weight classes in 2013-14.

(Another upperweight who made his mark was Roland Zilberman, who after sporting a perfect record at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma, continued his hot streak with a fifth place medal in Junior Greco).

And the Middleweights Too . . .

In addition to Jesse Porter’s performances at 152, the middleweights had a number of strong showings, including at 145 pounds in Cadet Freestyle.  Jordan Bushey of Peru, Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East and Gino Titone of Connetquot all finished with 5-2 records in pool action.  Titone, who had a 25-5 mark last season, fell just short of placing.  However, Bushey, who came within one win of All-State status in Albany at 138 in 2013, was seventh in Fargo (with an injury default victory over Restrepo, who took eighth).  Look for all three to make a serious push for the medal stand at the Times Union Center next February.

Another Year, Another Medal

Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo is very familiar with the awards handed out at Fargo as he placed in both 2011 and 2012. This year was no different, as he picked up another plaque with a sixth place showing at 106 in Greco.  Alpha Diallo of the PSAL was also an All-American in that bracket, earning seventh.

In Summary . . .

So, in the end, a total of 25 All-Americans were crowned, with at least one medalist in all competitions except Junior Freestyle.

New York walked away with a pair of individual national titles and a team championship on the women’s side.  And every time a New York wrestler took the mat, the memory of Jeff Blatnick was honored for everyone in the Fargodome to see.


All-Americans from New York, Fargo 2013

Cadet Greco Roman

Jesse Porter, 2nd at 152

James Bethel, 3rd at 220

Garyn Huntley, 6th at 220

Nick Casella, 7th at 120


Cadet Freestyle

Jesse Porter, 5th at 152

Jordan Bushey, 7th at 145

Jakob Restrepo, 8th at 145

Youssif Hemida, 7th at 220


Junior Greco

William Koll, 3rd at 126

Roland Zilberman, 5th at 195

Rafal Rokosz, 6th at 220

Chris Cuccolo, 6th at 106

Alpha Diallo, 7th at 106


Women’s Cadet

Alexis Bleau, 2nd at 143

Jennifer Juarez, 3rd at 108

Vivian Vu, 6th at 154


Women’s Junior

Rachel Hale, Champion at 121

Alexis Porter, Champion at 148

Rosemary Flores, 3rd at 125

Destane Garrick, 3rd at 172

Alexis Bleau, 4th at 139

Yuneris Taveras, 6th at 198

Kim Cardenas, 7th at 97

Kennedi Eddins, 7th at 159

Mariana Olalde, 8th at 172


Junior Greco Roman Recap: Koll Takes Third; Cuccolo, Zilberman, Rokosz and Diallo Capture All-America Honors

At the Cadet level, four New York wrestlers claimed spots on the podium in Greco Roman.  After the Junior competition, another five Empire State grapplers can be added to the All-American list.

Koll, Photo by BV

Two-time state champion William Koll of Lansing put together a 7-1 tournament, taking third at 126 pounds.  Along the way, he notched five technical falls, including a 10-3 win over Dante Rodriguez of Nebraska in the bronze bout.

A trio of wrestlers competed in the fifth place contest on Tuesday.

After going undefeated at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma a few weeks ago, Roland Zilberman continued his hot streak, nabbing fifth at 195 pounds after a 6-2 tournament in which all of his victories were by fall or technical fall. That included his 10-2 triumph over Eugene Martin of South Dakota in the medal round, which was over after only about two minutes of action.

Another upperweight making an impact for New York was Rafal Rokosz, who picked up sixth at 220 pounds after an unblemished record on Day 1 of the event. He pinned three of his foes during the event.

Also grabbing sixth was Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo, who has placed at this event multiple times in the past.  Cuccolo collected three wins during the course of the competition.

Alpha Diallo rounded out the placewinners for the Empire State when he earned seventh at 106 with a technical fall over Tyler Almaguer of Washington in less than 30 seconds.  He also had a pin and a technical fall during pool play.

A pair of wrestlers who captured All-America honors at Fargo in the past, Renaldo-Rodriguez Spencer (138) and Burke Paddock (160) also were eligible for Tuesday’s action. Rodriguez-Spencer won all five of his contested matches before injury defaulting out of the competition, while Paddock finished with a 5-2 mark with five technical falls.  Section 2’s Golan Cohen (113) also took the mat on the tournament’s second day, ending with a 4-2 record.

For full results, see http://www.trackwrestling.com.

More on the Women’s Junior Freestyle tournament will be posted after that event concludes Tuesday night.


Porter, Cuccolo, Ward and Honis Place in Cadet Greco; Four Remain Unbeaten in Junior Greco

Day 3 at Fargo was all about Greco Roman wrestling with the conclusion of the Cadet competition and the beginning of the Junior action.

At the end of the day, four Empire State wrestlers stood on the podium as Cadet Greco All-Americans.  At 132 pounds, Jesse Porter of Ballston Lake took fourth after going 6-2 overall, while St. Anthony’s Sam Ward (6-2) grabbed seventh at the same weight after defeating Marshall Osborne of Missouri in his final bout.

Chris Cuccolo earned fifth in his third straight event in Fargo, this time at 94 pounds.  In July of 2011, he was fifth in both Greco and Freestyle in the 84-pound class.  The Pine Bush wrestler topped Tanner Cox of Utah 1-0, 4-0 in the fifth place match on Monday.

In the upperweights, Benjamin Honis ended his tournament in seventh position at 182 pounds after a 1-0, 2-0 victory over Minnesota’s Wyatt Richardson.

All four of the All-Americans are currently registered to compete in the Cadet Freestyle event, beginning on Wednesday.

Junior Greco Roman Begins

The Junior Greco Roman competition got underway and after the first day of action, a number of New York wrestlers remained unbeaten.

McZiggy Richards, Photo by Boris Veysman

At 132 pounds, both Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer and Jessy Williams won all five of their bouts.

After going 8-0 at the Junior Duals a few weeks ago in Greco, Connor Sutton kept the momentum going with a 5-0 mark at 160 pounds.  McZiggy Richards also had an unblemished performance, with five victories at 182.

Also remaining in the hunt from the Empire State are two-time state champion Kyle Kelly (106), Josh Antoine (113), Santo Curatolo (120), Brendan Goldup (152) and Chris Loew (182).

Junior Greco wrestling resumes on Tuesday, while the Junior Women’s Freestyle tournament will take place as well.

2012 New York All-Americans


94 Pounds: Chris Cuccolo, Cadet Greco 5th

132 Pounds: Jesse Porter, Cadet Greco 4th

132 Pounds: Sam Ward, Cadet Greco 7th

182 Pounds: Benjamin Honis, Cadet Greco 7th


143 Pounds: Alexis Porter, Cadet Freestyle Champion

143 Pounds: Kennedie Eddings, Cadet Freestyle 6th

172 Pounds: Yuneris Diaz, Cadet Freestyle 3rd

NY Wrestlers Clinch Spots on the Podium During Day 1 of Cadet Greco Nationals

After watching his sister Alexis win a National Championship on Saturday, Jesse Porter went undefeated as well during the first day of Cadet Greco Roman action at Fargo, North Dakota.  Porter was 5-0 at 132 pounds, as was fellow New Yorker Sam Ward of St. Anthony’s.  Both Porter and Ward have clinched spots on the podium and will face each other in the next round on Monday.

Two other New York wrestlers are guaranteed All-America honors. Chris Cuccolo, who took fifth in this event in 2011, notched four victories and will place no lower than sixth at 94 pounds.  Meanwhile, Benjamin Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt will wrestle for seventh place against Wyatt Richardson of Minnesota at 182 pounds tomorrow.

Eden’s Alexander Smythe tallied a 4-1 record on the day at 152 pounds and will take on Ricky Regas of Texas in his next bout.

For full results on these Empire State grapplers for the Cadet Greco Roman competition, see below:

94 Pounds: Chris Cuccolo (Pine Bush)

Match #1 Chris Cuccolo (New York) over Tanner Tidswell (Tennessee) Fall 2-0,1:15
Match #2 Paul Fitterer (Minnesota) over Chris Cuccolo (New York) Dec 3-0,3-0
Match #3 Chris Cuccolo (New York) over Bridger Carpenter (Idaho) Dec 1-0,4-0
Match #4 Chris Cuccolo (New York) over Jacob Gardiner (California) Fall 3-0,1:12
Match #5 Chris Cuccolo (New York) received a bye.
Match #6 Chris Cuccolo (New York) over Jon Gabriel (Pennsylvania) Dec 1-1,6-4

132 Pounds: Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa)

Match #1 Jesse Porter (New York) over Brandon Arteaga (Illinois) Dec 1-2,4-0,2-0
Match #2 Jesse Porter (New York) received a bye.
Match #3 Jesse Porter (New York) over Grant Bolduan (Minnesota) TF 6-0,6-0
Match #4 Jesse Porter (New York) over Austin Kraisser (Maryland) Dec 6-0,2-1
Match #5 Jesse Porter (New York) over Troy Wilson (Washington) Dec 6-0,5-1
Match #6 Jesse Porter (New York) over John Kenyon (Idaho) Dec 4-0,1-0

132 Pounds: Sam Ward (St. Anthony’s)

Match #1 Sam Ward (New York) over Jacob Johnson (Minnesota) Dec 1-0,6-
Match #2 Sam Ward (New York) over Griffin Rose (Illinois) Fall 1-0,1:12
Match #3 Sam Ward (New York) over Maxwell Meddings (Ohio) Dec 3-0,3-1
Match #4 Sam Ward (New York) over Joseph Hayek (Nebraska) Dec 1-0,3-0
Match #5 Sam Ward (New York) over Troy Vandall (Arizona) Dec 2-0,1-0
Match #6 Sam Ward (New York) received a bye.

152 Pounds: Alexander Smythe (Eden)

Match #1 Alexander Smythe (New York) over Andy Hinrichs (Virginia) Dec 6-0,4-1
Match #2 Alexander Smythe (New York) over Jeric Kasunic (Pennsylvania) Dec 2-0,1-0
Match #3 Alexander Smythe (New York) over CJ McKinnis (Oregon) Dec 2-0,3-0
Match #4 Bobby Reece (Washington) over Alexander Smythe (New York) Dec 3-0,3-2
Match #5 Alexander Smythe (New York) over David Witczak (Illinois) Dec 5-0,1-0

182 Pounds: Benjamin Honis (Jamesville-Dewitt) – will be in the 7th place match vs. Wyatt Richardson (Minnesota)

Match #1 Benjamin Honis (New York) over Andrew Fenton (Ohio) Dec 2-1,3-1
Match #2 Benjamin Honis (New York) over Hunter Dunn (Michigan) Dec 4-2,2-1
Match #3 Benjamin Honis (New York) over Samuel Colbray (Oregon) Dec 3-2,0-6,1-0
Match #4 Tim Grote (Illinois) over Benjamin Honis (New York) Dec 0-1,1-0,3-0
Match #5 Benjamin Honis (New York) received a bye.
Match #6 Nick Osowski (Wisconsin) over Benjamin Honis (New York) Dec 2-1,4-1

Over 90 New York Wrestlers To Compete at Fargo; Realbuto and Flores Look to Repeat as Champions

The biggest tournament of the summer is here as competition begins in Fargo, North Dakota on Saturday.  Here are a few of the New York storylines to watch.

Will the champions repeat?

Rosemary Flores had a tremendous tournament in 2011, capturing titles in both the Cadet and Junior divisions while winning eight of her nine bouts by pin.  She has enjoyed sustained success throughout the year, earning a spot on the ASICS Girls All-American First Team and taking second at a number of prestigious tournaments including the Cadet Pan Am Championships and the Body Bar Women’s National tournament.  The New York City standout will be back for another run, this time at 130 pounds.

Last summer, Brian Realbuto became the first Men’s Freestyle title winner from the Empire State since Troy Nickerson won double titles back in 2004.  The 145-pound class that Realbuto won was loaded with top tier talent, such as Jake Sueflohn, who won 25 matches as a true freshman at Nebraska last season and top 20 recruits such as Brandon Kingsley, Oliver Pierce and Brian Murphy.  The Somers star wrestled only in a pair of matches at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma City, but is registered to compete at 152 pounds this week where he will once again be challenged by a plethora of formidable opponents such as Ohio’s Anthony Collica, New Jersey’s Dylan Milonas, Murphy, Pierce and a familiar face, Long Beach’s Dylan Palacio.

Speaking of Palacio, can he keep his unbeaten streak alive?

It’s been quite a year for the Nassau County wrestler.  Palacio had an unblemished record during the high school campaign to win his first state championship, then went on to earn gold at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach.  He followed that with dominant performances at the New York Freestyle and Greco States, taking the top spot in both, and then went undefeated at the Disney Duals, beating nationally-ranked grapplers such as Garrett Peppelman and Taylor Simaz.  While he has placed at Fargo in the past (8th in Greco a year ago), he has made it clear that he is looking to reach the top of the podium in North Dakota before beginning his college career in Ithaca.

Which other returning placers are gearing up for a title run?


Four-time state champion Quinton Murphy readily admits that while he has had success in folkstyle throughout his career, he prefers Freestyle.  He has proven his capabilities in the international styles as well, including an fourth place at the Youth Olympics Games in 2010.  In 2011, he took bronze at Fargo at 135 pounds, handing the eventual winner Ben Whitford of Michigan his only loss.  Murphy went undefeated in limited action at the Junior Duals in Freestyle a few weeks ago and will be among the favorites at 138 pounds, where he could again meet Whitford.

The 160-pound Junior competition may be of interest to New York fans as several accomplished grapplers take the mat.  Burke Paddock of Warsaw has a long list of achievements, including earning sixth in 2011 in Greco at the same weight and capturing the Junior Greco World Duals event this spring.   Columbia-bound Connor Sutton placed at FILA Juniors in Greco and comes into the week with a lot of momentum.  In fact, WIN Magazine picked Sutton to make the finals at Fargo following his All-Tournament team performance at the Junior Duals in late June where he went 8-0 in the style.


Chris Cuccolo was a double medalist in 2011, taking fifth in both styles at 84 pounds in the Cadet division.  The Pine Bush wrestler returns to the Cadet competition, this time at 94 pounds where Intermat has labeled him the favorite on the Greco side.

Shenendehowa’s Jesse Porter has a track record of success in the international styles, including a 2011 Schoolboy National Championship at 105 pounds in Greco.  He is one to watch in Cadet Greco action at 132 pounds.


Mary Westman made the finals in 2011 at 148 pounds, registering three wins by fall, and looks to finish one rung higher on the ladder in the 159-pound class this week.  Alexis Porter wrestled in both divisions in 2011, garnering third (Cadet) and fourth (Junior) in the 124/125 weight classes.  She is currently registered at 143 pounds in the Cadet competition and should be a contender.  In addition, two returning sixth place finishers, Kendra Kenyon and Kennedie Eddings, will look to climb to the top of the podium.

Which wrestlers will make a smooth transition from the Cadet to Junior competition?

There are several wrestlers on Team New York who appear ready to make the jump.  Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer of Cheektowoga was fourth at 125 pounds in Freestyle and has placed in a number of national events in both Greco and Freestyle.  At the Junior Duals, he went 10-2 overall and looks poised to represent the Empire State well following his runner up performance in Albany in February.

Another New York state finalist, Reggie Williams of Johnson City, stood fifth on the podium last year at 215 as a Cadet and will try to repeat that success at the Junior level, this time at 195 pounds.

What other state placers should be watched closely?

A large number of medalists from Albany in 2012 will be fighting for All-America status, including state champions Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks (7th in Greco in 2011 at Fargo) and Dylan Realbuto (126) of Somers.  In addition, several other top four finishers at the Times Union Center such as Columbia’s El Shaddai Gilmore-Van Hoesen (285), McZiggy Richards (182), Troy Seymour (170), Tyler Grimaldi (160), David Almaviva (145) and Nick Kelley (132), Ryan Snow (126), William Koll (120), Nick Casella (100) and Trey Aslanian will look for podium positions.  Aslanian, a two-time folkstyle silver medalist in New York, went an impressive 7-1 at the Junior Duals.

Which of the New York State Freestyle and Greco title double winners will be taking the mat?

In addition to Palacio and Koll, 220-pounder Soslan Gularov was a double champion who is registered.  On the Cadet side, a handful of double titlists will represent the Empire State – Matthew Morris (113 pounds), Freddie Dunau (120), Mike Dusold (152) and Daniel Smith (170).  Josh Antoine was the 113-pound champion in both Freestyle and Greco at the Northeast Regional qualifier as well.

Many wrestlers were mentioned and there are sure to be others who stand out on one of the sport’s biggest stages.

Stay tuned and check back for updates and interviews throughout the week.


 2011 Fargo All-Americans from New York

Junior Freestyle

105 – Lucas Malmberg (Marathon), 6th

112 – John Aslanian (Edgemont), 8th

135 – Quinton Murphy (Holley), 3rd and Steven Rodrigues (Fox Lane), 5th

145 – Brian Realbuto (Somers), Champion

Junior Greco

98 – Kyle Kelly (Chenango Forks), 7th

135 – Patrick Hogan (Peru), 8th

152 – Dylan Palacio (Long Beach), 8th

160 – Burke Paddock (Warsaw), 6th

Cadet Freestyle

84 – Chris Cuccolo (Pine Bush), 5th

125 – Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga), 4th

130 – Jonathan Craft, 8th

215 – Reggie Williams (Johnson City), 5th

Cadet Greco

84 – Chris Cuccolo (Pine Bush), 5th

Junior Women’s Freestyle

105 – Hanna Grisewood (Warsaw), 5th

125 – Rosemary Flores (Curtis), Champion, Alexis Porter (Shenendehowa), 4th

148 – Mary Westman, 2nd

Cadet Women’s Freestyle

88 – Kim Cardenas (Petrides), 4th

101 – Leah Taylor (Alexander), 8th

115 – Kendra Kenyon (Warsaw), 6th

124 – Rosemary Flores (Curtis), Champion, Alexis Porter (Shenendehowa), 3rd

143 – Keneddii Eddings (Niagara Falls), 6th