After eight days full of wrestling at Fargo, New York boasted three National Champions, 28 total All-Americans and a number of breakout performances.
The following are some of the stories that emerged during the week.
Seniors Go Out Strong
The Empire State’s class of 2012 was outstanding, featuring the winningest wrestler in state history (Quinton Murphy), a National Champion who represented the USA All-Stars at both the Dapper Dan and Dream Team Duals (Brian Realbuto) and a grappler who remained undefeated throughout the high school campaign, the New York Freestyle and Greco States, the NHSCA Senior Nationals and the Disney Duals (Dylan Palacio). In all, five New Yorkers were ranked in Intermat’s final Top 100.
Murphy, Realbuto and Palacio all placed in the top four in brackets of more than 75 entrants at Fargo, going a combined 23-6 against some of the best in the nation.
After a bronze medal finish in 2011, Murphy returned and took silver at 138 pounds. He showed resilience, winning five in a row to make the finals after losing a match on the opening day. He will next compete in the Big 10 as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers.
Realbuto and Palacio will also wear red in college – Cornell Big Red. Both took fourth on Saturday after impressive runs.
Realbuto, last year’s champion at 145, wrestled well despite an injury. He defaulted to Oliver Pierce, a wrestler he defeated last year at this tournament, to take fourth. Similarly, Palacio was dominant for much of the event and stood fourth on the podium after dropping his final bout against Wisconsin’s Matt Gray on Saturday.
All three will be worth watching on the NCAA scene in the coming years.
Stating Their Cases
The early national rankings included several Empire State representatives, such as Nicky Hall, Troy Seymour, Nick Lupi and Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer. But several of the state’s top rising seniors who weren’t listed made clear statements over the past few days.
Tyler Grimaldi, a 2012 state runner up who was an All-American at the NHSCA Junior Nationals in the spring, once again made his presence felt at a national event, winning seven matches and taking sixth place in the deep 160 pound bracket.
“I always see the rankings, but they don’t mean too much to me,” Grimaldi said. “It’s all about wrestling on the mat and getting the wins. With more wins, the rankings will come.”
Those rankings may also come for other members of the Empire State squad.
Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks, a two-time champion in New York, made the medal stand for the second consecutive year in Greco, and a pair of workout partners from Section 2, Nick Kelley (fourth at 132 pounds) and David Almaviva (eighth at 145 pounds) showcased their skills in Junior Freestyle. Kelley, a multi-time state placer, picked up seven victories, defeating nationally-ranked grapplers such as Jared McKinley of Indiana.
“Before the tournament, I was really hoping to be an All-American, but you never know how it will work out there with the draw and so many great wrestlers,” Kelley said. “I felt like I was pretty strong at the weight. I had some tough matches where I think my strength and my conditioning were big advantages. When the matches went on longer, I felt more confident. I felt like [opponents] started dying down and I started regaining energy.”
The same could be said for Almaviva, who was wrestling up a weight from the high school season.
“It was great watching [Almaviva] do so well, especially wrestling up at 145,” Kelley said. “It seemed like he was still stronger than most of the guys he wrestled.”
Plainsmen on the Podium
Kelley and Almaviva weren’t the only success stories from their school this weekend. Some entire states captured five or fewer medals. Shenenedehowa High School earned five on its own, including a pair of national titles in the women’s competition by Alexis Porter and a Cadet Greco fourth place showing by Jesse Porter.
“There are a ton of All-Americans to work with in our room now,” Kelley said. “Having practice partners like that helps us all get better. We have a lot of tough wrestlers coming back next year. I think we’ll be pretty solid.”
Head coach Rob Weeks will certainly have a solid team, one that will likely be a top contender again in Albany.
Speaking of Alexis Porter . . . the ladies brought home three national titles.
“Getting a pin in the Cadet finals like Alexis did – that’s a big deal,” Kelley said. “Then, winning another title in Junior Freestyle was great. She had a great tournament.”
In addition to Porter’s two championships, Mary Westman improved upon her second place showing in 2011 to demonstrate that she is the top 159-pounder in the land.
Warsaw’s Hanna Grisewood was also a finalist for the Empire State, taking second at 112 and Rosemary Flores was third at 130 pounds a year after taking double titles.
Quite a few of the stars of this year’s event will be eligible to return. In addition to wrestlers such as Nick Kelley, Almaviva, Grimaldi, Kyle Kelly, Flores and the Porters, several others who made an impact may wear the New York singlet again in 2013.
Rodriguez-Spencer went 10-2 at the Junior Duals and followed that up with a third place finish in Greco. He’ll be a threat in both styles next year, as will Chris Cuccolo who medaled in Greco this year after placing in both styles in 2011.
Leading the charge for the Cadets were Freestyle All-Americans Thomas Dutton and Chris Tangora as well as Greco placer Benjamin Honis, who was one win short of medaling in Freestyle as well. They will be joined by Santo Curatolo, Brendan Goldup and Sam Ward, who will look to climb higher on the podium.
And of course, there are the wrestlers who didn’t become All-Americans this time, but will break through the barrier next year. Just ask Nick Kelley, who was 3-2 in his last appearance at Fargo in 2010. Or Grimaldi, who went 1-2 last July.
“I got beaten up last year at Fargo,” Grimaldi said. “It was tough. But over the entire year I had the mentality of working hard to do better. Am I happy with 6th this year? No. But if I put it in perspective and look at the step I took from last year, I realize it was a big accomplishment. I’m 100% coming back next year. I have unfinished business in Fargo, North Dakota.”
That kind of mentality promises to bring a large medal haul back to New York in July of 2013. But for now, with Fargo 2012 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to change the focus back to folkstyle. The countdown to the 2012-13 high school season has begun.
2012 New York All-Americans at Fargo
106 Pounds: Kyle Kelly, 7th Place Greco
113 Pounds: Josh Antoine, 8th Place Greco
120 Pounds: Santo Curatolo, 6th Place Greco
132 Pounds: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer, 3rd Place Greco
152 Pounds: Brendan Goldup, 5th Place Greco
160 Pounds: Connor Sutton, 5th Place Greco
182 Pounds: McZiggy Richards, 4th Place Greco
182 Pounds: Chris Loew, 7th Place Greco
132 Pounds: Nick Kelley, 4th Place Freestyle
138 Pounds: Quinton Murphy, 2nd Place Freestyle
145 Pounds: David Almaviva, 8th Place Freestyle
152 Pounds: Brian Realbuto, 4th Place Freestyle
160 Pounds: Dylan Palacio, 4th Place Freestyle
160 Pounds: Tyler Grimaldi 6th Place Freestyle
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
138 Pounds: Thomas Dutton, 8th Place Freestyle
195 Pounds: Chris Tangora, 8th Place Freestyle
Women – Cadet
143 Pounds: Alexis Porter, Cadet Freestyle Champion
143 Pounds: Kennedie Eddings, Cadet Freestyle 6th
172 Pounds: Yuneris Diaz, Cadet Freestyle 3rd
Women – Junior
112 Pounds: Hanna Grisewood, 2nd Place
130 Pounds: Rosemary Flores, 3rd Place
139 Pounds: Alexis Porter, Champion
159 Pounds: Mary Westman, Champion
172 Pounds: Yuneris Diaz, 5th Place