Homecoming!: Nassau Wrestler of the Year Choi Receives Awards and a Special Gift from VHW

 
 
Being intimidated was new.  Vougar Oroudjov said he didn’t remember feeling that way – even when competing on the biggest stages, such as the Olympics and the World Championships.

But earlier this week, at the Section 8 Dinner, Oroudjov, the head of Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW), met his match.

Choi, Photo by BV

“I was never scared like that before,” he said. “I went up to give a speech and I couldn’t say anything.  All those people were looking at me. It was very different.  But I had to give the speech.  It was very important to me to give this award to [Syosset senior] Dan Choi.”

It wasn’t the only trophy of the evening for Choi, the 2013 195-pound New York State champion in Division I, who also collected several other accolades, including Nassau’s Most Outstanding Wrestler (Newsday and Friends of Long Island Wrestling), Navy ROTC Award, Matanna Family Scholarship and an NYSPHSAA All-Academic honor.

But the award Oroudjov spoke about was perhaps more valuable.  Because what VHW gave Choi was a chance to finally go home.

“When I found out that Dan didn’t go to Korea to see his mother for two years, I felt terrible,” Oroudjov said. “With my Olympic dream, I traveled a lot – camps and tournaments.  It was non-stop traveling.  I always missed my family and friends. I know that feeling.  So, we bought Dan a round trip ticket to go back to Korea to see his family for the first time in years before he goes to college at Cornell University.”

We detailed Choi’s amazing story of coming to the United States just three years ago without his parents and earning an ROTC scholarship to the Ivy League institution in Ithaca in this article.

However, that story was published before Choi’s tremendous run through the field at the Times Union Center to earn a state championship.  But those victories in Albany aren’t what stand out most for Oroudjov.  The title wasn’t the reason that he and Nebraska recruit Anthony Abidin held a clinic to raise some of the funds for Choi’s journey to Asia.

“He is just unbelievable,” Oroudjov said. “How many high school kids could do everything he has done without seeing their parents for two years?  He works a job, he does great in school, he wrestles. We’ll go to tournaments and he always has such a heavy bag because he’s doing his calculus and other homework at the tournaments.  He also has a lot of fun – we dance Gangnum style together after big wins. We’re going to miss him. He’s a great person to have around. He deserves all his awards but we needed to give him the award of going home.”

——-

Choi wasn’t the only wrestler to come away from the event with hardware.  State champions Kyle Quinn (Wantagh) and Louis Hernandez (Mepham) were also named to Newsday’s All-Long Island team, as was runner up Chris Koo of Great Neck South.  Joining them on the squad were Suffolk grapplers Matt Leshinger (Sayville), TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River), Corey Rasheed (Longwood), Tyler Grimaldi (Hills West), Carlos Toribio (Brentwood), Michael Hughes (Smithtown West), Alex Tanzman (Westhampton Beach) and Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville). Piccininni was named Wrestler of the Year for the State of New York by WIN Magazine.

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

 

State Champions to Represent New York Against New Jersey and More at Pinning Down Autism All-State Weekend Festival

 
 

“I’m in.”

Before Jason Bross even finished his question after the Saturday night finals at the New York state tournament in Albany, 145-pound champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham said yes.

Hernandez, Photo by BV

Hernandez wasn’t alone. He was only one of the top New York wrestlers to enthusiastically commit to representing the Empire State at the Pinning Down Autism All-State Weekend Festival on March 16 and 17 at West Orange High School in New Jersey.

For the past two seasons, Bross has organized the New York vs. New Jersey Charity Challenge, which pitted All-Star squads from the neighboring states against each other in a dual meet to raise money for autism causes.

With the success and excitement around this “Border War” in recent years, the event was expanded in 2013. On Saturday, the teams from the Garden and Empire States will battle squads from Michigan, New England and Delaware. (For the schedule, see below).

While there is sure to be some great competition in those Saturday duals, the main event will take place on Sunday when New York and New Jersey do battle at 1 p.m..

Every wrestler taking the mat for Team New York for the feature dual has been a state champion, with 14 of the 15 capturing gold medals at the Times Union Center in 2013. (Another three champions and seven silver/bronze medalists will compete on Saturday). In all, 10 different sections will be represented.

Needless to say, the list is an impressive one (see below for details). After all, state pride is on the line and New York is determined to beat the Jersey crew for the third straight year.

Sisti, Photo by BV

“The event has been very well received,” Bross said. “Most of the guys were really excited to be invited to be a part of it. It should be a great dual because I know losing two years in a row doesn’t sit very well with New Jersey. Last year, they expected to beat us and it didn’t go that way. I expect them to have a ferocious team and you can see that New York will be well represented. I think you’ll see a battle at every weight.”

While the rivalry and the opportunity to wrestle high-level competition prior to the upcoming National tournaments are significant, the weekend’s events will serve another important purpose – to raise money for charity.

“This year’s beneficiary is Autism New Jersey,” Bross said. “What I like most about them is that they provide much needed facilitation for families impacted by autism to find the services they need. When Congress recently had hearings on autism, what struck them most was that most families are left to their own devices and have no idea what to do or where to look for services they need. Autism New Jersey really helps with that and provides great value. We’re happy to be raising money for them.” (For more information on Autism New Jersey, see http://www.autismnj.org)

Entry into the event will be a $20 donation each day. Those who attend will have the chance to participate in a clinic on Sunday with Lee Kemp at 10 a.m. and, of course, will see some top notch wrestling on both weekend days. That includes Round 3 of the New York vs. New Jersey challenge.

“The rivalry speaks for itself now,” Bross said. “Damion Logan from Apex is the Team Leader for New Jersey and he’ll put together a very good team. I have a hunch that the match will look like a Big 10 dual meet with the intensity of something like an Iowa vs. Penn State dual. That’s what we’re hoping for. Great action, great intensity, fire through every match. It should be fun.”

Team New Jersey will be updated when available.

Team New York for the Sunday event (and some Saturday matches) is:

99 Pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis (2013 State Champion, Hilton, Section 5)
106 Pounds: Kyle Quinn (2013 State Champion, Wantagh, Section 8 )
113 Pounds: Nick Piccininni (2013 State Champion, Ward Melville, Section 11)
120 Pounds: Alex Delacruz (2013 State Champion, Ossining, Section 1)
126 Pounds: TJ Fabian (2013 State Champion, Shoreham Wading River, Section 11)
132 Pounds: Tristan Rifanburg (2013 Runner Up, 2010 State Champ, Norwich, Section 4)
138 Pounds: Nick Tighe (2013 State Champion, Phoenix, Section 3)
145 Pounds: Louis Hernandez (2013 State Champion, Mepham, Section 8 )
152 Pounds: Corey Rasheed (2013 State Champion, Longwood, Section 11)
160 Pounds: Tyler Grimaldi (2013 State Champion, Hills West, Section 11)
170 Pounds: Adis Radoncic (2013 State Champion, RKA, PSAL)
182 Pounds: Shayne Brady (2013 State Champion, Carthage, Section 3)
195 Pounds: Dan Choi (2013 State Champion, Syosset, Section 8 )
220 Pounds: Rich Sisti (2013 State Champion, Monsignor Farrell, CHSAA)
285 Pounds: Mike Hughes (2013 State Champion, Smithtown West, Section 11)

On Saturday, the following wrestlers will also compete for New York (and more may be added):

113 Pounds: Dillon Stowell (2013 State Champion, Gouverneur, Section 10)
120 Pounds: Travis Passaro (2013 State Third, Eastport South Manor, Section 11)
126 Pounds: Keanu Thompson (2013 State Runner Up, Grand Street, PSAL)
132 Pounds: Sam Melikian (2013 State Third, Fordham Prep, CHSAA)
138 Pounds: Nick Kelley (2013 State Champion, Shenendehowa, Section 2)
152 Pounds: Rowdy Prior (2013 State Runner Up, Phoenix, Section 3)
152 Pounds: Joe Mastro (2013 State Third, Yorktown, Section 1)
160 Pounds: Steve Schneider (2013 State Runner Up, MacArthur, Section 8 )
170 Pounds: John Vrasidas (2013 State Runner Up, St. Anthony’s, CHSAA)
195 Pounds: Hunter Ayen (2013 State Champion, Gouverneur, Section 10)

Schedule of Events:

Saturday March 16th

Round 1 10:00 am Delaware (DE) vs New England (NE) and New York (NY) vs Michigan (MI)
Round 2 12:00 pm NJ vs NE and DE vs MI
Round 3 2:00 pm NY vs DE and NE vs MI
Round 4 4:00 pm MI vs NJ and NY vs NE
Round 5 6:00 pm DE vs NJ

Sunday March 17th

10 a.m. Feature clinic with Lee Kemp

1 p.m. The main event: New York vs. New Jersey

For more information, see Weekend Festival

Check Out Video Interviews With Numerous Wrestlers from the State Tournament

The following are video interviews with a number of wrestlers at the state tournament.  Special thanks to Adam Burgos and Nick Garone for their amazing contributions!

Some browsers may take a little extra time to load.

(To view on youtube, see youtube.com/nywrestlingnews)

 

Tyler Grimaldi (160 Pound State Champ, Hills West) and coach Mike Patrovich with Nick Garone

 

Adis “The Beast” Radoncic (RKA) – First Ever PSAL State Champ (170)

 

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), 99 Pound State Champion

 

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville), 113 Pound State Champion and MOW

 

TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River), 126 Pound State Champion

 

Trey Aslanian (Edgemont), 120 Pound State Champion (3x Finalist)

 

William Koll (Lansing), 2x State Champion

 

Burke Paddock (Warsaw), 160 Pound State Champion

 

Corey Rasheed (Longwood), 152 Pound State Champion

 

Louis Hernandez (Mepham), 145 Pound State Champion

 

Dan Choi (Syosset), 195 Pound State Champion with N. Garone

 

Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell), 220 Pound State Champion with N. Garone

 

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga), 138 Pound State Champion

 

Luis Weirebach (Hoosick Falls), 106 Pound State Champion

 

Hunter Ayen (Gouverneur), 195 Pound State Champion

 

Alex Delacruz (Ossining), 120 Pound State Champion

 

Nick Tighe (Phoenix), 138 Pound State Champion (3x Champion)

 

Shayne Brady (Carthage), 182 Pound State Champion

 

Mike Hughes (Smithtown West), 285 Pound State Champion with N. Garone

 

Dillon Stowell (Gouverneur), 113 Pound State Champion

 

Derek Spann (Adirondack), 99 Pound State Champion D2

 

POST SEMIS VIDEOS

Matteo Devincenzo (Port Jefferson, 99 D2)

 

Adis Radoncic (RKA, 170 D2)

 

Nick Casella (Locust Valley, 113 D2)

 

William Koll (Lansing, 126 D2)

 

TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River, 126 D1)

 

Corey Rasheed (Longwood, 152 D1)

 

Rowdy Prior (Phoenix, 152 D2)

 

Luis Weirebach (Hoosick Falls, 106 D2)

 

Derek Spann (Adirondack, 99 D2)

 

DAY 1/Medal Round VIDEOS

Keanu Thompson (Grand Street after Pinning #2 Seed in Quarters)

 

Dan Choi (Syosset after Beating #1 Seed in Quarters)

 

James O’Hagan (Seaford after Topping #1 Seed)

 

Steve Schneider (160, MacArthur after overtime victory)

 

Nick Barbaria (New Rochelle, 106 after the quarters)

 

Nick Weber (Kings Park, 195 Pounds after defeating #2 seed)

 

Jonathan Haas (Spencerport, 3rd place 106 D1)

 

Austin Coleman (Spencerport, 2nd place 285 D1)

 

Levi Ashley (Shenendehowa, 2nd place, after beating #3 seed)

 

Eric Lewandowski (Lancaster, 2nd place, 145 D1)

 

Josh Powell (Churchville-Chili, D1, 160)

 

Marshall Taylor (Lockport, 220 pounds D1, after 3 OT victory)

 

Shayne Brady (Carthage, 182 pound champion on Day 1)

 

Zack Joseph (Shenendehowa, 152 pounds, D1 on Day 1)

 

Donny McCoy (Niagara Falls, 99 Pounds, D1 on Day 1)

 

 

 

 

 

New Champions Crowned: Division I State Tournament Recap

We have a large number of video interviews with wrestlers from the state tournament that will be posted later in the week.  Check back over the next few days to see what the wrestlers had to say!

——————————————————-

Another New York state high school season is in the books.  After two incredible days of wrestling, 30 champions were crowned and a number of other amazing performances were witnessed at the Times Union Center.

(This article focuses on the Division I tournament.  We will post a Division II story as well).

Of the 15 gold medalists in Albany on Saturday night in the large school tournament, 10 were from Long Island.   That part of the state didn’t just impress in the finals, however.  The depth was definitely apparent, as Suffolk finished atop the standings with 312 points with Nassau in second with 222.5.

Representing Section 8 well was Wantagh, which completed a magical year in which the Warriors showed both their dual meet and tournament strength in capturing perhaps the three biggest events in New York – the Union-Endicott Duals, the Eastern States and this weekend’s championships.  Head coach Paul Gillespie’s squad boasted a state titlewinner in 106-pounder Kyle Quinn as well as three other placers (James Corbett, Vinny Turano and Danny McDevitt).

Two other “sections” that made waves this weekend were the PSAL and the CHSAA.   Richard Sisti’s 220-pound title for Monsignor Farrell was a highlight as was the run to the finals by Keanu Thompson of Grand Street, including an upset pin against the number two seed.  The PSAL featured five medalists (in Division I), while the CHSAA had six.  It seems that those numbers will continue to grow in the future. (The first ever PSAL champion was crowned, which will be covered in the Division II story).

Here are some more notes and observations from the state capital:

99 Pounds:

Diakomihalis, Photo by BV

Champion: Yianni Diakomihalis will need to continue to clear space in his room for awards. He’s won just about every tournament he has entered over the past year, and he has traveled all over the country to wrestle some of the best.  The nationally-ranked wrestler picked up his first state title in the ultimate tiebreaker against another stellar eighth grader, Vito Arujau of Syosset.  The two could do battle many more times, but whether they’re at the same weight in the future or not, they will be a treat for New York fans to watch for another four years.

And Also . . . We had Diakomihalis and Arujau atop the rankings the whole year, but also included three Suffolk grapplers for much of the season in the state’s top 8.  They showed why on Friday and Saturday.  Although top seed John Arceri, the Section 11 champion, didn’t medal, he holds wins over both the third and fourth place finishers, John Busiello and Jesse Dellevecchia, respectively.  Those three will be contenders for quite some time.

In addition, when he was just beginning treatments for cancer in the spring, Vinny Vespa’s brother Michael said he was confident Vinny would not only return to the mat this year, but do well in the postseason.  He was right, as Vespa overcame cancer and then some of the state’s top wrestlers in taking fifth place.

106 Pounds: 

Quinn, Photo by BV

The Champion . . . Kyle Quinn came into the state tournament with just two losses.  Both were to All-Stater Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle by two points. Quinn clearly took some lessons away from those contests as he avenged those results with a 7-1 win in the semifinals against the Section 1 wrestler before defeating top seed Alex Tanzman of Westhampton Beach by the same score to grab the state crown.   The Wantagh wrestler looked dominant the whole weekend, including pinning his first two opponents (one of which was returning medalist Jimmy Overhiser).

And Also . . . Spencerport’s Jon Haas was unfazed after dropping his first bout of the tournament 4-3 to John Twomey of St. Anthony’s.  He reeled off five straight victories, including two by bonus points, to take third.  Haas also had a pair of overtime triumphs, including over Colonie’s Golan Cohen in the bronze bout.  Cohen, who was a placer at the Eastern States, put together a very impressive season.

113 Pounds:

Piccininni, Photo by BV

The Champion . . . Nick Piccininni wasn’t just the gold medalist at this weight, he was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.  It’s not hard to see why.  The returning state champion was in control the whole way and won three of his four matches by bonus points.  That included the title bout, in which Piccininni dominated the much-hyped clash with two-time champ Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks.  The Ward Melville wrestler will be incredibly hard to stop over the next two years.

And Also . . . Steven Sewkumar didn’t get a ticket to Albany last year after taking second in Nassau behind state runner up Jose Rodriguez.  He made his last chance in his senior year count, however, with a third place showing.   The Section 8 wrestler lost only to Piccininni while twice beating third-seeded Bryan Lantry of Wayne as well as topping All-Stater John Stramiello of Pine Bush.

120 Pounds:

The Champion:  Alex Delacruz was disqualified during the Eastern States semifinals against John Muldoon.  He then took second in Section 1 to the Pearl River grappler.  On the biggest stage, however, he came out on top by first knocking Muldoon off in the semifinals in an overtime match and then earning his spot on the top of the podium after an 11-7 triumph over #1 seed Steve Michel.

And Also . . .  Weights for next season are hard to predict now. But it looks like there will be more intense competition in Sections 1 and 11 in the future around this class.  Besides Delacruz and Muldoon (who was fourth), Section 1 features Blaise Benderoth (one match from medaling) and Nick Tolli, who placed at Eastern States but missed the postseason with an injury.  In Section 11, Travis Passaro (third) and Mike D’Angelo (fifth) could see each other a number of times again in 2013-14.

126 Pounds:

The Champion: TJ Fabian wasn’t pleased about taking third at the Suffolk County tournament.  He responded quite well – by outscoring his opponents 17-0 in his first two matches before notching pins in the semis and finals.  He’s headed to Sacred Heart.

And Also . . . One of the loudest roars of the crowd came during the quarterfinals when the PSAL’s Keanu Thompson pinned two-time finalist Dylan Realbuto.  Thompson was defeated soundly by Fabian on Saturday night but his run to the title bout was outstanding as he defeated the eventual third, fourth and sixth place finishers. That fourth placer was Chenango Forks senior Jacob Green, who after losing to Thompson in his opening tilt, won four in a row to finish his career on the podium.

132 Pounds:

Leshinger, Photo by BV

The Champion:  After taking third at the Times Union Center last year and again at the Eastern States, Matt Leshinger ended his Sayville career in style atop the medal stand.  The future Columbia Lion began with a pin and then methodically beat his next three opponents, including a 4-2 finals win over Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi.

And Also . . . Lapi made the top 8 in 2010.  Since then, he has finished third, fourth and second.  What’s missing?  Well, a first place showing would complete the pattern.  The Section 2 standout will no doubt be looking for exactly that as he enters his senior season.

138 Pounds:

Kelley, Photo by BV

The Champion: Nick Kelley has been a regular at the state tournament with appearances beginning as a seventh grader.  He’s had a great career with over 250 victories but this weekend he got the most meaningful win of them all – the one in the state championship bout.  The Binghamton-bound grappler took a 5-2 decision on Saturday night to leave as a champion.

And Also . . . Joey Butler of Burnt Hills pushed Kelley in one of their matches during the season, getting out to a big lead before the Shenendehowa wrestler came back to win.  Butler earned third and will one to watch next year, as will Hilton’s Vincent DePrez, a silver medalist for the second consecutive year.  DePrez, who was one of three brothers to compete in Albany, will be back on a mission for his first title.

145 Pounds:

Hernandez, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Louis Hernandez came in as the favorite and left as the champion.  After missing the podium a year ago while wrestling with a significant injury at the Times Union Center, Hernandez put together a one-loss season which included an Eastern States crown.  While known for his excellence on his feet, Hernandez got a big reversal which propelled him to the title.

And Also . . . Eric Lewandowski made an appearance in the finals as a freshman, when he took second.  After not making the medal stand as a sophomore and junior, the Lancaster wrestler once again earned a spot in the title contest as a senior.  On his way there, he edged Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva 1-0 in the semis.  Almaviva showed his toughness by once again wrestling back to third, as he did in 2012. Hernandez will return next season, and he will be the only placer in this bracket to do so.

152 Pounds:

Rasheed, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Don’t blink when Corey Rasheed wrestles.  You might miss it. Rasheed had a technical fall in round one and a pair of pins – both in less than a minute – over the weekend.  That included a 56 second fall in the title bout.  It was the Longwood junior’s third time in the finals and after two runner up finishes, he left with top billing.  He should not only be on top of the New York rankings next year.  He has the talent to represent the Empire State in the national polls as well.

And Also . . . Like Jon Haas at 106, Joe Mastro of Yorktown took third place the hard way.  After losing to Konstantin Parfiryev (sixth place) on Friday morning, Mastro got his hand raised five times in a row.  He didn’t just win, though.  He did it convincingly, beginning with a technical fall and two majors (over the number two and three seeds).  He finished with a pair of decisions.

160 Pounds:

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Tyler Grimaldi walked off the mat after taking second at this weight to Dylan Palacio in the state finals last year and vowed to do better in 2013.  He got it done, including his third win of the season against Steven Schneider of MacArthur in the title bout.  Next stop: Harvard.

And Also . . . Amsterdam’s James Marquez had a difficult draw, facing second seed (and eventual runner up) Steve Schneider in round one.  Marquez dropped a tough 3-1 battle in overtime but then fought back with a string of close decisions (including three by two points) to reach the bronze bout.  Once there, he finished his last match as a high schooler well, pinning Dale White to take third.   White is worth mentioning as well.  Despite an injury that kept him out for a lot of the campaign, he returned to win the Section 1 tournament and after injury defaulting to Grimaldi, made his way to fourth.

170 Pounds:

Toribio, Photo by BV

The Champion: Carlos Toribio had five losses as a junior, including three against the previously mentioned Tyler Grimaldi.  This year, as a senior, he had just one (to Joe Piccolo), and he avenged it with two wins over Piccolo. In fact, in the Suffolk finals, he was dominant against the Half Hollow Hills West grappler and came into the Times Union Center with momentum that helped take him to the top of the podium.  After a decision, a fall and a major in his first three bouts, Toribio picked up a tight 4-3 win over St. Anthony’s John Vrasidas to capture gold.

And Also . . . Vrasidas had a great tournament, including an upset of top seeded Danny McDevitt in the quarters.  But McDevitt, the future Ivy League wrestler at Penn, rebounded by outscoring his four wrestleback opponents 33-1, including a technical fall in the bronze match.

182 Pounds:

Brady, Photo by BV

The Champion: Before the tournament began, it looked like Shayne Brady’s road back to the finals would be a tough one.  The future North Carolina State wrestler faced a pair of returning state placers – James Benjamin and Gio Santiago in the quarters and semis – and beat both by bonus points.  He then found a way to win in his final high school match with a 5-3 overtime decision over Wantagh’s James Corbett.

And Also . . . Corbett also navigated a challenging path to make the finals in his first trip to Albany.  He suffered just three losses as a senior and will continue his career at Brown.

If you’re looking to see pins, find Gio Santiago.  The Sachem North senior had three falls in the tournament (and was pinned by Brady) after recording 30 during the season.  He earned All-State honors for the second straight year, this time in the third position.

195 Pounds:

Choi, Photo by BV

The Champion:  We shared Dan Choi’s story a few weeks ago, discussing how the future Cornellian came from Korea without his parents just three years ago and earned a full ROTC scholarship to the Ivy League.  Watching him this weekend, it’s hard to believe that he’s been wrestling for only three years.  In a very difficult weight class, the Syosset senior looked aggressive and strong throughout the event, including a major decision over the top seed in the quarters.

And Also . . . When we asked what wrestlers could break out in Section 2 this year, the first answer from multiple coaches was Levi Ashley.  He began the year at 182 and spent quite a bit of time at that weight, where he had plenty of success.  However, when he moved up to 195 around mid January, he really took off.  From there, he won 14 matches in a row entering the weekend.  And he kept things going in the state capital.  Being matched up with the third seed, Ben Honis, in the first round didn’t bother Ashley. He went out and majored the Section 3 wrestler 8-0 and followed with a pair of hard-fought decisions to make the title bout.   With one season remaining at Shenendehowa, he’ll be among the favorites at whatever weight he chooses.

220 Pounds:

Sisti, Photo by BV

The Champion: At the Eastern States, one CHSAA insider told us that Rich Sisti, unable to participate in that tournament due to an injury, would win the state championship – guaranteed.  It seemed bold at the time, but it was a good call.  Sisti, commonly called the “manchild” by many of those at the tournament, indeed won and looked impressive in doing so.  He certainly showed he is capable of capturing close matches against quality competition, as he notched 3-2 victories over a pair of Section 11 wrestlers, top seeded Nick Lupi and Steven Mills, in the semis and finals.

And Also . . . In the Division I tournament preview, we mentioned that there were some “under the radar” wrestlers in the field to watch in Albany.  One of those was Steven Mills of Sachem North, who lost a squeaker to Lupi in the Suffolk tournament.  Mills indeed made the spotlight as he competed for the state championship on Saturday night.  He began his journey with a 5-1 win over second-seeded John Hartnett and then blanked his next two foes to make the finals.

285 Pounds:

The Champions: 42-0 with 39 bonus wins and a state title.  That’s the season summary for Smithtown West’s Mike Hughes.  The senior put an exclamation point on his campaign when he pinned Austin Coleman in the championship bout, his 31st fall of the year.

And Also . . . Remember the name James O’Hagan.  The Seaford junior took third over the weekend with a pair of victories over top seeded El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia.  The statistics above show that Mike Hughes only had three decisions all year. Two were against O’Hagan, including a 1-0 semifinal win on Saturday.   After the tournament, Hughes said that O’Hagan gave him his toughest match and that he thought they should have been the state finalists.  For O’Hagan, that will be the plan for 2013.

 

For all the brackets, see this link.

Congratulations to the Division I wrestlers on a great season.

From Korea to Cornell: Syosset's Choi Earns Prestigious Scholarship to the Ivy League

When Dan Choi arrived in the United States, he didn’t know a word of English and he had never stepped on a wrestling mat.

That was just three years ago, but Choi has come a long way.

In a few months, the Syosset senior will head to Cornell University, where he will wrestle for one of the nation’s top teams and begin preparing for his future career, serving his new country.

“I’m very excited about Cornell,” he said. “There are all the things I want. I love math and science and there’s a very good physics major I will be in.  There is also a very good wrestling program and the ROTC.”

Choi said he was one of five recipients in the Northeast of the Navy ROTC Scholarship, which fully covers tuition.

“At Cornell, I’ll be trained as an officer and I’ll work for four years after graduation,” he said. “I would like to be trained for Navy Seals too.  I know it will be tough, but I’m excited about it.”

While Choi said he doesn’t have any connections to the military, he feels a desire to serve.

“I really want to give back to this country,” he said. “I have gotten a good education here that I couldn’t get back in Korea. Moving here changed my life.”

It sure did.

Other than the language barrier, which he said forced him to “look up almost every word” in his books when he first got to New York, he faced other challenges.  For one, he came all the way across the globe by himself.

“I live with a legal guardian, but not immediate family here,” he said.  “We don’t really know each other that well.  My mom is still working in Korea and we talk a few times a week.  But I haven’t seen her for two years.”

In order to make ends meet, Choi began working at a Subway restaurant, a job he still holds today.  But in addition to his time spent in food service and doing homework, he was seeking another extracurricular activity when he arrived.

“I started training in taekwondo when I was seven in Korea,” he said. “I am a black belt in taekwondo and judo.  During my sophomore year, I was looking for a sport and I heard wrestling was similar to judo.  So I asked if I could join.”

He did, but found that wrestling wasn’t that similar to judo after all.

“It was very difficult and very different,” he said. “My experience helped but I didn’t really know the rules for a while so it was hard.”

Despite that, Choi won more than 15 bouts and advanced to the Nassau County Tournament, where he lost his first match.  That summer, he went back to Korea and did some training there.  He also began to work with Vougar Oroudjov at Vougar’s Honors Wrestling.

“Wrestling in the offseason at Vougar’s really helped,” he said. “There are college wrestlers there and that helped me get much better.”

“Dan’s a good kid,” Oroudjov said. “He works at Subway to pay his bills and works very hard in wrestling and school.  He’s very strong physically and he has improved a lot in the past year.”

Courtesy of Dan Choi

The work paid off as Choi showed significant improvement as a junior, compiling a 42-8 record at 182 pounds with 21 falls.  He had more success in the postseason, earning bronze at the Section 8 Tournament.

“I wasn’t surprised that I was third in the county,” he said. “I actually expected more than that.  I was frustrated and disappointed.”

And he thought his season was over.

But shortly afterward, he found out that it wasn’t.  Although he was not originally granted a wildcard bid to the state tournament, an injury to another wrestler gave him a spot in the bracket.

Choi went 2-2 at the Times Union Center, losing to the fifth and sixth place finishers and coming within one victory of making the podium.  But despite the progress he had made in the sport, he wasn’t pleased.

“I was both nervous and excited to wrestle with the best in New York,” he said. “I felt lucky to be there. I wasn’t happy with how I wrestled. I didn’t wrestle the way I normally do. I was too nervous.”

While nerves played a role in his experience on the mat in the state capital, they didn’t come into play during the college selection process.

Choi applied early decision to Cornell and said he wasn’t really considering other schools.  In order to earn his scholarship, he had to interview with military officers.  He said he was much calmer than he was on the mat in Albany.

That calm has carried over to his senior campaign.  He has been an integral part of a banner year for Syosset, which has included the school’s first conference title in over 20 years. And he has enjoyed individual success as well.

Choi is 34-2 overall and all of his victories have been by bonus points. One of his losses came when he bumped up a weight to face one of Nassau’s top 220 pounders, Matt Mott of Lynbrook.  The other, a fall against Nick Weber of Kings Park in the finals at the Syosset Tournament, has stayed on the top of his mind.

“I took [Weber] down twice and was winning 4-2,” he said. “I was at the edge of the circle, close to out of bounds and kind of relaxed. He threw me and pinned me.  I would like to wrestle him again.”

Courtesy of Dan Choi

He was so disgusted that he left the second place medal he received behind when he exited the gym.

However, it was delivered back to him shortly afterwards.

“The father of one my teammates, Mr. Miller, knows my situation and has always helped me,” he said. “He picked up the award for me and told me I should keep it because it means something.  He told me to remember the feeling I had when I got it.”

Choi said he definitely remembers that feeling.  And it helps him as he pushes toward his goal of being a state champion this year.

Not too long ago, Dan Choi didn’t know the first thing about wrestling.  But to see him on the podium in a few weeks wouldn’t be that surprising.

What a difference three years can make.  The next chapter will begin at Cornell.

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Dan Choi wished to thank the Syosset parents, especially Mr. Miller and Mr. Gewolb, as well as his Subway Manager Stephanie.