By Matt Diano
Returning State Qualifiers (From 2012):
113 Pounds: Santo Curatolo, Tottenville
120 Pounds: Keanu Thompson, Grand Street Campus
126 Pounds: Mike Gannone, Tottenville
132 Pounds: Saidyokub Kahramonov, New Utrecht
170 Pounds: Anatoliy Anchakov, Grand Street Campus
285 Pounds: Leon Gonzales, Franklin D. Roosevelt
Seniors to Watch
Santo Curatolo (Tottenville) – Curatolo is looking to win his fourth PSAL large school crown, making him the second to accomplish the feat in as many years (joining Jorje Jimenez who pulled off the achievement from 2009-2012). In his first three trips to the state capital, Curatolo garnered an overall record of 1-6 (1-2 in 2012). Competing in the international styles, Curatolo had a breakout junior campaign, earning All-America honors at the Junior National Greco-Roman Championships, finishing sixth at the 120 pound weight. While there remains some uncertainty as to whether he will remain at 113 pounds for a second consecutive year or move up to 120, the fact is that given his track record, Curatolo will be a significant favorite at whatever weight he competes at this season.
Keanu Thompson (Grand Street Campus) – A runner up to Curatolo in 2011, last season Thompson made his debut in Albany, going 2-2, just missing the podium when he dropped a hard-fought 5-3 decision to eventual NYS fourth place finisher, TJ Fabian of Section XI. Competing in the international styles, Thompson has already tasted the glory of the top spot, winning the 2012 NYS Junior Greco-Roman title at 126 pounds. An odds-on favorite to make a repeat trip to Albany, Thompson is expected to be competing at 126 pounds in 2013.
Leon Gonzalez (FDR) – A career heavyweight who showed a lot of promise as a freshman in 2010 when he placed third at the sectional tournament, Gonzalez experienced a bit of a sophomore jinx the following year, failing to place at the PSAL large school championships. He more than made amends for his surprising 2011 effort, winning his first sectional crown last season with a narrow 2-1 decision in the finals. At the NYS tournament, Gonzalez tallied a 1-2 record, pinning Section I representative, David Varian in the first round before ultimately dropping his next two matches to the wrestlers who finished third and sixth respectively (Cole Lampman of Section II and Mike Hughes of Section XI).
Anatoliy Anchakov (Grand Street Campus) – Joining Curatolo as the only multiple-time champion in DI, Anchakov has been a titlist the past two years for Coach John Zarcone. As he attempts to cap his career with a third championship, evidence would suggest that on paper, he might be the hardest person to dethrone. He has cruised the past two years, recording bonus point victories in all of his PSAL tournament matches. He also hopes to break into the win column in Albany, having been competitive in many matches, but going 0-4 in 2011 and 2012.
Bohang Liu (Townsend Harris) – A wrestler who has been on the cusp of breaking out the past two years, Liu finished third in the PSAL as a sophomore, before improving his spot by one slot in 2012, finishing as the runner-up at 106. Expected to remain at this weight class in 2013, his big match experience earned him the #1 ranking in the Gotham City Wrestling preseason rankings. If Liu wrestles up to his potential, there is every reason in the world to expect that he will close out his scholastic career with his first berth to the NYS tournament.
Kevin Tynes (Brooklyn Tech) – Despite the obvious size difference, there are many career similarities between Liu and Tynes. Like the person who precedes him in this preview, Tynes has been in title contention the last two years, notching third in 2011, followed by a second as a junior. A battle tested student-athlete thanks in large part to the competitive schedule wrestled by Brooklyn Tech every year, should Tynes successfully navigate the PSAL (which is the anticipated outcome), he could very well be a sleeper to make the podium in Albany.
Shaquille Williams (Brooklyn Tech) -Despite the fact that he is still seeking his first All-City distinction, Williams is dangerous for the mere fact that last season, he stuck the eventual large school champion Leon Gonzalez on two separate occasions. And, as the expression goes, “to be the best, you have to beat the best.” Williams has demonstrated an ability to do just that, thus justifying his #1 rating in the preseason Gotham City rankings. The victim of an ill-timed (no pun intended) sickness bug, those in the know feel that Williams could have easily been the defending champion if not for the health issue that rendered him unable to compete in the sectional tournament.
Also Keep An Eye On….
Saidyokub Kahramonov (New Utrecht) – After rumors that he may have moved out of the city following the conclusion of his sophomore season, a person in the know confirmed that the 2012 PSAL runner-up will be back for his junior campaign. A finalist last season, losing to current Brown University freshman Ahmed Elsayed, Kahramonov got the call to represent the PSAL when the man who beat him was unable to compete. In Albany, he went 0-2, but was competitive, losing 7-5 in his lone consolation match. Now a year older and more experienced, he will be hungry to improve upon last year’s showing.
Alex Palmer (MLK) – Perhaps the most decorated and polished wrestler the MLK program has had in its short existence, Palmer has been one to watch since earning All-State honors on the Schoolboy level in 2010. A two-time PSAL placewinner heading into his junior season, finishing fourth in 2011 and second last season, the coaches at the Manhattan based school are confident that this is the year he will put it together and ascend to the top spot of the podium. Should Palmer win individual hardware, he would become the first wrestler in program history to qualify for the NYS tournament.
Soslan Gularov (Sheepshead Bay)—A wrestler who seemed to appear from out of nowhere, very little is known about Gularov. In fact, until his showing at the 2012 NYS Junior GR & FS tournaments (he was a double champion), his was a name that many in NYC had not yet heard. This anonymity has quickly become a thing of the past as Gularov opened many eyes when he came one victory short of being a Junior Freestyle All-American last July at the 220-pound weight class. Armed with about as nasty a body lock as you will find in the Empire State, it is with good reason that aficionados are predicting a top-6 finish for him in Albany. Everything will come down to how well he makes the transition to mat wrestling.
With no one team bringing back more than four returning All-City wrestlers from 2012, it could be said that the battle for the top spot is as open as it ever has been in recent times. The parity in talent in 2013 is so widespread that on any given weekend, any one of a handful of teams could get hot at the right time and reap the benefits.
A team that will certainly be there at the end is two-time defending champion Brooklyn Tech. While graduation did hit hard as the squad lost a pair of NYS placewinners (Christian Masaya, sixth at 152 and Patryk Kopczynski, fourth at 220), Coach Bloom’s team still has the fortune of returning a quartet of sectional medalists. Let by their hammer, Tynes, Brooklyn Tech will also get solid contributions out of Yaneev Hirsch (fourth at 99), Devon Hoyte (fourth at 113) and William Hernandez (fourth at 120). Despite not being a returning placewinner, big man Shaq Williams is looked at as a title contender.
Matching the perennial NYC powerhouse in terms of total returning All-Section honorees is Wingate Campus. Anchored by 2012 PSAL bronze medalists Kenton Greaves (120) and Cedrick Stephens (170), Wingate will also get huge efforts from their two fourth place finishers, Bertin Saimbeau (132) and Malik Francis (145). Nicholas Bynoe, who came one win short of making top-4 last season will also prove to be a factor this season.
The team that bolsters the best 1-2-3 punch in the City is Tottenville. Just like the classic Yankees had their murderer’s row, so too does the Staten Island-based school. Starting out with Curatolo and ending with Gannone, Tottenville features 2012 120-pound finalist, Nick Azen in the middle. With all three ranked #1 in their respective weight classes in the preseason rankings, if they do work, big numbers will follow.
Yet another squad that you can never sleep on is Grand Street Campus. Tied for the lead with two returning sectional champions, the Zarcone-mentored team can expect to get mega efforts out of Thompson and Anchakov again in 2013. Complementing the abilities of the two beasts will be Geudy Tavarez (99) and Justin Vasquez (152) who find themselves ranked in the top-4 in the preseason polls.
Continuing with the trend, James Madison is also a team that has to be considered in the hunt for the team title. With a trio of returning studs, sectional finalist Marc D’Chiutiis (126), bronze medalist Konstantin Parfiryev (145) and fourth place finisher Javaughn Grant (220), if Madison can get a big effort from one of its 285-pounders, Mark Ifraimov or Kujtim Nikq, the team could be in business.
Finally, the student-athletes from Martin Luther King (MLK) are expected to enjoy the finest season in program history. While Palmer may sit at the head of the table, the Knights possess quality all throughout their lineup. Joining Palmer as the only other All-City wrestler from last season is 220-pound bronze medalist, Michael Diese. Others who may not have found the podium yet in their scholastic careers but are well positioned to do so in 2013 are captains Danny “Omega” Amancio, the #2 ranked 120-pounder in the preseason rankings, and Johnny Alicea, the #4 rated 132-pounder. Amancio came a single win short of the podium last season, but is fresh off an eye opening performance at the NYS Junior Freestyle tournament that witnessed him finish in the top-6.
2012 Returning State Placewinners
Second Place: Cheick Ndiaye (12), Brooklyn International, 106 pounds
Additional Returning State Qualifiers (From 2012):
99 Pounds: Dolan McColgan, Petrides
132 Pounds: Paul Schoenberg, Baruch
145 Pounds: Adis Radoncic, Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy
160 Pounds: Tyson Simon, Petrides
170 Pounds: Isaiah Blake, Baruch
182 Pounds: Nathaniel Rose, Eagle Academy
195 Pounds: Miguel Perez, Eagle Academy
285 Pounds: Elvin Gervacio, Brooklyn International
Seniors to Watch
Alpha Diallo (Brooklyn International) – A bridesmaid in 2012 at 113 (wrestled up to help the team) after finishing third as a sophomore, 2013 is the year that Diallo is finally expected to climb to the top step of the podium. Ranked #1 at 106 points in the Gotham City preseason poll, Diallo will look to become the next in the growing line of Brooklyn International wrestlers to achieve success at the DII state tournament.
Cheick Ndiaye (Brooklyn International) – Hailed by former Beat the Streets coach Mike Torriero as a kid with the potential to be “the best the City has ever seen,” Ndiaye took a big step last season in turning this compliment into a reality, finishing second at the NYS DII tournament. In doing so, he became the first PSAL wrestler in either division to make it to the state finals. Already a two-time PSAL champion (after placing third in the section as a freshman), Ndiaye heads into 2013 as a near lock to add a third title to his mantel. The only question that remains is whether he will earn the DII state crown to go with it. A multiple-time NYS placewinner in the international styles on the Cadet and Junior levels, the Brooklyn International student-athlete was recently named to the Honorable Mention portion of the top-10 New York senior list published on Intermat.
Paul Schoenberg (Baruch) – A 3x PSAL finalist (who owns a win over Ndiaye as a freshman), Schoenberg won titles as both a sophomore and a junior at 112 and 132 pounds, respectively. Going 0-4 in his two trips to the state capital, Schoenberg will look to end his career by breaking into the win column.
Tyson Simon (Petrides) – Winning a bronze and a silver in his first two years at Petrides, Simon broke through as a junior, securing his first trip to the state tournament in grand fashion, pinning returning NYS qualifier Nigel Williams of Eagle Academy in the finals. Simon posted an 0-2 record at the state tournament, but gained a wealth of experience; something he hopes to capitalize on as he attempts to repeat as a sectional champion in 2013.
Isaiah Blake (Baruch) – A three-time DII sectional placewinner, Blake seems to get better with age, as he has improved his position on the medal stand incrementally each year. Finishing fourth as a freshman, and then third as a sophomore, the stars all aligned for Blake in 2012 as he earned the first sectional crown of his scholastic career. Running into the juggernaut that is Section V’s Burke Paddock in the first round, Blake struggled in his Albany debut, going 0-2.
Faheem Simpson (Eagle Academy) – The 2011 PSAL small school champion at 285 as a sophomore, Simpson struggled with injuries last season and was unable to participate in the sectional tournament. Now back to full strength, he has the mental edge of knowing that the last time he faced the returning PSAL Champion (in the 2011 finals), he pinned him. In his 2011 appearance in Albany, Simpson snuck in a win by fall in his first consolation match before being eliminated one round later to finish with a 1-2 record.
Also Keep An Eye On….
Dolan McColgan (Petrides) – The 2012 PSAL DII 99-pound champion after finishing third the previous year, McColgan picked up a victory at the state tournament, knocking off Alexis Bleau by a score of 6-1 in the consolation rounds. McColgan concluded his debut in Albany with a 1-2 overall record, with both losses coming at the hands of 2013 wrestlers to watch, Alex Herringshaw and Tyler Aslanian.
Adis Radoncic (RKA) – On pace to be a four-timer in the PSAL, having won titles at 135 and 145 in his first two years at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, Radoncic enjoyed a major jump in performance on the state level last year. He erased the memories of an 0-2 record in his first trip to Albany by compiling a 2-2 mark last season, falling one win short of being a NYS DII placewinner. A talented thrower, he is capable of putting anyone on his back in an instant.
Nigel Williams (Eagle Academy) – A two-time sectional runner-up, Williams does not know what it feels like to wrestle in a PSAL consolation match because he has never been in one thus far in his career. This is a pattern that we see continuing in 2013 as the Eagle Academy junior will be intent on making his way back to Albany after serving as a 2011 replacement qualifier. In his appearance two years ago, Williams took some typical freshman lumps, going 0-2 against older and more polished competition.
Nathaniel Rose (Eagle Academy) – A fab frosh last season, Rose wasted no time making himself a name to know on the NYC wrestling scene, winning the DII sectional title right out of the gate. Most impressive was the fact that he made a compelling argument for the unofficial title of best freshman in the City, scoring bonus points in both of his sectional tournament bouts. He was humbled a bit in Albany, though, going 0-2 against a predominantly upperclassmen field.
Miguel Perez (Eagle Academy)- Another diaper dandy in 2012, Perez joined his aforementioned teammate in winning a PSAL small school title as a freshman. At the DII state tournament, he finished 0-2, but showed signs of growth, rebounding from a loss by second period pin, to make a respectable showing of himself in a 6-5 defeat in the consolation round. As he continues to grow into body, look for those narrow losses to be transformed into close wins.
Elvin Gervacio (Brooklyn International) – A two-time PSAL finalist, Gervacio went from being the pinned to the pinner in the span of one year, ascending to the top spot and punching his own ticket to the Times Union Center. He went 0-2 at the DII state tournament, but still has two years remaining to do damage.
Having taken turns hoisting the hardware the past two years, all signs point to another epic battle for NYC DII supremacy between defending team champions, Eagle Academy and the 2011 top team, Petrides. With less than 10 total teams in the PSAL DII ranks, both squads are loaded with returning placewinners from last season.
With at least one person indicated at every weight class in the preseason rankings, Petrides may have the most balanced lineup of any team in NYC. If they do indeed put a person in the top-4 of all 15 weights, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to outscore them in tournament play. Led of course by the dynamic duo of returning champions, McColgan and Simon, the Staten Island-based school will also count on huge efforts from a number of other wrestlers to come up big during crunch time to regain the title. These wrestlers include 2x PSAL runner-up Nate Musa (132 in 2012), 2011 finalist/third in 2012 Sean Caffrey (at 106), 145-pound fourth place finisher, Isiah Beckles, as well as runner-ups at 182 and 195 pounds, Christian Gioia and Joshua Ferlazzo.
Eagle Academy, very much attached to the championship trophy earned last season, has no intention of lying down as the squad also enters the new season with its share of weapons. If it’s possible, on paper, Eagle might be more dangerous than Petrides as they possess as strong a backend as you will find in NYS (although 99 isn’t a weight class that includes a member of Coach John McGarry’s team).
With return of former state qualifiers at 182, 195, and 285, Eagle has the luxury of knowing that if they are within striking distance late in the evening, Rose, Perez, and Simpson will close strongly and bring home team gold. Featuring a complementary front end that includes 2012 99-pound bronze medalist Rashid Powell, 106-pound sectional runner-up Jairo Pepin, and 120-pound third place and fourth place finishers, Randy Ramirez and Trevaughn Cummings, it’s seemingly in the cards that they will have the firepower to stay within reach of Petrides. Throw in 2x finalist Williams and 145-pound third place finisher, Zimba Hamm, and it might give you the championship formula.
For more on the PSAL, including the preseason rankings mentioned above, check out www.gothamcitywrestling.com
More Season Preview Articles:
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