X-Cel Tops Apex to Win Second Annual Eastern Nationals Championship; Check out Videos from the Event



The championship featured the same two clubs. The end result was the same, too.

Two weeks ago in Lake Placid, X-Cel met Apex in the finals of the Pop and Flo National Duals with the Long Island squad coming out on top by a 25-24 score.

This weekend, the two teams squared off again for the title at the Eastern Nationals at Eastport South Manor High School.  X-Cel was once again victorious, this time by a much larger margin, against an Apex team with several lineup changes from the Pop and Flo competition.

One of the holdovers from the Apex team that competed in Lake Placid, Rutgers-bound Tony Pafumi, was named the event’s Most Outstanding Wrestler by vote of the coaches.   The St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) standout notched several impressive victories on the weekend, including decisive wins over New York placewinners Gio Santiago of Sachem North and Dylen Seybolt of Longwood. (Match video of Pafumi is available below, along with several other bouts).

“Pafumi is very, very tough,” X-Cel coach and event leader Nick Garone said. “He definitely impressed a lot of people, especially on his feet.  It says a lot to win the MOW when you aren’t on the championship team.”

X-Cel’s title squad also boasted several top-notch performances and a host of undefeated wrestlers. Rather than singling out any individuals, however, Garone preferred to talk about X-Cel as a unit.

“The team we put out there could have competed with anyone in the country,” Garone said. “The kids were spectacular and I’m very proud of them. It’s phenomenal for us as a club to win Pop and Flo and now this event; it shows that we’re doing things right and getting guys to compete at a high level.“

Another group competing at a high level, according to Garone, was the squad from Sachem East, which defeated nearby Sachem North in the third place dual.

“East was tough; they were right there in the mix with Apex, but Apex had just enough to overcome them,” he said. “Most of the teams here were club teams with kids from lots of different schools, but Sachem East mostly came as their high school team, with a few fill-ins.  It’s darn impressive to place in an event like this as a high school team.  I give them a lot of credit.”

There were a lot of people Garone wanted to give credit to following the event.  He mentioned great refereeing and the work of Dean Zenie, Kim Leo, Darren Goldstein and Teddy Fabian, among others.  He also was grateful to MSG Varsity for agreeing to provide television coverage of both the championship and third place bouts (on July 2).

“It’s very difficult to get somebody to agree to air wrestling,” he said.  “MSG came on board and stepped up to the plate.  It adds credibility and exposure for the kids and we’re really excited it will be on TV.”

Garone also expressed his excitement about X-Cel winning its second title in the past three weeks.  And he is thrilled about the future of the Eastern Nationals.

“We’re trying to provide a platform for the kids in this area to wrestle in a high profile event without having to get on a plane or travel far and spend so much money,” he said. “We were up against some obstacles this year like proms and SATs which made the number of teams a little lower than we wanted, but we will work on that and find a better date next year.  We believe this event will grow into something tremendous that will allow our Long Island wrestlers to wrestle the best competition without having to go far from home.”

Below are some of the videos from the Eastern Nationals 2012.  


T. Pafumi (Apex) vs. G. Santiago (Sachem North)


J. Rodriguez (X-Cel) vs. DiBartolo (Smithtown East)


C. Rasheed (X-Cel) vs. Greenberg (Smithtown East)


Nick Garone Talks Eastern Nationals 2012 and Team X-Cel


D. Salkey (X-Cel) vs. Smithtown East


Dante Salkey on X-Cel and What’s Next


Sean McCabe Headed to Rutgers


S. McCabe (X-Cel) vs. Forca (Smithtown East)


N. Hall (X-Cel) vs. Outcault (Smithtown East)


T. Fabian (X-Cel) vs. Truncale (Smithtown East)


N. Piccininni (631 Elite) vs. O’Connell (KT Kidz)


C. Ladd (Sachem North) vs. P. Merzbacher (Apex)


Milo (Sachem North) vs. Voelker (Apex)


Z. Mullen (X-Cel) vs. Kipkowski (Port Jefferson)


S. Schwartzapfel (X-Cel) vs. Cavanagh (Port Jefferson)


J. Sanzone (Sachem North) vs. D. Fried (Apex)


J. Szymanski (X-Cel) vs. Cummings (Smithtown East)


Calderone (631 Elite) vs. Kane (KT Kidz)


M. Marino (Sachem North) vs. M. Barber (Apex)


A. Marino (Sachem North) vs. Balboni (Apex)


M. Stallone (Sachem North) vs. M. Seitz (Apex)


A. Nunziatta (Sachem North) vs. Burkert (Apex)


Perez (Sachem North) vs. Russo (Apex)


Sparacio (Sachem North) vs. Cancellieri (Apex)


Mazzella (631 Elite) vs. Davis (KT Kidz)



Stevo Poulin Takes Third (and First) Like a Champ at Gene Mills Eastern Nationals

By Betsy Veysman

It looked like a simple mistake.  The registration for the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals listed Stevo Poulin’s name twice – in the Midget division at 54 pounds and in the Juniors at 60.

It wasn’t an error.

After three titles in the event in the past, the nine-year old was looking for a few additional tough matches.

“Sometimes the younger division isn’t that much of a challenge,” Stevo said. “I wanted a bigger challenge.  I’ve done it before [wrestling in two brackets] at local tournaments. I wanted to try it again.”

Although he had to shuttle back and forth between mats and on more than one occasion had to literally run from the final whistle of one match to his next bout, the Schuylerville native went 8-1 overall.

“I knew I would win the [Midget],” he said. “I thought I had a chance with the older kids because they weren’t much heavier.  I was kind of close to winning.”

Poulin, who weighed in at 53 pounds, breezed through the Midget bracket and into the finals with three victories.  There, he thought he might face an opponent from Maryland who he had beaten in a close match earlier in the year.  However, he instead faced his practice partner, Joey Scheeren, in the title bout and came out on top by major decision.

“They were out there almost laughing in the finals. It was almost like they were telling each other knock-knock jokes,” said Steve Poulin, Stevo’s father.  “We traveled with them to the tournament and [Joey and Stevo] are friends.”

Things were a bit more serious in the 60-pound division.  Poulin won his first two before facing Pennsylvania’s Luke Rex.  The bout went into overtime, where Poulin was penalized for scissoring the head, resulting in a victory for Rex.

Poulin bounced back to take third place, to earn two medals on the day.  But that wasn’t what Steve Poulin wanted to talk about.

“When he lost, he didn’t get upset,” the father said.  “He ran right over to his next match.  I overheard one of the other parents saying that every kid should learn from Stevo’s match.  I thought they were going to say something bad about Stevo or about the scissoring call.  But instead they said other kids should learn from how he walked off the mat, held his head high and knew how to handle the loss. He handled himself really well and that made me feel really good.”

It was the first time Poulin had lost at the Eastern Nationals, an event he has enjoyed attending for several years.

“It was the first big national tournament I ever went to,” Stevo Poulin said. “I like it because Gene Mills is there and I like the awards [which are signed by Mills].  I have good luck there.”

Poulin hopes for more good luck next week at the Brute Empire Nationals (dual and individual) in Brockport.   He will compete for Journeymen and he looks forward to a possible rematch with Ryan Crookham, who defeated him 4-0 last summer.

There’s also something else on his mind as the weekend approaches.

“Stevo is six wins away from 400,” his father said. “Hopefully, he’ll get there this weekend.”

If it doesn’t happen this time, there will be plenty of other opportunities as the Ohio Tournament of Champions, the Minimen Nationals and several other events are on the horizon.

“It will be a busy spring and summer,” Steve Poulin said. “But we’ll still make time for soccer and other things Stevo wants to do.”

One thing Stevo wanted to do was acknowledge another victory in the family at the Gene Mills tournament.   His cousin, Orion Anderson, another outstanding youth wrestler, was the champion at 70 pounds.

A full list of Gene Mills Eastern Nationals champions will be posted when available.  For more information on the tournament, see http://www.cnypin2win.com/