'A Unique Opportunity for NY Kids': SUNY Sullivan Adds Wrestling Program Starting This Fall

For years, SUNY Sullivan has welcomed some of the best wrestlers in New York to its Loch Sheldrake campus for a weekend in January for the Eastern States Classic.

And grapplers have again ascended on the campus in the summertime for top-notch camps, including the J Robinson Intensive Camp in 2012, run by the longtime University of Minnesota head coach.

Now, wrestling will be a fixture at SUNY Sullivan year round, as President Dr. William Murabito and Director of Athletics Christopher DePew announced earlier this month that wrestling will be one of two sports added, beginning this fall.  (Women’s volleyball is the other).

According to DePew, the move to bring wrestling to Loch Sheldrake was in the making for some time, as he and the institution have become more and more connected to the sport over the years.

“We have developed very strong relationships with the Friends of Section 9 wrestling and also with members of Beat the Streets such as Al Bevilacqua and Bill Crum,” DePew said.  “Those individuals have been suggesting starting a wrestling program here for a while.”

DePew began to look at the possibility but was uncertain whether some of the start up costs, like new mats, might be prohibitive.

But when a new mat arrived, courtesy of Beat the Streets wrestling, the enthusiasm continued to grow.

And when DePew presented the proposal to add wrestling, as well as women’s volleyball, to the leaders of the institution, the Board not only approved it, but demanded that it go forward as part of the college’s five-year growth strategy.

It is believed that the programs will be an important recruitment tool for up to 40 new students in the next year and will be the first step of an overall plan to add four more athletic programs by 2015.

In addition to meeting the strategic needs of the institution, DePew believes there will also be a profound impact on the wrestling community.

“There are limited opportunities for wrestlers on the collegiate level and we’re happy to be providing a great option,” he said. “We believe we offer a unique opportunity for New York kids to get away from home and have the true college experience, but still be close enough to get home if they need to.  There is a bus from the Port Authority in New York City that goes to the flagpole at our school. We know there are so many good high school wrestlers in the state of New York, including in the Beat the Streets program, and we want to offer them a place to continue wrestling.”

There are of course some things currently being worked out.  Student housing is currently at capacity and there is an ongoing initiative to expand on-campus living.

And the leader of the program is still being determined, with the search for the head coach underway.  According to DePew, a number of candidates have already expressed interest and he is hoping to have the coach on board by mid February.

Even without the staff in place, the enthusiasm for the sport came through in conversations with DePew and was very clear during the Eastern States Classic.  In fact, DePew worked in the concession stand from the opening of the tournament in the morning through its close on both Friday and Saturday.  His excitement about making wrestling events a bigger fixture at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse was palpable.

“I think this is a great opportunity for SUNY Sullivan and for the New York wrestling community,” he said. “We have some work to do, and I would say I’m cautiously optimistic.  We have seen NJCAA programs like Nassau and Niagara do very well in New York and we expect that we can have that kind of success as well. This fits in well with our continued quest to be the very best Junior College Athletic Program in the country.  I believe that the success of our current programs will breed immediate success for our future programs. We expect to become a national Junior College power in year one.”


Eastern States Pick Your Champions Contest – Who Won?

Congratulations to our Pick Your Champion Contest winner from Eastern States . . . who chose to be identified as “John Stamos”.  He correctly picked 11 out of the 15 titlewinners.  There were a number of people right behind him – 8 entrants accurately predicted 10 of the 15 champions.

A quick look at the contest results:

There were a number of weights where the champion was dominant in the voting, as well as on the mat.

Johnson City’s Reggie Williams was the top vote getter at any weight, picking up close to 75% of the tallies in the 195-pound class.

Coming in not too far behind were a pair of Long Island wrestlers who cruised through the weekend – Corey Rasheed of Longwood (152) and Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville (113). Both were just shy of 70% of the vote.

In addition, around 60% of the respondents chose returning state champion Zack Zupan of Canastota (182), Nick Kelley of Shenendehowa (138) and Columbia’s El Shaddai Van Hoesen (285).

On the flip side, some of the champions were more of a surprise to the participants in the contest.

A Section 9 wrestler collected over 40% of the votes at 99 pounds – but that was Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa. Champion Chris Cuccolo of Pine Bush received around 7% of the tallies.

The votes at 106, 120 and 126 were quite fragmented with more than 10 wrestlers getting support in each of those weights.  None of the winners of those classes, Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle, Kevin Jack of Danbury or TJ Fabian of Shoreham-Wading River were the top vote getters in their bracket, however they all gathered between 12 and 20% of the vote (as did Tristan Rifanburg at 132 and Dan Breit at 220).

Thanks to everyone that participated.  We appreciate your input and opinions!




At Full Throttle: Sacred Heart-Bound TJ Fabian Takes Over Top Spot After Eastern States Championship

Earlier this week, TJ Fabian explained how his two passions are similar – the competition, the drive, the practice, the adrenaline as he works toward the finish line.

However, there is a big difference.

“I’m not that good at dirt biking,” Fabian said of one of his favorite activities. “I love to do it and I’ve gotten a lot better, but I don’t think I’ll ever be the #1 racer around.”

That may be true.  But after his championship in a loaded bracket at the Eastern States Classic last weekend in his other passion, wrestling, he is now the #1 126-pound grappler around.  Not only in Long Island — but in the state of New York. Rankings are here.

Photo by Josh Conklin

The Shoreham Wading River senior won all five of his matches at SUNY Sullivan, topping a weight class that featured four former state or national champions as well as at least three other placers and several additional qualifiers.

In fact, he had to overcome New York titlewinners in both the semifinals and finals, William Koll of Lansing and Dylan Realbuto of Somers, respectively, to earn what his father Ted called “probably the biggest tournament win of his life.” His efforts didn’t go unnoticed as he was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the lightweights as well as the Champion of Champions at the event.

He can thank his mat wrestling.  After all, Fabian is known as a pinner. According to Ted Fabian, TJ has amassed 168 wins in his career, with 113 coming by fall.

And it’s not just his work turning opponents from the top.  Many of those results have come from underneath, where Fabian typically works for the defensive fall.

That was the situation on Saturday, where he changed the course of his matches against both Koll and Realbuto from the bottom, which he calls his best position.

All of his points in his 5-1 victory over the Lansing wrestler came when Fabian reversed Koll to his back.

And against Realbuto, Fabian trailed late in the third period 2-1, but earned a key reversal with little time left on the clock to capture the title bout 3-2.

“When [Realbuto] was riding me, I was thinking the whole time of trying to do a reachback for the defensive pin,” Fabian said. “He was a crab rider and it actually helped me because he rolled himself and allowed me to get the reversal.  Then, I was able to hold on for the win.”

According to TJ Fabian, it was the first time he defeated the Somers senior after losing to the Section 1 wrestler in eighth grade by five and later at the Eastern States by a point.

“I was just so excited,” Fabian said. “He beat me before and he is one of the tougher kids I’ve beaten in my career.  It’s also the first big tournament I ever won.”

That may the case. But it was an incredible performance at an event in which he didn’t even place that set the stage for his 25-0 start to the 2012-13 campaign.

Back in October, Fabian had high hopes going into one of the nation’s most prestigious tournaments, the Super 32 Classic in North Carolina.

In a bracket of more than 60 competitors, however, he began with an opening round loss.

“I barely remember my first match,” Fabian said. “It took a lot to drop the weight at the time and my body wasn’t up to its normal fitness.  I remember just sitting around and thinking of what was ahead of me.”

What was ahead was a long road back.  And Fabian got to work.  He won his next bout. And then another.  And another.

In fact, in a grueling event, Fabian won seven consecutive contests, including a triumph over nationally-ranked Ken Bade of Michigan to get to the round of 12.  It was there that his streak finally ended against Pennsylvania’s Colby Ems.

Photo by Josh Conklin

“He was down in the dumps after his first match after he came in expecting to place,” Ted Fabian said. “Lots of kids would have packed it in, especially knowing what it would take to place after that. For him to win seven in a row – that shows the heart he has and what he’s all about. He has that quiet drive; he knew he could do better and he was determined to do better. After that he started to truly believe in himself 100%. I think the Eastern States made him believe that even more.  He was always confident, but I think this weekend was fulfilling for him. It’s like he knows that he can compete with the best because he is one of the best too.”

The staff at Sacred Heart certainly thinks so. Fabian has given a verbal commitment to the Connecticut-based institution and looks forward to continuing his wrestling career in Division I as a 133 pounder.

“I am excited about Sacred Heart,” he said. “The coach [Andy Lausier] there believes in his wrestlers and their potential.  I feel like he really wants me and all the wrestlers to reach our goals and mine are to become an All-American and then a national champion.”

He knows that it won’t be easy.  Ted Fabian was a Division I wrestler at Wagner and said that it was challenging.

“I was a big fish in a small pond in high school but once I got to college, it was physically more demanding than I ever expected,” Ted Fabian said. “I got beaten up a lot, which never happened in high school. But I did enjoy it. It was a good experience, but it definitely takes a special breed to wrestle DI for four years.”

Fabian believes his son is part of that special breed, especially given the trajectory his wrestling career has taken.

“I really like his progression,” Ted Fabian said. “Each year, TJ has improved, record wise and status wise.”

Indeed, he has. He took fourth at the state tournament at 120 pounds last year after earning third in the county two years prior.

Those results came after a youth career which Fabian labeled as “okay” where he once took seventh in the Suffolk kids tournament but “never really placed in kid counties or states otherwise.”

Like in his early years of wrestling, Fabian is in the learning stages in dirt biking.

“I pretty much do it for fun,” he said. “I haven’t gotten great results.  I think I got second in a race once and another time, I think I was third.”

Fabian said he was satisfied with those results, for now, on the bike.  But in his other passion, it’s a different story.  Because after last weekend, Fabian isn’t second or third as a wrestler – he is at the top.

TJ Fabian wished to thank his father Ted as well as coaches Joe Condon, Darren Goldstein, Steve Hromada and Nick Garone, among others.

Eastern States Recap: The Champions and Other Highlights from the Weekend in Section 9

Another Eastern States Classic is in the books. Wrestling fans were treated to a tremendous weekend of many of the best New York (and a few other states) have to offer.  Wantagh won the team title, led by heavyweight Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) Dan McDevitt, the champion at 170 pounds.  Also taking MOW honors were Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley (middleweights) and Shoreham-Wading River’s TJ Fabian (lightweights).  Fabian had more hardware to take home as well as he captured Champion of Champions honors after winning an absolutely loaded bracket at 126 pounds.

There were many highlights over the two days. Let’s take a look at some of them.

99 Pounds:

Champion: Chris Cuccolo of Pine Bush came into the event as the second ranked wrestler in his weight . . . in Section 9. (He took fifth in the section in 2012).  Cuccolo has had success on the national level in the international styles and came up with a huge weekend in folk, outscoring his opponents 14-4 plus a pin.

And Also . . .  The semifinal matchup between Jake Yankloski of Wayne and John Busiello of Eastport South Manor looked like a battle between two wrestlers we will hear from in the postseason.  (Yankloski won in the tiebreakers). Yankloski began the season dominant up at 106 and has continued to look good at 99 while Busiello won his first three matches by technical fall or pin before a solid win over top seed Andrew Flanagan for third.

106 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Champion: Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle was stingy on his path to the championship. After a first round technical fall, he shut out his next two opponents and defeated Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn in the title bout. Barbaria repeated victories over two of the state’s top grapplers  – Quinn and Corning’s Jimmy Overhiser on his way to gold.  He had defeated Quinn a few weeks ago and Overhiser at the Journeymen Classic.

And Also . . . Shoreham-Wading River’s James Szymanski, the eighth seed, impressed throughout the tournament, taking third.  He dropped a 3-2 battle to top-ranked Tony Recco in the quarterfinals but earned four straight wins in the wrestlebacks, including a pin against Overhiser and a major decision over Golan Cohen for bronze.  Cohen, the #10 seed from Colonie, also had a strong run in the consolations to take fourth.

113 Pounds:

Champion: Nick Piccininni began the event as the favorite and showed why as he cruised through a bracket filled with former state placers with a pair of technical falls, a pin, a major and a 5-0 victory in the finals against Gouverneur’s Dillon Stowell.

And Also . . .  There was only one wrestler on the podium at Eastern States who wasn’t All-State in 2012. Rafael Mateo of Midlakes, who made the medal stand in Loch Sheldrake after being seeded 14th, tallied four pins over the weekend and took eighth.

120 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Champion: Danbury’s Kevin Jack was an Eastern States Classic champion for the second straight year, this time at 120.

And Also . . .  It’s clear that Section 1 is stacked at 120 pounds as three of the four semifinalists – John Muldoon, Alex Delacruz and Nick Tolli were from that area. Muldoon went all the way to the finals while Tolli was fifth after making an early statement by defeating highly regarded Steve Michel of Lancaster.  Delacruz was in medal position before being disqualified. But that wasn’t all.  Blaise Benderoth, the ninth seed, grabbed third with an 8-1 showing. The North Rockland wrestler was pinned by Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro in the Round of 16 but then responded with six consecutive victories, including a win over state champion Sean Peacock and a 7-2 triumph over Passaro in the third place bout. Throw two-time state runner up Trey Aslanian of Edgemont and Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano into the mix (both were at the tournament) and it should be a very interesting postseason for Section 1 at this weight.

126 Pounds:

Champion: When the #8 seed is a recent national champion (Wantagh’s Chris Araoz), you know you have a tough bracket. Emerging above the rest in a field with a plethora of accomplished wrestlers was Shoreham-Wading River’s TJ Fabian, a fourth place finisher at the state tournament in 2012.  Fabian demonstrated his outstanding mat wrestling and his ability to come through in close matches on his way to the title.  He topped former state champions in both the semis and finals (William Koll and Dylan Realbuto, respectively).

And Also . . . There was a lot of talk about seventh grader Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield, and with good reason.  He placed at 126 pounds in a deep weight in which multiple All-State wrestlers didn’t make the medal stand. Gissendanner, who has made a rapid adjustment to the varsity level, reached the quarterfinals before losing to Koll.  He bounced back like a veteran, beating Grand Street’s Keanu Thompson (who was top 8 in Albany last year) in the consolations before edging 2012 state runner up Justin Cooksey to take seventh.  For more on Gissendanner, from an article we published back in May, see here.

132 Pounds:

Champion: Tristan Rifanburg, the number two seed, controlled his matches on the way to the crown. He picked up an opening round fall before outscoring his next three foes 20-0.  In the finals, he defeated Sam Melikian of Fordham Prep, 8-5.

And Also . . . Melikian came within one victory of placing in the state capital last year.  However, he seems to have taken his wrestling to the next level, dominating in his first five bouts before dropping the finals contest to Rifanburg.

138 Pounds:

Champion: Nick Kelley of Shenendehowa repeated as a champion at this event after winning at 132 last season.  Westfield’s Derek Arnold gave Kelley a battle in the semis (a 3-2 Kelley victory), but otherwise, the future Binghamton Bearcat cruised.  He notched pins in his first three bouts and recorded a 9-1 major over Lansing state champion Connor Lapresi for the title.

And Also . . . Unseeded Skylar Kropman of Penfield took fifth place, including victories over the number six and eight seeds, John Diekel of Whitehall and Joey Butler of Burnt Hills.  Rocky Point’s Tom Dutton, an All-American at both the NHSCAs and Fargo this offseason, once again was impressive to watch.  He took fourth after a pair of losses to Arnold, the Virginia native.

145 Pounds:

Champion: One of the matches we were looking forward to after the brackets were released was Mepham’s Louis Hernandez versus Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva, two of the best in the state.  Hernandez not only beat the number two seed Almaviva 4-2 in that match but also top-ranked Beau Donahue of Westfield, 7-3, to win the championship.  Hernandez came into the event seeded seventh, but will be a force in Albany.  A year ago, he went 1-2 wrestling with a significant injury at the Times Union Center.  This time, he expects much more.

And Also . . . There could be some great matches in late February between wrestlers who looked very good this weekend – Hernandez, Almaviva, Lancaster’s Eric Lewandowski and Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi. On the Division 2 side, Frank Garcia of Norwich, who came within a match of placing last year as a freshman, took fifth.  He had missed a chunk of the season with an injury but has made a nice return.

152 Pounds:

Champion: Not much doubt about the top wrestler here. Corey Rasheed of Longwood pinned his first three opponents, then won 15-4 and 13-0 to earn gold.  He has racked up numerous honors, including three All-State medals, in his career and is the favorite to win his first state title next month.

And Also . . . Although he lost to Rasheed in his last bout, Phoenix’s Rowdy Prior showed that he takes the “Pin2win” mentality of his head coach Gene Mills to heart. Prior registered falls in all four of his matches prior to the finals, including over the sixth and seventh seeds, Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis and Zach Joseph of Shenendehowa.

160 Pounds:

Photo by Josh Conklin

Warsaw’s Burke Paddock positioned himself for a run at his first state title when he dispatched two top small school opponents in Mike Beckwith and Austin Weigel and then defeated Division I returning runner up Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills, 8-4.

And Also . . . While some New York fans may have been surprised by MacArthur’s Steve Schneider’s third place finish, those on Long Island certainly weren’t. The Nassau County wrestler lost to Grimaldi for the second time in the past few weeks, but captured his other six bouts and showed his ability to win the close ones.  All four of his consolation victories came by two points or less, including over the fifth-seed Nick Gallo and the sixth-seed Mike Beckwith.  The performance of Schneider’s third place match opponent, Andrew Psomas of Monsignor Farrell, should also be mentioned.  Psomas was unseeded coming into the event and went all the way to fourth, including victories over four seeded grapplers (Tyler Silverthorn, Stephen Aiello, Austin Weigel and Nate Bomysoad).

170 Pounds:  

Champion: If anyone was unsure whether Dan McDevitt could make the leap from 138 pounds to 170 and stay among the state’s elite, this weekend provided the answer. The Wantagh wrestler showed he belongs in the upperweights, topping Christian Dietrich of Greene 6-2 for the title. He also defeated the third and fifth place finishers, Joe Piccolo and Brett Perry.

And Also . . . Both Dietrich and Piccolo defeated top-ranked Troy Seymour, boosting their stock for the rest of the season.  It wouldn’t be very surprising to see a rematch of Dietrich’s 3-2 semifinal win over Seymour in the Saturday night finals in Albany for Division II gold.


182 Pounds:

Champion: Zack Zupan was in charge all the way through.  We may get to see him wrestle multi-time state placer Tim Schaefer again in Albany, after Zupan earned a 5-2 win over the Warsaw grappler in the championship tilt.

And Also. . . Several wrestlers outperformed their seeds.  Yorktown’s Thomas Murray was in the eighth spot in the bracket but came in fifth, with his losses to Zupan and in the tiebreakers to Shenendehowa’s Levi Ashley.  Speaking of Ashley, the Shenendehowa wrestler topped unseeded Andrew Grella from Beacon in the first round, 8-6, but Grella then won five straight to eventually grab sixth.  Also making a solid run was #15 Christian Araneo of Ward Melville, a freshman, who took eighth after three consolation wins.

195 Pounds:

Williams, Photo by BV

Champion: Reggie Williams had a very exciting and interesting weekend. He had two matches come down to the wire – his opening bout against Garrett Duval, which he won 12-11, and a 7-5 victory over Steven Sabella in which he scored the winning points close to the buzzer.  The Johnson City star also won two bouts by fall, including his title victory over Gouverneur’s Hunter Ayen.

And Also. . .  Ben Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt/CBA made a statement this summer when he earned All-America status at Fargo. He made another statement over the weekend when he took third place, including a win over All-Stater Tyler Smith of Midlakes. The only loss for Honis was a default in the semis against Ayen.

The opening round match between #15 seed Dan Fowler of Chaminade and Jeff Senecal of Duanesburg probably didn’t get much attention (Fowler won by fall).  However, both wrestlers made the medal stand, with Fowler defeating seeded wrestlers Deon Edmond and Scott Wymbs to take fifth and Senecal beating Wymbs and Canastota’s Wyatt Albanese to notch seventh.

220 Pounds:

Champion: Dan Breit of Nanuet breezed through the competition early with big wins in his first three bouts and then won close ones late, picking up 3-2 victories in the semis and finals against Dillon Hurlbert of Marathon and Mike Silvis of Holley, respectively.

And Also . . . During our Pick Your Champions contest, Minisink Valley’s Josh Bonneau received quite a few votes.  The #15 seed showed why. He lost to Breit in his first bout but then picked up six consecutive wins to finish third. Among the wrestlers he beat were Alex Ortiz of Middletown, Hurlbert and Holland Patent’s Josh Langley.

285 Pounds:

Van Hoesen, Photo by BV

Champion: El Shaddai Van Hoesen continued his winning ways.  It’s become customary for him to pin nearly everyone in his path and he did record three falls, including over Alex Soutiere in the title bout.  He also had an 8-1 decision and a 1-0 victory over Rocky Point’s Brennan Strovink.

And Also . . . Strovink proved that his close match with Van Hoesen wasn’t a fluke when the #16 seed made the podium in the sixth position after a solid tournament.  We also saw that the quality 285 pounders in Section 2 go beyond Van Hoesen and Soutiere. Austin DiCerbo of Colonie was pinned by Van Hoesen but picked up four falls of his own, including over Yorktown’s David Varian, on his way to third place.

Team: It was another great weekend for Wantagh. After capturing the Union-Endicott Duals last Sunday, the Warriors again finished on top with 138.5 points.  Shenendehowa was second with 111.5 while Westfield, Virginia (102.5) and Danbury, Connecticut (77) were next.  Tied for fifth were Colonie and Eastport South Manor with 73.5 points.

For full results, see here.

The results of our Pick Your Champions Contest will be released soon.

Congratulations to the Friends of Section 9 Wrestling, including Tournament Director Jeff Cuilty and the many others involved, who made this an outstanding event.  Thank you to SUNY Sullivan, especially Director of Athletics Chris DePew, for assistance with our live coverage.

And a huge thank you to Matt Diano for his incredible work on the live coverage on Saturday!

Eastern States Pick Your Champions Contest!

The Eastern States Classic is nearly here.  Over 115 teams will be represented from four states. 13 former state champions are in the field, as are 60 state placers.  The competition will be fierce at every weight.

Can you correctly pick the most champions?  Enter our Eastern States Pick Your Champions Contest and find out. The winner receives an iTunes card.

To participate in the contest, Click Here. (THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. WE WILL ANNOUNCE THE WINNER NEXT WEEK).