Necessary Toughness: Three-Sport Star Colton Kells Leads Fairport to First-Ever County Title

 
 
No matter what time of year it is, you’ll find Fairport’s Colton Kells immersed in a contact sport . . .  (or two, or even three).

“Colton is always passionately doing something athletic,” said head wrestling coach Michael Kohl. “He loves sports, especially those of a physical nature. He just loves to lift and work out and especially to compete.”

An All-State linebacker this fall on the gridiron, Kells also suits up for the school’s rugby team in the spring.  And of course, the senior is a standout on the mat where he is currently ranked third in New York after an undefeated start to the 2012-13 campaign.

Courtesy of Colton Kells

Kells said that to “stay sharp”, he does some work in all three sports year round.  And for good measure, he adds some additional exercise to his regimen through his work at a local greenhouse, doing things like moving the plants, and through his summer job which involved lifting furniture.

Of all his endeavors, Kells didn’t hesitate when asked what he found most physically demanding.

“Wrestling is definitely the most intense,” he said. “There are four quarters of football and 80 minutes of rugby but the six minutes in a wrestling match are the toughest.”

So far in his senior season, Kells hasn’t had to wrestle the full six minutes very often.  Only eight of his first 38 matches went the distance.

However, last weekend, he was on the mat even longer than three periods in a contest that was significant for a number of reasons.

In the title bout of the Monroe County championships, Kells took on Spencerport’s Collin Pittman, a wrestler he defeated several times last year and 5-1 earlier this season.  After knotting the score late in the third period on a stalling point, the Fairport grappler got the 5-3 victory on a takedown in overtime.

“Colton stayed focused throughout the match and kept hustling,” Kohl said. “He was rewarded for his hustle and ultimately found a way to win.”

“[Pittman] has improved a lot over the past year,” Kells added. “You can see each of our matches gets closer and closer if you look at the scores. In [overtime], he shot in, I sprawled and I ended up on top after we scrambled for a little bit. It was a very physical match; the closest one we’ve had so far.”

It didn’t just mean a championship for Kells. It also was the 100th victory of his career.

“Once I realized I was getting close [to 100 wins], I started keeping track,” he said. “I knew going into the weekend that the finals could be my 100th win and I thought it would be cool to get it there.”

Hitting the century mark wasn’t the only reason the weekend was special, however. Kells was an important contributor to his team’s first-ever county championship, breaking the hold that Spencerport had on the title for more than 20 years.

“It meant a lot and it was great to do our senior year,” Kells said. “We’ve been together for years, working hard together.  We felt pretty confident coming in that we could win but you never know what will happen with a lot of tough teams there.”

“It was very exciting for us,” Kohl added. “It was a compilation of a lot of hard work and I know the boys take a lot of pride in the way they performed and that they were the first to win the county for our school.”

New achievements have been piling up for the Red Raiders. A year ago, Josh Lackey, now a freshman at North Carolina State, became Fairport’s first individual state champion when he put together an unbeaten campaign to capture the 220-pound crown in Albany.  Lackey said in an interview last summer that he hoped his showing would lead to more future championships for Fairport.

“Watching him win was actually a great inspiration for me,” Kells said. “We worked out most of last year.  We were drill partners; we lifted together.  Josh was great to work with. He never lets up.  He never stops pushing forward. It was amazing to see him win the title and it inspired me.”

The truth is, Kells wasn’t too far from joining Lackey on the medal stand last year. After dropping a number of matches to All-State wrestler Jesse Kozub as a sophomore and early in his junior campaign, Kells broke through and defeated the Brockport wrestler at the county tournament in 2012, a win that gave him a boost going into the latter stages of the season.

“Jesse had placed in the state the previous year and I knew after beating him that I could go with anyone.  It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Kohl agreed.

“I thought that was the turning point last season for Colton,” Kohl said. “I think he realized that he could wrestle with the elite kids.  He realized that there wasn’t a question of whether he was capable or not, it was all about how he performed.”

He performed well enough in his first trip to state tournament to win a pair of matches and come within one victory of making the podium.

And after he was finished competing, Kells took the floor at the Times Union Center to help Lackey warm up and prepare for his finals bout with Max Antone of Niagara Wheatfield.

It’s a place Kells hopes to visit again on February 23, 2013.  And the two-time captain is doing all the right things to get there, according to his coach.

“He’s not a flashy kid – he does everything the old fashioned way, through hard work and determination.  He’s extremely disciplined and does all the extra things. Kids like him, when you ask them to jump, they ask how high? If you asked him to run through a wall, he would.  He has that determined look in his eye this year and very high expectations for himself.”

Those expectations for success at the highest levels in New York won’t end in February.

“A couple days after states, I’ll be back in rugby,” he said. “We made it to the state finals the last two years and won once.  Hopefully we can get back there again and win.”

After all, every season is sports season for Kells.  Pity the obstacles in his way.

Weekend Notes: New Dual Meet Champs in Sec 3 and 4, Fairport Earns First Monroe Title Plus Recaps from Shen, Edgemont, Kohl, Islip Cup and More

What a weekend. From dual meet championship tournaments to tough individual events, there were great matchups all over the state. The following touches upon some of the notable results and more may be added later.

South Jefferson and Johnson City captured Dual Meet Championships in Section 3 and 4, respectively. The Spartans dominated their finals matchup with General Brown while the Wildcats won a four-point dual over Union-Endicott. 

In individual tournament action:

• Shenendehowa won its own event with five champions, with St. Anthony’s and Yorktown taking second and third. Among the titlewinners for the Plainsmen were highly ranked Nick Kelley, David Almaviva and Levi Ashley.

• Monroe County in Section 5 has a new champion for the first time in 22 years. Spencerport had captured the last 21 titles, but this weekend it was Fairport earning that school’s first county championship. A number of wrestlers who appear in our latest state rankings won titles at this event, including Colton Kells of the champion Red Raiders, who topped Spencerport’s Collin Pittman in overtime at 195.

• At the Islip Cup, a pair of New York contenders at 170 pounds, Joe Piccolo of Half Hollow Hills West and Carlos Toribio of Brentwood, squared off for the second time this season. Toribio took the first meeting by decision but in the rematch, Piccolo recorded an early pin. It continues a strong run by Piccolo, who was third at the Eastern States Classic last Saturday.

• Huntington took first at the Kohl Invitational with five titlewinners, including Most Outstanding Wrestler Joseph Puca at 152 pounds. Puca upset state ranked Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis.

• Edgemont, led by 120-pound winner Trey Aslanian, was the team champion at its tournament over the weekend, finishing ahead of Section 1 foe Pearl River.

• Clarence took the ECIC Championship, led by champions Ryan Burns (106), Jake Weber (160) and Nate Ward (285).  Taking MOW honors was Cheektowoga’s Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer, who won the 132 pound class with a pin.

• At the Beacon, Valley Central won a close team race by three points over Arlington. Leading the way was top ranked Alex Delacruz of Ossining, who notched a technical fall in the finals.

For more details on these stories, read on:

Section 3 and 4 Dual Meet Championships

Johnson City, the top seed in Section 4, opened with a 50-24 victory over Sidney before defeating Vestal by a 42-27 score in the semifinals. In the championship dual, Johnson City took a commanding lead, clinching the dual with three matches remaining. Union-Endicott’s late rally made the final score 40-36.

In Section 3, the conclusion lacked drama. Top seeded South Jefferson, ranked seventh in the latest state dual poll, looked like one of New York’s elite squads throughout the competition. The Spartans began with a 51-23 result against Cicero-North Syracuse before topping Cazenovia 58-22. In the semifinals, the team had its closest meet of the event, 43-31, over Baldwinsville. In the finals, South Jefferson left little to chance, emerging with a dominant 45-19 score.

Earning wins in the opening three duals for the champions were Jared Carroll (99), Caleb Beach (106), Trevor Cowles (160), Dan Smith (170), Logan LaFlamme (182) and Ryan Charlebois (220).

For more on the championships by Johnson City and South Jefferson, check back tomorrow for a more detailed story.

Shenendehowa Tournament

The host team collected 209.5 points, well ahead of St. Anthony’s at 149 and Yorktown’s 95. The Plainsmen received championship performances from five grapplers – Kevin Parker (120), Nick Kelley (138), David Almaviva (145), Chris Naccarato (160) and Levi Ashley (195).

A host of additional wrestlers ranked statewide took the mat in Section 2. At 113 pounds, returning state runner up Cheick Ndiaye edged St. Anthony’s Ben Lamantia 3-2 and Joe Mastro of Yorktown grabbed gold at 152.

A pair of ranked wrestlers were upended in the finals – Luis Weirebach of Hoosick Falls topped Eastern States medalist Golan Cohen of Colonie at 106 while Elliot Antler of Xavier edged St. Anthony’s Johnny Vrasidas at 170. In a battle of 182-pound wrestlers we expect to make some waves in Albany, Thomas Murray of Yorktown topped Hoosick Falls’s Brad Burns.

For further results from the event, see here.

Monroe County Tournament

As mentioned previously, Fairport won its first Monroe County league title after 21 consecutive years of championships for Spencerport. The Red Raiders had a large number of placers, including titlewinners Colton Kells at 195 and Jordan Seidel at 170.

Courtesy of Jason DePrez

This event featured a number of grapplers who are featured prominently in the latest individual state rankings. Among them were top 99 pounder, Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton, who earned a major in the title match and took lightweight Most Outstanding Wrestler honors. He was joined on top of the podium by teammates Vincent DePrez (138), Anthony DePrez (145) and Mike Spallina (152), an eighth grader. Spallina wasn’t the only young wrestler to take top billing. After impressing nearly everyone in attendance at the Eastern States last weekend, seventh grader Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield put up another outstanding performance, taking the 126-pound crown over top seed Rosario Venniro, 3-1.

Spencerport was well represented among the titlewinners as well, with champions Jonathan Haas at 106, Trent Egenlauf at 182 and Austin Coleman at heavyweight. Grabbing heavyweight MOW honors was 160-pound champion Josh Powell of Churchville-Chili.

For more details, see here.

Islip Cup

Brentwood sat atop the team standings at the Kris McDonald Islip Cup, ahead of Sachem North and Islip. Leading the way for the top squad were champions Alex Romero (145), Luis Rodriguez (152) and David Rodriguez (285).

Photo by BV

Several state title contenders also picked up first place as the Half Hollow Hills West duo of Tyler Grimaldi (160) and Joe Piccolo (170) were victorious. As mentioned earlier, Piccolo avenged an earlier season loss to Brentwood’s Carlos Toribio with a first period pin. Both will be in the podium picture in Albany. Sachem North’s Gio Santiago has experience on the medal stand at the Times Union Center, as he took sixth a year ago. He continued his solid campaign with a fall over Jagger Rebozo in the 182-pound final.

For more results, see here.

Kohl Tournament

Huntington racked up 268 points, outdistancing Monroe Woodbury (201.5) and Port Jervis (166) for the title. The Blue Devils were led by Most Outstanding Wrestler Joseph Puca, who upset state-ranked Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis for the 152-pound crown, 1-0. Also making the top of the podium for Huntington were John Arceri (99), Corey Jamison (126), Nick Lupi (220) and Anthony Puca (285).

For full brackets, see here.

Edgemont Panther Tournament

Photo by BV

Edgemont won its own tournament by five points over Pearl River on Saturday, spurred by champion Trey Aslanian at 120 pounds. Also making the finals for the host team were Kyle Aslanian (99), Chris Kim (170) and Jason Worobow (182). One of the top 145 pounders in the Empire State, Tom Grippi of Fox Lane, pinned his way to the title.

For more results, see 2013 Edgemont Bracket FINAL RESULTS

 

ECIC Championships

In Section 6, Clarence won the title by almost 100 points over Lancaster.  Clarence had eight finalists, including three title winners.  For full results, see here.

Beacon

In addition to the dominance of Ossining’s Alex Delacruz, there were many standout showings at this tournament. One of those was the 195-pound championship for Horace Greeley’s Scott Wymbs. When Wymbs, named the Outstanding Wrestler, beat Kingston’s Deon Edmond for the title, he became his school’s all-time wins leader.

Dual Meets

For additional dual meet results from the weekend, see here.

Section 5 Preview: More Than 10 All-State Wrestlers Return, Including 2012 Finalists Recco, Peacock, DePrez, Mazurowski and Bacon

Division I

Returning State Placewinners

Fifth Place: Bryan Lantry, Wayne, 99 Pounds

Second Place: Vincent Deprez, Hilton, 113 Pounds

 

Additional Returning Qualifiers

99 Pounds: Jon Haas, Spencerport

106 Pounds: Bryan Ruggeri, Fairport

106 Pounds: Barton Peters, Brockport

170 Pounds: Jared Mesiti, Brockport

195 Pounds: Colton Kells, Fairport

Seniors to Watch

Colton Kells (Fairport) – The Red Raiders crowned the first state champion in school history in 2012 when Josh Lackey took the 220-pound title.  Kells, a fellow Fairport upperweight, looks to make it two years in a row.  He came within one victory of making the medal stand as a junior as he won a pair of bouts in Albany.  His 35-8 campaign included a victory over bronze medalist Jake Kelly of Niagara Wheatfield and all but one of his losses came against wrestlers that have now graduated.

Bryan Ruggeri (Fairport) – Like his teammate Kells, Ruggeri made the trip to the state tournament. He had a difficult draw, losing to undefeated champion Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville and fourth place finisher Jimmy Overhiser of Corning.  However, he showed his ability in a 35-win season that included a win over All-State grappler Corey Hollister.  He’ll be looking for more in 2013.

Jared Mesiti (Brockport) – Mesiti went 36-9 at 170 pounds a year ago, making an appearance at the Times Union Center after winning the Section 5 title by a point over Jessi Kimmerli.  The victory was significant because the Spencerport grappler had defeated Mesiti the first three times they met in 2011-12.  (Kimmerli earned fifth in Albany). Now that he’s had a taste of the state tournament, Mesiti is looking to get his hand raised at the event as a senior.

Austin Coleman (Spencerport) – Coleman, the returning Section 5 runner up, had a number of quality wins at 285 a year ago, including over state silver medalist El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia, and looks to punch his ticket to Albany in 2013.  He’s favored to do just that as opposing coaches such as Brockport’s Mike Ferris believe he’s the wrestler to beat at heavyweight this season.

 

Also Keep an Eye On . . .

Vincent DePrez, Photo by BV

Vincent DePrez (Hilton) – Deprez had a nearly perfect season as a sophomore that ended just short of a state title.  He went 49-1 at 113 pounds, with his only setback coming on a takedown at the buzzer in the state championship bout against Dylan Realbuto of Somers.  He racked up a collection of impressive triumphs, including wins over Sean Peacock (Division II state champion) and additional placers Cody McGregor, Pat Skinner and Robert Person.  He will be up several weight classes but will be among the favorites to stand on top of the podium in late February.

Barton Peters (Brockport) – Peters is already a two-time Section 5 champion, including the 106 pound title in 2012.  During his 39-win sophomore campaign, he tallied several quality victories, including a pin against Fairport’s Bryan Ruggeri in the first period of the Section championship bout.

Lightweights Jonathan Haas (Spencerport) and Bryan Lantry (Wayne) know each other pretty well.  Two of the top 99-pounders in the state last season, they met three times in February.  Haas came out on top on the first two occasions, including in overtime in the SuperSectional final.  However, when they met in Albany, with a place on the podium on the line, Lantry (45-5) captured a 5-1 victory on his way to fifth.  Both will once again be in the running at the end of the year.

 

Although the following wrestlers didn’t take the mat at the state tournament last year, they will certainly be in the mix to do so this time around.

Anthony DePrez (Hilton) – As a tenth grader, he went 41-6 with three of his losses to state runner up Brady Baron.  The last of those defeats came by a slim 4-3 margin in the SuperSectional title bout.  DePrez had 11 pins and another 17 bonus wins.  Not to be outdone by his brothers Vincent and Anthony, Lou DePrez piled up 29 wins as a seventh grader at 106 and will another important part of the Hilton lineup.

Jacob Pincus (Pittsford) – Pincus took second at the SuperSectionals behind Angelo DeAngelis after a 35-4 campaign.  He registered 20 pins and defeated NHSCA All-American Derek Holcomb of Newark Valley.

Vinny Romeo (Canandaigua Academy) – Romeo took third in Section 5 to cap off a season in which he won 38 matches at 126 pounds, including 16 pins.  His bronze medal match victory at SuperSectionals came against Jacob Boice of Honeoye Falls-Lima, another wrestler to keep an eye on.  Boice had defeated Romeo multiple times earlier in the campaign.

Peter Armbruster (Webster Schroeder) – Armbruster was 40-9 in 2011-12, taking third place in Section 5 behind a pair of state qualifiers Jessi Kimmerli and Jared Mesiti.  He registered some solid wins, such as a victory over Josh Maier of Brockport, and looks to make an appearance in Albany.

Collin Pittman (Spencerport) – Like Armbruster, Pittman was a bronze medalist at the SuperSectionals behind two wrestlers that earned bids to the state capital – Colton Kells and Jesse Kozub.  After his successful junior season at 195 pounds, Pittman will look to make an impact not only in the Section but at the state level in the upperweights.

 

Youth Movement . . . 

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton) – Diakomihalis captured trophy after trophy in the spring and summer as he won several events in various states, including the Ohio Tournament of Champions, the Empire Nationals and the NYWAY State championships. As a seventh grader, he went 35-3 with his losses coming to Haas (twice) and Lantry. Intermat currently has him pegged as the sixth best Junior High School wrestler in the nation.

He demonstrated yet again that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in New York this year at the Journeymen Classic at the beginning of October where he went undefeated and won his bracket in convincing fashion, including victories over Suffolk County’s Jesse Dellavecchia and All-American Tommy Aloi of Virginia. For an encore performance, he won the Middle School national crown at the Super 32 in October.

“He is the closest thing I’ve seen to a young Quinton Murphy,” said Section 5 Class Chairman and Byron-Bergen Athletic Director Rich Hannan.  “He’s really special. He doesn’t get rattled and he doesn’t care who he’s wrestling.  He just does his thing and stays composed.”

Parker Kropman (Penfield) – Kropman was another seventh grader who produced good results at 99 pounds, with more than 30 wins. He lost a one-point decision to state champion Tony Recco of Lyndonville and also dropped matches against Diakomihalis (twice) and state placer Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle.   He and brothers Skylar and Cooper will rack up many victories over the years for Penfield. Teammate Frankie Gissendanner will be in his first year of varsity eligibility and is a wrestler to keep tabs on.  He had a highly successful offseason, winning titles at just about every event he entered, including the Ohio Tournament of Champions.

 

Team Race

“The team race will be more interesting than it’s been in years,” Hannan said.  “Brockport has been inching closer and closer to Spencerport each year.  Last year, the team race wasn’t locked up until somewhere close to 220 pounds and that was unusual.  Several teams will be fighting it out this year.”

Brockport coach Mike Ferris agrees that it will be an intriguing race in 2013, naming a number of squads he thinks can contend, such as Spencerport, Brockport, Hilton, Webster Schroeder, Penfield, Fairport and Pittsford.

“It’s always exciting to see how coaches prepare their teams for the final tournament of the year,” Ferris said.  “It seems that this year more than ever, any one of those teams has the ability to finish on top.  The team that finishes hot at the end of the season will prove to be Section 5’s best.”

Let’s take a look at some of those teams.

Spencerport, which finished fourth in the state polls last year, is of course a team that will be in the thick of things. The squad graduated a fair bit of firepower with state qualifiers Steve Maier, Angelo DeAngelis and Jessi Kimmerli moving on.  But Jon Haas, Austin Coleman and Collin Pittman will be back to form a strong core for the always-tough Rangers.

Brockport, eighth in the state a year ago, is in a similar situation, welcoming back Section 5 champions Mesiti, Peters and Class A Section champion Ryan Mattison, but losing a large group of solid competitors in Joe Carter, Jesse Kozub, Alex Love, Josh Maier, Mark Nesbitt, Owen Peters, Jimmy Porteus and CJ White.

“It is always difficult to say goodbye to a special group of seniors like we had last season,” Ferris said, mentioning that his squad sent a Division I team record of six athletes to the state tournament. “However, like every year, it is important to build off of the successes of past athletes to build the future. I am confident our team will be ready to go when it matters the most.”

As always the highly anticipated Brockport vs. Spencerport dual is circled on the calendar for Section 5 wrestling fans. January 24th will be sure to draw a crowd as the Blue Devils host the Rangers in what is typically a battle.

Don’t forget about Fairport. The team’s first-ever state champion Josh Lackey now suits up for North Carolina State and his classmates Dakota Taylor and Pat Van Bortle aren’t wearing Red Raider singlets anymore.  But James Arao, Zack Barker, Colton Kells, Andrew Pieri and Bryan Ruggeri will give Fairport a tough squad to beat.

“Fairport always finds ways to replace talent with young tough kids,” Ferris said. “I’m sure Coach Kohl has his Raiders ready to contend for an AA sectional title once again.”

Other teams that will make their mark include Penfield, which returns Keith Langdon, Parker Kropman, Skylar Kropman and Eric Harley and Hilton which offers a standout lightweight group of the three DePrez brothers (Vincent, Anthony and Lou) as well as Diakomihalis.

Pittsford will be in the mix despite the loss of state runner up Brady Baron with a core made up of Jeff Gould, Tyler Gross, Rob Klotz, Jacob Pincus and Tyler Schaefer.

And while Webster Schroeder said goodbye to Section 5 finalists Alec Dierna, Josh Reed, Andrew Wightman and Mike DeMarco, they are a team to keep tabs on as well, led by returning placers Armbruster and Rosario Venniro.

“Webster Schreoder lost a solid core of athletes but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coach Salvaggio competes for a AA championship again this year,” Ferris said. “He has some tough kids returning on his team.”

 

Division II

Returning State Placewinners

99 Pounds: Andrew Flanagan, Holley, Fourth Place

99 Pounds: Tony Recco, Lyndonville, State Champion

106 Pounds: Corey Hollister, Perry, Fifth Place

113 Pounds: Sean Peacock, Midlakes, State Champion

113 Pounds: Austin Keough, Warsaw, Sixth Place

170 Pounds: Burke Paddock, Warsaw, Third Place

182 Pounds: Tim Schaefer, Warsaw, Third Place

195 Pounds: Bryce Mazurowski, Avon, Second Place

195 Pounds: Tyler Smith, Midlakes, Fourth Place

220 Pounds: Zack Bacon, Hornell, Second Place

220 Pounds: Mike Silvis, Holley, Fifth Place

 

Additional Returning Qualifiers

106 Pounds: Matt Boyle, Batavia

126 Pounds: Jake Nicholson, Waterloo

132 Pounds: Clyde Carey, Addison

145 Pounds: Austin Hedges Letchworth

182 Pounds: Jeff Day, Letchworth

 

Some of the Wrestlers to Watch . . .

Section 5 was the big winner in Division II in Albany and although outstanding state champions Sam Recco, Quinton Murphy and Chris Nevinger have graduated, as have medalists such as Jeff O’Lena and Kacee Sauer, the Section still returns a host of qualifiers that will account for a large number of points again in February.  In fact, 16 wrestlers who represented the section in 2012 will be back.

Tony Recco, Photo by Boris V

Tony Recco made a tremendous debut at the state tournament, earning a championship to match the one his brother Sam (now at Edinboro), captured.  On his title run in Albany, Recco defeated fellow Section 5 star Andrew Flanagan, who also made All-State.

A few minutes after Tony Recco earned his title, Sean Peacock completed a 49-2 campaign with a crown of his own in one of the brackets most densely packed with former All-State grapplers.  One blemish on his record was a SuperSectionals finals loss to Austin Keough, who was sixth at the states.  Recco, Peacock and Keough will once again be threats to earn gold in 2013.

Bryce Mazurowski, Photo Boris V

A pair of upperweights also stepped on the mat for the Saturday night title bouts in Albany, with both Avon’s Bryce Mazurowski and Hornell’s Zack Bacon coming up just one match short of being state champions themselves.   Mazurowski racked up a 46-2 record a year ago (including a victory over Bacon up at 220) and may be the preseason favorite statewide.  To win the Section 5 crown, Mazurowski defeated Tyler Smith of Midlakes, who took fourth at the state tournament.  They could meet again during the season . . . or in Albany.

Bacon and Mike Silvis may be on a collision course to meet not only to determine the best in Section 5 but also the best in the Empire State. Bacon was dominant a year ago, with all but one of his victories by bonus points coming into the state tournament.  When they met in Albany, Silvis gave Bacon one of his toughest bouts in a 4-1 decision.  Look for some more battles, as according to Hannan, Silvis put in significant work in the offseason, including attending the 28-day J Robinson camp, and is getting serious looks from several Division I college programs.

Two other wrestlers looking to win it all this season are Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer and Burke Paddock.  The pair has combined to make the medal stand seven times, but neither has reached the top yet. Both hope to change that in 2013.

 

Also Keep an Eye On . . .

Here are some wrestlers who didn’t make the drive to wrestle in Albany last year, but have a solid chance to do so this year.

Lightweights:

At 99 pounds, Hannan pointed to a pair of wrestlers who could break through this year, Tyler Hamsher of Wayland-Cohocton and Jason Charlette of Midlakes (34-13), the third and fourth place finishers at Supers.  They split a pair of close, late season matches.

“I think both Charlette and Hamsher will be very good,” Hannan said. “Hamsher lost a tight 3-1 match to [state champion] Tony Recco in the semis at the Supers.  I think both are right there at the state level if they’re back at 99.”

Another bonus name to remember over the next few seasons is Dane Heberlein.  The Alexander wrestler made the varsity squad last year as a seventh grader but didn’t meet the minimum weight requirement to compete. However, he has proven himself in a number of events around the country, including winning an NHSCA Middle School National championship in the spring. According to a number of coaches, Heberlein will be dangerous, especially once his weight is high enough.

In the 106/113 range, keep tabs on Matt Boyle of Batavia, who went 34-7 with 11 pins as a sophomore 106 pounder.  He dropped a 2-1 decision to state placer Corey Hollister and would like to join the Perry grappler in the Times Union Center in 2013.   In addition, don’t lose sight of Hunter Taylor of Byron Bergen, who captured 33 bouts as a freshman 113-pounder and took fourth at the SuperSectionals.  Interestingly, Taylor has wrestling in his family as he often watches his uncle, Tim Taylor compete in Greco Roman at high profile events.   Tim Taylor has been second on the Olympic ladder behind Dremiel Byers for a number of years.

While two familiar faces, Sam Recco and Jeff O’Lena, the top two finishers in the state a year ago, are no longer in high school, Section 5 will still be tough at 120 pounds. The top returner, Rafael Mateo of Midlakes, piled up 42 victories as a tenth grader, including wins over state medalists Zach Ayen of Gouverneur (by major) and Dakota Gardner of Fredonia. He faced a tough schedule, battling Recco and O’Lena twice each as well as Dylan Rifenburg.  That experience should help him as a junior.

At 126 pounds, Jake Nicholson of Waterloo came so close to going to Albany in 2012, losing by a point in triple overtime to state placer Dylan Rifenburg at 126 in the SuperSectionals.  In his 33-3 campaign, he lost only to state silver medalist Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer and Rifenburg twice (although he also beat Rifenburg) and recorded 21 pins.

“126 last year was a bag of rattlesnakes,” Hannan said. “I didn’t know who was going to come out of it.  Nicholson wrestled well and won it. He’s very athletic on the mat.”

Speaking of 126 pounds, two wrestlers to monitor this year are Jake Sepor of Pavilion and Derek Draper of York, although one or both may move up to 132.  Draper placed at the SuperSectionals in 2011, according to Hannan, and a top three finish in 2013 could result in a trip to Albany.  Draper has overcome some obstacles to get back on the mat and will be someone to cheer for in his final campaign.

“I’ll be very surprised if Sepor doesn’t make it to states this year.  He’s definitely good enough to do it,” Hannan said.  “As for Draper, he came up with the [Bobby and Alec] Diernas and Quinton Murphy and was right there as a young guy.  He’s had some serious medical issues and at times looks like a shell of his former self but you can still see the glimpses of really great wrestling. If he puts it together, he may be at states and that would be a gigantic victory.”

If either Sepor or Draper are at 132, they might face Addison’s Clyde Carey, who was one victory from placing in Albany last year.  A few things should be noted about that performance.  One, his losses were to eventual state champion Connor Lapresi in the first round and then to bronze finisher Tom Page of Eden by a 4-3 score.  Second, while many compete at less than 100% at the end of the campaign, Carey was far less than that.

“Clyde wrestled with a broken collarbone at the end of the year,” Hannan said. “You could see he was hurting in the semis and finals of the Supers, but he did what he had to do.  He gutted it out.  He actually wrestled well at states, but you’re not going to be able to get away with being that injured and still win at that level.  He doesn’t stop moving.  He’s technically very good.  He beat up on some kids in Section 5 that I thought were very good wrestlers. I’m excited to see what he can do when he’s healthy.”

 

Middle/Upperweights: 

Moving on to the middle and upperweights, Collin Fox of Midlakes is one to keep tabs on this year. The numbers were very good for Fox as he was 46-2 with 25 pins and a bronze medal at SuperSectionals a year ago.  He also defeated qualifier Austin Hedges of Letchworth and hopes to take a few steps forward in the postseason.

Austin Baker from Canisteo-Greenwood was 40-10 at 160 pounds with four losses to New York state medalists (champions Chris Nevinger and Ben Haas and third placer Hayden Wagner) and another four to now-graduated Corey Vail of Pioneer.  He defeated state qualifier Conner Fox of Midlakes and “will be very good” according to Hannan.

At 170 pounds, Nick Winkley, who took fourth at Supers last year is back, and another name to keep an eye on is a grappler who didn’t participate in the postseason after a 32-7 record — Byron Bergen’s Jon Levchuk.

“I think Jon could have been in the finals against Burke Paddock last year in the SuperSectionals if he had wrestled,” Hannan said. “He had a fantastic year and will make some noise this year, even possibly at the state level.”

Yet another upperweight who will be a breakout threat is Penn Yan’s John Martisch.  As a sophomore in 2011-12, Martisch went 43-6 with five of his losses to state placers (four to Tyler Smith and one, a 6-5 decision to Jesse Kozub).  He registered 32 pins along the way.

“He had Kozub on the ropes.  A call went Kozub’s way late in the match but Martisch had him beat.  He’s big and well put together and he can definitely wrestle,” Hannan said.  “Little mistakes cost him last year but if he cleans them up, he can be one of the top guys in the state, that’s for sure.  No one in the state knows his name, kind of like [current Binghamton wrestler] Tyler Deuel a few years ago.  We saw Deuel coming but he surprised a lot of people in New York.  Martisch is the same way and is even built like him.”

 

Team Race

Holley won the team title in 2012 for the first time since 2008, less than 10 points ahead of Midlakes and about 20 in front of Warsaw.   Each of those squads returns multiple SuperSectional placers, but Midlakes may be the preseason favorite, according to Hannan, as the Screaming Eagles bring back a large number of top performers.

State champion Sean Peacock and All-Stater Tyler Smith lead the charge for Midlakes while Collin Fox, Rafael MateoHammond Raes and Jason Charlette, who all finished in the top six at SuperSectionals, will put plenty of points on the board as well.  “I think Midlakes will be very tough to beat.  They have to be at the forefront because of what they did last year,” Hannan said.

Challenging for top billing will be Warsaw, which welcomes back Burke Paddock and Tim Schaefer who are among the best in New York as well as multiple-time state medalist Austin Keough and Colin Royce, who was fourth in the Section a year ago.  Of course, the return of Aaron Paddock strengthens the team on the mat and serves as an inspiration to wrestlers throughout the state and the country.  For our recent story on the Paddock family, see here.

Holley can’t be discounted in its bid to repeat despite the losses of four-time state champion Quinton Murphy and multiple-time All-Stater Kacee Sauer. Andrew Flanagan and Mike Silvis both made the podium at the Times Union Center and Nick Winkley is set to come back after a fourth place SuperSectional showing.

“Holley will be solid,” Hannan said. “No one in Section 5 reloads better than [head coach] John Grillo.  One year, they had seven seniors in the finals of the SuperSectionals and the next year, after all those guys graduated, they scored more points with a new team.   You can’t count Holley out.”

Also offering strong squads will be Canisteo-Greenwood as well as typically tough Palymra-Macedon. Byron Bergen has a solid group of returning starters such as Hunter Taylor, Jon Levchuk, Warren Oderkirk and Austin Yockel. “There’s a nice mix of veterans and a really good group of youth wrestlers at Byron Bergen,” Hannan said.  “The future looks pretty bright.”

Special thanks to all of the contributors to this article, especially Mike Ferris and Rich Hannan.

 

More Season Preview Articles:

Section 1 Preview

Section 3 Preview

Section 4 Preview

Section 7 Preview

Section 8 Preview

Section 9 Preview

Section 11 Preview

CHSAA Preview

PSAL Preview

Features:

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

NY to NC: Fairport's Josh Lackey Talks Winning States as a First-Time Qualifier and Joining Coach Popolizio with the Wolfpack

Josh Lackey, Photo by Boris Veysman

When July 1 arrives, so does the official recruiting period for rising seniors.  There are wrestlers who wait anxiously by the phone or who welcome recruiters into their living rooms.

For Josh Lackey of Fairport, the experience was different.  He was without question a talented wrestler, but going into his last year of high school, he hadn’t yet made an appearance at the state tournament.  In fact, he hadn’t placed at the qualifying tournament – the SuperSectionals, either.  He hoped to change all of that as a junior, but a meniscus tear just two days before the SuperSectionals prevented him from participating in the postseason.

The injury threatened to take away activity in the summer – a time during which Lackey felt essential gains would be made in preparation for his last chance on the high school mats.  So he decided against surgery and continued on, both working on his skills and beginning to plan his future.

“The doctor told me it was a deep tear, and if I wanted to have surgery I could be out a full six months,” Lackey said. “That would mean missing clubs and summer tournaments to build up my skill level.  I thought that time was critical to success the following year and decided to just fight through it while being careful. When it hurt, I took a break.”

He also took some breaks from his workouts during the summer to visit campuses with his parents, during which he spoke to coaches about the college wrestling experience.

“We visited a ton of schools,” Lackey said. “I got a lot out of seeing what different places were like.  I talked to some coaches, who gave me a lot of insight into what they expect out of a college wrestler.”

Lackey learned a lot and got a feel for several schools, but he wasn’t sure whether his future would include wrestling or not.  In fact, going into his final campaign for the Red Raiders, Lackey thought he would probably hang up his wrestling shoes after leaving Fairport High.

“Going into my senior season, I didn’t think I wanted to wrestle in college,” he said. “It seemed like a huge commitment and I knew I had to either be fully committed and really want it or not do it at all.  There’s no in between.  Also, when I was talking to those coaches at that point, they weren’t too interested in me.  I was 29-11 as a junior and didn’t have much to show for myself yet.”

That wouldn’t last too long.  Lackey started his senior year at 220 pounds with an objective of becoming a Sectional champion, but very soon began to set his sights higher.  In his first bout of the campaign, he pinned Max Antone of Niagara Wheatfield, who had appeared at the state tournament in 2011.

“Once I beat [Antone], people came up to me and told me I could do more than win Sectionals,” he said.  “My goals slowly started creeping higher.”

Indeed, with every win, Lackey began believing he could achieve more.  However, his knee injury constantly grounded him.

“It was always on my mind,” Lackey said.  “Maybe once a week, it would act up a little bit and I would get a little worried.  There was never a time when I felt it was completely healed.  It’s always a gamble when you get on the mat because things happen so fast.  One bad move, or twist, the rest of the season could be gone.  My coaches watched it closely, but there wasn’t a time where I was totally confident in it.”

Despite that, Lackey kept winning, dropping only a single match to eventual 195-pound state champion Tony Fusco of Shenendehowa in December.

When the SuperSectionals rolled around, Lackey made up for his absence the previous year with a dominant performance in which he didn’t yield an offensive point.  With another goal crossed off the list, he said his new focus was on placing in the top six in Albany.  But when the brackets were released and his name was on the top line as the number one seed, he once again raised his ambitions.

“I started to believe I could be a state champion,” he said. “I wanted to shoot for first.”

A pin and two decisions earned him a spot in the finals against a familiar foe – Antone.  In addition to their meeting very early in the season, Lackey had beaten Antone again in late December.   (The Niagara Wheatfield grappler lost only one other match the entire season).

“I was glad to be facing [Antone] in the finals because I had wrestled him twice already and I knew what kind of wrestler he was,” Lackey said. “But I also knew I couldn’t be too confident.  I saw an article where he was talking about training just to beat me.  I never let myself be too confident because I didn’t want to look back and regret anything.”

He didn’t have to, earning a 10-8 decision to complete his 40-1 season.  And he made history in the process, giving Fairport High its first-ever state champion.

“I think the greatest thing about being the first one from my school is that I could set new goals for the underclassmen,” he said. “It’s hard to break the barrier to be the first one, but once it’s done, others believe too.  I think it sets a new standard for the team for years to come and lets people know that they can win the state championship too.”

The title run attracted the attention of college recruiters as well.  But Lackey said schools such as NC State and George Mason were at the top of his list all along, whether he was going to be a student-athlete at the next level or just a student.

“Day to day I changed my mind on whether I wanted to wrestle or not,” he said. “My parents didn’t want to influence me.  I decided on NC State on May 1 and I decided that I was going to wrestle a little bit after that.  At the end, I realized that if I graduated college without wrestling, I would regret it.  It’s such an enriching experience that very few people get the pleasure of doing.  I want to take the opportunity and make the most of it.”

The Wolfpack are happy to have him, at either 197 pounds or heavyweight.  In the past five years, the NC State roster included only two wrestlers from the state of New York.  But with the addition of Lackey, two-time state runner up Sam Speno of Fox Lane and a pair of transfers, All-American heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski (from Binghamton) and Ryan Fox (Nassau), the roster will have a strong Empire State influence.  And with Pat Popolizio at the helm, that is likely to continue.

“I think it will be a great experience to be part of a building team rather than a team that already has had a great track record of success,” he said.  “I think the pursuit of success is most rewarding and I think I can be part of building something special at NC State.  That definitely contributed to my decision.”