A Look at the Juniors: Who are the 11th Graders to Watch in New York?

We have been discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York over the past month or so.  We started with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner (see link),then profiled top freshman Yianni Diakomihalis and discussed other ninth graders to watch.  Then, we wrote about the wrestler at the top of the Class of 2016 rankings – Christian Dietrich and other standout sophomores. Next, we discussed stellar junior Nick Piccininni.

Now it’s time to talk about some of the other 11th graders to keep tabs on this season. There were significant differences of opinion on how these wrestlers stack up against each other.  The order of this list could go numerous different ways and will no doubt look different as the season progresses.  For now, however, here’s a look at some of the stars in the Class of 2015.

 

Piccininni, Photo by BV

#1 Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville)– In the eyes of some, Piccininni is the top pound-for-pound wrestler in New York.  The two-time state champion breezed through his sophomore campaign, winning all 43 matches with only four regular decisions.  In a bout many were anticipating the entire season, Piccininni completely dominated multiple-time state titlewinner Kyle Kelly, 14-4, to grab his second gold medal in Albany.  The Ward Melville standout finished second at the FloNationals this spring and went undefeated at the Disney Duals in the summer against top flight competition.  He did the same thing at the Journeymen Classic and the Iron Horse Invitational. Currently ranked #12 among juniors by FloWrestling and #30 by Intermat, Piccininni is a heavy favorite to capture state crown number three.  For more on Piccininni see this link.

#2 Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich) – Rifanburg burst onto the scene several years ago when he grabbed a state championship as a seventh grader.  He has been back to the title bout at the Times Union Center two more times, earning second place in 2011 and 2013, while finishing sixth in 2012.  As a freshman, Rifanburg also earned the silver at the NHSCA National championships. The Section IV standout is ranked as one of the top 100 juniors in the nation by FloWrestling.

#3 Adis Radoncic (Poly Prep) – The PSAL’s first-ever state champion (for RKA) didn’t face an easy path to gold in February, defeating top-seeded Christian Dietrich and multi-time placer Troy Seymour.  In fact, by defeating Dietrich 4-3 in the title bout, Radoncic avenged one of his two losses in a 27-2 campaign.  The three-time state qualifier also came within one win of placing at the state tournament in 2012. Radoncic, who transferred to Poly Prep and confirmed that he will be a junior in 2013-14, was active in the offseason, taking fifth at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach and competing at Fargo, the Journeymen Classic and the Iron Horse Invitational.

#4 Kyle Quinn (Wantagh) – Quinn had an excellent 36-2 campaign for Wantagh, picking up a state title at 106 pounds.  The multiple-time NHSCA Nationals All-American (third at 106 in 2013) defeated a number of New York state medalists, including Steven Sewkumar and Jon Haas, in the regular season.  In Albany, he pinned All-State wrestler Jimmy Overhiser in the second round before avenging his only two losses of the campaign by beating New Rochelle’s Nick Barbaria, 7-1.  In the state title bout, Quinn came out on top against Westhampton Beach’s Alex Tanzman.  The Nassau County standout also collected victories for Team Kong at the challenging Disney Duals.  His credentials land him high on this list and he will certainly face challenges as a junior, as he may get to face wrestlers who have defeated him in recent weeks – Jesse Dellavecchia, Vito Arujau and Yianni Diakomihalis.

#5 Tommy Dutton (Rocky Point) – Dutton has been competitive at the varsity level for quite some time.  In his 10th grade season, he made his first appearance on the podium in the state capital, taking fourth at 138 pounds after an impressive 50-4 campaign.  The Section 11 star picked up fourth at the Eastern States Classic with his only setbacks coming against an out of state grappler, Derek Arnold of Virginia.  Dutton collected All-American status in 2012, both at the NHSCA Nationals and at Fargo in Freestyle.  He didn’t compete at those events in 2013, but his activity this fall demonstrates that he’s ready to go in his 11th grade campaign.  Dutton took second at the Journeymen Classic up at 152 pounds, losing only to returning state champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham. He then captured the title at the Iron Horse Invitational, including an impressive victory over Gary Dinmore, a two-time New Jersey state runner up who is ranked among the top 100 seniors in the land.

#6 Nick Casella (Locust Valley) – After taking second place at the 2012 New York State championships, Casella earned his way back to the finals in Albany this February where he picked up his second silver medal, this time up at 113.  It was the end of a 39-4 campaign in which half of his losses were to eventual state champion Dillon Stowell of Gouverneur.  Casella followed up the high school season by showing he could compete with some of the nation’s best.  He collected All-America accolades at Virginia Beach and at Fargo, where he took seventh in Greco Roman.  He also competed at the Junior Duals for Team New York in Oklahoma in a busy offseason.

#7 Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa) – Porter has made only one trip to Albany after taking the Section II title as a freshman.  A year ago, he didn’t have the opportunity, as an injury sidelined him after the end of December.  However, he demonstrated clearly this summer that he is formidable wrestler on the national level when he went all the way to the finals in Cadet Greco Roman at Fargo at 152 pounds before placing second.  He followed that showing with a fifth place medal in Freestyle in North Dakota.  Porter looks to be ready for a breakout year in the Empire State.

#8 Nick Gallo (Schalmont) – Gallo grabbed the silver medal at the state tournament in February at 160 pounds, after falling one win shy of the podium as a freshman at 152 (losing to the third and fourth place finishers).  This February, Gallo had a tough path to the finals, besting placers in each of his first three bouts – Gunnar Van Curen (6th), Tyler Silverthorn (5th) and Matt Fisher (3rd).  He went 45-4 as a sophomore in Section II, also making the medal stand at the Eastern States Classic where his losses were in sudden victory to Virginia’s Steven Aiello and 4-2 to the state runner up in Division I, Steve Schneider (and by disqualification).

Garcia, Photo by BV

#9 Frank Garcia (Norwich) – The Division II state runner up at 145 pounds this year also took fifth at the Eastern States Classic in January.  After missing time early in the season, Garcia came back strong, avenging a loss to fellow All-Stater Jordan Torbitt to win the Section IV title and collecting a win against past state medalist Isaiah Riccio along the way. The Norwich grappler was one match from placing at 132 as a freshman where he was edged by eventual state champion Connor Lapresi, 3-2.

#10 Anthony Orefice (Lockport) – The two-time placer from Lockport began last season at 113 pounds, where he notched impressive wins such as a convincing 7-1 triumph over eventual Division II state champion Dillon Stowell.  He transitioned up to 120 as the season progressed and went 41-6 overall. All but one of his losses were to All-State wrestlers – three times to New York runner up Steve Michel as well as to Travis Passaro and Mike D’Angelo. A multiple-time NHSCA All-American, Orefice will likely be right back in the mix in 2013-14.

#11 Sam Ward (Locust Valley) – Ward notched his first appearance on the medal stand at the Times Union Center when he took fifth at 132 pounds.  He compiled a 38-4 mark, including quality wins over state placers Vinny Turano and Ryan Kromer.  Three of his losses were to top three medalists in New York – champion Matt Leshinger (by a 3-2 score), runner up Tristan Rifanburg (by a 3-1 tally) and Clyde Carey.  He has also made his mark on the national stage, capturing All-America status at Fargo in 2012 and in Virginia Beach in 2013.  He recently was second at the Journeymen Classic.

#12 Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) The Section 11 grappler had a great year at 99 pounds for East Islip, earning fourth at the state tournament and beating several strong opponents.  He also tacked on a fifth place showing at the NHSCA Nationals tournament and notched a victory over the previously mentioned Kyle Quinn at the Journeymen Classic.  He’ll be moving up in weight, but has the potential to go very high on the podium in Albany once again.

Mike D’Angelo was discussed by a number of contributors to this article as someone who will no doubt move up this list as the season moves forward. In a tough weight in Suffolk County, he had a strong sophomore campaign in which he racked up 40 victories and took fifth in Albany. He was defeated twice by state champion Alex Delacruz and twice by third placer Travis Passaro, but registered solid wins over state qualifiers Joe Russ and Lou DePrez as well as All-Staters John Muldoon, Santo Curatolo and the aforementioned Anthony Orefice.  The previous season, as a freshman, D’Angelo was also stellar as he went 33-3 with all three setbacks coming by decision to Nick Piccininni.

Speaking of accomplished wrestlers, Tony Recco of Lyndonville was a state champion as a freshman, but was injured prior to the postseason as a tenth grader and was unable to go for another title in Albany.  We look forward to seeing him back in the fray.

Another lightweight to consider is Mike Raccioppi of Minisink Valley.  The Section 9 grappler faced many of the Empire State’s best last year and took sixth at the Eastern States as well as winning two matches in Albany to come one win from a medal at 126.  Richie Burke of Ithaca, did the same, capturing two victories at the Times Union Center at 132 while Andrew Shomers of Lewiston Porter also got his hand raised in Albany. While we’re mentioning lightweights, Shoreham Wading River’s James Szymanski put on a show at the Eastern States Classic, taking third at 106 pounds.  He didn’t earn a bid to the state tournament, but will be someone to monitor this year as well.  Another wrestler who notched third at SUNY Sullivan, North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth, a multiple-time state qualifier, will look to place for the first time.  As will Islip’s Brad Wade, a wrestler with a number of quality wins who looks join three other ‘Wades’ on top of the state podium.

How about some others who did find a spot on the medal stand in 2013?  Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa earned fifth at 99 pounds while Dolgeville’s Danny Fox grabbed second at 106.  Cody McGregor placed twice in NYS for Tonawanda but didn’t make an appearance on the mats at the Times Union Center this year.  He’ll look to get back in 2014.

One of the wrestlers who has grabbed our attention this offseason is Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East. He and Jordan Bushey of Peru both earned All-American status at Fargo at 145 pounds.  (Connetquot’s Gino Titone also picked up five wins in the same bracket, just missing the podium). In the last few weeks, Restrepo has defeated a trio of state silver medalists – Brandon Lapi and Frank Garcia at the Journeymen Classic and Vincent DePrez at the Iron Horse Invitational.  It looks like he’s ready for a breakout year.

In addition to those victories, Restrepo was also sixth at the NHSCA Nationals in the spring where other New York wrestlers placed.  They are: Brandon Aviles (Newfield), Ben Lamantia (St. Anthony’s), Richie Jones (St. Joseph’s Collegiate), Vincent Feola (Walt Whitman) and Trevor Allard (Mexico).

In the middleweights, Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg came within a match of placing in Albany, defeating another 40-win wrestler, Max Lloyd of Palmyra Macedon along the way. Section 2’s Jake Ashcraft and Geno Brancati also have been mentioned as wrestlers with the potential to make a jump, along with Clarence’s Nathan Schwab, Locust Valley’s Michael Dusold and Indian River’s Nick Toutant.

In the upperweights, Ryan Marszal is another wrestler to keep tabs on in 2013-14. The Unatego wrestler nabbed fifth at 182 pounds in his sophomore campaign in Division II and is the only returning placer in that bracket. Marszal had a 36-win season where he moved between 170 and 182 pounds.  Another 182-pounder to mention is Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy, who went 0-2 as a freshman in Albany at the Division II tournament, but bounced back this February in the Division I event, coming within one win of placing at 182 pounds.  He also fell just one victory short of medaling at Eastern States.  This could be the year he finds his way onto the podium.

Who else will make their presence felt in Albany in 2014 from the Class of 2015? There are bound to be other juniors ready for outstanding seasons. Send us an e-mail at newyorkwrestlingnews@gmail.com with suggestions.

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Thank you to Mike Carey and Matt Diano for all their hard work to make this article possible and to Kris Harrington for his insights.  Thanks to all of the other contributors around the state – too many to name, but they know who they are.

Videos from the Journeymen Classic: See State Champions and Finalists Battle

Numerous state finalists and champions took the mat at the Journeymen Classic on Sunday.  Here are a few videos of some top notch New York wrestlers from the event:

(For results, see here.  For a recap/summary, see this link).

Rematch of the 2013 99-pound state final (this time at 113) – Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Vito Arujau

 

National (and state) champion Corey Rasheed (Longwood) vs. Fargo Finalist Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa)

 

Nationally ranked (and state finalist) Christian Dietrich vs. Araad Sarrami of California

 

State champion Adis Radoncic vs. state finalist Steve Schneider (170)

 

Nassau County battle: State champion Kyle Quinn vs. state finalist Vito Arujau (113 third place bout)

 

All-American (NYS Third) Travis Passaro vs. State Placer Mike D’Angelo (Rematch of Section 11 finals)

 

Two State Finalists Wrestle at Journeymen: Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam vs. Frank Garcia of Norwich

 

 

Lapi vs. Garcia, Photo by BV

Permission to post videos granted by Journeymen.

 

Disney Duals Recap: New York Kong Captures Second at the Prestigious Event With an Impressive 10-1 Record

 
 
40 teams began the competition in the All-Star bracket at the AAU National Duals (Disney Duals) in Orlando on Saturday.

When the competition ended at the prestigious event on Tuesday evening, New York Kong captured second place after compiling a 10-1 record with victories over squads from places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and South Dakota.

“It was just a great tournament,” said John Passaro, who made the trip and whose son Travis competed at 120 pounds. “The facilities were great, the experience was great. Taking second shows the direction New York wrestling is going. The team had some amazing wins.”

Indeed, after capturing eighth at this event in 2012, the group made it all the way to the finals, shown live on ESPN3.com. To get to that championship bout, the squad picked up a meaningful semifinal victory over Diesel, a Pennsylvania team that defeated the New Yorkers a year ago at this tournament.

“We wrestled lights out overall and especially in the semifinals against Diesel,” said Steve Hromada, who coached the team along with Anthony Ciolino. “Everyone was amped up and excited for that one, especially since they beat us pretty badly last year.  Getting payback was nice, but it wasn’t just that match.  The kids came together more and more as time went on – the more matches we wrestled, the hungrier and better they looked.”

That semifinal win was a hard fought one, with a 30-12 final score. The Ohio Hawks also provided a challenge in a 30-18 contest in the quarters.

However, the outcome in most of the earlier meets was never in doubt. In fact, the team won at least 12 of the 14 matches in each of the first seven duals, including shutouts.  The dominance wasn’t surprising considering the team featured state finalists at 10 weights and every spot in the lineup was filled by a top five NYS finisher (see roster below).

The first place tilt was a different story, however as the powerful Young Guns squad from the Keystone State came out on top convincingly.

“You never know how good you can be until you see a certain level,” Hromada said. “It was a humbling experience. We have very accomplished wrestlers who were fantastic, but the finals showed that you can always get better. Our state champs want to be more than that – they want to be national champs too.”

One national champion, Spencer Lee of Young Guns (ranked #2 in the country by FloWrestling at 106), began with a major decision for the Pennsylvania squad in the championship dual.

However, Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni, who was a perfect 11-0 at Disney, responded with a decision over another highly-regarded foe, Luke Pletcher, at 113. (Pletcher sits fourth in the national rankings).

At that point, Young Guns led 4-3 on the scoreboard, but they took over from there, collecting several bonus point wins.

Gaining bonus points of his own was Hofstra-bound Mike Hughes of Smithtown West who ended the dual with a 9-1 major decision over Luke Fleck at heavyweight to complete an undefeated tournament. In addition to Piccininni and Hughes, 152-pounder Joe Mastro, who will attend North Carolina State, also notched an unblemished 11-0 mark on the trip.

“[Piccininni] is a true warrior and he has the attitude and tools needed to be an elite wrestler. It showed when he beat the competition he faced,” Hromada said. “Having Hughes as the anchor of your team is the best feeling. You know that you’re always in a good position at the end of the match and that you’ll end on a positive note. And Joe Mastro is a diamond in the rough. He has great technical skills, endurance and toughness.”

In addition to the unbeaten wrestlers, a number of others picked up “silver status” at the event with a single loss. According to Hromada, those included Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro (120), Columbia-bound Matt Leshinger (132) and future Binghamton Bearcat Nick Kelley (138). Despite an injury, Minisink Valley graduate Josh Bonneau (220) also racked up wins.

While the squad was looking for one more victory, the journey was seen as an undeniable success.

“We took out some great teams,” Hromada said. “We showcased ourselves and it was an eye-opening experience for some people. We had a bunch of people walk up and say they didn’t know New York could be that tough. It was a nice feeling.”

Leading the charge were coaches Ciolino and Hromada, who put together the very formidable crew to represent the Empire State.

“Anthony Ciolino and Steve Hromada assembled a great team,” John Passaro said. “There is so much that goes into assembling a team of accomplished wrestlers like this. There were no egos — all the kids, who are competitors with each other back home, were teammates this week. It’s very hard to coordinate schedules, meals and travel for 17 wrestlers and also wrestle at such a high level. The coaches did a wonderful job.”

The same could be said for the New York Kong wrestlers. They went from eighth in 2012 to second in 2013 at the Disney Duals. And they’ll be back for more in 2014.

“We’re working to perfect the system,” Hromada said. “We learned from last year and did things better this year and we’ll be even better prepared for next time. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to coach the elite athletes in New York this week and we’ll up the ante and go back looking to win it all next year.”

New York Kong – 2nd Place Disney Duals

106 Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (2013 State Champion)

106 Jesse Dellavecchia, East Islip (2013 State 4th)

113 Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (2013 State Champion)

120 Travis Passaro, Eastport South Manor (2013 State 3rd)

126 Alex Delacruz, Ossining (2013 State Champion)

132 Matt Leshinger, Sayville (2013 State Champion)

138 Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (2013 State Champion)

145 Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam (2013 State 2nd)

145 Frank Garcia, Norwich (2013 State 2nd)

145 Jakob Restrepo, Sachem East

152 Joe Mastro,Yorktown (2013 State 3rd)

160 Steven Schneider, MacArthur (2013 State 2nd)

170 Carlos Toribio, Brentwood (2013 State Champion)

182 James Corbett, Wantagh (2013 State 2nd)

195 Nick Weber, Kings Park (2013 State 5th)

220 Josh Bonneau, Minisink Valley (2013 State 4th)

285 Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (2013 State Champion)