Diakomihalis Captures the Super 32 Title as Five Others Place in High School Action; Adam Busiello Strikes Middle School Gold

BY MATT DIANO

One year removed from the heartbreak that witnessed several New York wrestlers come close, but only one Empire Stater (Shayne Brady) make the podium at the 2012 Super 32 Challenge, one could not help but feel that when the NY wrestlers took to the mats this weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, they would be competing with a chip on their shoulders; a little extra motivation; a need to prove that last year was an exception and not the rule.

With all the dust having now settled in the Coliseum, 2012 has officially been put in the rearview mirror following an amazing collective effort which yielded six top-8 finishes, the second most ever earned by New York in the 14-year existence of the Battle for the Belt. (New York had nine placers in 2009).

Led by 106-pound champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), the Empire State would also emerge with a runner up finish at 182 (Nicky Hall), a bronze medal showing at 152 (Louis Hernandez), a pair of fourth place finishes (Nick Piccininni at 120 and Vincent Feola at 220), and a seventh place effort from Thomas Dutton at 145 pounds.

Diakomihalis

Diakomihalis entered the tournament as the #3 ranked wrestler in the nation per Flo after winning the 2013 NYS large school title as an eighth grader in the 99-pound weight class. The Hilton star would be nothing short of dominant on Sunday, going 3-0, including back-to-back bonus point performances in the quarter and semifinal rounds to punch his ticket to the title bout.  Kicking off the morning by securing a first period fall over Ohio’s Hunter Lucas via cradle, Diakomihalis would make a huge statement in the semifinals when he upended 2013 Ohio DII state champion Tyler Warner, 14-3, in a clash of the #2 and #3 ranked wrestlers in the country.   The fab frosh would take the title with a methodical 3-0 decision over sixth-ranked Cage Curry of Pennsylvania in a bout that was not as close as the score would indicate.  Scoring a takedown in the first period and then adding an escape in the second, Diakomihalis would never give his Keystone State foe an opportunity to get on the board, racking up a plethora of riding time.  After winning the Middle School crown in 2012,  Diakomihalis becomes only the second New York wrestler to ever win a Super 32 High School title. (Joe Booth in 2007 was the first).

Hall, a fifth-year for coach Scott Green at Wyoming Seminary (PA), would make his home state proud in finishing second at 182.  Because he is considered a postgraduate, the former Longwood standout is not eligible for an individual national ranking.  However, this weekend more than proved that he is among the nation’s elite as he would go on to defeat the #20 wrestler in the land, Stephen Loiseau of Lancaster Catholic (PA), 6-0 in the quarterfinals, before besting 2013 Michigan third place finisher/#19 (@195) ranked, Ty Wildmo (who upset the 11th ranked wrestler in the quarters), to advance to the finals.  In the championship match, the recent North Carolina State commit would give a game effort, constantly looking for his offense.  But alas, a second title for the Empire State would not be in the cards as Hall dropped a 5-2 decision to Zack Zavatsky.  With the #9 ranked Zavatsky headed to Virginia Tech next fall, Sunday’s finals match could have been the commencement of a long ACC rivalry between these two talented competitors.

Taking the long way to the bronze medal would be the defending NYS large school champion from Mepham, Hernandez.  A product of the Ascend Wrestling Club, with his mentor, Craig Vitagliano in his corner, the day would begin with a bit of whimper for the #13 ranked wrestler in the nation.  Pitted in a tight quarterfinal bout against #4 Jake Danishek, Hernandez appeared to be the aggressor for much of the duration, but would be unable to convert on any of his takedown attempts.  With the match deadlocked at 1-1, the three-time Ohio state champion out of Dayton would explode for a controversial takedown in the final half minute and would hold on in the closing seconds to earn the 3-2 decision.  This questionable loss would be the only one of the day for the stud from Nassau County as he would go on to win four consecutive bouts in the consolation bracket, highlighted by a 7-5 decision over the nation’s #3 wrestler, Fox Baldwin (Florida) in the wrestleback semifinals.  Hernandez would also post 10-2 and 8-3 victories over National Prep third place finisher, Toby Hague, and New Jersey fourth place medalist Zack Hertling prior to his aforementioned win over the Floridian.  In the bronze bout, Hernandez would win a low scoring affair, recording the only takedown of the match to secure the 3-2 decision over 2013 Virginia runner up, Jack Bass.

Piccininni would demonstrate the heart and perseverance that has made him a two-time NYS champion for Ward Melville, rebounding from Saturday’s disappointing upset loss in the round of 16 to go 4-1 on Sunday.  Beginning his journey back to a top-four placement with a 3-0 shutout over 2013 Pennsylvania bronze medalist Tyrone Klump of Nazareth, the wrestler from Suffolk would survive a bit of a scare when he was taken into sudden victory by fellow nationally ranked (13th) opponent, Kyle Akins of Illinois.  With the match all knotted up at 3-3, Piccininni would waste little time in making sure he advanced, quickly getting in deep and finishing on the 2013 Illinois state champion.  In the consolation quarters, Piccininni would run into a familiar foe in the person of New Jersey’s Anthony Cefolo.  A 3-0 winner over the Garden State representative two weeks ago at the Iron Horse Invitational, the Ward Melville standout would make it two-for-two against the Hanover Park product, notching an 8-4 decision. The Empire State’s top-ranked junior would pick up his final win of the tournament in the consolation semifinals, defeating fan favorite Troy Gregor, from the host state, 5-1.  In the bout for the bronze, Piccininni would come up just short of third place honors, losing a hard fought 4-3 decision to the nation’s top-ranked wrestler, Sean Russell from Georgia powerhouse Collins Hill.  Russell finished second at the Super 32 last season.

Perhaps the most surprising top-8 finisher for New York would be Feola, who came to the Tar Heel State as a relative unknown, but leaves it as a hot commodity following his 2-2 effort on the final day of competition.  The Walt Whitman High School and Vougar Honors Wrestling Club representative may have raised his stock more than any other Empire Stater this weekend.  A fourth place finisher at the Suffolk County Tournament in 2013 for Walt Whitman, he would lock up a spot on the podium when he jumped out early and then kept his composure late to earn a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals over LaSalle College High School’s Antonio Pelusi.  However, in the semifinals, 2013 Massachusetts state champion Ian Butterbrodt would have his arsenal from the top position on full display, earning several series of back points to deny the Long Islander a spot in the finals with the 11-1 major decision.  Feola would split his final two bouts of the weekend, sticking his consolation semifinal opponent, 2013 Florida runner up Ben Cruz, in 84 seconds before finding himself on the short end of an 8-3 decision in the third place bout to 2012 Georgia silver medalist, Matthew Moore.

Speaking of stock that continues to skyrocket, Rocky Point’s Dutton had another stellar outing. Two weeks after winning the Iron Horse, the junior who finished fourth in Albany last season, would come up clutch again, posting a .500 record (2-2) on day two in North Carolina to become the second member of his family to finish in the top-8 at this event. (Older brother, Stephen, who currently wrestles for the University of Michigan, was a two-time S32 placewinner, including a runner up showing in 2009).

Dutton’s morning would begin on something of a sour note following an 11- 2 major decision loss to two-time Missouri champion/#8 ranked wrestler in the country, Grant Leeth. However, Dutton would need less than a minute in the consolation bracket to guarantee himself a placement finish, earning the fall at the 58 second mark over 2013 Pennsylvania sixth place finisher, Billy Barnes.  Like Feola, Dutton would split his final two matches of the tournament, losing a 10-3 decision to eventual third place finisher, Nick Bennett of Michigan in the consolation semis, but then putting an exclamation on a solid weekend with a 4-3 decision over two-time New Jersey runner up, Gary Dinmore.  This “w” makes two in a row for Dutton over Dinmore, as he also defeated him by one point (3-2) at the Iron Horse.

Falling just short of the podium, but still very deserving of recognition were the following wrestlers who lost in the round of 12: Vito Arujau (113, Syosset), Vincent DePrez (145, Hilton), and Steven Schneider (170, MacArthur).  All were 2013 large school state silver medalists. Arujau would drop a 1-0 decision to eventual eighth place finisher, Eric Hong (PA); DePrez would be defeated by the fourth place medalist, Micheal Longo of California (6-1); and Schneider would be nipped 2-1 by the seventh placer from Ohio, Seth Williams.

Showing that not only is the present bright, but so too is the future were the following Middle School Division placewinners: Adam Busiello (1st @85), Hector Colom (3rd @100), Michael Gonyea (5th @75), Ivan Garcia (6th @ 70), and AJ Burkhart (6th @95).

With a 1-0 victory over Colorado’s Colton Yapoujian in the title bout, Busiello becomes the first New York State wrestler to win multiple Youth Super 32 titles, after cruising to the crown in 2012.  Yapoujian, who won a Super 32 gold medal in 2011 and placed second last season, entered the tournament as the pound-for-pound #6 junior high prospect on the Flo rankings board.  Busiello is expected to compete on the varsity this season as a seventh grader for coach Nick Garone’s Eastport-South Manor squad.

Colom, who set the school record for victories in a single season as a 7th-grader with 37 (37-5) for Dunkirk, would compile a 5-1 record on the day, opening the tournament with three straight wins, including a 4-2 decision over Flo’s #19 junior High School prospect, Mason Turner of Olathe, Kansas. In fact, the 2013 Section VI 4th place finisher appeared destined to go all the way to the winner’s circle before being tripped up in the semifinals by the 32nd rated youth wrestler, Brian Stuart of Maryland. The 12-year-old superstar would return to his winning ways in the consolation bracket, pitching shutouts in each of his final two bouts of the tournament, including a 3-0 decision in the bronze medal match against Council Rock, PA’s Benjamin Radner.

Notching four pins in his five overall victories would be the Journeymen Wrestling Club protege, Gonyea, who went 5-2 with victories over opponents from Vermont, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.  The two opponents who were successful in getting their hands raised against him would later go on to finish 2nd and 3rd overall in the tournament.

Garcia (representing the Apex Wrestling Club) and Burkhart (Waverly) would go a combined 7-6 in rounding out the NYS youth contingent’s performance with their previously noted sixth place finishes.

Congratulations to all NYS placewinners!

FINAL High School BRACKETS

Final Middle School Brackets (free registration required)

After a Championship Year, NY's Top Freshman Yianni Diakomihalis Aims For Even More

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York for the upcoming campaign.  We started with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner (see link).  The following takes a look at top freshman Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton High School.  A glance at more ninth graders to watch will be next.

It was a time of celebration at the Times Union Center last February, but Yianni Diakomihalis didn’t scream or pose or run around.

“I just went into relaxed mode,” he said. “I won the state championship and it was over.  A lot of people get really excited in that type of situation, but I kind of shut myself down and relaxed.”

He deserved the relaxation after finishing off a tremendous eighth grade campaign at 99 pounds in which he went 51-0 with 45 victories by bonus points.  In fact, according to the NWCA Scorebook, Diakomihalis won his first 34 bouts by either pin, technical fall or forfeit.

Photo by BV

His domination continued after those first 34 matches and even into the state tournament as he outscored his first three opponents in Albany 31-3 before taking on Syosset’s Vito Arujau in the championship contest.

It was not the first showdown between the eighth grade superstars.  In October of 2012, the two met in an entertaining battle in North Carolina that Diakomihalis won 10-8.

The state title bout was also exciting.  It went to the ultimate tiebreaker, where Diakomihalis grabbed a 3-2 victory and his first state crown.

“Winning the states was a pretty cool thing as an eighth grader,” he said when asked about the victories that stood out most to him over the past few years. “And winning the Super 32 was also really cool. It’s such a big tournament with so many top wrestlers from all over.  It was a big deal to me, especially beating a really good kid in the finals.”

The grappler he beat for the Super 32 title was Oklahoma’s Daton Fix in a 7-1 decision. Fix was a Cadet Triple Crown winner this year, including Fargo titles in Freestyle (113 pounds) and Greco Roman (106) this summer.

Diakomihalis was not in the field at either of those events in North Dakota as he wasn’t old enough to compete this year.  However, he looks forward to challenging himself in the international styles in 2014.

“I practiced a little bit in Freestyle this year, but I was too young for Fargo,” he said. “Next year, I plan to go to the big Freestyle tournaments.”

Fargo is a place where many wrestlers make a name for themselves.  Diakomihalis has already done that, as he is ranked in the top five in the country by both Intermat and Flowrestling in the Class of 2017.

“It’s really nice to see your hard work paying off and other people recognizing your hard work,” Diakomihalis said. “It’s exciting to see your name on those national rankings.”

But he mentioned that there’s work to be done to continue his climb.

“My dad always tells me that the summer is where you pass kids by and get a lot better,” he said. “During the season, everyone’s working hard.  If you put in the work in the summer, you can really pass other guys.”

He said in the “offseason”, he typically practices around five or six days a week, often in “The Garage” at his house, a wrestling room where grapplers such as Vincent, Anthony and Lou DePrez come to train.  In addition, he puts in significant time at the G2 World Wrestling Academy.

“When I’m home, I’m always thinking about wrestling,” Diakomihalis said. “I like watching videos or talking to my dad about wrestling.  When I’m at tournaments, I’m always watching, trying to see what I can learn from the high level guys. I also watch a lot of college wrestling and some of the world championship wrestlers.”

He mentioned Jordan Burroughs, Jordan Oliver and Kyle Dake as three of his favorites.  He also follows Dake’s former teammates as a big fan of the Cornell wrestling team.  [He even sports headgear with a “C” modeled after the equipment worn by Big Red All-American Nahshon Garrett at the NCAA tournament].

So while he enjoys thinking about the next level, his focus is on the high school scene for now.  He made an immediate impact for Hilton as a seventh grader in 2011-12, racking up a 35-3 record at 99 pounds with his only setbacks coming against All-Staters Jon Haas of Spencerport and Bryan Lantry of Wayne.

As an eighth grader, he avenged those losses to Haas, bumping up to 106 pounds to defeat the Spencerport grappler 3-2.  [Haas took third at the state tournament at that weight].

So, how does Diakomihalis improve upon an undefeated, state championship season?

“I’ve gotten bigger and I think I’ve become more explosive,” he said.

Diakomihalis said he may start out at 113 this year, with the current plan to drop to the 106-pound class after Christmas.  But while his weight will be different than last year, his goals are similar.

“I’m definitely looking to win states again,” he said. “That will always be a goal.  But I also want to win big tournaments on the national level.  I’ll be in the high school division of the Super 32 this year, which is huge.  My goal is to win that and then after the season win at FloNationals too.”

If he does all of those things, people around him will likely celebrate. And like in Albany in February, Diakomihalis may then take just a few minutes to relax.

NY's Top Junior High Wrestler Frankie Gissendanner Striving for the Top After Stellar Seventh Grade Season

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York for the upcoming campaign.  We begin with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner. Stay tuned for more … the freshman class will be next.

Earlier this summer, Frankie Gissendanner opened the Flowrestling website and next to the main story about the top Junior High School wrestlers in the country was a photo of . . . Frankie Gissendanner.

“I was proud of myself when I saw my picture there,” he said.  “I was excited to achieve one of my goals to be nationally ranked, but I was a little surprised too.”

Courtesy of Nikki Gissendanner

The Penfield star may have been a bit surprised, but most of those who watched him in New York last year weren’t shocked at all.  After an offseason in which he seemed to win a championship just about every weekend, Gissendanner had a stellar campaign in his first year on the varsity squad, racking up a 44-6 mark while capturing multiple tournament titles and placing at the toughest in-season event in the Empire State.  And all of this happened as a seventh grader at 126 pounds.

Did Gissendanner expect so much success so quickly?

“I wanted to win a state championship or at least make the top three,” he said of his expectations for the 2012-13 season. “I thought it was possible as a seventh grader.”

He certainly started off with a bang.  On the first weekend of December, Gissendanner went undefeated at the Mark Stephens Classic, earning the Most Outstanding Wrestler award for the lightweights.  It wouldn’t be the last time he nabbed MOW honors. In fact, he did it again more than once, including later that month at the prestigious Top Hat tournament in Pennsylvania when he grabbed an individual title against tough Keystone State opposition.

“It motivated me when I was facing that kind of competition,” Gissendanner said.

He again faced top talent at the Eastern States Classic in January at SUNY Sullivan.  In fact, the 126-pound bracket included more than 10 All-State wrestlers, including four state champions.  Gissendanner was undaunted, going 5-2 and defeating a pair of New York state silver medalists on the way to the podium.

After dropping his quarterfinal bout to now two-time state champion William Koll, Gissendanner rebounded with an 8-4 victory over 2013 state runner up Keanu Thompson.  And then, in the seventh place match, he defeated 2012 New York second placer Justin Cooksey 3-1 in sudden victory.

“When I took seventh at Eastern States, I thought I had a lot of opportunities to win or place at big tournaments,” he said. “I thought I would do well at the state championships.”

But first, he had to get there.  And he got the job done, earning the right to represent Section 5 by winning the SuperSectional title in Division I.  Among his wins at the event was a decision over James Arao of Fairport, who had topped Gissendanner early in the season.  In the championship contest, Gissendanner bested Schroeder’s Rosario Venniro 3-1 in overtime to punch his ticket to the Times Union Center. He was again chosen as the MOW.

“I think my biggest win last year was my Supers match in the finals,” Gissendanner said. “It qualified me for states and I did it against a senior – I took his position.”

He was excited to make his debut in Albany.  But he was less excited about the way things turned out in his first appearance in the state capital as he went 1-2, with his second setback coming at the hands of multiple-time state finalist Dylan Realbuto.

“I choked at states,” Gissendanner said. “I was really nervous. It was definitely a big change. It was so big with so many people, and it was like, ‘wow’. The atmosphere got to me.  I wish I went to states in sixth grade just to see what it was like to know what I was walking into.  But I hadn’t been there before and it was actually my first time being in an arena like that, ever.  It got to me.  But it will help me for the future.”

It may help this fall as he prepares for the upcoming campaign at high quality preseason events, where he said he plans to compete at 132 pounds.

“I’m going to Super 32 and the Journeymen Classic,” he said. “I’ll be ready. I’m really hyped.”

Gissendanner also gets hyped to talk about some of his favorites – Jordan Burroughs, Jon “Bones” Jones and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

“Iowa is my favorite college team,” he said. “Dan Gable was a great coach and I like the Brands brothers.  I like their motto in wrestling and their attitude. I went to see Iowa wrestle Buffalo last year.  That was a lot of fun.”

Gissendanner has fun on the mat, but also as a member of the Junior Varsity football and lacrosse teams.  Even in the other seasons, however, he can’t stay away from the wrestling room, training with the G2 World Wrestling Academy and Titan Worldwide.

The Penfield standout had ambitious goals going into his first varsity season a year ago and he once again has set the bar high as eighth grade approaches.

“I learned last year from the state tournament that every match should be treated like you’re just going live with your partner in the wrestling room,” he said. “You should always be calm and not let the crowd get to you.  This year, I want to win every tournament I step into.  And win every match.”

If he’s able to do that, there’s a good chance Frankie Gissendanner will find his photo on the front page of the national rankings once again. And instead being slotted in the #14 spot nationally, he could be ranked even higher.

Ready for Year 3 at NYWAY: G2's Generous Gift Puts Technology on Track (and More on the Upcoming Season)

The use of certified referees? Check.

The use of uniform technology across all events? Now, that’s possible as well.

After the conclusion of NYWAY’s second year of operations in 2012-13, the organization’s leadership talked about what to focus on to continue to improve in Year 3.  Officiating and technology were high on the list.

With officiating, the leadership agreed to move forward with all certified referees in the coming year.

However, in order to standardize technology, a significant amount of hardware was necessary.  During the discussion on this topic at the NYWAY Retreat this spring, Western Region Director (and co-owner of the G2 World Wrestling Academy) Adam Burgos thought he might have a solution. He excused himself to call his G2 business partner Todd Wheaton, the President at Maven Technologies, a certified electronics recycler.

“We talked about it and I asked Todd if there was something we could do to help,” Burgos said. “A few minutes later he said we could.  I came back into the meeting and told everyone G2 would take care of the laptops and monitors.  You could hear a pin drop.  It wasn’t grandstanding, but about our love of the sport.  I’ve been one of those parents at tournaments over the years, wishing things were going more smoothly and saying if I could help, I would.  This was the chance. It just so happened that we could help fill a need and we jumped at the opportunity.”

Courtesy of G2 World Wrestling Academy

In mid August, 64 laptops and monitors were dropped off by G2 to NYWAY.  And now the improvements in the IT area will begin, including the use of Track Wrestling to assist with registration, event management and more.

“The level of competition brings kids to a tournament, but what keeps families, parents and wrestlers coming back is how well that tournament is run,” Burgos said. “Technology is such a big part of that.”

“By running all of our tournaments through the TrackWrestling system, we are able to not only offer top notch, consistent tournaments, but all of the results automatically enter into a statistical management system so that we will be able to track all the results,” added NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg. “This will enable us to potentially develop leaderboards, rankings, seeding and eventually postseason awards based on these statistics.  We were hoping to trial one region on this system this year, but the incredibly generous gift from Adam [Burgos] and G2 has empowered us as an organization to roll this out statewide this coming season*.”

One place the technology will certainly be useful is at the NYWAY state championships, which will be held on March 15-16, 2014 at Onondoga Community College in Syracuse.  Last year, over 900 wrestlers competed at the event, with representation from all corners of New York.

That competition will signal the end of the season. But there’s a lot to look forward to beforehand, including the kickoff in late December with a pair of events on back-to-back days at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.

First, on December 28, a dual tournament will be held with each of the eight NYWAY regions entering a squad made up of wrestlers from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Then, the following day, an individual tournament will take place in the same location.

However, there will be plenty of participation in other events as well.  For instance, the NYWAY Western Region will take on the Far West Region (essentially a Section 5 vs. Section 6 clash) at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on September 21.

In addition, NYWAY will send representatives to high level competitions such as the Freak Show in Las Vegas, the Super 32 Challenge in North Carolina, the Junior Mid Cals in the Golden State, the Border Wars in Cleveland and the NUWAY National Duals in Columbus, among others.

“The organization wants to keep providing opportunities for New York wrestlers to get great competition to continue to develop,” Burgos said. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen where we need to improve.  We believe Year 3 of NYWAY will be much better than Year 1 and Year 2 and that the future is bright.  It’s an exciting time to be a parent, a coach and a fan here in New York.”

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* Wattenberg mentioned that individual tournaments may opt out, however, trained pairing directors will be available across the state to assist with the new technology or run the tournaments.

Becoming Bearcats: Hilton Standouts Vincent and Anthony DePrez Discuss Choosing Binghamton

In separate conversations, Vincent and Anthony DePrez were asked why they chose to commit to Binghamton. As often happens with twins, they provided very similar answers.

“The coaches are great,” Vincent said. “I really liked their attitude and the way they run the wrestling program.  The facilities are nice.  There are just a lot of good people there.”

“I really liked the coaches,” Anthony responded. “They are really good people. I liked the way they support the team in wrestling and with their education.  I also liked the wrestling room and the facilities.”

While the pair ended up choosing the same path for college, that wasn’t always a certainty.

“At first, we were looking at different places,” Anthony said.  “But I’m really happy that we both wanted Binghamton and we’ll be going to the same school together.”

According to Vincent, Anthony looked at Bucknell while he considered Army.  But a trip to the Binghamton campus in July had a strong impact on both brothers.

“I knew it was a great place for me right away,” Vincent said. “The visit made me want to make a final choice pretty quickly.”

The DePrez brothers did that, and now they can focus fully on their senior years.

“The pressure is off now,” Anthony said. “No more stress. Now, I can just think about school and wrestling.”

The two have done plenty of wrestling in the offseason, competing at events such as the FloNationals in Pennsylvania, the Athens Duals, Ragin Raisins Duals and NUWAY Summer Championships in New Jersey.

According to Anthony DePrez, the brothers also wrestle during the week at the G2 World Wrestling Academy and at “The Garage” (at the house of teammate and state champion Yianni Diakomihalis).  In addition, they’ve been lifting and doing other training.

All the work is aimed toward a senior year to remember after both Vincent and Anthony (along with younger brother Lou) earned spots at the state tournament in 2013.

Vincent collected his third All-State honor, taking second place for the second year in a row (at 113 and 138 pounds as a sophomore and junior, respectively).  He also nabbed fourth as a freshman at 103 pounds.  Anthony won a bout in Albany in his first appearance at the event, as did then-eighth grader Lou DePrez at 120 pounds.

“It was really nice to have all three of us wrestling there last year,” Vincent said. “Having more people there with you, to be there for you, is pretty cool.”

What would also be “pretty cool” is the one thing Vincent said is missing from his resume.

“This year, my goal is to win a state title,” he said, mentioning that he will likely compete at 145 pounds.  “It’s just about the state title.  That’s what I want.”

Anthony aims to join him on the medal stand, at 152 pounds.

“Last year at states was a cool experience, but it was kind of nerve wracking,” he said. “I think I could have done better and this year, I won’t be nervous.  I’ll relax and wrestle the way I know how.  My goal is to place at least top three.”

In addition to individual achievements, there are high hopes for the Hilton squad.  With four returning state qualifiers and a number of other strong grapplers, the brothers were excited about the team outlook for 2013-14.  (The fourth DePrez brother, Sam, will join the squad as a seventh grader as well).

“I think we can be really good as a dual meet team, maybe ranked close to the top in the state,” Vincent said.

“We have a lot of good wrestlers coming back,” Anthony added. “I think we could have at least six guys go to states this year.”

And then it will be off to the EIWA conference, where the brothers said they expect to compete somewhere between 157 and 174 pounds for the Bearcats.

“I know Binghamton is the right place,” Vincent said. “We’re both really excited.”

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Vincent and Anthony DePrez wished to thank their parents, family and all their coaches, including Adam Burgos, Craig Gross and Ilias Diakomihalis.

 

2013 Northeast Youth Duals: Weaver Elite Takes Gold; Dane Heberlein, Jace Schafer and Scott Kropman Honored

It’s not too often that the champions receive a trophy taller than themselves.  But at the fourth Annual Northeast Youth Duals in Hoosick Falls, that’s exactly what happened for the titlewinners from Weaver Elite (Pennsylvania).

“We like to have special awards,” said event organizer Michael LaPorte. “This year, the first place trophy was a seven-footer with a three-foot base.  You see the eyes light up when the kids see it.”

Weaver Elite, Courtesy of Christina Maag

In an event that featured wrestlers from “14 or 15 states”, according to LaPorte, the crown was decided by the slimmest of margins. In the final round on Sunday, a pair of 7-0 teams met in an exciting dual that ended in a tie. However, Weaver Elite took the hardware on the first tiebreaking criterion over New York Elite, a squad run by Superior Wrestling Academy.

“When the first whistle blew before the scheduled starting time of 9:30 on Saturday, we knew we were off to a good start,” LaPorte said. “The competition was great, especially on the second day.  Things tightened up on Sunday and we saw some unbelievable matches. You’d think you’re watching Cornell and Penn State going at it.  The level of competition just blew me away.”

It wasn’t just the championship bout that came down to the wire.  The fifth place meet, won by Olympic over Team Virginia, also ended in a deadlock. In that case, it took five tiebreaking criteria before the winner was determined.

A year ago, Apex NJ Elite took gold at the event, and this time the Garden State squad was third, defeating Team Maine for the bronze.

“The Maine team came in under the radar – I don’t think people knew what to expect from them,” LaPorte said. “They were a great bunch of guys and a great bunch of wrestlers that really impressed me.”

Heberlein with LaPorte, Courtesy Michael LaPorte

In addition to the showing of those squads, there were a number of standout individual performances.  Taking home Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) honors was Dane Heberlein of NY Elite, a grappler who competed for Alexander High this season.

“Dane Heberlein is an animal,” LaPorte said. “Weaver Elite was especially adamant about having him as Most Outstanding Wrestler – they were very impressed by the way he wrestled.  He’s an exceptional athlete.  I believe he will be in the small school state finals this year at 99 pounds. He’s that good.”

According to LaPorte, a number of other competitors were in the mix for MOW, including last year’s winner Brian Courtney (G2 World Wrestling Academy) and a few wrestlers who didn’t give up a point, including Anthony Cirillo and Patrick Glory.  Also in the running was Frankie Gissendanner, who was a state qualifier for Penfield at 126 pounds as a seventh grader in 2012-13.

Jace Schafer of Superior Wrestling Academy was the recipient of another honor handed out at the event – the Scott Kropman Never Give Up Award. Kropman, a coach at G2 World Wrestling Academy and tremendous supporter of wrestling, is battling cancer.

It wasn’t the only way Kropman was honored over the weekend. Donations by teams such as the Hoosick Falls Wrestling Club, NY Elite and Team Virginia as well as others in attendance resulted in over $400 to help Kropman with his medical expenses.  In addition, all of the competitors signed the tournament banner for Kropman, who wasn’t able to be there.

“Last year, we had a similar award in honor of [Monroe Woodbury wrestler] Vinny Vespa,” LaPorte said. “Vinny obviously had a full recovery and not only recovered but wrestled this year [and placed at the state tournament].  It really means so much to be able to do something for these guys.  If we can make any difference at all, we’ll give it the old college try to make it happen.  I made a speech and told everyone that before they fall asleep at night to think of Scott Kropman and then fall asleep with good thoughts and hope something positive comes out of it.”

There were many positives during the weekend. And it looks like the 2014 version of the Northeast Youth Duals is on the path to even more good things.  Despite expanding the event to 14 teams this year, LaPorte had to turn squads away.  He said every group verbally committed to returning next summer, along with the strong possibility of some West Coast flavor.

“A team from Gilroy, California wanted to come this year,” LaPorte said. “But the date conflicted with their biggest fundraiser of the year.  My phone rang on Sunday night and it was the California coach asking if we approved a date change for next year so they could be here.  It will be exciting to have some California kids come out and roll with our East Coast kids.  It will raise the level of the event.”

The level was high in 2013.  And LaPorte wished to acknowledge the many people who helped make it happen.

“There were some great people who played important roles,” he said. “Our club secretary Shannon Roberson went beyond the call of duty with things like custom made scorebooks and brochures to make it a great experience for everybody.  Chris Marsh and my brother Paco LaPorte were great.  And it couldn’t happen without the whole community behind me.  It was a true community effort in Hoosick Falls. I appreciate everything the village has done. Because of the efforts of so many and great competition, I think the event was even more well received than in the past.”

 

Weaver Elite – Lineup (*From Weaver Elite Website)

48 Ben Finelli

53 CJ Horvath

58 Evan Maag

63 Nico Nardone

68 Wil Guida

73 Tal Flemming

78 Josh Stahl

85 Cole Handlovic

93 LJ Khan

99 Ben Huber

105 Devon Britton

112 Reed Custer

119 Chase Anklum

126 Aiden Montiverdi

134 Mike Labriola

150 Kade Moisey

Superior Wins Ragin Raisins Duals as NY Teams Celebrate Father's Day Weekend

Photos courtesy of Adam Burgos

Quite a few fathers spent the majority of the holiday weekend inside a gymnasium at Mercyhurst University. And loved every minute of it.

“For me, it’s the best Father’s Day there can be,” said G2 World Wrestling Academy coach Adam Burgos. “I wouldn’t trade it for a tie, a dinner out, a gift card to Home Depot or any other typical gift. None of that compares to being with my son, watching him do something he loves. And then spending time with the rest of my family later in the day.”

Burgos and his squad competed at the Ragin Raisins Duals June 15 and 16, along with quality teams from New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio. The event featured 12 squads in both the youth and high school divisions and saw some great competition on Saturday and Sunday.

Capturing the title in the youth bracket was the Empire State’s Superior Wrestling Academy Black. The group went 7-0 over the weekend, earning a 37-21 decision over Ragin Raisins Green in the title bout to win gold.

“We had a very, very competitive all New York team of mostly Superior wrestlers,” said coach Gary Ferro, who led the group along with Ed Schafer. “They put their hearts into it. With each win, the kids kept getting more excited. It was very exciting, with a NY vs. PA final. It was intense and the crowd got into it.”

In the championship round, the first four bouts were decisions, with the Ragin Raisins taking a 9-3 lead. Next on the mat for Superior at 78 pounds was Ethan Ferro, who was set to take on an opponent who had defeated him at the Empire Duals earlier in the spring.

This time, it was different, as Ferro took a sizable lead before recording the pin to tie the dual score at 9 and swing momentum toward New York.

“It was very big for him because it’s an older kid who already beat him this year,” Ferro said of his son. “It meant a lot to him and it really helped the team. It was a great Father’s Day present.”

Superior took over from there, pulling ahead by double digits on the way to victory.

It was the closest match of the event for Superior Black, as the team outscored its opponents by a combined 327-45 in the first six duals. The closest meet prior to the championship was a 31-point victory.

That kind of dominance often comes from a balanced lineup, and that was the case over the weekend. According to Ferro, a number of wrestlers went undefeated – Stevo Poulin (61 pounds), Drew Schafer (84), Dillan Palaszewski (90), Dane Heberlein (98), Mike Venosa (115), Tyler Barnes (135) and Frankie Gissendanner (147). In addition, Ferro said that Jace Schafer (56), Greg Diakomihalis (66), Hammond Raes (106) and Emerson Block (125), all tallied 6-1 records.

At the high school level, one of the host squads, Ragin Raisins Pink, came out on top, besting Lake County, Ohio for the championship.

Placing in the top six for New York were Cobra (third), Superior Black (fourth) and G2 (sixth). G2’s team actually defeated the eventual champions earlier in the competition, 37-23, but finished third in the pool on criteria.

On the youth side, the Empire State was also very well represented as all three squads placed in the top six – Superior Black (first), Super Six (fifth) and Superior Gold (sixth).

The weekend wasn’t only about wrestling, however. On Saturday evening, the Superior wrestlers and their families went to a campground and had a picnic with around 80-90 people.

“It was just a good time, a great time to bond,” Ferro said. “It made it a really special Father’s Day weekend. We love wrestling, so this weekend was a great present.”

Courtesy of Adam Burgos, a number of videos from the event are available, including coach Jason Locke of Ragin Raisins previewing the event, wrestler interviews and a number of heartfelt Father’s Day messages. (Match videos to come).

For the full playlist, see Ragin Raisins Video Link

Here’s a number of wrestlers with Father’s Day wishes:

And event organizer Jason Locke

 

Final Standings – Youth Bracket

1 Superior Black (NY) 37
2 RR Green (PA) 21
3 Gladiator Swords (PA) 34

4 AWC (OH) 22
5 Super 6 (NY) 41
6 Superior Gold (NY) 15
7 Gladiator Shields (PA)45

8 RR Pink (PA) 18
9 Mt Men (PA) 41
10 Lancaster (PA) 19
11 RR Tye Dye (PA)

Final Standings – High School Bracket

1 RR Pink (PA) 29
2 Lake County (OH) 26
3 Cobra (NY) 84

4 Superior Black (NY) 0
5 AWC (OH) 25
6 G2 (NY) 18
7 Excelsior United 35 (NY)

8 North Shore Edge (IL) 29   9 Falconer (NY) 35

10 Roughnecks 9 (NY) 11 RR Purple (PA) 29
12 Superior Gold (NY) 27

Youth Champions – Superior Wrestling Academy Black Roster (as provided by Gary Ferro)

56 – Jace Schafer
61 – Stevo Poulin
66 – Greg Diakomihalis
72 – Brennan Roe
78 – Ethan Ferro
84 – Drew Schafer
90 – Dillan Palaszewski
98 – Dane Heberlein
106 – Hammond Raes
115 – Mike Venosa
125 – Emerson Block
135 – Tyler Barnes
147 – Frankie Gissendanner
160 – Brandon Cousino
180 – Ryan Flaitz
Alternate-Brian Sharkey