Power Path to a Championship: New York's Top Sophomore Christian Dietrich Seeks State Gold

We have been discussing some of the top wrestlers in New York over the past few weeks.  We started with our #1 Junior High School grappler in the state, Penfield eighth grader Frankie Gissendanner (see link),then profiled top freshman Yianni Diakomihalisand discussed other ninth graders to watch.  The following takes a look at wrestler at the head of the sophomore class – Christian Dietrich of Greene.

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Wrestling older guys is something Christian Dietrich has done for a long time.  Several years ago, he said he faced the reigning varsity Section 4 runner up at an offseason tournament and won the match.

At the time, he said he was only in fourth grade.

An impressive feat, without a doubt.  But even as a fourth grader, Dietrich was an accomplished wrestler, traveling all over the country to challenge himself.

“We’d do 30 tournaments a year and go to all the big ones,” said Charles Dietrich, Christian’s father. “Tulsa Nationals, Ohio Tournament of Champions, all over.”

Photo by BV

He beat numerous touted opponents, but what set him apart was his willingness to take on anyone and seek out the best competition.

“Christian has never been afraid to lose,” Charles Dietrich said.

That was immediately obvious when he joined the varsity squad at Greene High as a seventh grader.  As the Clyde Cole tournament approached, Dietrich told coach Tim Jenks that he wanted to wrestle Wyoming Seminary’s Eric Morris, a nationally-ranked grappler who is now a freshman at Harvard.

“He lost some weight to make sure he could wrestle Morris,” Jenks said in an interview last year. “He heard about him, knew he was highly ranked nationally and decided he had to wrestle him. That shows you the kind of kid Christian is.  That’s the type of kid you want to coach – the kind that wants the challenge.”

“It was the first high school tournament of my career,” Dietrich said. “I thought it was a chance to see where I was at and what I could do to get better.”

He did lose the bout to Morris, but even at a young age, he came out on top against most high school foes.  In fact, he dominated his way to his first Section 4 title and set out to make waves at the state tournament.

It’s worth noting that in the past six years, only five seventh graders have made the podium at the state championships.  None of the other four (Aaron Paddock in 2011, Tristan Rifanburg in 2010, Corey Rasheed in 2009 or Tim Schaefer in 2008) were above 103 pounds.

None of that mattered to Dietrich, a 152-pounder.

In his first state tournament match, he notched a 17-2 technical fall.  In his next bout, he lost to eventual runner up Brian Walsh before capturing a pair of decisions in the wrestlebacks against seniors to ensure All-State status.  He concluded his seventh grade campaign with a sixth place medal at 152.

“Being at the state tournament was different,” he said. “But I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose, so I just gave it my all.  I think going to the bigger tournaments all my life helped me when I was wrestling kids so much older than me. I was proud of myself afterwards.  But then I got hurt.”

Dietrich suffered a knee injury in the fall and was unable to take the mat at all as an eighth grader for the Trojans.

“It was 10 months of rehab; a really long time,” he said. “I actually had four different operations. It was one thing after another.”

During that time he of course didn’t stay idle.

“I mostly just lifted,” he said. “I did a lot of upper body and followed my team.”

Strength training is another thing Dietrich has been doing for quite some time.  In fact, there’s a youtube video of Dietrich flipping tires with former Johnson City (and current Wyoming Seminary) wrestler Greg Kleinsmith when both were in elementary school.

“I’ve been strength training since I was about 10,” Dietrich said. “I train at IronWorks gym with Dickie White. We do all kinds of things.  I’ve been doing it three times a week for a long time. My last cycle of lifting, I deadlifted 575 pounds for 3 reps, squatted 395 for 3 and benched 285 for 3.”

While he continued to build his strength, he couldn’t wait to get back on the mat as a freshman, looking to pick up where he left off.

“I was anxious to wrestle again,” Dietrich said. “I felt good and ready to go.”

He appeared ready to go from the start, capturing 19 of his first 20 bouts, with just two regular decisions.  (His one loss was to two-time state champion Zack Zupan up at 182).

In mid January, Dietrich entered the prestigious Eastern States Classic as the number four seed.  He quickly dispatched his first three opponents by fall before earning a 13-4 major over Adis Radoncic and a 3-2 decision over Troy Seymour, the top seed in the bracket.  While he dropped the championship contest against Wantagh’s Danny McDevitt, Dietrich showed that he was in the mix for a New York title at 170 pounds.

“Eastern States showed me that I was at the right weight,” Dietrich said. “It showed me how I could do at states since I beat some of the top guys.”

After cruising through the Section 4 tournament, he entered the Times Union Center with a 36-2 mark and the #1 spot in the bracket in Albany.

Dietrich made his way through his first three matches before meeting up with Radoncic for the second time of the season. This time, in the state finals, the outcome was different as Radoncic collected the PSAL’s first-ever NYS crown with a 4-3 decision.

“I was happy to go there as the first seed,” Dietrich said. “It was a little pressure, though, because everyone was out to beat me.  I wasn’t proud of my performance in the finals at all.  I thought I was horrible that day.  I beat him by eight or nine points earlier in the year and I just didn’t wrestle the way I wanted to.”

The state silver medalist didn’t stay frustrated for long, however, as he began to prepare for the next big event.

“I started getting ready for FloNationals,” he said. “I kept wrestling and competing as much as I did during the season.  I thought it was a big opportunity for me because Flo is for all age groups and I wanted to face really tough competition.”

He did.  In fact, in the first three rounds he beat state placers from Pennsylvania and Virginia before topping Michigan gold medalist Teddy Warren. He then faced California state champion [and current North Carolina State freshman] Peter Santos and took control from the opening whistle.

“I felt like I dominated that whole match,” Dietrich said. “I was up by four points in the third when he injury defaulted.”

After losing in the semis, Dietrich rebounded to edge Travis Linton, a current top 100 senior from Ohio, before forfeiting the bronze medal bout due to an injury.

That fourth place showing at FloNationals, in a bracket full of junior and seniors, showed that Dietrich belonged with the nation’s elite.

And people noticed.  Dietrich jumped in the national rankings, currently sitting 11th in the country at 170 pounds and in the top 15 in the Class of 2016 according to both Intermat and Flowrestling.

“I don’t really think about [the rankings],” Dietrich said.  “I don’t want it to get to me.  I’m proud of it, but I know I can always do better.”

He is reminded of that as he tests himself with college level wrestlers on a frequent basis.  He has been a participant at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club (FLWC) on Cornell’s campus since it began in 2005 and spends plenty of time in Ithaca.

“I’ve been going to FLWC for years,” he said. “I’ve wrestled with the great coaches there for a long time.  Last year, I wrestled a lot with [now Big Red freshmen] Gabe Dean and Taylor Simaz.  There are awesome wrestlers there and to see the higher levels and what I should be doing is awesome.”

Dietrich also finds time to spend on some of his other interests like hunting, fishing and riding four wheelers.  But wrestling is never too far from his mind.

“He’s been working a lot on wrestling smarter and on his technique,” Charles Dietrich said.  “He’s going back to basics and working on his short offense.  What happened in the state finals – he wants to make sure it won’t happen again.”

Dietrich said he may wrestle at 170 pounds again or he may go up to 182.  In either case, he’s ready to not only get back to the title bout at the Times Union Center, but to get his hand raised at the end.

“We weren’t even sure what would happen his ninth grade year after being out for so long,” Charles Dietrich said. “This year, he’s as a strong as an ox and he’s feeling good.  We’re hoping for another great year.”

Live Stream to Begin at 5 for Windsor Christmas Tournament; Finals Matches Set

The live stream is now complete.  Thank you for your attendance.

Finals Results:

99 Pounds: John Arceri (Huntington) TF Collyn Shippos (Ithaca), 16-0

106 Pounds: Jimmy Overhiser (Corning) fall Kyle Mock (Huntington) :45

113 Pounds: Kyle Kelly (Chenango Forks) fall Dylan Wood (Walton) 1:12

120 Pounds: Nate Hayes (Windsor) dec Anthony Colon (Chenango Valley), 4-0

126 Pounds:  Corey Jamison (Huntington) dec William Koll (Lansing), 3-1

132 Pounds: Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich) fall Jesse Griswold (BGA), 1:52

138 Pounds: Connor Lapresi (Lansing) dec Justin Cirigliano (BGA), 8-4

145 Pounds: Brandon Mendez (Huntington) maj Trevor Parrish (Greene), 11-1

152 Pounds: Kyle Halladay (Chenango Valley) dec Dan Dickman (Greene), 3-2

160 Pounds: Mike Beckwith (Greene) dec Leland Slawson (Unatego), 4-0

170 Pounds: Christian Dietrich (Greene) TF Ryan Marszal (Unatego), 16-0

182 Pounds: Mike Beers (Walton) dec Andy Martinez (Liberty), 4-0

195 Pounds: Mark Viviano (BGA) fall Matt Brozovic (ME), 1:38

220 Pounds: Ryan Wolcott (Waverly) dec Nick Lupi (Huntington), 2-1

285 Pounds: Anthony Puca (Huntington) dec Andrew Brinser (Union Endicott), 3-0

Final Team Scores

1. Huntington 168

2. Greene 123

3. Canandaigua 115

4. Union Endicott 111

5  BGA 106

 

Weekend Watch: "Battle at the Beach" Goes on Despite Severe Hurricane Damage, Plus Andersen Tournament and the Cliff Keen Invite in Vegas

While the first tournament of the season is always something to look forward to, it’s a little more special for some of those headed to the Lynbrook High School this weekend.

“The start of competition is exciting every year,” said Long Beach head coach Ray Adams. “But this year, it’s definitely a little more exciting than usual.”

That has a lot to do with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, as Long Beach was one of the many communities devastated by the storm.

“Every kid was impacted in one way or another,” Adams said. “We had kids whose homes were destroyed, who lost cars, clothes, heat and so much more.  Families were displaced.  Not a good situation at all.”

Long Beach High School also suffered significant damage to the gym, wrestling room, team uniforms and much more.

It was unclear whether the ninth annual Long Beach “Battle at the Beach” would be held.

“We knew we couldn’t have it at our school,” Adams said. “But we really still wanted to keep the tournament going to start off the season.  We knew a lot of teams would be looking forward to coming.  We are thankful to Lynbrook coach Richie Renz and Athletic Director Tom Graham who have done so much.  They stepped up and offered to run it there.”

While the tournament will be in a new location, it will still have the same tough competition.  In addition to Long Beach and Lynbrook, a number of Long Island squads will be in attendance, including one of the state’s best teams – Wantagh.  They will be joined by East Meadow, Clarke, South Side, Syosset and Hewlett. Representatives from the PSAL will also make the trip, including Eagle Academy, Wingate and a PSAL All-Star team as well as the CHSAA’s Kellenberg.

The full entry list hadn’t been submitted at the time of the interview, but Adams pointed to the 113-pound class as one that would feature many accomplished wrestlers.  Adams mentioned the possibilty of Long Beach’s Steven Sewkumar, Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn and Syosset’s Nick Rondino competing in that bracket, among others.

“Practice has been really good for the kids after everything that happened,” Adams said.  “It helped get everyone back with their friends and into a normal routine again. We’ve been traveling about 20 minutes to Calhoun every day to practice and everyone is working really hard.  We’ve been trying to make the best out of the situation.  We can’t wait to get the season started.”

In addition to the Battle at the Beach, there are a large number of high quality high school tournaments taking place this weekend as wrestling season kicks into high gear, including one not too far away at MacArthur which will include teams from Sections 1, 8, 9, the CHSAA and PSAL.

In fact, there are too many events to mention.  However, one to keep an eye on is the Andersen Tournament at Cicero North Syracuse High in Section 3, featuring not only several strong programs in that Section, such as the host school, Canastota, Fulton and South Jefferson, (among many others), but also squads from Section 2 (Amsterdam), 4 (Chenango Forks, Greene, Windsor, Elmira), 5 (Canandaigua, Rush-Henrietta) and 10 (Massena, Canton-Potsdam).

Zack Zupan, Photo by BV

Among the many storylines will be tournament debut of defending state champions Kyle Kelly and Zack Zupan at new weight classes and the start of a new era at Fulton under Chris Stalker after the departure of longtime coach Mike Connors.  In addition, fans will have a chance to watch Christian Dietrich of Greene, who accomplished a rare feat when he was All-State as a seventh grader in the middleweights (152 pounds).  After missing a full year due to injury, Dietrich made a successful return this week up at 195 pounds, with a pin against Dryden in just over a minute.

College Action

On the college scene, the biggest tournament of the weekend takes place in Nevada.  Two of the Empire State’s squads, Cornell and Army, will participate in the 32-team Cliff Keen Invitational, which features close to 70 ranked wrestlers this year.

Kyle Dake was the champion in Vegas a year ago at 157 and will look to repeat at 165.  In the 2011 version of the competition, the Big Red also had finalists at 125 (Frank Perrelli) and 184 (Steve Bosak).

Cornell’s new starting 125 pounder, Nahshon Garrett, is off to a 13-0 start in his freshman campaign and will look to go deep into the tournament in a class featuring six of the nation’s top 20.  With Bosak not ready to return to the lineup yet, former Palmyra Macedon star Craig Scott will look to keep the Big Red on the podium at 184 and improve upon his 10-2 rookie record.

Both Mike Nevinger and Chris Villalonga have placed at this event in the past and will aim to do so again, at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively.  The Big Red captured the tournament title in 2010.

Army will take part in the Cliff Keen for the second consecutive year.  The Black Knights will be led by nationally-ranked 149 pounder Daniel Young and 184 pounder Collin Wittmeyer, who has compiled a 10-5 record to date.  In his rookie campaign, Bryce Barnes has picked up nine wins at 197 pounds, matching the victory total of 165 pounder Paul Hancock.

In other Division I action, both Hofstra and Binghamton will be looking for their first ‘W” of the season when the Pride take on Penn, Lehigh and Drexel and Binghamton faces Oklahoma.  Meanwhile, Buffalo will participate in the Nittany Lion Open in Pennsylvania.

 

To report results of weekend events, please contact: newyorkwrestlingnews@gmail.com

 

Section 4 Preview: State Champions Kelly, Lapresi, Koll and Rifanburg Look for More Titles; Williams for His First

Section 4 has nine 2012 All-State wrestlers returning, including former state champions Kyle Kelly, Connor Lapresi, William Koll and Tristan Rifanburg, as well as runner up Reggie Williams.  For the teams and wrestlers to watch in 2012-13, please read on.

Division I 

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Kyle Kelly, Chenango Forks, State Champion

106 Pounds: Jimmy Overhiser, Corning, Fourth Place

182 Pounds: James Benjamin, Vestal, Fifth Place

195 Pounds: Reggie Williams, Johnson City, Second Place

 

Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

113 Pounds: Jake Green, Chenango Forks

120 Pounds: Richie Burke, Ithaca

126 Pounds: Brock Post, Maine-Endwell

132 Pounds: Curtis Grant, Elmira

138 Pounds: Trevor Hoffmier, Newark Valley

152 Pounds: Greg Kleinsmith, Johnson City

160 Pounds: Zach Colgan, Johnson City

 

Leading the Way:

Kyle Kelly, Photo by Boris V

Let’s start with two-time titlewinner Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks.  Kelly boasted a perfect 37-0 junior season with 31 wins by bonus points.  His dominance wasn’t limited to the regular season, as he outscored his opponents in Albany 17-3 and also recorded a pin.  The Section 4 standout, who took fourth as a freshman, will try to finish his career as a Blue Devil with three straight times at the top of the podium at the Times Union Center, likely up a weight or two.

Reggie Williams of Johnson City isn’t a state champion … yet.  But he’ll be favored to get his first title this year. Williams has been one of the top upperweights in the state since his freshman season.  In his ninth grade year, he was sixth in Albany and as a sophomore, he took a few more steps forward, notching second in the Empire State after going 40-3 with all three losses coming to New York champion Tony Fusco of Shenendehowa. To learn more about Reggie Williams, see the link here.

James Benjamin rarely needed a full six minutes for his matches last season. The Vestal wrestler went 38-3 a year ago with 32 pins.  In fact, he won four bouts at the state tournament on his way to fifth place and all four victories were by fall (and all in less than three minutes).  As the highest returning placer from the 182-pound bracket in Albany, Benjamin will have a good chance to end his career at or near the top of the podium.

Jimmy Overhiser, Photo by Boris V

Also looking to step up higher on the medal stand is Jimmy Overhiser, who racked up a 31-4 mark on the way to fourth at 106 pounds and who participated in some high profile offseason events, such as the Disney Duals with Team New York Kong in Florida.

 

Also Keep an Eye On . . .

Reggie Williams isn’t the only person to watch on the Johnson City squad.  He is surrounded by quality wrestlers, including returning qualifiers Greg Kleinsmith (26-10 as a freshman 152 pounder) and Zach Colgan (39-8 at 160 pounds with a pin over Fox Lane’s Matt Pasqualini in Albany).  Winning Section 4 titles meant more than just a trip to the state tournament for Colgan and Kleinsmith last year.  According to head coach Jordan Glenn, both made “family history” as their fathers and/or uncles had wrestled for the Wildcats in the past and had come close to capturing Section crowns, but hadn’t quite achieved the feat.  Glenn believes that both will win more matches this year in Albany, and also has high hopes for a number of young wrestlers on the squad, including another Colgan (Isaiah), who won over 20 matches as an eighth grader at 99 pounds.

Jake Green (Chenango Forks) – Kyle Kelly is unlikely to be the only person racking up points for Chenango Forks this year in the postseason. Jake Green went 1-2 at the state championships in 2012, but he did so with a very challenging draw. His three matches were against the top two seeds in the bracket (Mark Raghunandan and Corey Jamison) and the eventual champion, Dylan Realbuto.  Green was in every match, defeating Jamison, while dropping a 6-4 decision to Realbuto and a three-pointer to Raghunandan.  He proved he could hang with some of the best and will look to get over the top in 2013.

“He was good enough to place last year but faced some really tough wrestlers in a strong weight class,” said Union Endicott coach Josh Ruff.  “He put in the time after the season and I would be really surprised if he didn’t place this year.”

Richie Burke (Ithaca) – As a ninth grader, Burke made his second trip to wrestle at the Times Union Center.  He capped off a 29-7 year by going 1-2, losing to the fourth and fifth place finishers. Four of his other setbacks during the season came to qualifier Jake Green (three times) and state champion William Koll, while he registered a victory over Division II qualifier Nate Hayes of Windsor.  Burke will look to build off victories such as that one in his sophomore season.

Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb (Newark Valley) – As a sophomore, Hoffmier compiled an impressive 28-4 mark with 18 pins.  In Albany, he began with a loss against runner up Alexis Blanco of Section 11 but rebounded with a victory before a one-point setback against Section 1’s Tom Grippi ended the competition for him.  However, he and teammate Derek Holcomb should once again form a formidable duo in the Newark Valley lineup.  Holcomb, who had over 30 wins in 2011-12, recorded several quality victories, including one over All-State wrestler Dan Dickman from Greene.  In addition, Holcomb made the medal stand at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach.  He hopes to add to his accolades in February in the state capital.

“They’re both really talented kids,” Ruff said.  “I could see both of them winning matches at the state tournament.  Holcomb got caught up in a tough match at Sectionals and got upset, but he has a great chance of getting to Albany this year.”

Alex Francik (Vestal) – As a 152-pound junior, Francik sported a 34-2 record, with 23 pins and only six regular decisions.  He defeated Greg Kleinsmith 7-5 in late January before the Johnson City wrestler returned the favor with a one-point win in the Section tournament.   In his final high school season, Francik will look to take the next step to the state championships.

 

The Team Race . . .

Union-Endicott ran away with the Division I team title in 2012 by over 40 points with tremendous balance – 13 wrestlers were fourth or higher in their weight class (and two others competed in the fifth place tilt).  Ten of those grapplers are back, including second place finisher Mikey Carr (106) and third place medalist Heze Morgan (120).  In addition, fourth placers Kyle Hughes, Xavian Hughes, Nathan Bomysoad and Lucas Depofi are slated to take the mat again.

Ruff believes that many of those wrestlers are ready for breakout years. Bomysoad, for example, earned 30 wins at 152 pounds, including a victory over Greg Kleinsmith (who won the rematch).  Ruff believes he is ready to take the next step.

“Nate wrestles so hard,” the coach said. “His work ethic is incredible and he showed he could beat high caliber kids last year.”  Two of the many other wrestlers Ruff believes are ready to compete at a higher level are Zack Bendick, who won over 20 matches as a freshman and Xavian Hughes, who took fourth in the Section as a sophomore at 132 pounds.

“I’m confident that Xavian can wrestle with anyone in the section on his feet.  If he improves on the mat, he could qualify for states.  And Bendick is very talented.  He has improved so much since last season and is ready to wrestle the top caliber guys.”

All of those returners will certainly put significant points on the board, but sizable scoring was lost with the departure of Section champions Richie Lupo and Tyler Bayer as well as Jordan Billet (second), Tyler Hubbert (third) and Tyler Allen (third).  In addition, 2012 Section 4 runner up at 160 pounds, Sammy Davis, suffered an injury in football that will keep him out at least until January.  Those losses will open the door for challengers such as last year’s runner up and third place team, Vestal and Johnson City, respectively.

“We were very well balanced last year,” Ruff said. “We didn’t really have superstars, but we had a tough guy in every weight class.  This year is a little different. We bring back Lucas Depofi at 220 but we graduated most of our other upperweights and now with Sammy Davis’s injury, we’re a little thin there.  We do feel, though, that we’re stacked in the lightweights and middleweights and we do bring back a lot of points.  I think if we continue to work really hard, we’ll be challenging for the title at the section tournament.”

Reggie Williams, Photo by Boris V

Also clearly in the mix is Johnson City, which has significant firepower. The squad is led by the trio discussed above: Reggie Williams, Zach Colgan and Greg Kleinsmith.  In addition, four wrestlers who lost only once at the Section tournament a year ago, juniors Anthony Johns, Joseph Hamdan and Conner Halladay as well as freshman Isaiah Colgan, will look to improve upon their showings.  Meanwhile, Corey McCormick, Nick Bidwell, Joshua Dember and Nikola Cejic will bring experience to the table.  Reggie Williams spoke with excitement about his squad’s potential in 2012-13.

“We have a great coaching staff and a great team,” Williams said. “We’re better than people think.  The sky’s the limit for us at Johnson City.”

Union Endicott and Johnson City will be tested by Vestal, which returns six wrestlers who were top four a year ago, including All-Stater James Benjamin. The Golden Bears graduated 220-pound state qualifier Anthony Osman and fourth placer Andre Strano, but will be a threat with Alex Francik, heavyweight Juwin Jumpp and young up and comers Robert Mastronardi (third at 126 as a freshman), Owen Jarrold (third at 132 in ninth grade) and Hunter Beck (fourth at 106 as an eighth grader).  Other experienced wrestlers who competed in the fifth place bouts last year such as Alex Crostley, Tom Flynn, Collin Vangordon and David Gardner will try to push Vestal higher in the race.

Newark Valley has some heavy hitters to account for, including returning champion Trevor Hoffmier and other top three placers Vinnie Darpino, Dan Geisenhof and Derek Holcomb.

While Union Endicott won the section by a significant number of points a year ago, a 40-point margin between first and second seems a lot less likely this year.

 

Division II

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Joe Nelson, Oxford, Third Place

113 Pounds: William Koll, Lansing, Third Place

126 Pounds: Tristan Rifanburg, Norwich, Sixth Place

132 Pounds: Connor Lapresi, Lansing, State Champion

152 Pounds: Dan Dickman, Greene, Fourth Place

 

Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Dylan Wood, Walton

106 Pounds: Sean Ballard, Whitney Point

113 Pounds: Nate Hayes, Windsor

120 Pounds: Austin Ryan, Unatego

132 Pounds: Frank Garcia, Norwich

145 Pounds: Kyle Halladay, Chenango Valley

160 Pounds: Mike Beckwith, Greene

170 Pounds: Ryan Wolcott, Waverly

182 Pounds: Mike Beers, Walton

195 Pounds: Mark Viviano, Bainbridge-Guilford-Afton

220 Pounds: Dillon Hurlbert, Marathon

 

Top Wrestlers:

Senior Connor Lapresi of Lansing is looking to end his high school career with a second consecutive state crown before heading off to Bucknell.  After avenging his only regular season loss (to Wesley Blanding) in the semifinals in Albany, Lapresi controlled the finals against Curt Rowley to end his junior campaign with a gold medal.  Lapresi hasn’t limited his wrestling success to the Empire State, as he was an All-American in Virginia Beach at both the NHSCA Freshman and Sophomore Nationals in 2010 and 2011.

William Koll, Photo by Boris V

Lapresi isn’t the only Bobcats grappler with title aspirations.  Teammate William Koll has made the medal stand in both of his appearances at the state tournament.  As a freshman, he captured the 103-pound crown with a fall over multiple-time state placer Trey Aslanian of Edgemont.  This past February, Koll took third at 113 pounds in a bracket that featured at least five past medalists.   He also was the New York State Greco Roman and Freestyle champion in May, winning both brackets in dominant fashion.  Additionally, Koll has demonstrated his national competitiveness on multiple occasions, with strong performances at the Disney Duals and a runner up finish at the NHSCA Freshman Nationals in 2011.

Tristan Rifanburg also knows what it’s like to place second nationally, as he did just that at the NHSCA Freshman tournament this spring.  That showing came after the Norwich wrestler earned his third consecutive medal in Albany, taking sixth in a deep 126-pound class.  Rifanburg will look to get back to a familiar place in 2013 at the Times Union Center – the Saturday night finals.  He was a state champion as a seventh grader at 96 pounds and a runner up a year later.  For all his accomplishments, Intermat has Rifanburg ranked as the #45 sophomore in the country.

Joe Nelson, Photo by Boris V

Section 4 offers a number of other wrestlers who can challenge for top billing this season in Albany.  Joe Nelson of Oxford entered the state tournament as the top seed last year and after absorbing an upset to eventual runner up Nick Casella of Locust Valley, bounced back to earn third place.  Greene’s Dan Dickman also lost his second bout at the Times Union Center last year at 152 pounds, but came back to take fourth.

But other than those who were All-State before, here are some other wrestlers to keep tabs on this year . . .

Lightweights and Middleweights:

Austin Ryan (Unatego) – In his freshman season, Ryan picked up over 30 wins and made an appearance at the state tournament, where he went 1-2.  Scott Stafford, who handed him four of his losses, has graduated and one Section 4 coach mentioned that he believes Ryan is primed for a breakout year.  Unatego teammate Codie Nichols is another wrestler who could have a big campaign after going 37-6 last season.

Frank Garcia (Norwich) – The Norwich wrestler had a strong ninth grade season at 132 pounds, racking up a 36-5 mark with 11 falls and coming within one win of becoming All-State in Albany.  Garcia dropped multiple close decisions to state champion Connor Lapresi, including a 3-2 result in the quarterfinals at the Times Union Center.  The medal stand seems within the sophomore’s reach this season.

Jordan Torbitt (Whitney Point) – Torbitt wasn’t intimidated as an eighth grade middleweight, compiling a 29-6 record with 14 pins at 145 and 152 pounds.  Half of his losses were close decisions against wrestlers who placed in the top five at the state tournament – Dan Dickman of Greene, Wesley Blanding of Chittenango and Isaiah Riccio of Beaver River.  After the tough competition during the season, Torbitt excelled on the national stage, winning the NHSCA Middle School national title at 154 pounds in Virginia.  He will be a freshman to watch.

Kyle Halliday (Chenango Valley) – The senior boasted a 33-3 record in 2012, with 29 victories coming by bonus points.  He injury defaulted out of the state tournament after an opening round defeat, but registered several quality wins during course of the year, including over state qualifiers JT Romagnoli, Tyler Spann (twice), Greg Kleinsmith, and Richie Lupo.

And moving into the higher weights . . .

Mike Beckwith (Greene) – Beckwith faced a number of setbacks in an abbreviated 20-2 season in 2011-12.  However, he was able to get back on the mat for the Section 4 tournament, where he was completely in control of his bouts with two pins and two major decisions.  He has the talent to be on the podium, and although he dropped a pair of two-point matches at the state tournament this past year, he will be looking for more in 2013.

“Mike had a tough year,” Greene coach Tim Jenks said. “First an injury, then a car accident. He only had 11 days of practice between Christmas and the Section finals.  It’s amazing that he won the Section with so little practice.  What hurt him at the states was his conditioning.  In the close matches, he just didn’t have the gas.  We believe he’ll have a great year.”

Christian Dietrich (Greene) – Dietrich has the potential to be one of the Section’s best as he is set to return from a knee injury that kept him out for the 2011-12 campaign.  He accomplished the rare feat of placing in the middleweights as a seventh grader as he took sixth at 152 at the 2011 state tournament.  Now an upperweight who may compete anywhere from 170 to 195 according to Jenks, he is ready to pick up from where he left off two years ago and ascend higher on the podium as a freshman.  Jenks also mentioned that junior Joel Roselle may open some eyes this year after a solid sophomore season where he took third in the Section. “It was the first time he wrestled in a while,” Jenks said.  “He’ll be back and he’ll be tough at 170 or 182.”

While Greene offers some tough wrestlers like Beckwith, Dietrich and Roselle in the upperweights, they’ll have plenty of competition in the Section as three returning top 8 wrestlers will take the mat – Mike Beers, Ryan Wolcott and Dillon Hurlbert, as will qualifier Mark Viviano.

Mike Beers (Walton) – Keegan Cerwinski was a bit of nemesis for Beers last year, handing him three losses. Still, Greene coach Jenks was impressed with what Beers showed in those bouts and pointed to him as a wrestler to watch in 2012-13. The Walton grappler notched 28 victories, including 19 pins and came within one win of earning All-State honors in Albany after he dropped a 2-1 decision in his last bout at the Times Union Center.

Ryan Wolcott (Waverly) – Wolcott didn’t get an easy road in Albany, going 2-2 with both of his losses to top three finishers (Nick Mitchell and Burke Paddock).  Wolcott and Paddock were the only entrants at 170 pounds that weren’t juniors or seniors.  He’ll have a great opportunity to get on the podium this time.

Dillon Hurlbert (Marathon) – Like Beers and Wolcott, Hurlbert split his four matches at the state tournament.  He was third in Section 4, but there was no shame in that, as he stood behind state champion Kyle Stanton and fourth place finisher Nick Talcott.  As a junior, the Marathon wrestler went 40-8 with more than 25 pins.  With only three of the top 8 competitors at 220 pounds returning, he will have a good chance to end his career with a medal.

Not to be forgotten is fellow upperweight Mark Viviano from Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton, who got a wildcard bid to Albany.  He had close to 30 wins, including a victory over state qualifier Kegan Levesque in the Section 4 tournament after losing to him the previous week. With the graduation of Ryan Todd, who defeated Viviano twice, including at the Times Union Center, Viviano will be expected to make a return trip to the state capital.

 

Division II Team Race . . .

Greene, the returning champion, lost All-Staters Keegan Cerwinski and Kyle Stanton to the college ranks.  But the Trojans, who won the Section 4 title by 13.5 points, will enter the campaign as the favorites as they bring back gold medalists Dan Dickman and Mike Beckwith as well as three other placers – Brendan Wheeler (third at 106), Joel Roselle (third at 170) and Trevor Parrish (fifth at 138). The addition of Christian Dietrich will also be significant.

“We have great kids coming back, including some who missed last year with injuries,” Jenks said.  “I think we should be the team to beat, but we do have some questions. I’m not sure whether we’ll have a 99 pounder and we need to figure out some things with our lineup.  We have a lot of great kids in the same weight classes and we’re not sure yet how we’re going to iron it out.  I look forward to a great year.”

Who can challenge Greene for the title?  The list of possibilities is long.

Connor Lapresi, Photo by Boris V

There are teams that are lead by a few top-notch wrestlers, such as Lansing and Norwich, the second and third place teams in 2012, respectively.  The Bobcats feature state champions William Koll and Connor Lapresi as well as freshman Greg Lee, who was fourth at 106 as an eighth grader.  However, they will have to replace the points of standouts Ryan Todd and Corey Dake.

As for Norwich, Rifanburg and Garcia will tally significant points, but they, like Lansing, lost substantial points in the form of four graduated Section placers.

Jenks mentioned a pair of teams that could challenge on the strength of a number of wrestlers that saw success in last year’s postseason – Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton and Unatego.  Bainbridge offers a solid team, with five of its six Section placers returning, including runner up Mark Viviano and a trio of fourth placers – Austin Carr, Justin Cirigliano, and Jesse Griswold.

Unatego had three finalists a year ago and all three are back – Austin Ryan, Kevin Thayer and Codie Nichols.  When you add Ryan Marszal (third at 145), Leland Slawson (fourth at 152) and Lucas DeJoy (sixth at 132) into the mix, it seems likely that the team can improve upon its eighth place showing.

Also looking to make its mark again is Chenango Valley, led by Kyle Halliday and a pair of sophomores – Anthony Colon and Billy Liberati, and Tioga with five 2012 Section medalists, including fourth placers Kaleb Stone and Tyler Spires.

Special thanks to all the coaches and wrestlers who contributed to this story.

 

More Season Previews:

Section 1 Preview

Section 3 Preview

Section 4 Preview

Section 7 Preview

Section 8 Preview

Section 9 Preview

CHSAA Preview

 

Season Preview Features (more to come):

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 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak