Champions in Vegas: Tristan Rifanburg and Connor Calkins Win Titles at the "Freak Show"; Cirillo and Cox Take Second

Two New York wrestlers ended their weekend in Vegas with championships.

At the Southwest Kickoff Classic, otherwise known as the “Freak Show”, three-time state finalist Tristan Rifanburg of Norwich grabbed gold at 138 pounds while Connor Calkins of Alfred-Almond earned first place at 288.  Both represented Team NYWAY.

Rifanburg, Photo by BV

Rifanburg was in control throughout the event, beating his five opponents by a combined score of 36-2, including a 6-0 triumph over Jacob Macalolooy of Dragons Den in the title bout.

Calkins was similarly dominant, with four victories at heavyweight.  After taking top honors at the Journeymen Classic a few weeks ago, the Binghamton recruit followed up with a strong showing in Nevada, including a 5-2 triumph over Justin Gillham in the championship contest.

Also placing in the High School Elite Division was Lansing’s two-time state titlewinner William Koll, who nabbed fifth at 128 pounds with a 6-2 mark.  Both of his losses came by two points to New Mexico’s Richard Rico Montoya, however, Koll notched a technical fall and a major along the way.

At 108 pounds, John Arceri of Huntington/Ascend came within one win of the podium after capturing three victories, while Mexico’s Theo Powers also competed in that bracket.  Also on Team NYWAY was Julian Korfine, who took the mat at 143 pounds.

In the 15 & Under Division, New York boasted a pair of second place finishers – Thomas Cox of 631 Elite/VHW at 95 pounds and Rocky Point’s Anthony Cirillo at 108.  Cox won his first four contests, giving up just two points, before dropping the finals match to Jaden Abas.

Meanwhile, Cirillo had an incredible run to the finals, pinning his first five foes. (None of the matches lasted three minutes).  Hayden Uhler stopped Cirillo’s streak in the championship round.

Cirillo’s Rocky Point teammate Jackie Gold also saw success, racking up a major and three technical falls at 125 pounds.

In the 9 & 10 competition, Carter Schubert of Superior Wrestling Academy took fifth at 61 pounds after collecting five wins.  He was a champion in Vegas in 2012.

For full results, see and search for “Southwest Kickoff Classic”.


New York Wins Two at the Cadet Freestyle National Duals As Merkin and Bethel Go Undefeated

Team New York spent Father’s Day weekend in Daytona Beach, Florida, competing at the Cadet Freestyle National Duals. The squad picked up two victories in five meets, despite forfeiting six weight classes in each contest.

Merkin, Photo courtesy of

On Friday, the team opened with a pair of setbacks at the hands of Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, but finished the day strong with a 37-31 win over Florida. Saturday began with another triumph, this time a 41-19 result against Georgia. In the finale, the Empire State wrestlers won six of the 10 contested matches, but fell to North Carolina by a 40-33 margin.

There were a number of standout performances in the Sunshine State, including two undefeated grapplers. Both Leonard Merkin (138 pounds) and James Bethel (220) went 5-0 and piled up bonus points in the process. Merkin had two pins and three technical falls, while Bethel had a pin and two techs in the upperweights. Also getting his hand raised often was 160-pounder Andy Cummings, who went 4-1.

Collecting three victories over the course of the competition were Justin Lopez (88 pounds), Jesse Dellavecchia (113), Jackie Gold (120) and Dakota Woolley (170).

For full results, see

Team New York Records:

88 Pounds: Justin Lopez 3-2

100 Pounds: John Luke DeStefano 2-3

106 Pounds: Sean Miller 2-3

113 Pounds: Jesse Dellavecchia 3-2

120 Pounds: Jackie Gold 3-2

132 Pounds: Marc Paez 1-4

138 Pounds: Leonard Merkin 5-0

145 Pounds: Kale Gilbert 1-4

160 Pounds: Andy Cummings 4-1

170 Pounds: Dakota Woolley 3-2

220 Pounds: James Bethel 5-0