Fargo Recap: Honoring Jeff Blatnick, the Porters, Bringing Home National Titles and More

The 2013 ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo have come and gone.  Here are some thoughts and observations on Team New York’s highlights in North Dakota. 

The singlets worn by Team New York at the tournament said “Dream Big” on the back.  Underneath that phrase was a picture of the late, great Jeff Blatnick.

There’s no question that Blatnick would have been excited about some of the performances put together, including that of a competitor he worked with at the Journeymen Wrestling Club – Jesse Porter.

Porter, who was a Section 2 champion as a freshman in 2012, didn’t get a chance to shine in the postseason last year.  The Shenendehowa wrestler suffered an injury and was only able to compete in November and December for the Plainsmen as a sophomore.

Now healthy, he made a huge impact at the summer’s biggest event.  A year after taking fourth in Cadet Greco Roman at Fargo, he went to the finals at 152 pounds in the same tournament, where he earned the silver medal.  Then, in freestyle, Porter nabbed a fifth place finish, running his overall record in North Dakota to 14-3 against top-notch competition.  During the Greco Roman finals, one of the announcers said he wasn’t that familiar with Porter before the event, but he knew now that “Porter is a stud.”  It’s clear he’ll be a middleweight to watch in the Albany area . . . and beyond in 2013-14.

The Champions

Jesse Porter wasn’t the only member of his family to stand out for the Empire State.  His sister Alexis Porter captured gold again, winning the 148-pound championship in Junior Women’s Freestyle a year after taking gold in both Cadet and Junior competitions.  She was joined on the top of the podium by Rachel Hale, who won it all at 121 pounds.

It wasn’t just individual glory for the women, however.  Team New York made history, becoming the first squad other than California or Texas to win the Women’s Duals at Fargo.  In appropriate fashion, the group captured the title by defeating the prior titlewinners, dominating the Texans in the first match of the championship bracket before topping the Californians, 39-17.

In pool play, the team faced California and decided to rest the starters for a big run at the crown.  The move paid off for coach Rob Hirsch and the squad.  Later in the day, the rematch was a completely different story.  New York won nine of the 12 bouts, including five straight at the end to seal the victory.

During that event, many contributed key performances.  That included Alexis Bleau, who was the only woman to earn trophies in both the Cadet and Junior tournaments, taking second and fourth, respectively.  It also included Kelsey Gray, who went undefeated in the dual portion of the event, despite not placing individually. Alexis Porter, Rachel Hale and Rosemary Flores also sported unblemished records during the dual tournament.  Flores collected an individual bronze as well, as did Destane Garrick.

Speaking of Bronze . . .

Speaking of bronze, William Koll picked up his first medal in Fargo when he took third in Junior Greco at 126 pounds.  The Lansing Bobcat just missed making the medal stand in both events, as he went 4-2 in Freestyle.  Another two-time state finalist, Nick Casella of Locust Valley, also made his debut on the medal stand in Fargo after grabbing seventh at 120 pounds in Greco.

Something About 220

New York had more All-Americans at 220 pounds than any other weight.   James Bethel followed up his undefeated run at the Cadet Duals with a third place showing in Greco.  He was dominant in his victories, with all coming by pin or technical fall. He was joined on the podium in that tournament by Garyn Huntley, a sixth placer coming off a 20+ win campaign for Oxford Academy as an eighth grader.  In the Junior division there was another 220 pound All-American – Rafal Rokosz of Southampton, who was sixth with three pins along the way.

It wasn’t just Greco.  In Cadet Freestyle, Mamaroneck’s Youssif Hemida won four matches by technical fall to capture seventh place at 220.  Looks like there are some candidates for breakout years in the heavier weight classes in 2013-14.

(Another upperweight who made his mark was Roland Zilberman, who after sporting a perfect record at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma, continued his hot streak with a fifth place medal in Junior Greco).

And the Middleweights Too . . .

In addition to Jesse Porter’s performances at 152, the middleweights had a number of strong showings, including at 145 pounds in Cadet Freestyle.  Jordan Bushey of Peru, Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East and Gino Titone of Connetquot all finished with 5-2 records in pool action.  Titone, who had a 25-5 mark last season, fell just short of placing.  However, Bushey, who came within one win of All-State status in Albany at 138 in 2013, was seventh in Fargo (with an injury default victory over Restrepo, who took eighth).  Look for all three to make a serious push for the medal stand at the Times Union Center next February.

Another Year, Another Medal

Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo is very familiar with the awards handed out at Fargo as he placed in both 2011 and 2012. This year was no different, as he picked up another plaque with a sixth place showing at 106 in Greco.  Alpha Diallo of the PSAL was also an All-American in that bracket, earning seventh.

In Summary . . .

So, in the end, a total of 25 All-Americans were crowned, with at least one medalist in all competitions except Junior Freestyle.

New York walked away with a pair of individual national titles and a team championship on the women’s side.  And every time a New York wrestler took the mat, the memory of Jeff Blatnick was honored for everyone in the Fargodome to see.

 

All-Americans from New York, Fargo 2013

Cadet Greco Roman

Jesse Porter, 2nd at 152

James Bethel, 3rd at 220

Garyn Huntley, 6th at 220

Nick Casella, 7th at 120

 

Cadet Freestyle

Jesse Porter, 5th at 152

Jordan Bushey, 7th at 145

Jakob Restrepo, 8th at 145

Youssif Hemida, 7th at 220

 

Junior Greco

William Koll, 3rd at 126

Roland Zilberman, 5th at 195

Rafal Rokosz, 6th at 220

Chris Cuccolo, 6th at 106

Alpha Diallo, 7th at 106

 

Women’s Cadet

Alexis Bleau, 2nd at 143

Jennifer Juarez, 3rd at 108

Vivian Vu, 6th at 154

 

Women’s Junior

Rachel Hale, Champion at 121

Alexis Porter, Champion at 148

Rosemary Flores, 3rd at 125

Destane Garrick, 3rd at 172

Alexis Bleau, 4th at 139

Yuneris Taveras, 6th at 198

Kim Cardenas, 7th at 97

Kennedi Eddins, 7th at 159

Mariana Olalde, 8th at 172

Porter, Titone, Bushey and Restepo Undefeated on Day 1 of Cadet Freestyle; NY Women Win Dual Meet Championship

With Greco Roman finished at Fargo for 2013, the Cadet Freestyle tournament got underway on Wednesday.  New York will be well represented as the competition continues on Thursday with more than 10 wrestlers remaining.

Cadet Greco Roman runner up Jesse Porter continued his strong run in North Dakota with a 5-0 record at 152 pounds.  The Shenendehowa grappler wasn’t the only unbeaten New Yorker, as Leonard Merkin won all four of his bouts at 132 and a trio of 145 pounders – Gino Titone, Jordan Bushey and Jakob Restrepo – all went undefeated.

The following is the list of Empire State wrestlers who are in the hunt for medals in Cadet Freestyle:

120: Ben Lamantia 4-1

132: Leonard Merkin 4-0

145: Gino Titone 5-0

145: Jordan Bushey 4-0

145: Jakob Restrepo 4-0

152: Jesse Porter 5-0

170: Jacob Woolson 2-1

195: Tyler Hall 2-1

220: Youssif Hemida 2-0

220: James Bethel 2-1

285: Peter Strassfield 1-1

(To see the additional wrestlers that competed in Cadet Freestyle, see the end of this page).

New York – Dual Meet Champions

In addition to boasting a pair of national champions (Alexis Porter and Rachel Hale), Team New York celebrated an additional title on Wednesday as the squad finished in first place in the Women’s Dual Meet event.

The team began with a 33-22 victory over Washington before losing to California while forfeiting seven bouts.

In the championship bracket, the team trounced Texas 49-8 while winning 10 of 12 matches. In the title meet, New York faced the Golden State group for the second time of the day and came out on top 39-17.  After California captured the opening bout, New York grabbed four consecutive matches, including two technical falls and a pin, to take control.  The West Coast group rebounded with two wins, but New York sealed the crown with triumphs in the final five contests.

Going undefeated on the day were Kelsey Gray (112), Rachel Hale (121), Rosemary Flores (125) and Alexis Porter (148).

 

The following wrestlers also took the mat for New York in Cadet Freestyle action on Wednesday:

88: Drew Schafer, Justin Lopez, Oscar Lainez

106: John Luke DeStefano, Vinny Vespa, Johnathan Lauricella, Sean Miller

113: Evan Barczak, Taylor Picciano

120: Nick Casella

126: Christian Briody, Michael Berkowitz, Ian Lupole

138: Zachery Bendick, Wyatt DeMarree, Sam Ward, Frank Jilling

145: Kevin Parker

152: William Marcil, Brandon Aviles, Collin LaBombard, John Vouzonis

160: Zafar Iskandarov, Andrew Cummings, Vance Cuffie, Logan Burnick

182: Colby Stayley, Joseph Sabia

195: Aidan Mathews, Nick McShea

220: Garyn Huntley

285: Alex Gonzolez

 

Cadet Greco Roman Recap: Jesse Porter Takes Second; James Bethel, Garyn Huntley and Nick Casella Earn All-America Status

Jesse Porter was an All-American at Fargo a year ago in Greco Roman action when he grabbed fourth at 132.  In 2013, Porter moved up several weight classes and up a few spots higher on the podium as he earned second place at 152 pounds behind Nick Reenan of Texas, the same opponent he faced in the medal round in 2012.

It was a back and forth affair with a number of flurries in the title bout. After the first period, the score was knotted at 3.  Then Porter got off to a good start in the second with a body lock and throw that led to a 6-3 advantage.  However, his opponent responded with a takedown and exposure with just under a minute and a half to go on the path to a 9-6 triumph.

Courtesy of Shenendehowa wrestling website

Porter, a Shenendehowa and Journeymen wrestler, simply dominated in his pool, capturing all seven of his matches by pin or technical fall and giving up just two total points. He will try to pick up even more hardware when the Cadet Freestyle event commences later in the week. (At the New York State championships in Binghamton back in May, Porter cruised to titles in both international styles).

Also high on the podium for the Empire State was James Bethel, who took third.  After dropping his first contest in Fargo to eventual runner up Jordan Wood by one point, Bethel went on a six-match winning streak, including a pin over fifth placer Kyler Childers and a 7-0 technical fall over Shane Coombs in the bronze bout.

Joining Bethel on the medal stand at 220 was Garyn Huntley, who grabbed sixth after picking up four victories at the event.  He notched two pins and two technical falls.

One more All-American was crowned from New York – Nassau County’s Nick Casella at 120 pounds.  Casella began Day 2 the same way he finished the first day of competition – with a victory (over Roshaun Cooley of Pennsylvania).  He concluded pool action with a 6-2 record, earning a spot in medal round against Raul Nevarez of Idaho in the 75-person 120 pound bracket.  The Section 8 wrestler trailed 8-2 in the opening period but took over from there on the way to a 13-8 final and seventh place.

Coming within one win of the podium was Leonard Merkin of Poly Prep, who went 4-1 on the opening day of the event, but lost his first contest on Monday to Conner Noonan of Oregon at 132 pounds.

Updates from the Junior Greco Roman tournament, which began on Monday, will be coming later.

Other Participants from New York in the Cadet Greco Roman tournament were:

88: Drew Schafer, Justin Lopez, Oscar Lainez

106: Sean Miller, John Luke Destefano

113: Taylor Picciano, Evan Barczak

126: Ian Lupole, Christian Briody, Michael Berkowitz

138: Frank Jilling, Zachery Bendick, Sam Ward

145: Kevin Parker, Gino Titone, Jordan Bushey, Logan Brunick

152: John Vouzonis, William Marcil

160: Vance Cuffie, Collin LaBombard, Zafar Iskandarov, Andrew Cummings

170: Jacob Woolson

182: Joseph Sabia, Colby Stayley

195: Aidan Mathews

285: Peter Strassfield

 

Fargo Day 2: Bethel and Huntley Become All-Americans While Casella and Porter Go Undefeated in Cadet Greco Roman Action

After the first day of Cadet Greco Roman competition, a number of New York wrestlers remain in the mix for spots high on the podium, with two already clinching All-America status – 220 pounders James Bethel and Garyn Huntley.

Both Bethel and Huntley began with defeats against highly touted foes, but responded with dominant showings the remainder of the day to ensure top-6 finishes.

Bethel lost a 6-5 decision to Jordan Wood, Intermat’s #8 sophomore in the country, in his first bout. However, he came back with technical falls over James McWilliams of North Carolina and Adam Treptau of Minnesota before pinning Jacob Spencer of Alabama in less than two minutes.  To finish off the day, Bethel won 7-0 over James Ford of Ohio. He next battles Kyler Childers of Oklahoma.

On the other half of the 220-pound bracket, Huntley faced Intermat’s #1 junior in the nation, Lance Benick, in round one.  After the setback, he bounced back with authority with two pins in less than 35 seconds and a pair of technical falls to secure at least sixth place. He’ll square off with Shane Coombs of Colorado in his first action on Monday.

Photo by BV

Other Empire State wrestlers remain in the hunt, including a pair of grapplers who went unbeaten on Sunday – Locust Valley’s Nick Casella and Shenendehowa’s Jesse Porter.

Both Casella and Porter breezed through the day with five convincing victories.  At 120 pounds, Casella opened with a fall and then registered four straight technical falls by 7-0, 7-0, 8-0 and 11-3 scores. He will look to continue his winning ways tomorrow morning when he faces Roshaun Cooley of Pennsylvania, who is 3-1 thus far.

Meanwhile, Porter picked up a pair of pins and three 8-0 technical falls at 152 pounds. His next challenge will be Maryland’s Christian Almony who sported an unblemished record on Sunday.

Also moving onto Day 2 of the tournament is Poly Prep’s Leonard Merkin, who started strong with an 8-0 tech fall over Conner Wengreen of Utah.  After dropping his next bout to Ben Hornickle of Wisconsin, Merkin bounced back with a pin and two tech falls over foes from Virginia, Illinois and New Jersey at 132 pounds.  Next up: Conner Noonan of Oregon, who was 4-1 on Sunday.

The Cadet Greco Roman tournament concludes on Monday, while Junior Greco begins.  Check back for more updates.

A number of other competitors from New York took the mat on Sunday in the Cadet Greco Roman event.  They are:

88: Drew Schafer, Justin Lopez, Oscar Lainez

106: Sean Miller, John Luke Destefano

113: Taylor Picciano, Evan Barczak

126: Ian Lupole, Christian Briody, Michael Berkowitz

138: Frank Jilling, Zachery Bendick, Sam Ward

145: Kevin Parker, Gino Titone, Jordan Bushey, Logan Brunick

152: John Vouzonis, William Marcil

160: Vance Cuffie, Collin LaBombard, Zafar Iskandarov, Andrew Cummings

170: Jacob Woolson

182: Joseph Sabia, Colby Stayley

195: Aidan Mathews

285: Peter Strassfield

 

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 gothamcitywrestling.com

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 http://www.trackwrestling.com.

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