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 www.trackwrestling.com and search for “Southwest Kickoff Classic”.

Super Sophomores: Take a Look at Tenth Graders to Watch in New York in 2013-14

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 Diakomihalis and discussed other ninth graders to watch.  Then, we wrote about the wrestler at the top of the Class of 2016 rankings – Christian Dietrich

Now it’s time to talk about some of the other sophomores to keep tabs on this season. There were significant differences of opinion on how these wrestlers stack up against each other.  The order of this list could go numerous different ways and will no doubt look different as the season progresses.  For now, however, here’s a look at some of the stars in the Class of 2016.

Top Sophomores

Photo by BV

#1 Christian Dietrich (Greene) – Dietrich made a splash when he finished on the New York state podium (6th) as a seventh grader at 152 pounds.  While he spent the following season recovering from an injury, his return as a freshman was stellar.  He cruised through the year with a 39-3 record, taking second at the Eastern States Classic and picking up runner up honors in Albany.  Those achievements were impressive, but he solidified his spot in the national spotlight with a fourth place showing at the FloNationals in the spring, including wins over state champions from Michigan, California and Ohio. Currently listed as the 10th best grappler in the land at 170 pounds by Flowrestling, Dietrich is also highly ranked in the Class of 2016.  Intermat has him #12 in the nation for sophomores, while Flo has him 15th.  He went up to 195 pounds recently for the Journeymen Classic and won the title there. For more on Dietrich, see this link.

#2 Kellen Devlin (Amherst) – A very impressive freshman year catapulted Devlin up the charts. In his second trip to the state tournament, he looked sharp, taking third at 120 pounds.  He went 5-1 with a pin, a tech fall and two major decisions while defeating multiple All-State wrestlers. And in his sole loss, he led eventual champion Trey Aslanian for most of the match before the current Princeton Tiger from Section 1 came back for a 4-3 victory. The bronze showing was a strong end of the season for Devlin, who sported a 46-3 mark with his only other losses coming to Division I runner up Steve Michel by one point.  He also made his mark nationally, taking second at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach (after earning third the year before at the same event).

#3 Jordan Torbitt (Whitney Point) – Torbitt has been a national champion two years in a row at the NHSCAs in Virginia Beach.  He captured the Middle School crown in 2012 and followed up with gold at the Freshman event this spring. The latter performance came after he earned All-State recognition in 2013 at 145 pounds, following a 39-2 regular season.  He split matches with New York State silver medalist Frank Garcia, defeating the Norwich standout 7-0 in early February.  In Albany, Torbitt was edged 5-4 in his opening contest, however, he rebounded with three consecutive wins in the consolations before injury defaulting his final two bouts to place sixth.

Photo by BV

#4 Chris Mauriello (Hauppauge) – Like Torbitt, Chris Mauriello collected national championships in Virginia Beach in 2012 and 2013.  (He defeated Kellen Devlin on the way to that first title). Ranked in Intermat’s Top 50 in the Class of 2016, Mauriello had a highly successful season at 132 pounds in ultra-competitive Suffolk County.  The state qualifier racked up 42 wins and four of his six losses were to top-five New York state medalists – (Matt Leshinger, Brandon Lapi, Vinny Turano and Marcus Popp).  He recently took fourth at the Journeymen Classic, defeating state runner up Justin Cooksey in the process.

#5 Dakota Gardner (Fredonia) – Already a two-time state placer, Gardner went from sixth in New York as a 120-pound eighth grader to runner up at 126 as a freshman.  In a 46-2 year, Gardner picked up 36 bonus point wins with his lone setbacks against fellow All-Stater Brandon Muntz of Falconer (now wrestling at Buffalo) and two-time champion William Koll.   He also took bronze at the NHSCA Nationals in 2012.

#6 Derek Spann (Adirondack) – Other than a late December loss to Wayne’s Jacob Yankloski, Spann had a perfect ninth grade year, going 45-1 and winning a state championship at 99 pounds.  He recorded 18 pins along the way. His tough mat wrestling was on display in the finals at the Times Union Center as he made up for an early deficit with strong top work to earn gold.

#7 Matteo DeVincenzo (Port Jefferson) – There was a lot of talk about the tough 99-pound bracket in Division I in Suffolk County, but the small school champion in Section 11 had a terrific year as well.  DeVincenzo went 35-2 and grabbed second place at the state tournament, with his only setbacks coming against Division I state finalist Vito Arujau and the previously mentioned Derek Spann.  DeVincenzo had some solid offseason results as well, including winning a bracket full of state placers at the NUWAY Nationals in New Jersey, and following up with first place at the Journeymen Classic in a talented field.

#8 John Arceri (Huntington) – Arceri came into the state tournament as the top seed at 99 pounds in Division I after winning a deep weight class at the Section 11 championships.  While he went 2-2 in Albany, Arceri proved himself to be among the best in New York with victories over a number of All-Staters during the campaign, including John Busiello (twice), Jesse Dellavecchia and Vinny Vespa. He also defeated Eastern States champion Chris Cuccolo.

#9 Leonard Merkin (Poly Prep) – As a private school wrestler, Merkin won’t be competing at the New York State tournament.  However, he looks to make noise again after winning the New York Prep title in 2013 at 132 pounds, defeating defending champion Thomas McLoughlin, before earning a victory at the National Preps. (He drew Joey McKenna of Blair, one of the top 10 wrestlers in the Class of 2014, in round one of that tournament). Merkin makes the list not only because of his folkstyle prowess, but also because of his work in the international styles.  He went unbeaten for Team New York at the Cadet National Duals in Freestyle and then earned All-American honors at the FILA Cadet Nationals in Greco.  Merkin just missed the podium at Fargo in both styles, but responded by winning all three of his bouts recently at the Journeymen Classic. [On the topic of international styles, another sophomore, Alexis Bleau of Schoharie, a 2012 New York state qualifier, placed second and fourth nationally in women’s freestyle at Fargo this summer and will no doubt continue to represent the Empire State well].

#10 Owen Bachelder (Hewlett) – Bachelder didn’t get the friendliest draw at the state tournament, first facing two-time finalist/2012 state champion Dylan Realbuto before squaring off with eventual fourth placer Jake Green of Chenango Forks at 126 pounds.  However, it was his run to a Nassau County title that really put him on the radar.  He caught fire at the Section 8 championships, going 5-0 with three pins, including wins over 2012 NHSCA Junior National champion Chris Araoz (currently in the midst of his freshman year at Columbia University) and Manhasset state qualifier Michael Fera, on the way to the crown.

The final few spots were discussed quite a bit and some other candidates are likely to have great campaigns as 10th graders as well.  New Hartford’s Kelan McKenna earned his first podium finish at the NYS tournament when he was sixth at 99 pounds in Division I.  The Section 3 standout missed time with an injury early on, however, he got into the swing of things as the campaign progressed to make the medal stand.  In his first round match in Albany, however, McKenna was topped 3-0 by Garrett Baugher (St. Joseph’s Collegiate), a wrestler who was dominant throughout the year, notching 40 wins (35 of which came by bonus points).  At the Times Union Center, Baugher led eventual third placer John Busiello [now at Wyoming Seminary] early on in the quarterfinals before he injury defaulted out of the event.  Those performances came after Baugher racked up more than 30 wins as an eighth grader for Royalton Hartland, taking third in Section 6 that year.  Baugher will be moving up in weight this year but will be someone to keep track of this season.  Also of note –  Theo Powers of Mexico, who picked up All-State accolades in 2013, registered quality wins this summer and will be formidable in the lightweights.

Who are some other sophomores to watch?

Well, there are additional wrestlers that placed at the state tournament last year: Ryan Hetrick of Southwestern (third at 99), Ryan O’Rourke of Adirondack (fourth at 106), Chris Cirigliano (sixth at 106) and Brad Bihler of Maple Grove (third at 106). [Bihler was defeated by Dunkirk’s Tito Colom three times a year ago and after an impressive performance at the Journeymen Classic, Colom is one to keep tabs on as well].

Another lightweight on the radar is Penfield’s Parker Kropman, who had a solid 34-8 year at 99 in 2012-13 with two of those losses out of state (at 106) and three more to eventual state champions (Yianni Diakomihalis and Derek Spann). Fellow Section 5 grappler Hunter Olena of East Rochester was the top seed in Division II at the Times Union Center at 99.  Peru’s Ethan Feazelle has twice won a match in Albany and is looking to put together a string of a few more victories this time around, as is Noah Kelvas who got his hand raised in 2013 in the state capital. We haven’t forgotten about Shenendehowa’s Kevin Parker, a former Section 2 champion, who had multiple victories over state qualifiers last season.

Aaron Paddock was a lightweight in 2011 when he placed 6th at 103.  After his amazing return to the mat, he won 40 matches all the way up at 170 pounds in 2012-13. Speaking of 170 pounds, Sonny McPherson of Indian River did well at that weight a year ago and was the only ninth grader to win a Division I Sectional title above 152 last season. He followed up with All-American honors in Virginia Beach — and he wasn’t the only one to make the podium there.

A pair of Suffolk grapplers were national finalists at the NHSCA event after registering over 30 wins in Section 11 in the upperweights as freshmen — Ward Melville’s Christian Araneo at 182 and John Glenn’s Edwin Rubio at 285.  Araneo also made the medal stand at the Eastern States Classic, notching eighth. And the talent in Suffolk isn’t limited to those wrestlers.  There are others to keep an eye on, including CJ Archer of Rocky Point, who won over 30 times as a ninth grader.

Other NHSCA All-Americans from the Class of 2016 at Virginia Beach were: Owen Albanese (Canastota, 220), Wil Hillard (Phoenix, 170), Ricardo Dawkins (General Brown, 182), Andrew McFarland (Carthage, 113), Anthony Argentieri (Kenmore West, 106) and Freddy Eckles (Lake Shore, 132).  Eckles had some stellar offseason results and will make some noise this year.

One final wrestler who commanded our attention as he looks to return to All-State form is Holland Patent’s Alex Herringshaw. Joining Dakota Gardner as the only other 2012 state placewinner on this list (6th at 99 pounds), the Golden Knight jumped up several weight classes during his freshman campaign.  Victorious in his first 20-plus bouts of 2012-2013 while competing predominantly at 126, when Herringshaw moved up even higher to the 132 pound class, he was met with mixed results, finishing the season with an overall record of 37-10. That included a runner up finish at the Section III tournament and a 1-2 record at the “Big Dance.”

We appreciate the additional names sent in after our freshman article.  Once again, this list isn’t all-inclusive.  There will always be some new faces who have breakout performances.  Feel free to send us more sophomores to look out for at newyorkwrestlingnews@gmail.com.

—————-

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

It's Almost Tournament Time: Division I State Tournament Preview

First, we will be doing a LIVE BLOG of the tournament, starting Friday morning. To access the blog, see here: LIVE BLOG link

Here are some weight class by weight class thoughts on the upcoming Division I state tournament in Albany.  We will be posting a similar article on Division II. The votes have been rolling in, but if you haven’t already, feel free to give us your thoughts on who will win the titles by participating in our prediction contests.

For the Division I contest, click on this link.

For the Division II contest, click on this link.

 

99 Pounds:

Returning 2012 State Placers: None

Huntington’s John Arceri got the top seed, but it’s far from an easy road for him. In a 35-2 season (one of his losses was at 106), he defeated five of the grapplers in this bracket, including the number two, three and four seeds. His reward? A possible meeting with the undefeated Vito Arujau of Syosset if both make the quarterfinals. An intriguing first round bout pits CHSAA winner Garrett Baugher, who has been a force throughout the campaign, against NHSCA Middle School National Champion Kelan McKenna of Section 3.

On the bottom of the bracket, we’re excited to see Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip against Vinny Vespa of Monroe Woodbury in the opening round. Having Vespa back on the mat this year has been an amazing story after his well-documented battle with cancer. But beyond that, it is always interesting to watch two medal contenders clash early in the event. Speaking of Section 9 wrestlers, number two seed Chris Cuccolo recovered from some early season setbacks to win the Eastern States and breezed through the remainder of the year (other than a loss to Arceri). He could have a meeting with Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis in the Round of 8. Diakomihalis has won just about every event he’s entered in the past year and is nationally ranked.

So . . . We’ve had Diakomihalis at #1 and Arujau at #2 for the entire season at this weight. While 99 is often unpredictable at the state tournament, we wouldn’t be surprised to see those two put on a show in the finals as they did in the Super 32 Middle School tournament in the fall when Diakomihalis came out on top and took the title.

106 Pounds:

Returning 2012 State Placers:
Alex Tanzman, Westhampton Beach (Third at 99)
Jimmy Overhiser, Corning (Fourth at 106)
Nick Barbaria, New Rochelle (Sixth at 99)

Alex Tanzman, the top seed, has followed up a stellar junior season with an even better senior campaign. He has a 32-1 mark, with the only loss coming at the hands of state champion Nick Piccininni up a weight at 113. Fellow Section 11 grappler Steven Lee is back in Albany after coming within one win of placing last year. He’ll be part of an intriguing first round bout against Colonie’s Golan Cohen, a wrestler who stood out with a fourth place showing at the Eastern States Classic.

On the bottom half, a number of wrestlers with experience at the Times Union Center will take the mat. Spencerport’s Jon Haas was one bout from making All-State last year and has been on a roll, winning 14 matches in a row since a loss to Diakomihalis. If he gets to the quarters, he could face Nick Barbaria, who made the medal stand a year ago and has an unblemished record (40-0) this year. On the way to the Eastern States Classic title this season, Barbaria topped Corning’s Jimmy Overhiser in an overtime bout and Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn in the championship match. Those two wrestlers are also very much in the mix for titles and could collide in the Round of 8 if they both advance there. (Quinn’s only two losses are to Barbaria).

So . . . This should be a very interesting class, but in the end, we expect Tanzman, the senior from Section 11, to end his career on a high note on Saturday night against the very tough Barbaria.

113 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
Kyle Kelly, Chenango Forks (Champion at 99)
Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (Champion at 106)
Joe Calderone, Walt Whitman (Fourth at 99)
Bryan Lantry, Wayne (Fifth at 99)
John Stramiello, Pine Bush (Sixth at 106)

It’s clear that there are many very good wrestlers at this weight, especially considering how many returning state placers are in the bracket. Bryan Lantry of Wayne and Johnny Stramiello of Pine Bush competed for third at the Eastern States and have both been on the state podium before. Corey Ali of Shenendehowa and Thomas Hill of Fulton have won multiple Section 2 and 3 championships, respectively. Joe Calderone also was All-State last year.

So . . . Despite the obvious quality throughout the field, if anyone other than Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni and Chenango Forks’s Kyle Kelly takes the mat in the Saturday night finals, it will be a huge upset. It’s a match that fans in Sections 4 and 11 have been talking about all season and one that both Piccininni and Kelly have expressed excitement about in interviews we did with them prior to the season. Both are nationally ranked by at least one publication and both were undefeated state champions in 2012 (Kelly at 99 and Piccininni at 106). The last time Piccininni lost a match in New York, it was to Kelly in the 2011 99-pound semifinals when Kelly went on to win his first state crown. How similar will this match be to that close decision? We expect it to be an absolute battle between two of the very best wrestlers the Empire State has to offer. We’ve had Piccininni in the top spot in the rankings all year . . . we’ll see if we were right.

120 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
Anthony Orefice, Lockport (Fifth at 106)
Robert Person, Bellmore JFK (Fifth at 113)
Steve Michel, Lancaster (Sixth at 120)

We go from two state champions, Kelly and Piccininni, to a field full of grapplers who can make the finals. Who will win at 120 Pounds? Great question. Recently, I asked a handful of people and, predictably, I got a handful of different answers.

Will it be Steve Michel, the top seed? He is a returning placer and has had a strong season, including wins over Division II state champion Sean Peacock, three victories over multi-time placer Anthony Orefice and a pair of triumphs against Kellen Devlin of Amherst. At Eastern States, however, where a sizable number of wrestlers in this bracket competed, Michel didn’t place. Neither did another returning All-Stater, Robert Person. However, the Nassau County wrestler seems to be back to form. After all, he lost to MacArthur’s Chris Cataldo at SUNY Sullivan but responded with a commanding major against the same opponent in the Section 8 final.

Ok, but if those guys didn’t place in Loch Sheldrake – who did? The answer: lots of wrestlers who will compete in Albany. John Muldoon of Pearl River took second, Blaise Benderoth was third, Travis Passaro grabbed fourth, Blake Retell picked up seventh and Santo Curatolo took eighth. Alex Delacruz was in the semis before being disqualified.

Let’s face it, everyone mentioned above is capable of being on the podium. As is Mike D’Angelo, who has a win over Muldoon. And Orefice, who has been a placer before. Only one thing seems safe to say – there shouldn’t be a dull match at this weight.

So . . . The winner here will have navigated tough customers in every round. Who will it be? We’ll put forward the wrestler who got the most votes in our informal poll – John Muldoon.

126 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
Dylan Realbuto, Somers (Champion at 113)
TJ Fabian, Shoreham Wading River (Fourth at 120)

Fabian, Photo by Josh Conklin

There are so many good story lines here. One that we’ll definitely be watching is how seventh grader Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield fares in his first state tournament appearance. He sure hasn’t looked at all intimidated so far, including during his seventh place finish at Eastern States in a very challenging class. He sits in the top part of the bracket, along with a number of accomplished wrestlers. The #1 seed is Shoreham Wading River’s TJ Fabian, a returning placer who was upset in the Section 11 tournament but came back for bronze. The match that many thought would be the Suffolk finals – Fabian vs. Hauppauge’s Mark West, didn’t come to fruition last weekend. However, it could be a semifinal showdown. Both Section 11 grapplers have plenty to contend with early on, however. For example, West gets Freddie Dunau of St. Anthony’s a former state placer, in Round 1.

The lower half is no cakewalk, either. Returning state champion Dylan Realbuto of Somers begins with upstart Owen Bachelder of Hewlett, who starred in the Nassau County event, including a pin against NHSCA National Champion Chris Araoz of Wantagh. Aroaz, however, will be in the field in Albany for the first time and will start off in another excellent opening round contest as he takes on Frontier’s Rocco Russo. Both Jacob Green of Chenengo Forks and Keanu Thompson have significant Times Union Center experience and will be a challenging matchup for anyone.

So . . . Realbuto has been in the finals for two consecutive years and we think he’ll leverage that experience to get back for the third time, where we could see a rematch of the Eastern States title bout with Fabian. Fabian beat Realbuto on a third period reversal at SUNY Sullivan this year. Realbuto won his state title last year on a last second takedown. With a late charge, Realbuto may do it again.

132 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
Matt Leshinger, Sayville (Third at 120)
Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam (Fourth at 113)

Matt Leshinger, the top seed, looks to move up a few spots on the ladder after taking third as a junior. He has wrestled well all year, avenging his one loss against Vinny Turano by beating the Wantagh wrestler the next day to grab bronze at Eastern States. There could be a third meeting in the semis but plenty of wrestlers are capable of stopping that from happening. Turano will have an immediate challenge from freshman Chris Mauriello of Hauppauge.

Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam, the #2 seed, has been on the podium multiple times but will be tested right away by returning qualifier Richie Burke of Ithaca, who has put together a 38-3 season. Also sitting in the bottom half is Fordham Prep’s Sam Melikian, the Eastern States runner up. The CHSAA champion has blitzed through the season.

So . . . Leshinger was the top seed last year at 120 and took third. This time, as the top seed, we think he’ll finish with the gold against Melikian.

138 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (Third at 132)
Vincent DePrez, Hilton (Second at 113)

Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley and Hilton’s Vincent DePrez had one thing in common last year – both only lost once, and it was at the Times Union Center. Kelley was edged in the semifinals by eventual champion Jamel Hudson while DePrez lost in the waning seconds of the title bout against Dylan Realbuto.

They are the top seeds at 138 (Kelley is at #1). Among the wrestlers on the top half of the bracket to watch are Derrick Gray of Indian River, a five-time Sectional champion, who came within a bout of placing last year and North Rockland’s Matt Caputo, who has over 50 wins according to the NWCA Scorebook.

There are some first round matchups in the bottom half that we’re excited about. One is Rocky Point’s Tommy Dutton, who has been dominant nearly the entire season, against undefeated Danny Graham of West Seneca East. In addition, Isaiah Perry of Massena, who has been at this tournament for many years, will give it one last shot to make the podium, beginning against Joey Butler of Burnt Hills, a returning qualifier who gave Kelley his closest match against a New York wrestler this year in an 8-6 loss.

So . . . Kelley, one of the top pound-for-pound wrestlers in New York and a regular in Albany since seventh grade, has been waiting for the chance to get on top of the podium. We think he’ll get there this time, with a challenge from Dutton.

145 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers:
David Almaviva, Shenendehowa (Third at 138)

Hernandez, Photo by Josh Conklin

When David Almaviva of Shenendehowa and Louis Hernandez of Mepham squared off in the quarterfinals of the Eastern States, a fan sitting nearby told me it was a preview of the state finals. It could be. Hernandez won that day, 4-2, and went on to win the tournament.

A number of wrestlers will provide very formidable challenges to those two, however. In the top half, where Hernandez sits as the #1 seed, he could see a wrestler such as Anthony DePrez of Hilton, who has just a single loss this year and has been impressive. In addition, Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi is a big threat. He handed Almaviva his only loss at the Times Union Center last year. Jackson Mordente of Sachem East is yet another to keep tabs on.

In the bottom half, Brendan Dent may be under the radar for those outside of Long Island, but he has been strong all year and has yet to lose. In addition, Eric Lewandowski of Lancaster is a very dangerous wrestler who has been to the finals before and is on a mission to get back. Trevor Hoffmier is a formidable first round foe for Almaviva as well.

So . . . We believe the fan at the Eastern States had the title bout pegged. The stage is brighter, but we expect a similar match in Hernandez vs. Almaviva II to what we saw in the Eastern States quarters.

152 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Corey Rasheed, Longwood (Second at 145)

Longwood’s Corey Rasheed is a three-time state placer, including two runner up finishes. If he wrestles the way he has all year, he will be extremely difficult to beat. Eastern States provided a great example of that. In a solid bracket, he pinned his first three foes and then outscored the opposition 28-4 in the semis and finals to earn the crown. He could face some of the other medalists from that event as both Joe Mastro of Yorktown and Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis sit in the top of the bracket.

Columbia’s Angelo Kress is the number two seed and has topped the wrestler in the number three spot, Zach Joseph of Shenendehowa, twice by a single point in February. For them to meet again, they will have to overcome a number of very strong wrestlers, among them, returning qualifier Zach Colgan of Johnson City, Section 3’s Tommy Quinlan and two-time NHSCA All-American Chris Koo.

So . . . Rasheed has been unbelievable this season. He’s been close to a state title twice before and this time takes gold instead of silver against the very solid (and currently unbeaten) Koo.

160 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Tyler Grimaldi, Hills West (Second at 160)
Dale White, John Jay East Fishkill (Fifth at 145)

Tyler Grimaldi was the runner up in this class last year. He has dedicated himself to making sure he gets that elusive last victory in 2013 before heading to Harvard. Who stands in his way? Clarence’s Jake Weber has put together a good season in Section 6 as has Derek Holcomb of Newark Valley, an NHSCA All-American. Holcomb will have an interesting first match as he faces returning medalist Dale White of John Jay East Fishkill, a wrestler who missed the bulk of the season with an injury but has looked solid upon his return.

Andrew Psomas of Monsignor Farrell announced his presence among the state’s elite with his fourth place showing at the Eastern States. In the bronze bout, he lost to MacArthur’s Steve Schneider. The Nassau County champion has appeared to get better and better as the season progressed and is the #2 seed.

So . . . Grimaldi and Schneider have already faced off twice this season with the Hills West senior getting his hand raised both times. The finals may give us a third battle. Harvard thinks they found a champion.  We agree.

170 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Danny McDevitt, Wantagh (Fifth at 138)

McDevitt, Photo by http://www.phototrens.com

Wantagh’s Danny McDevitt is familiar with being the number one seed in Albany as he was on the top line of the 138-pound bracket a year ago, and took fifth. His senior campaign has been nothing short of spectacular as he has seamlessly adjusted to wrestling four weight classes higher. On the way to his Eastern States crown, McDevitt saw (and defeated) some of his challengers, including Half Hollow Hills West’s Joe Piccolo, who is the fourth seed. A number of other grapplers who have appeared in the state rankings are in the top part of the bracket, such as St. Anthony’s John Vrasidas and Monroe Woodbury’s AJ Voelker.

Another one of McDevitt’s victories at SUNY Sullivan was against John Jay East Fishkill’s Brett Perry, who resides in the bottom of the bracket. Perry will have a very tough opening battle with Brockport’s Jared Mesiti, a returning qualifier who is 36-2 this season. Carlos Toribio of Brentwood has suffered just one setback in his senior campaign – against Piccolo by fall. However, he beat Piccolo twice, including a dominant victory in the Suffolk finals in which Toribio looked like he was healthy again after an injury.

So . . . McDevitt completes the perfect season before he begins his Ivy League career as a Quaker at Penn with a squeaker against the impressive Toribio.

182 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Shayne Brady, Carthage (Second at 170)
James Benjamin, Vestal (Fifth at 182)
Gio Santiago, Sachem North (Sixth at 182)

Shayne Brady went all the way to the championship bout last year at 170. After placing at the Super 32 Classic and going 32-1, he’s on top of the bracket this time. A couple of returning placers with a tendency to pin could be in his path. Vestal’s James Benjamin notched four pins at the state tournament last year and 28 overall this campaign. Gio Santiago also knows how to throw opponents to their backs, with 30 falls. Don’t forget about Thomas Murray of Yorktown. At the beginning of the year, when asking about potential sleepers in Section 1, we were told to watch out for Murray and he has delivered with a good season.

James Corbett of Wantagh and Anthony Liberatore of Williamsville South both lost 6-4 decisions to Trent Egenlauf of Spencerport. It was Liberatore’s only setback of the year, while Corbett had only one more (to Zack Zupan). There are a number of other tough wrestlers in the bottom half, but one of these three is likely to get a shot in the finals.

So . . . Finals experience helps Brady get back to the Saturday night main event, but in an upset, we’ll pick Egenlauf to stay undefeated for the title with very close decisions in the semis and finals.

195 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Reggie Williams, Johnson City (Second at 195)

Reggie Williams has been among the best upperweights in the state for years now. As a freshman, he took sixth and last year he was second with all of his losses coming to state champion Tony Fusco of Shenendehowa. He has been focused on one thing since stepping off the mat in Albany last February and that’s winning it all. So far, he has an unblemished record in 2012-13 and sits as the top seed. Will he get that crown? There will certainly be some obstacles for him. Before the brackets came out, we considered some possible finals opponents for Williams. Among those were Dan Choi of Syosset, undefeated pinning machine Chris Chambers of East Islip and Steven Sabella of Yorktown. (Williams beat Sabella with very late points, 7-5, at Eastern States). Guess what? A finals meeting between any of those guys won’t happen because they’re all on the top half.

So, who will emerge from the bottom? Colton Kells has marched through his senior year with an unblemished record. If he wins his first contest, he’ll certainly be tested by either Deon Edmond of Kingston, who came within one bout of placing last year or the tough Nick Weber of Kings Park. After earning All-American status in Fargo, Ben Honis has put together a nice resume with wins over several top 195 pounders and he’ll have a chance to add to that list when he faces Shenendehowa’s Levi Ashley in Round 1.

So . . . All in all, it’s an impressive group of big guys. But despite the many obstacles in his way, Williams has been here before and knows what it takes. We think he’ll get it done in a tight bout over Kells, who came within a match of placing last year and has improved on his feet.

220 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
Nick Lupi, Huntington (Fifth at 220)

We were ready to go with a finals prediction of Nick Lupi of Huntington (31-1 after a fifth place showing in this class a year ago) against Rich Sisti of Monsignor Farrell (25-0, 20 pins). With the way the seeds fell, that won’t happen. There are candidates to upset either of those wrestlers, however. Minisink Valley’s Josh Bonneau showed resilience when he came back from a first round loss at Eastern States to take third. In addition, the winner of the first round tilt between Section 8 champion Tom Sinclair of Island Trees and Marshall Taylor of Lockport could certainly go far.

On the bottom, there are many wrestlers with finals potential. John Hartnett of Tappan Zee and Jason Johnson of Colonie put together solid seasons. We think both Steven Mills of Sachem North and Matt Mott of Lynbrook have been somewhat under the radar this year. Our prediction is that one or both won’t be after the weekend.

So . . . Sisti will make it difficult, but we’ll say Lupi’s experience at this tournament leads him to a crown, over a tough fellow Long Islander.

285 Pounds:

Returning 2012 Placers
El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Columbia (Second at 285)
Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (Sixth at 285)

Van Hoesen, Photo by BV

Our rankings have showcased El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia at #1 and Mike Hughes of Smithtown West at #2 for the whole season. Van Hoesen, a silver medalist in 2012, has been nothing short of dominant as a senior, going 37-0 with 24 pins and only two regular decisions. “Nothing short of dominant” could be used to describe Hughes as well. His numbers read: 38-0, 29 pins, 1 regular decision (over qualifier James O’Hagan). If Van Hoesen and Hughes continue to wrestle the way they have all year, the two returning medalists would battle in the semis.

Like Van Hoesen and Hughes, Mike Manni of Tappan Zee is unbeaten this year. He defeated returning qualifier David Varian of Yorktown in the Section 1 finals and a rematch could happen in the semis. However, there are several wrestlers who could stand in the way. Austin Coleman of Spencerport has over 35 wins, as does Newburgh’s Terrence Cheeks, who has exchanged wins with Varian this year.

So . . . The top half winner gets the gold. We’ll say that will be Van Hoesen, who will add a few more pins to his collection before the weekend’s over. After testing himself throughout the year, we’ll say Cheeks gets through the bottom.

High School Round Up: Weekend News and Notes from the Road to Albany

It’s February and that means the road to the state championships has begun.  On Saturday and Sunday, a number of postseason events took place across the state, helping to shape the brackets for this weekend’s Sectional qualifiers.

There were too many big matches and results to recap, but here are just a few of the things that caught our eye.  The countdown to the first whistle at the Times Union Center is now just about two and a half weeks away!

In Section 1, Yorktown has had a strong presence in our individual rankings this season with Joe Mastro, Steven Sabella and David Varian included in the last version and Thomas Murray falling just outside our top 8 at 182.  Those wrestlers continued their winning ways this weekend, with Sabella having a tough match with another high quality wrestler – Scott Wymbs of Horace Greeley.  Both of those wrestlers have what it takes to make some noise later this month.

Dale White of John Jay East Fishkill made the medal stand at 145 a year ago and was someone we were tracking as a potential state title contender coming into the campaign.  However, he didn’t compete due to injury until January.  This weekend, he picked up a title and is undefeated in limited action thus far at 160.  Perhaps his time off will benefit him down the stretch run.

Ashley, Photo by Josh Conklin

In Section 2, Levi Ashley spent a bulk of the season at 182 pounds for Shenendehowa where he took fourth at the Eastern States Classic and nearly placed at the Reno Tournament of Champions against some of the nation’s best.  For the past few weeks, however, he has been up at 195 pounds and has gone undefeated there.  That run includes multiple wins over the tough Wayne Burt of Colonie, including a major decision in the finals over the weekend.  He seems primed for a strong postseason.

Meanwhile, El Shaddai Van Hoesen continued his total dominance, quickly pinning Colonie’s Austin DiCerbo, a wrestler who could contend for the medal stand in Albany if he earns the opportunity.

In Section 3, a few wrestlers ranked in the state were upset. At heavyweight, Canastota’s Jacob Morris beat Brandon Fayle of Lowville 3-2 in the semifinals of the Class C tournament before topping Brandon Yager of Ilion for the championship.  Fayle pinned Morris to win the Class title a year ago.

In addition, Ryan O’Rourke of Adirondack (ranked at 99), fell at 106 pounds to Hunter Owen of Sherburne-Earlville while Ben Honis, who was in the honorable mention section of the rankings, continued his strong season with a 3-2 win over Baldwinsville’s Joe Nasoni.  It was Nasoni’s first loss at 195 this year.

In Section 4, Jordan Torbitt of Whitney Point took center stage at the Class B Championships. Last year as an eighth grader, Torbitt won more than 25 matches and took second at the Sectional tournament at 152 pounds behind All-Stater Dan Dickman of Greene.  He has continued to shine as a freshman, bringing a 33-1 mark into the weekend after avenging his only loss to Newark Valley’s Trevor Hoffmeir.  Torbitt impressed again on Saturday, beating Norwich’s Frank Garcia, a returning state qualifier who was ranked in New York.

Dietrich, Photo by Josh Conklin

The Greene middle/upper weights looked solid with Mike Beckwith and Christian Dietrich grabbing first place. Teammate Joel Roselle missed some time in the lineup but returned at 182 pounds where he took second behind Unatego’s Ryan Marszal.

In Section 5, a pair of wrestlers ranked in New York squared off in the finals of the Class A tournament at 99 pounds, with #1 Yianni Diakomihalis pinning Wayne’s Jake Yankloski.  It was a good day for a number of Diakomihalis’s teammates as well, as brothers Vincent, Anthony and Lou Deprez all won Class A crowns.

In that same tournament, Yankloski’s teammate Bryan Lantry picked up a major decision over Brockport’s Barton Peters, who had come in with a 22-2 mark.

Like Diakomihalis, Hornell’s Zack Bacon sat atop our last set of individual New York State rankings.  The 220 pounder has rarely been challenged this season as he won by bonus points in his first 33 matches.  However, John Martisch presented an formidable obstacle as Bacon edged the Penn Yan wrestler 2-1.

In Section 6, in a battle of All-State wrestlers, Steve Michel of Lancaster pinned Anthony Orefice for his second victory over the Lockport wrestler this season at 120 pounds. (The first was a close decision). It wouldn’t be surprising to see the two of them square off again next weekend as they look to get back to Albany.

In another meeting of previous placers, returning state runner up Drew Hull of Royalton Hartland edged Jude Gardner at 145 pounds.  It was Hull’s second victory over the Fredonia wrestler this year.

Gardner’s teammate Chris Saden brought an unblemished record into the weekend, however, he was upended in the finals, as Steven Warthling of Tonawanda earned a 9-6 decision.  It should be an interesting weight at Sectionals.

Troy Seymour became the first-ever wrestler from Section 7 to reach 200 wins.  On Thursday night, the Peru senior pinned Hunter Bishop in the first period at 170 pounds to pick up the milestone victory.  In addition, Peru captured the Champlain Valley title over Saranac.

Hernandez, Photo by Josh Conklin

In Section 8, Mepham’s Jamie Dunn was an All-County wrestler in 2012 and figured to contend for the Nassau title this year.  However, he entered the qualifier with a 23-15 record.  He exited with a title, winning four straight matches, including avenging a loss to Matt Krause and beating top seeded Lucas Pincus in the finals.  His teammates Louis Hernandez and Dan Tracy breezed to championships as well with all bonus wins and look to return to the Times Union Center for the second straight time.

138 pounds will certainly be interesting in the Nassau tournament. Highly ranked wrestlers like Rob Bennett of MacArthur, Quinn Knauer of Baldwin and Rob Rosenberg of Hewlett were among those upset and new contenders emerged, such as Brian Quiroz of Valley Stream Central who came in with a 3-1 record with all four matches in December up at 152 pounds.

Also of note, returning state runner up Justin Cooksey of MacArthur didn’t compete.

Section 9 held its JV Championships over the weekend.  For full results, see here.

In Section 10, Gouverneur closed out another undefeated conference season with a home victory over Massena.  Senior Dillon Stowell collected his 150th career victory and will try for his first state title in a few weeks after placing multiple times.

In Section 11, there were a number of rematches between wrestlers ranked statewide. At 99 pounds, John Arceri of Huntington avenged a loss by fall to John Busiello by edging the Eastport South Manor wrestler 3-2 on Saturday.

In another rematch between two of the top grapplers in New York, Alex Tanzman defeated James Szymanski again, this time by pin. The two had recently wrestled a close bout at 106.

In addition, Islip’s Brad Wade topped Huntington’s Corey Jamison at 126 pounds by a 2-1 score for the second time this season. Wade has been on a very impressive run after a few early losses and looks like a threat to win some matches in Albany – if he can get through the challenging 126-pound Suffolk bracket.

Tyler Walsh of West Islip lost 9-4 to returning fourth placer Joe Calderone of Walt Whitman earlier in the campaign.  This weekend, he prevailed by the same score against Calderone.  Walsh has quietly had a very strong 32-2 year with his only other setback coming against Danbury’s Kevin Jack, the Eastern States Champion at 120.

An article on the PSAL Dual Championship won by Brooklyn Tech, can be found here.

In CHSAA action, Monsignor Farrell crowned seven champions in the New York City qualifier and at least 19 wrestlers from the squad will compete in the Catholic States next weekend.  In the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA League Finals, St. Anthony’s Johnny Vrasidas was named Most Outstanding Wrestler while teammate Joe Russ earned Champion of Champion accolades.

The following is a compilation of some of this weekend’s results. More will be added when available.  That countdown to Albany continues . . .

 

Section 1, Divisional Results

Section 2 Class Results

Section 3 Results

Section 4 Results

Section 5, Class A

Section 5, Class AA

Section 5, Class B

Section 5, Class BB

Section 5, Class BBB

Section 6, Class A

Section 6, Class AA

Section 6, Class C

Section 6, Class D

Section 8, Division I at Mepham

Section 11 Results

Catholic Qualifier (Upstate)

Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA