Disney Duals Recap: New York Kong Captures Second at the Prestigious Event With an Impressive 10-1 Record

 
 
40 teams began the competition in the All-Star bracket at the AAU National Duals (Disney Duals) in Orlando on Saturday.

When the competition ended at the prestigious event on Tuesday evening, New York Kong captured second place after compiling a 10-1 record with victories over squads from places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and South Dakota.

“It was just a great tournament,” said John Passaro, who made the trip and whose son Travis competed at 120 pounds. “The facilities were great, the experience was great. Taking second shows the direction New York wrestling is going. The team had some amazing wins.”

Indeed, after capturing eighth at this event in 2012, the group made it all the way to the finals, shown live on ESPN3.com. To get to that championship bout, the squad picked up a meaningful semifinal victory over Diesel, a Pennsylvania team that defeated the New Yorkers a year ago at this tournament.

“We wrestled lights out overall and especially in the semifinals against Diesel,” said Steve Hromada, who coached the team along with Anthony Ciolino. “Everyone was amped up and excited for that one, especially since they beat us pretty badly last year.  Getting payback was nice, but it wasn’t just that match.  The kids came together more and more as time went on – the more matches we wrestled, the hungrier and better they looked.”

That semifinal win was a hard fought one, with a 30-12 final score. The Ohio Hawks also provided a challenge in a 30-18 contest in the quarters.

However, the outcome in most of the earlier meets was never in doubt. In fact, the team won at least 12 of the 14 matches in each of the first seven duals, including shutouts.  The dominance wasn’t surprising considering the team featured state finalists at 10 weights and every spot in the lineup was filled by a top five NYS finisher (see roster below).

The first place tilt was a different story, however as the powerful Young Guns squad from the Keystone State came out on top convincingly.

“You never know how good you can be until you see a certain level,” Hromada said. “It was a humbling experience. We have very accomplished wrestlers who were fantastic, but the finals showed that you can always get better. Our state champs want to be more than that – they want to be national champs too.”

One national champion, Spencer Lee of Young Guns (ranked #2 in the country by FloWrestling at 106), began with a major decision for the Pennsylvania squad in the championship dual.

However, Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni, who was a perfect 11-0 at Disney, responded with a decision over another highly-regarded foe, Luke Pletcher, at 113. (Pletcher sits fourth in the national rankings).

At that point, Young Guns led 4-3 on the scoreboard, but they took over from there, collecting several bonus point wins.

Gaining bonus points of his own was Hofstra-bound Mike Hughes of Smithtown West who ended the dual with a 9-1 major decision over Luke Fleck at heavyweight to complete an undefeated tournament. In addition to Piccininni and Hughes, 152-pounder Joe Mastro, who will attend North Carolina State, also notched an unblemished 11-0 mark on the trip.

“[Piccininni] is a true warrior and he has the attitude and tools needed to be an elite wrestler. It showed when he beat the competition he faced,” Hromada said. “Having Hughes as the anchor of your team is the best feeling. You know that you’re always in a good position at the end of the match and that you’ll end on a positive note. And Joe Mastro is a diamond in the rough. He has great technical skills, endurance and toughness.”

In addition to the unbeaten wrestlers, a number of others picked up “silver status” at the event with a single loss. According to Hromada, those included Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro (120), Columbia-bound Matt Leshinger (132) and future Binghamton Bearcat Nick Kelley (138). Despite an injury, Minisink Valley graduate Josh Bonneau (220) also racked up wins.

While the squad was looking for one more victory, the journey was seen as an undeniable success.

“We took out some great teams,” Hromada said. “We showcased ourselves and it was an eye-opening experience for some people. We had a bunch of people walk up and say they didn’t know New York could be that tough. It was a nice feeling.”

Leading the charge were coaches Ciolino and Hromada, who put together the very formidable crew to represent the Empire State.

“Anthony Ciolino and Steve Hromada assembled a great team,” John Passaro said. “There is so much that goes into assembling a team of accomplished wrestlers like this. There were no egos — all the kids, who are competitors with each other back home, were teammates this week. It’s very hard to coordinate schedules, meals and travel for 17 wrestlers and also wrestle at such a high level. The coaches did a wonderful job.”

The same could be said for the New York Kong wrestlers. They went from eighth in 2012 to second in 2013 at the Disney Duals. And they’ll be back for more in 2014.

“We’re working to perfect the system,” Hromada said. “We learned from last year and did things better this year and we’ll be even better prepared for next time. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to coach the elite athletes in New York this week and we’ll up the ante and go back looking to win it all next year.”

New York Kong – 2nd Place Disney Duals

106 Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (2013 State Champion)

106 Jesse Dellavecchia, East Islip (2013 State 4th)

113 Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (2013 State Champion)

120 Travis Passaro, Eastport South Manor (2013 State 3rd)

126 Alex Delacruz, Ossining (2013 State Champion)

132 Matt Leshinger, Sayville (2013 State Champion)

138 Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (2013 State Champion)

145 Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam (2013 State 2nd)

145 Frank Garcia, Norwich (2013 State 2nd)

145 Jakob Restrepo, Sachem East

152 Joe Mastro,Yorktown (2013 State 3rd)

160 Steven Schneider, MacArthur (2013 State 2nd)

170 Carlos Toribio, Brentwood (2013 State Champion)

182 James Corbett, Wantagh (2013 State 2nd)

195 Nick Weber, Kings Park (2013 State 5th)

220 Josh Bonneau, Minisink Valley (2013 State 4th)

285 Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (2013 State Champion)

Team NY Kong Moves to 5-0 at Disney Duals After Three Lopsided Wins on Sunday

 
 
On Saturday, Team New York Kong cruised through the competition on the way to two dominant dual victories. On Sunday things were even more lopsided in the squad’s three victories over Doughboy Blue, South Dakota Red and Team Ohio Mafia.  In fact, the Empire State grapplers shut their opponents out in the first two meets and overall captured 40 of the 42 individual matches during the trio of dual wins, according to John Passaro.

Day three of action on Monday will begin bright and early for the New Yorkers, as they start at 8 a.m. against Brawlers Fire. After that, it will be a match with Michigan Freeze in the early afternoon.

And then, the “playoff” portion of the event begins as a national championship team will be crowned. Stay tuned for further updates.

Team New York Kong

106 Kyle Quinn

106 Jesse Dellavecchia

113 Nick Piccininni

120 Travis Passaro

126 Alex Delacruz

132 Matt Leshinger

138 Nick Kelley

145 Brandon Lapi

145 Frank Garcia

145 Jakob Restrepo

152 Joe Mastro

160 Steven Schneider

170 Carlos Toribio

182 James Corbett

195 Nick Weber

220 Josh Bonneau

285 Mike Hughes

Team New York Pushed to the Limit, But Emerges With 29-21 Victory over NJ in 2013 All-Star Charity Challenge

 
 
BY MATT DIANO

For the second straight year, all of the talk on the various forums leading up to the All-Star Charity Challenge centered on uneven lineups and lopsided outcomes. And, for the second straight year, nothing would be further from the truth as the student-athletes from the two cross-state rivals would wage war on one another, taking the dual to the final weight class and entertaining all those lucky enough to be on the campus of West Orange High School for this afternoon’s festivities.

For the match-by-match summary, see New York 29, New Jersey 21 Details.

On paper, with 11 2013 State Champions in the lineup, the Empire State was supposed to enjoy a significant advantage. However, as was so eloquently put by event organizer, Jason Bross, when it comes to New Jersey, “we never sleep on them.”

Bross’s sentiments would prove prophetic as in contrast to the opinions of the so-called prognosticators, there was never a moment in the dual that witnessed either side having a moment of relaxation or relief. Every time it would seem that one team would begin to seize momentum, the other would respond with a mini winning streak to keep the dual within reach.

In the end, it would be the wrestlers from New York improving their record to 3-0 against their opponents from the Garden State, 29-21, but in the bigger picture, as is the case every year, there would be no losers as all of the student-athletes did themselves, their schools, and their states proud. On a day where nothing would come easy, the greatest satisfaction was not from winning the dual, it was in the knowledge that 30 young men with bright futures gave selflessly of themselves to do a world of good for two event organizations, Pinning Down Autism and Autism New Jersey. You can’t see on a scoreboard the kind of victory that is earned each and every time these two states go to battle in this event.

Getting the Empire State off to a great start would be Hilton High School eighth grader Yianni Diakomihalis, who scored off the opening whistle and never looked back, collecting another takedown off a scramble midway through the second and then adding a reversal at the beginning of the third to take a 6-2 lead over New Jersey freshman, Alec Kelly.

The St. Peter’s Prep underclassman would cut the lead to 6-3 and would be in deep on a single-leg, but would be unable to finish as the buzzer sounded, making the 2013 NYS DI Champion the winner by decision, 6-3, to give the visitors from New York the 3-0 team lead.

Evening the score for the Garden State at 106 would be regional tournament qualifier, Ryan Freeman, who had a knack for picking his moments, scoring takedowns in the closing seconds of both the first and seconds periods to carry a 4-1 lead into the final two minutes. The freshman 30+ match winner would quickly increase his lead over the 2013 NYS DI champion from Wantagh, Kyle Quinn, getting a body lock and tossing his opponent from Nassau to the ground on the edge of the mat to make the score 6-2. Following a Quinn escape, Freeman would tack on one more takedown for good measure, taking the decision by an 8-2 tally.

Piccininni, Photo by BV

Two-time Division I champion Nick Piccininni would give New York the lead back at 113, dominating his foe, two-time New Jersey placewinner AJ Vindici (3rd in 2013), scoring a takedown and then adding near fall to lead 5-0 at the end of the first period. The Ward Melville sophomore would earn the reversal with half a minute remaining in the 2nd period to jump the lead to 7-0 at the end of the middle stanza. The third takedown of the bout for Piccininni with 1:05 remaining would put him in a position to earn bonus points for the “Evil Empire”. He would ride out the sophomore from Randolph to pitch the 9-0 shutout, making the team score, 7-3. “Picc” improves to 2-0 in as many appearances for New York in the Charity Dual.

Competing in the first match of the afternoon that did not feature a state champion on other side, it would be Eastport-South Manor junior Travis Passaro winning a low scoring affair over 2012 New Jersey 8th place finisher Marc Mastropietro of Hasbrouck Heights High School, 1-0. Scoreless after the 1st period, the 2013 NYS DI bronze medalist would ride out the entire second period and then escape early in the third to record the deciding point. To the credit of his opponent, Mastropietro, would really push the pace following the escape, getting in deep on a single-leg late in the bout. However, maintaining his poise, Passaro whizzered hard and forced a stalemate with only :07 remaining in the match. With so little time remaining on the clock, there would no time for the nearly 40 match winner from the Garden State to pull off the comeback. The victory would increase New York’s cushion to 10-3.

Fabian, Photo by BV

After seeing two non-state champs go to war in the previous bout, 126 would feature a battle of 2013 titlists in Shoreham Wading River’s TJ Fabian and Anthony Giraldo of North Bergen, New Jersey. Striking first would be the #7 ranked wrestler in the nation, Giraldo, earning the takedown and the rideout to lead 2-0 at the end of the 1st period.

With the choice in the second period, Fabian would respond in a big way, choosing down and getting the reversal to the back for 2+2 to take his first lead of the match over the three-time placewinner. It would then be Giraldo’s turn to answer, which he would, reversing back to square the match at 4-4 at the end of the period. In the third period, it would be a third caution against the Jersey grappler that would ultimately prove to be the difference maker, as Fabian gained the 5-4 lead with short time on the clock.

Left with no other alternative, Giraldo would attempt a desperation roll attempt and get caught on his back for three near fall, making the match 8-4 in favor of the future Sacred Heart University Pioneer, Fabian. The “w” for the New Yorker avenged a pair of losses he suffered to Giraldo during the preseason at the Journeymen Classic and the Ironhorse Invitational.

Knowing that he needed to stop the three-match winning streak, Jason Estevez, the senior from Livingston, would answer the call to duty, scoring the only three takedowns of the match to earn the 7-3 decision over Fordham Prep’s Sam Melikian. Using his quickness and polished technique, the two-time New Jersey 3rd place finisher would prove to be too much for his fellow 2013 bronze medalist. Looking for a déjà vu moment from his victory the previous night over New England, Melikian would attempt a cement mixer late in the match, but Estevez would roll through it to preserve his win. The triumph would cut the Empire State lead to 13-6.

In another match where points would be at a premium, it would be the 2013 3rd place finisher from New Jersey, Richie Lewis, scoring a takedown with short time on the clock in the third period to upend three-time New York DII champion, Nick Tighe of Phoenix High School. All tied at 1-1 following the exchange of escapes in the second and third periods, both would have multiple opportunities to grab the lead in the third, but neither would be able to convert until the Toms River East senior was able to come up huge, getting behind the Binghamton University-bound Empire Stater for the 3-1 win to bring his team ever closer on the scoreboard. The win is yet another in the long and growing list of impressive victories for Lewis, whose only loss this season came at the hands of four-time undefeated NJ state champion, Anthony Ashnault.

Making it three in a row for the host state would be three-time finalist/two-time champion, Bryant Clagon, who just missed scoring the fall when he took 2013 NYS DI State champion, Louis Hernandez of Mepham High School down and then put him on his back. Saving the Nassau County representative would be an injury time out. However, the damage had already been done by the Rider University recruit as he would cruise to the 9-2 decision to bring New Jersey within three points. Clagon, who earned his way into this dual by winning a barn burner in the state finals last weekend, remains undefeated in 2012-2013. In a match that the New York contingent felt it could steal, Clagon showed just why he is the third-ranked wrestler in the USA. Clagon has now won his match in back-to-back All-Star Charity Challenges, as he defeated current Brown University freshman, Anthony Finocchiaro, 8-4 in the 2012 event.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

With momentum beginning to shift in the other direction, New York would turn to two upperclass leaders, junior Corey Rasheed and senior Tyler Grimaldi of Longwood and Hills West, respectively. Well aware that a few 11th hour scratches from the lineup might leave NY vulnerable up top, the pair of 2013 DI State champions would do their jobs and help their squad to regain control of the dual, combining to score seven team points to again open up the NY lead, 20-12, with five bouts remaining.

Asserting his will in every position on the mat, Rasheed would light up the scoreboard, earning bonus points with the 10-0 shutout over Glen Ridge High School’s John Faugno, a regional qualifier who did not advance to Atlantic City in 2012/2013.

Finding it much more challenging, but still stepping up and walking away with the essential victory, would be the future Harvard University student-athlete, Grimaldi. All tied at 2-2 against Delbarton’s 7th place finisher, Josef Johnson, the nationally-ranked Suffolk grappler would fight off a shot in the last half minute and then capitalize on the over aggressiveness of Johnson, countering a TD attempt in the closing seconds to snap and spin behind to survive with a 4-2 decision in a match that in all likelihood, both sides saw as a potential bonus point opportunity for the boys in blue (NY was donning blue singlets).

Having two equally solid choices in the #10 and #14 ranked wrestlers in the nation, New Jersey head coach Damion Logan would elect to go with 2013 NJ State champion Ethan Ramos over the man he defeated by a narrow margin in the title bout last weekend, Jadaen Bernstein. New York would counter with a state champion — the first-ever titlewinner from the PSAL — Adis Radoncic of RKA in the Bronx. Interlocked in a back-and-forth bout, it would be the future UNC Tar Heel, Ramos, taking the 5-4 lead in the third period with a miraculous double-leg. Fighting like a warrior to earn the equalizer, Radoncic would come close to earning a reversal during the final ticks of the clock, but in the end, it would be the still undefeated Ramos maintaining control of his opponent’s leg to ride out the last minute plus to seize victory.

Winning what could be considered the most important match of the dual would be North Carolina State signee Shayne Brady, a two-time NYS DI finalist for Carthage High School, who hoisted the hardware in Albany a few weeks ago. Scoreless after the first period, it would be Ali Yildiz of South Brunswick that would get on the board first when the 2013 3rd place finisher earned a reversal in the second period. Brady would escape late in the second period and then again at the beginning of the third to tie the match up at two apiece. However, again it would be Yildiz going back ahead when he finished a takedown midway through the final period to take the 4-2 lead. All too keenly aware of the fact that his team would have its least credentialed individuals coming up at 195 and 220, Brady would rise up and play the hero, earning a reversal and then riding out the remainder of the period to send the bout to sudden victory. Now one score away from putting his team in a very solid position to win, the 2012 Super 32 8th place finisher would waste little time, getting in deep and eventually popping his head out to emerge with the 6-4 decision to give NY the 23-15 lead. The loss was only the second of this season for the Jersey representative, the other occurring at the hands of eventual state champion, Johnny Sebastian of Bergen Catholic.

In two of the few bouts that they were definitively favored in, the Garden State wrestlers would again prevent their neighbors to the north from establishing control of the dual, as state runner-ups, Anthony Messner and Zack Chakonis, would control the action, whistle to final buzzer in earning 8-2 and 9-3 decisions respectively over 2013 6th place finisher, Kevin Tynes of Brooklyn Tech and 4th place performer, Josh Bonneau of Minisink Valley. Messner and Chakonis, the super sophomore from Don Bosco Prep, would score the only offensive points of their matches make the team score 23-21.

Finding ourselves in the exact same position as we did last season, the dual would come down to the big daddies in a clash of the present versus the future as 2013 NYS champion, Michael Hughes of Smithtown West would be opposed by eighth grade standout, Eric Chakonis, who will join his brother at Bosco next fall.  Utilizing his experience and size advantage, it would be the two-time New York placewinner Hughes opening up a sizable lead heading into the third period before putting the dual to bed with a pin at the 5:40 mark.  Team NY wins 29-21!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF TODAY’S PARTICIPANTS.  As I say quite often, on a day like this one, you are all champions !!!

For the original story, see Gotham City Wrestling here.

Team New York Sweeps Three Duals at Pinning Down Autism Event; Prepares for Battle With New Jersey on Sunday

 
 
3-0 and looking for one more win.

That’s the story for Team New York after Day 1 at the Pinning Down Autism All-State Weekend Festival at West Orange High School.  The event, which benefits Autism New Jersey, includes All-Star squads from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan and New England.  For more background, see our preview here.

Yianni Diakomihalis, Photo by BV

On Saturday, the Empire State group began with a 47-18 victory over the Michigan Lumberjacks and next drubbed Delaware 64-6.  To complete Day 1 action, the team defeated New England by a 43-28 tally. For details of those meets, see the end of this story.

Now, it’s time to continue the big rivalry. On Sunday at 1 p.m., New York will look to knock off rival New Jersey for the third consecutive year.  According to the lineups provided earlier in the week, the following are the weight-by-weight matchups for the clash.   Every member of the Empire State squad has won a state title (and 14 of the 15 captured gold in 2013).  New Jersey will counter with a trio of state champions as well as several silver and bronze medalists.

Will New York make it three victories in a row over the Garden Staters?

99 POUNDS: Yianni Diakomihalis, Hilton (State Champion) vs. Alec Kelly, St. Peter’s (State Qualifier at 106)
106 POUNDS: Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (State Champion) vs. Ryan Freeman. St. Joseph
113 POUNDS: Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (State Champion) vs. AJ Vindici, Randolph (State Third)
120 POUNDS: Alex Delacruz, Ossining (State Champion) vs. Marc Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights (State Qualifier)
126 POUNDS: TJ Fabian, Shoreham Wading River (State Champion) vs. Anthony Giraldo, North Bergen (State Champion)
132 POUNDS: Tristan Rifanburg, Norwich (State Runner Up, Champion in 2010) vs. Jason Estevez, Livingston (State Third)
138 POUNDS: Nick Tighe, Phoenix (State Champion) vs. Richie Lewis, Toms River East (State Third)
145 POUNDS: Louis Hernandez, Mepham (State Champion) vs. BJ Clagon, Toms River South (State Champion)
152 POUNDS: Corey Rasheed, Longwood (State Champion) vs. John Faugno, Glen Ridge
160 POUNDS: Tyler Grimaldi, Hills West (State Champion) vs. Josef Johnson, Delbarton (State Qualifer)
170 POUNDS: Adis Radoncic, RKA (State Champion) vs. Ethan Ramos, Hawthorne (State Champion)/Jadaen Bernstein, Voorhees (State Runner Up)
182 POUNDS: Shayne Brady, Carthage (State Champion) vs. Ali Yildiz, South Brunswick (State Third)
195 POUNDS: Dan Choi, Syosset (State Champion) vs. Anthony Messner, Franklin (State Runner Up)
220 POUNDS: Rich Sisti, Monsignor Farrell (State Champion) vs. Zack Chakonis, Don Bosco (State Runner Up)
285 POUNDS: Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (State Champion) vs. Eric Chakonis, Unattached

Results from Saturday

New York 47, Michigan 18 Details

New York 64, Delaware 6 Details

New York 43, New England 28 Details