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.

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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.

1000 Islands Duals: Superior Wins the Jr High Event; Buffalo Wrestling Club Takes Second in the HS Division

It was a bit of deja vu for the Superior Wrestling Academy team at the 1000 Islands Duals – in a very good way.

A year after winning the Junior High title at the summer event, Superior did it again, capturing first place with a 4-0 record on the opening day of competition in Clayton, New York.

Superior Wrestling Academy, Courtesy of Gary Ferro

The team began with a pair of dominant performances – topping Lockport and Midlakes. The semifinals round was a bit of a different story, as Nazareth, Pennsylvania pushed the squad to the limit in a 31-28 battle.

According to Gary Ferro, who coached the team along with Ed Schafer, Superior trailed going into the last three weights.  However, back-to-back falls by David Crow and Brandon Cousino at 155 and 165 pounds provided an insurmountable lead going into heavyweight.  (Superior forfeited at the unlimited class throughout the event).

“We faced Nazareth last year too and both times it was definitely our toughest match,” Ferro said. “They have an excellent team and it went back and forth, but our guys came through at the end.  Those two pins were huge.  [David Crow] was losing 4-0 but came back to get the pin.  Then [Brandon Cousino] followed with another one.  It was a great win to get us to the finals.”

The championship bout was less suspenseful, with Superior putting together a double-digit victory over Delaware Valley to finish first.

“The kids enjoyed coming back and taking a second championship and it was definitely exciting for us coaches too,” Ferro said. “Ultimately, for us, it’s about putting the kids on the mat in the summer and seeing them continue to get better. 1000 Islands Duals is the place to go to do that.  It’s amazing to see the wrestlers dedicating their time at this time of year.  That’s something we get excited about.”

Leading the way for Superior were undefeated wrestlers Ethan Ferro (75), Brian Courtney (105) and Mike Venosa (119) as well as Michael Gonyea (82) and David Crow (155), who both finished with one loss.

“We really enjoyed the tournament,” Ferro said. “We’ll be ready for next year and we’ll be looking to three-peat.”

(It was a good weekend overall for Superior, as the High School squad went 4-1 with the lone loss coming in a 32-31 match versus Northeast Elite, a top 8 placer.  The squad, coached by Ferro and Mark Friske, won the Blue Bracket).

Buffalo Wrestling Club in the Finals Again

In the High School action, another New York team made the finals – Buffalo Wrestling Club.  According to coach Keith Maute, the squad just missed out on the title for the second consecutive year at the 1000 Islands Duals.

“We were second last year too,” Maute said. “Last year against Bound Brook (NJ), it came down to the last match.  This year, it came down to criteria.”

Indeed, the championship dual between Buffalo Wrestling Club and Doughboy ended in a 27-27 deadlock.  However, the Massachusetts team was declared the winner using the tiebreakers.

The Buffalo WC squad, which Maute said was made up of wrestlers from the Cobra Wrestling Academy, cruised through the first three meets of the event, losing just a handful of matches along the way.

In the semifinals, however, things got more difficult in an eight-point triumph over Northeast Elite.

According to Maute, his group jumped ahead in the lightweights, but the opposition fought back to within five heading into 195 pounds.  A victory by James Empfield at that weight in the ultimate tiebreaker was crucial, as was another win at 220 by Tyler Hall to clinch a spot in the title match.

That championship dual followed a similar pattern initially.  Once again, the Buffalo WC built up an early advantage.  In fact, the squad led 27-4 going into 160 pounds, fueled by a number of grapplers who went undefeated throughout the tournament – Dane Heberlein (100), Kellen Devlin (130), Cody McGregor (137) and Dakota Gardner (145/152).  In addition, Troy Keller (107), Tito Colom (115), Danny Graham (145/152) and the previously mentioned Empfield (195) each lost only one bout during the weekend, according to Maute.

However, Doughboy responded to 23-point deficit by capturing the remainder of the matches, resulting in the 27-27 score.

“Doughboy was a tough team,” Maute said. “We were winning big, but then we got beaten up top where they were very strong. It was tough, but the guys wrestled well and it was a good tournament overall.”

Superior Wrestling Academy – Jr High Championship Team (provided by G. Ferro)
75-Ethan Ferro
82-Michael Gonyea
90-Drew Schafer
98-Trent Nadaeu
105-Brian Courtney
112-Tanner Cook
119-Mike Venosa
127-Emerson Block
135-Josh Shamp
145-Jake Ginter
155-David Crow
165-Brandon Cousino
Unlimited- None
Buffalo Wrestling Club (Cobra) High School (provided by K. Maute)
100-Dane Heberlein
107-Troy Keller/Hector Colom
115-Tito Colom/Michael Wisniewski
123-Drew Marra
130-Kellen Devlin
137-Cody McGregor/Freddy Eckles/Maulo Wawior
145-Dakota Gardner
152-Danny Graham
160-Lucas McKeever/Garrett Smead
170-Richie Jones
185-Marques Buchanan
195-James Empfield/Tyler Hall
220-Alex Jones
285-Nick Jones
Superior Wrestling Academy High School (provided by G. Ferro)
100-Trent Nadeau
107-Tanner Cook
115-Mike Venosa
123-Dandre Norman
130-Blake Jackson
137-Freddy Eckles
145-Laken Cook
154-Vinny Romeo
162-Jordan Torbitt
172-James Lukaszonas
185-Mark Friske
197-Ben Honis
220-Landry Cook

Alberti, Devlin Among Empire State Title Winners at Ohio Tournament of Champions

By Betsy Veysman

At eight years old, Carson Alberti knows how to take charge.

“Even though he’s young, he still likes to think that he’s running practice,” said Cobra Wrestling Academy Executive Director Keith Maute. “Even when we’re doing warmups with the high school kids, he calls out the routine and tells everyone what to do next.  It’s pretty funny.  He’s not at all intimidated by the older kids.”

He isn’t intimidated by his peers on the mat, either.

This weekend, Alberti added to his ever-growing trophy collection when he won the prestigious Ohio Tournament of Champions in the 52-pound Bantam division.

Alberti has become very familiar with the top of the podium after winning titles at the NYWAY State Championships, the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals and the Empire Nationals over the past month.  But despite all that success, he was targeting the crown in Columbus.

“One of his biggest goals was winning the Ohio Tournament of Champions,” Maute said. “He took third there last year.  The winner, Jake Craig from Smitty’s Barn in New Hampshire, was quite a bit better than him a year ago. With all the work he put in, he has moved up to another level.”

Alberti demonstrated that progress throughout the spring, but according to Maute, his improvement was most clear in his one loss.  Craig defeated him in the dual portion of the Empire Nationals, but unlike their three meetings last season (two pins by Craig), it was a nailbiter.

“Craig beat him pretty badly last year three times,” Maute said. “This time, he fell behind 5-0 and wound up losing 5-4.  He controlled most of the match, but there wasn’t enough time left.  Actually, Carson put [Craig] on his back and got a one-count as time expired.  One more second and he would have won the match.  It showed he’s come a long way.  It was a loss but it was actually a confidence booster for Carson.”

Alberti looked confident throughout the day in Columbus, taking his quarterfinal match by a 4-2 score but otherwise dominating the field.  Maute said Alberti notched major decisions in both the semifinals and finals.

According to Maute, this is only Alberti’s second full year of wrestling.  However, the coach marvels at how well the youngster soaks up the sport and picks up new skills with ease.

“You show him something and he understands it right away,” Maute said. “He just gets it.  Obviously there’s also a lot of natural ability there. He always seems like he’s having fun.  He trains hard and listens really well.”

One of the people he listens to is fellow member of the Cobra Wrestling Academy, eighth grader Kellen Devlin.

Like Alberti, Devlin took third the last time he competed at the Ohio Tournament of Champions, back in 2010.   In that tournament, Devlin lost a first round overtime battle with the eventual champion, Billy Bowlen of Pennsylvania, before winning at least eight matches in a row to grab the bronze.

This time, Devlin cruised through the bracket before winning a 2-1 bout in the finals over Kaleb Romero of Ohio.

“His matches weren’t very close until the last one,” Maute said.  “But he was in control of it. He got the takedown and the other kid wasn’t ever close to scoring.”

The victory continued a successful run for Devlin, who was the NYWAY State Champion at 120 pounds and the third place medalist at the NHSCA Middle School Nationals in Virginia Beach at 119.

“I knew he would do really well at nationals,” Maute said.  “To be honest, I was a little surprised he got beat because there aren’t many kids his age that can beat him.  That loss was the only one for him this season. He’s really gifted and really fun to watch.  When he’s in the room, I have him demonstrating the moves because he understands everything we’re trying to do.”

His spring success comes on the heels of a 34-5 campaign as an eighth grader for Amherst High School, where he won the Section 6 title and a bid to the State Championships in Albany.

“At states, he basically had his first match won but then made a mistake with about 20 seconds left on top where he got reversed to his back.  He controlled 5:40 of the match and wasn’t in any danger.  I almost felt that in his first time at states, he was a little nervous and it affected him.”

After that result, Devlin moved to the consolation bracket where he dropped a decision to top-seeded Mark Raghunandan, who had been upset in the first round.

“Kellen learned from it, I’m sure, and the next four years will be different,” he said. “He’s looked great.  He’s more than a great wrestler.  He is one of the idols for the little kids at our club.  They know he’s been there and they see how hard he works.  He’s really likeable and he plays around with the kids.  He and Carson have a good relationship.  I think Carson reminds Kellen of himself when he was little.  They’re pretty similar.”

Last Saturday, they were certainly similar in one way – both captured first place at the Ohio Tournament of Champions.

JR Colom of Dunkirk, new to Cobra, also took gold in the event in the Junior division at 90 pounds.

In addition, G2 Wrestling Academy was well represented in the Buckeye State, with Frankie Gissendanner (Junior 125 pounds) and Yianni Diakomihalis (Schoolboy 96 pounds) continuing their winning streaks with championships.  Stay tuned for more on them in the near future.

The Empire State put many wrestlers on the podium on Saturday.  See the full list below.

 

Champions:

Carson Alberti (East Aurora) Bantam 52

Kellen Devlin (Amherst) Schoolboy 120

Yianni Diakomihalis (Rochester) Schoolboy 96

JR Colom (Dunkirk) Junior 90

DJ Giancola (Niagara Falls) Open 175

Frankie Gissendanner (Rochester) Junior 125

Jason Goldman (Binghamton) Open 135

Trevor Hoffmier (Newark Valley) Cadet 140

Stevo Poulin (Schuylerville) Midget 52

 

Second Place:

Tito Colom (Dunkirk) Schoolboy 104

Greg Diakomihalis (Rochester) Junior 56

Troy Keller (North Tonawanda) Schoolboy 92

Kelan McKenna (New Hartford) Cadet 92

Carter Schubert (Marion) Bantam 52

Jake Silverstein (Smithtown) Junior 82

 

Third Place:

Cooper Kropman (Rochester) Midget 80

Anthony Orefice (Niagara Falls) Cadet 115

Randy Sisenstein (Johnson City) Open 145

Darren Snead (Niagara Falls) Open 285

 

Fourth Place:

Tim Barnard (Tonawanda) Cadet 136

Brock DelSignore (South Glens Falls) Midget 64

Richie Jones (Tonawanda) Cadet 152

Donny McCoy (Niagara Falls) Cadet 100

Dillan Palaszewski (Galway) Junior 79

Travis Race (Fulton) Schoolboy 160

Logan Ramadan (Grand Island) Bantam 95

Trent Reid (Sanborn) Bantam 56

 

Fifth Place:

Jahad Ali (Niagara Falls) Open 135

Justin McDougald (Niagara Falls) Midget 70

Leonard Merkin (Brooklyn) Schoolboy 126

 

Sixth Place:

Jake Ashcraft (Glenville) Cadet 152

Tyler Benjamin (Candor) Midget 100

Zach Bierfeldt (Limestone) Schoolboy 116

Ethan Ferro (Whitney Point) Midget 64

Jordan Kayes (Olean) Schoolboy 126

Parker Kropman (Rochester) Schoolboy 92

Willie McDougald (Niagara Falls) Junior 82

Frank Shomers (Niagara Falls) Elite 285

Bryson Solomon (Niagara Falls) Midget 85

Anthony Stewart (Addison) Junior 64

 

Seventh Place:

David Berkovich (Brooklyn) Junior 79

Ethan Gallo (Slate Hill) Bantam 80

Bryce Rowe (Ripley) Junior 95

Derek St.  James (Rochester) Schoolboy 88

Ethan Stotler (Waverly) Midget 70

Charlie Tibbits (Chadwicks) Midget 92

 

Eighth Place:

Shane Broad (Alden) Junior 64

Trey Duvall (Corning) Cadet 160

Jonathan Earl (Fulton) Schoolboy 116

David Fales (Corning) Junior 56

Bryan Ruggeri (Fairport) Elite 112