2013 Northeast Youth Duals: Weaver Elite Takes Gold; Dane Heberlein, Jace Schafer and Scott Kropman Honored

It’s not too often that the champions receive a trophy taller than themselves.  But at the fourth Annual Northeast Youth Duals in Hoosick Falls, that’s exactly what happened for the titlewinners from Weaver Elite (Pennsylvania).

“We like to have special awards,” said event organizer Michael LaPorte. “This year, the first place trophy was a seven-footer with a three-foot base.  You see the eyes light up when the kids see it.”

Weaver Elite, Courtesy of Christina Maag

In an event that featured wrestlers from “14 or 15 states”, according to LaPorte, the crown was decided by the slimmest of margins. In the final round on Sunday, a pair of 7-0 teams met in an exciting dual that ended in a tie. However, Weaver Elite took the hardware on the first tiebreaking criterion over New York Elite, a squad run by Superior Wrestling Academy.

“When the first whistle blew before the scheduled starting time of 9:30 on Saturday, we knew we were off to a good start,” LaPorte said. “The competition was great, especially on the second day.  Things tightened up on Sunday and we saw some unbelievable matches. You’d think you’re watching Cornell and Penn State going at it.  The level of competition just blew me away.”

It wasn’t just the championship bout that came down to the wire.  The fifth place meet, won by Olympic over Team Virginia, also ended in a deadlock. In that case, it took five tiebreaking criteria before the winner was determined.

A year ago, Apex NJ Elite took gold at the event, and this time the Garden State squad was third, defeating Team Maine for the bronze.

“The Maine team came in under the radar – I don’t think people knew what to expect from them,” LaPorte said. “They were a great bunch of guys and a great bunch of wrestlers that really impressed me.”

Heberlein with LaPorte, Courtesy Michael LaPorte

In addition to the showing of those squads, there were a number of standout individual performances.  Taking home Most Outstanding Wrestler (MOW) honors was Dane Heberlein of NY Elite, a grappler who competed for Alexander High this season.

“Dane Heberlein is an animal,” LaPorte said. “Weaver Elite was especially adamant about having him as Most Outstanding Wrestler – they were very impressed by the way he wrestled.  He’s an exceptional athlete.  I believe he will be in the small school state finals this year at 99 pounds. He’s that good.”

According to LaPorte, a number of other competitors were in the mix for MOW, including last year’s winner Brian Courtney (G2 World Wrestling Academy) and a few wrestlers who didn’t give up a point, including Anthony Cirillo and Patrick Glory.  Also in the running was Frankie Gissendanner, who was a state qualifier for Penfield at 126 pounds as a seventh grader in 2012-13.

Jace Schafer of Superior Wrestling Academy was the recipient of another honor handed out at the event – the Scott Kropman Never Give Up Award. Kropman, a coach at G2 World Wrestling Academy and tremendous supporter of wrestling, is battling cancer.

It wasn’t the only way Kropman was honored over the weekend. Donations by teams such as the Hoosick Falls Wrestling Club, NY Elite and Team Virginia as well as others in attendance resulted in over $400 to help Kropman with his medical expenses.  In addition, all of the competitors signed the tournament banner for Kropman, who wasn’t able to be there.

“Last year, we had a similar award in honor of [Monroe Woodbury wrestler] Vinny Vespa,” LaPorte said. “Vinny obviously had a full recovery and not only recovered but wrestled this year [and placed at the state tournament].  It really means so much to be able to do something for these guys.  If we can make any difference at all, we’ll give it the old college try to make it happen.  I made a speech and told everyone that before they fall asleep at night to think of Scott Kropman and then fall asleep with good thoughts and hope something positive comes out of it.”

There were many positives during the weekend. And it looks like the 2014 version of the Northeast Youth Duals is on the path to even more good things.  Despite expanding the event to 14 teams this year, LaPorte had to turn squads away.  He said every group verbally committed to returning next summer, along with the strong possibility of some West Coast flavor.

“A team from Gilroy, California wanted to come this year,” LaPorte said. “But the date conflicted with their biggest fundraiser of the year.  My phone rang on Sunday night and it was the California coach asking if we approved a date change for next year so they could be here.  It will be exciting to have some California kids come out and roll with our East Coast kids.  It will raise the level of the event.”

The level was high in 2013.  And LaPorte wished to acknowledge the many people who helped make it happen.

“There were some great people who played important roles,” he said. “Our club secretary Shannon Roberson went beyond the call of duty with things like custom made scorebooks and brochures to make it a great experience for everybody.  Chris Marsh and my brother Paco LaPorte were great.  And it couldn’t happen without the whole community behind me.  It was a true community effort in Hoosick Falls. I appreciate everything the village has done. Because of the efforts of so many and great competition, I think the event was even more well received than in the past.”

 

Weaver Elite – Lineup (*From Weaver Elite Website)

48 Ben Finelli

53 CJ Horvath

58 Evan Maag

63 Nico Nardone

68 Wil Guida

73 Tal Flemming

78 Josh Stahl

85 Cole Handlovic

93 LJ Khan

99 Ben Huber

105 Devon Britton

112 Reed Custer

119 Chase Anklum

126 Aiden Montiverdi

134 Mike Labriola

150 Kade Moisey

Young New York Talent Ready to Take On the West Coast Through NYWAY Trips

“The mystique of getting on a plane and traveling all the way across the country is unbelievable for the kids,” Michael LaPorte said.

A number of young wrestlers from New York will be experiencing that mystique over the next few weeks as part of a pair of NYWAY trips.  On November 1, a group of elementary school grapplers will head to Las Vegas for the NUWAY Southwest Kickoff.  About a week later, a contingent of middle schoolers will make the journey to California to take part in the Final Four Duals and Junior Mid Cals.

Carson Alberti, Courtesy of Cobra Wrestling

Both trips involve plenty of high quality wrestling as well as an opportunity to see the surrounding areas.

The Vegas-bound crew includes 11 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.

“We wanted to give kids a chance to see a new place and showcase them in a different environment,” said Kevin Lucinski, who is leading the trip. “We’ll do a little sightseeing when we get there and then wrestle in the tournament.  I think we’re all looking forward to seeing some different styles of wrestling.  When you go to different parts of the country, different things are emphasized.  Personally, I’m anxious to see the kids from California and Nevada.  Some of the brackets have Reno Worlds placers and champions.  It gives our kids a chance to test themselves and shows everyone that even if you’re the best in your state, you still have to work really hard because there are so many good wrestlers out there.”

The list of wrestlers going to Vegas includes: Carson Alberti, AJ Burkhart, Josh Gill, Michael Gonyea, Jason Hoffman, Justin Hoffman, Andy Lucinski, Jakob Lucinski, Caiden MondoreMitchell Seaver, Garrett Skeens and Carter Schubert.

Golden State Adventure

Matthew LaPorte and Orion Anderson, Courtesy of Michael LaPorte

LaPorte, who led the trip to Northern California last year as well, never had any doubt that he wanted to return again in 2012.

“Just hearing the kids talking amongst themselves about how much fun they were having was worth all the hard work that goes into it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do it again.  It’s really important to helping the sport grow in New York and having the kids advance as much as they possibly can. Having West and East coast meet each other is something special.”

There were some exciting matchups last year for the Empire State squad.  The team placed fourth at the dual meet competition and had two wrestlers win individual titles as well.  Both of those grapplers, Orion Anderson and Dane Heberlein, are coming back.

“It’s always great competition,” LaPorte said.  “Orion (80 pounds) was the only New York wrestler to go undefeated last year on both days.  He had some close matches, but he always came out on top. I think some of those California kids will be looking for him because of his performance last year.  Dane will be at 90 pounds.  He’s super excited about going back.  He was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler last year and I think some of those West Coast kids will be looking for another chance at him as well.”

Also returning is Matthew Laporte (70 pounds), who registered a number of victories in 2011.   Joining the team will be Isaiah Bailey, Anthony Cirillo, Grant CuomoAntonio Cutrie, Connor Fredericks, Michael Gonyea, Jason Hoffman, Stephen KapuscinskiZach Kornberg and Dillan Palaszewski.

What excites LaPorte about the squad is that it brings wrestlers from all over the Empire State.

“The really good thing is that we were able to get a nice balance of the state with the addition of a few Long Island kids this year,” LaPorte said.  “Just about every area of New York has some representation, which is a good, healthy sign.”

According to NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg, the organization is working to expand to cover more of the Empire State this coming season.

“In representing New York with wrestlers from all corners of the state, it helps us get the word out about the many things that we are trying to do to increase opportunities for our young wrestlers. This year we hope to have the same broad representation at our NYWAY State Championships, which will serve to coalesce our season.”

As is the case with the Vegas trip, NYWAY will be covering a large portion of the wrestler costs.  According to LaPorte, the cost to each wrestler to go to California, including airfare, hotel, custom singlets, event entry costs is $250.

Like last year, the team will take some time to explore San Francisco in addition to both a dual event and an individual tournament.

“We’ll get there on Friday and have some time to rest,” he said. “Then, we’ll wrestle in the Final Four duals on Saturday and the Mid Cals on Sunday.  On Monday, which is a holiday, our agenda is to take the kids sightseeing – the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf.  It will be a great end to the trip.”

As for accomplishments on the mat, LaPorte said he’d like to improve upon last year’s fourth place showing in the duals.

“We’d like to be top three as a team this time,” he said. “And we want to place as many kids as possible into the finals on the second day.  But the biggest thing for me is making sure that it’s a great experience for the kids.  It’s great for them to know there’s so much more out there in wrestling and outside of it.  It’s really rewarding for me as a coach to be part of it.”

"Riot" Recap: NY Wrestlers Excel, Superior Takes Second and Vinny Vespa Recognized at Northeast Youth Duals

The rain came down in buckets on the roof of the open-air venue in Hoosick Falls on Saturday.  But it didn’t stop the intensity of the wrestling for a second nor did it take away from the experience at the Third Annual Northeast Youth Duals, otherwise known as, “The Riot at the Rink.”

“It was like the end of the year bash,” said Superior Wrestling Academy coach Ed Schafer. “You couldn’t pick a better place and it had everything you need for a great tournament.”

According to event director Michael LaPorte, everyone remained dry and the 12-team dual meet competition featuring wrestlers from more than 10 states continued without interruption, with NJ Elite emerging as the championship squad.

The Garden State-based team swept its contests in convincing fashion.

“NJ Elite went undefeated and no one really even came close to them,” LaPorte said. “They were well coached, very deep and had no holes.  It was obvious that every one of those wrestlers has been on the mat for a long time. They were really tough.”

Also very tough was Superior Wrestling Academy, which finished in the runner up spot with a lineup full of wrestlers from the Empire State.

The top two teams met in the opening round on Saturday and it wasn’t quite the start Schafer and his team desired.

“We lost our first dual to NJ Elite right off the jump,” Schafer said.  “If you looked at the score, you’d think we got shellacked. But there were some overtime matches and a bunch of one-point matches that didn’t go our way.  A lot of kids that age could have bagged it mentally and said ‘we’re done.’  But they held their composure and responded.”

Indeed, the Superior wrestlers did.  That first loss was the only setback of the weekend, as they came back to take the silver medal.

“We felt we could make a run at the title coming into the event with the team we had,” Schafer said.  “The level of the competition was over and above what we expected.  But the way the kids competed after the first dual and took true second, that was the best part of the weekend for me.” (See team roster below).

Leading the charge for Superior was a trio of unbeaten wrestlers – Freddy Eckles, Bryce Bailey and Dakota Gardner.  Gardner took sixth place at 120 pounds at the New York state championships this year as an eighth grader.

“When that whistle blows, Gardner is like a little hand grenade out there,” LaPorte said.  “He’s an exceptional athlete.  He was one of many tremendous wrestlers on the mats this weekend.  I felt that the level of wrestling this year was unbelievable — some of the best youth wrestling I’ve ever seen.  The referees were telling me that they were in awe of the abilities of some of these kids.  Sometimes when I watched, I lost track of the fact that they are just young kids.” (The tournament was limited to wrestlers 14 and under).

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

The coaches mentioned a plethora of grapplers who impressed, including Joe Manno of Apex and Peter Del Gallo of Mercury Rising, who according to LaPorte, didn’t yield any points during the weekend.

In fact, when the coaches were asked to vote for the Most Outstanding Wrestler, there were many nominees.  But the trophy went to Brian Courtney of the New York-based G2 World Wrestling Academy for his outstanding efforts.

“Brian Courtney is a great young man in addition to being a great wrestler,” LaPorte said.

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

Courtney and his G2 teammates (see roster below) had a successful weekend, taking fourth place overall in the team race and according to coach Adam Burgos, they’ll be back for another run in 2013.

Superior and G2 were joined by a third Empire State squad in the championship pool.  Team New York, headed by LaPorte, took sixth.

“I couldn’t have been happier with the way our team wrestled,” LaPorte said. “We had at least four kids on our team that had just one loss.  That was tough to do here where there were so many champions and placers from state and national events.”

While the wrestling was the centerpiece of the weekend, the highlight for LaPorte came away from the action, during the awards ceremony.

Many New York wrestling fans are supporting Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa in his battle with cancer.  (For more on Vinny Vespa, see here). Vespa, a state qualifier in 2012, participated in Riot at the Rink for the Olympic Wrestling Club a year ago and returned this weekend to watch his team and his younger brother Marco.

However, Vespa became more than a spectator after the competition was over.  He was called to the mat to receive donations collected throughout the weekend as well as a card and “Riot at the Rink” banner signed by all of the athletes, coaches and fans.  And then, Vinny Vespa was asked to hand out an award, named after him, to a wrestler determined by the Olympic Club.  That recipient was Marco Vespa.

“I felt horrible that I couldn’t make it to the Victory 4 Vinny Takedown Tournament a few weeks ago,” LaPorte said. “We were glad to do a small fundraiser and have everyone sign a card and banner for Vinny.  It was extremely surprising and gratifying that Vinny came to the event.  When he came out on to the middle of the mat, it was a little bit of a tearjearking moment.  I felt like we did a little bit to make a difference and that was the highlight of the weekend for me.”

It wasn’t the only highlight.  While the planned swimming, golf and live band on Saturday evening couldn’t take place due to the inclement weather, LaPorte found different ways to put smiles on people’s faces that night.

“On Sunday, we were able to get in the pool and there was a barbecue,” LaPorte said. “But on Saturday night when the rain was there, I brought a limousine as sort of a team bus, just for fun. We took some of the kids for a ride in the limo, which they got a big kick out of.  I kept telling them, ‘this is how we roll in New York’.  We definitely got some laughs.”

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

So it was a weekend with a high-end car and high-end wrestling. And both LaPorte and Schafer believed it was a good barometer of where New York wrestling is heading.

“To have that amount of talent show up in the middle of the summer to the middle of nowhere, that says something about the strength of our sport,” LaPorte said.  “It’s a good healthy sign that things are going in the right direction, as is the support we’re getting from the clubs, the schools, the community. I believe it shows that New York wrestling is going the right way. Now it’s time to see what we can do for 2013.  I can’t wait to see what next year brings.”

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Check out more photos from the event at:  http://www.davegilchrestphotography.com

Team Results

Champion: NJ Elite

2nd Place: Superior

3rd Place: Olympic Gold

4th Place: G2 World Wrestling Academy

5th Place: Mass Maniacs

6th Place: Team NY

7th Place: Apex

8th Place: Marcaurelle

9th Place: Virginia Slaughter House Black

10th Place: Mercury Rising

11th Place: Olympic Black

12th Place: Virginia Slaughter House Blue

 

Superior Wrestling – 2nd Place Team:

Johnny Aceri

Bryce Bailey

Emerson Block

Jon DeRidder

Freddy Eckles

Ethan Ferro

Dakota Gardner

Myles Griffin

Nathaniel Grubham

Kyle Mock

Stevo Poulin

Theo Powers

JP Puca

Drew Schafer

Jace Schafer

Carter Schubert

Joey Sliowski

Mike Venosa

G2 World Wrestling Academy – 4th Place Team:

48 Pounds: Michael Santore

53 Pounds: Carson Alberti

58 Pounds: Andy Lucinski

63 Pounds: Greg Diakomihalis

68 Pounds: Ryan Burgos

73 Pounds: Max Kropman

78 Pounds: Cooper Kropman

85 Pounds: Brian Courtney

93 Pounds: Derek St. James

99 Pounds: Parker Kropman

105 Pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis

112 Pounds: Louie DePrez

119 Pounds: Charlie Kane

126 Pounds: Keith Penny

134 Pounds: Logan Smith