Kicking Off With the Pride: Hofstra 2013-14 Season Preview

Hofstra sent three wrestlers to the NCAA tournament in Iowa in 2013.  Two of those grapplers, Jamie Franco and Luke Vaith, return and with the addition of some fresh faces to the lineup and the development of some returners, there is a lot of optimism in Hempstead about what could be in store. New York Wrestling News spoke to assistant coach Zach Tanelli about changing conferences, the addition of transfers and the projected lineup for the 2013-14 campaign.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): You had a lot of success in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).  How do you feel about the move to the EIWA conference this year?

Zach Tanelli (ZT): We’re really excited about the opportunity to be in a conference as prestigious as the EIWA. Nothing against the CAA, but we just feel that this is a conference that better suits our team and will provide us with some tough challenges.

NYWN: Last year, you began the season with Minnesota and Wisconsin and faced a number of other top teams in the first half of the campaign, such as Iowa and Ohio State. What are some of the highlights of this year’s schedule?

ZT: We toned down our schedule a little bit, in part because we’ll be seeing some better teams in the EIWA.  A lot of our rivalries were with EIWA teams anyway, so we’re looking forward to those matches having added meaning.

You always want to have a good dual meet team but unless and until scoring is changed at the NCAAs, you need individuals to perform in the tournament setting where there’s adversity and you have to know how to respond if you take a loss.  So it’s always important to go to some of the top tournaments in the country because they’re test runs for the NCAAs. We’ll be doing that by going to [The Cliff Keen Invitational in] Las Vegas and the Southern Scuffle. These tournaments give you an opportunity to show you belong with the top guys.  To win those tournaments or place high, you have to beat some of the best.  Our team will have that opportunity.

NYWN: What do you think are the expectations for the team this year?

ZT: Expectations are lower for us externally, with only Luke Vaith in many of the rankings, but we feel differently.  We feel like we’re a darkhorse.  We think we’re definitely a top three team in the conference. We know there are tough teams like Cornell and Penn, but we feel that we match up well.  We need to win those head to head matchups, but we think a top three finish is likely and that we can sneak in higher in our first year. We definitely think we have guys who have what it takes to be All-Americans this year and other guys who will be national qualifiers. Time will tell.  We’re really excited about the season.

NYWN:  The season is right around the corner.  You have the Hofstra Wrestling Kickoff Banquet [6:30 p.m. at the Long Island Marriott] this Saturday, followed by the season opener against Rutgers at home on Sunday.  Tell us about those two events.

ZT: We like to do our kickoff to bring people together before the high school season starts, to get everyone excited about the season.  It will be an opportunity for people to meet [former Hofstra wrestler and UFC champion] Chris Weidman and see what he has to say.  He’ll also be at the match.  The Rutgers match should be a good dual to start off the season against a local team that we want to be facing every year.

NYWN: Let’s take a look at the wrestlers who look to play key roles for the Pride in 2013-14.

125

Franco, Photo by BV

Jamie Franco started for Hofstra at 133 for the past few years, making NCAA tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013.  This March, he won a pair of bouts in Des Moines.  For his senior season, the former Section 9 star will move down to 125, where he hopes to end his career on the podium.

“Jamie feels great at this weight,” Tanelli said. “I’m amazed at how he’s progressed and how strong he is.  It’s a natural fit for him.  He’s not getting much respect in the rankings, but we don’t care about that.  It’s a good spot to be in – low expectations for now. He wrestles well as an underdog and will prove himself early on.”

133

Jamel Hudson and Maverick Passaro were both Division I New York state champions in 2012.  Hudson had a successful redshirt year for the Pride and looked strong in freestyle, placing at events such as the University Nationals. Passaro returned to Long Island from Rutgers after an year disrupted by injuries. Hudson won the wrestle-off last week by a 7-2 score and will take the mat for the Pride against the Scarlet Knights.

“We think our lower weights are very strong and 133 is a big part of that,” Tanelli said. “Jamel is a really exciting wrestler and we think he can do very well this year.”

141

Vaith, Photo by BV

Luke Vaith topped multiple All-Americans last year and won a bout at the NCAA tournament.  The staff believes he has what it takes for a breakthrough senior campaign.

“Luke will be tested right off the bat, especially on our trip to Virginia [November 8-10],” Tanelli said. “He’ll face All-Americans Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) and Evan Henderson (North Carolina). They’re both ranked in the top five. It’s a heck of a time to show the country you’re a true contender.  We feel confident he can beat both of those guys and we feel strongly as a staff that he can win a national title.”

149

Cody Ruggirello and Cam Tessari faced off in last Friday’s wrestle-offs with Tessari winning by a 5-3 score.  It will be Ruggirello who will begin the season as the starter, however, as Tessari plans to return to action later in the campaign.

“They’ll probably wrestle off again close to the second semester,” Tanelli said. “Cody is our starter for the first half of the year. He looks good. Cam will be ready by the Southern Scuffle.  He’ll acclimate and adjust and be ready to go for the second part of the year.  The National Duals are at Ohio State this year and he’s hoping to compete in front of his family.” [Tessari is from the Buckeye State].

157

Nick Terdick started for the squad as an undersized 165 pounder a year ago, but has moved down to 157 for 2013-14.

“Nick is a super talented guy who has come a long way with his confidence,” Tanelli said. “He was in a weight class that wasn’t ideal for him last year, but he’s put in a nice offseason and is hitting his stride. I think he’s ready for a big jump.”

165

Joe Booth’s sixth-year of eligibility was officially granted by the NCAA a few weeks ago.  Now, the former Drexel grappler, a multiple-time NCAA qualifier, will look to take advantage of the opportunity in his last season as a college wrestler.

“It’s refreshing to have Joe in the room,” Tanelli said. “He’s a guy who really wants to be there because he has perspective from not fulfilling all of his goals.  He was training for the first month without knowing if he’d get the year from the NCAA.  He was training blindly, just hoping to get his shot.  It was a big sigh of relief for him and he views it as a second chance to finally accomplish his goals.  I think he struggled in the past with workout partners and maybe got in his own way sometimes. Having [assistant coaches] Dan Vallimont and Ryan Patrovich to work with has given him a whole new confidence. We feel very strongly about what he can do in March – we expect him to be an All-American.  He’s a pleasure to have in the room.”

174

Last Wednesday, a 174-pound wrestle-off took place, including last year’s starter, Jermaine John, Dave Heitman and Victor Pozsonyi.  A year after splitting time at higher weights (184/197) as a true freshman, it was Pozsonyi, the sophomore from New Jersey, who defeated the other two competitors (3-2 over John and 5-3 over Heitman).  Tanelli said earlier this week that either Pozsonyi or John will start, with the other redshirting.

“Victor has made huge gains since last year,” Tanelli said. “He’s come a long way and we’re excited to see what he can do.  Jermaine has been on a steady incline since he got here.  He’s gotten better every year.  He’s a fighter who is a very good listener and hard worker.”

184

After Pozsonyi won the initial 174-pound competition, the previously mentioned John, Heitman and freshman Dwight Howes took the mat in a round robin event at last Friday’s wrestle-offs. Howes went 2-0 in the mini-tournament, topping Heitman (6-2) and John (6-5).  The freshman from Colorado arrived in Hempstead this year after spending time after high school training at the Olympic Training Center and Tanelli said he will be the starter at this weight.

“Dwight doesn’t mind people shooting on him – he’s actually comfortable when guys get in on his legs,” the assistant coach said. “He scores off other people’s attacks.  He’ll have to make adjustments as the season progresses, but it’s always exciting to watch him compete because he loves to wrestle live.  It’s a good thing – you want guys who enjoy competition as much as he does.”

197

There weren’t any 197 pound wrestle-off bouts last week.  However, according to Tanelli, Heitman will take this spot for the Pride.  In addition, Tanelli said Zeal McGrew, who competed at heavyweight a year ago, has begun to make the move down to be in the mix for the 197 spot.

“[Heitman] has a lot of heart and works very hard,” Tanelli said. “You never have to watch him and wonder – he’s always on track, doing the right things. He’s a great guy for the room who has earned his shot.”

285

Photo by BV

Mike Hughes had a perfect high school season for Smithtown West in 2012-13, winning a state championship with 42 wins and 31 pins.  He has separated himself in the Hofstra room and will get the nod as a true freshman at heavyweight.

“Mike Hughes is our starter,” Tanelli said. “He’s come in and done a great job. He looks very good in the room. We’re excited about his future here.  We just need him to stay healthy and keep moving forward.”

——————–

Can Jamie Franco and Luke Vaith end their Hofstra careers on the podium?  How high will the squad place in its first season in the EIWA? We’ll see very soon what the Hofstra Pride will look like in 2013-14, as the season kicks off this Sunday at home against current EIWA foe Rutgers at 1 p.m.

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What's Happening at Hofstra? Assistant Coach Zach Tanelli Talks About All-American Tessari, Transfers and More As the Season Gets Closer

Hofstra brings back a pair of NCAA qualifiers –  Luke Vaith and Jamie Franco – and has added a number of transfers and other newcomers to the roster for the upcoming campaign.  New York Wrestling News caught up with assistant coach Zach Tanelli to talk about some of the new faces and the outlook for this season.

 

New York Wrestling News (NYWN):  Is the transfer of [2012 All-American] Cam Tessari from Ohio State official?

Zach Tanelli (ZT): Yes. [Last week] Cam Tessari was accepted to Hofstra and he’s enrolled in classes.

We’re really excited about it.  Cam was looking for a home and it’s a weight class [149 pounds] where we felt we needed more experience.  It’s a great thing that it worked out. It really solidifies the lower part of our lineup.

He has a redshirt available, but we’re not looking to redshirt him this year. Right now we’re looking to have him ready to go for the Southern Scuffle.  He is coming off an injury and we’ll be easing him back. We expect him to be healthy and strong and ready to make a deep run at the national tournament.  He has two years of eligibility left and three years to do it in.

NYWN: Joe Booth, who wrestled for Drexel, has also been rumored to be transferring to Hofstra.  Is there anything you can share on that?

ZT:  Joe has been accepted into grad school at Hofstra, so it’s just a matter of waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him a sixth year of eligibility.  He’ll be at Hofstra next year in grad school, in a business-related program that they didn’t have at Drexel.  We feel pretty confident that the NCAA will grant him the extra year, but you never know. We’ll just have to wait and see.  We have some experience with sixth year guys, like Justin Accordino last year. It’s great to have guys like that around the team.  Justin was a role model and a leader; a voice the guys listened to.  Having those sixth year guys around has benefits beyond wins and losses.  If Joe gets the year, he would wrestle at 165.

NYWN: In addition to Tessari, Booth and Maverick Passaro, who we profiled a few weeks ago (here), do you expect any other transfers on your team this year?

ZT: I’d say our roster for next year is full.  Those three transfers are the only ones we expect this year, and I’ll definitely take it.  We’re really excited about them.

NYWN: There are some other new faces that could see mat time this year.   One wrestler who had a good redshirt year and some success in freestyle in the offseason is 2012 state champion Jamel Hudson.  What expectations do you have for him this year?

ZT: The plan right now is for him to go 133.  It looks like he will be competing with Maverick Passaro for the spot. He had a good redshirt year with some impressive wins.  Probably the best win was against Franklin & Marshall’s Ricky Durso, who made the Round of 12 at NCAAs.  Jamel was one of Durso’s few losses coming into the NCAA tournament.  Jamel showed signs of being able to perform at a very high level.  He’s a performer – he really enjoys the spotlight. I think the sky’s the limit if he has his weight under control.  He needs to grow throughout the season and mature wrestling-wise.  But he’s a very confident young man and he could have an impact on the national scene.

NYWN: Another newcomer familiar to New York wrestling fans is Smithtown West state champion Mike Hughes at 285.  Do you expect him to step on the mat right away?

ZT: It will be a competition between him and Zeal McGrew, two New York guys. We’ll see how it goes. They’ll wrestle off.  It looks as though Mike is the frontrunner at this time. But Zeal’s been working and is motivated to try and get in the lineup.  We’re excited about that weight class because we feel like we’ll be scoring points there this year.

NYWN: What can you tell us about [184-pounder] Dwight Howes, who spent time at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) after graduating high school?

ZT:  Dwight spent the majority of 2012 and 2013 at the OTC competing in freestyle, trying to make a US World Team.  He’s done a nice job and really developed with some great wins on the freestyle circuit. Now, he’s adapting to college wrestling.  He’s done a great job so far; he really loves wrestling.  He also loves Hofstra. He wants to put that singlet with an ‘H’ on his chest and represent this university. He’s excited to come to the room every day – he doesn’t care if you’re 125 pounds, 225 pounds or 325 pounds, he wants to wrestle and wrestle hard.  He needs to get his conditioning up and work on his mat wrestling like most freshmen.   I feel optimistic about his future in this program.

NYWN: You mentioned Jamel Hudson and Maverick Passaro at 133 earlier.  Is Jamie Franco moving down to 125 for his senior year?

ZT: Yes.  It’s a little more of a natural weight for him. He built himself up to be a 133, but 125 is his natural class.  I think he’s right around the weight he should be right now.  He’s done a great job. He’s really focused and motivated and taking all the necessary measures to be an All-American.

NYWN: Will Luke Vaith be back at 141 pounds?

ZT: Yes. I think Luke is going to have a breakout year.  He’s a very self motivated wrestler. He’s always asking to work.  He had a great season last year; although a little inconsistent at times.  The biggest thing he learned is that he belongs at this level.  He belongs in the conversation with All-Americans and national champions.

The biggest change this offseason for him is his mat wrestling. He’s worked a lot with [Edinboro NCAA champion] Gregor Gillespie, who was one of the best in the NCAA in top wrestling.  Luke has been hammering the mat work.  We’ve had lots of conversations that at the highest level, you have to be able to ride those last 15 seconds or you have to be able to escape in those last 15 seconds. It’s pivotal and he gets that.

He’s a really tough critic of himself.  He almost didn’t believe how good he was until after he looked back at his total body of work last year. When he looks back at last season, he sees he beat All-Americans like [Minnesota’s Nick] Dardanes and [Cornell’s Mike] Nevinger.  He has a lot more confidence and I think he’s poised and ready to make a deep run this year.

NYWN: Anything else going on at Hofstra that you’d like to share?

ZT: We’re just soaking up these last two weeks, and before you know it, school’s here. Everyone is on their summer programs and we’ll be hitting the ground running in a few weeks.  We’re excited for a new year. We feel like we have a nice mix of guys, new and veteran, who will help us do much better and outperform what we did last year.

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

Long Island's X-Cel Advances to the Semifinals at Pop & Flo National Duals on Saturday

 
 
X-Cel won the title at the Pop & Flo National Duals last year.  The Long Island group will try to repeat that feat on Sunday after advancing to the semifinals on the first day of competition.

The squad looked completely dominant early, opening with a 84-0 blanking of Kryptonite Wrestling Club, followed by a 71-6 triumph over Journeymen Gold.  The quarterfinals brought a tougher challenge, however, as X-Cel squared off with Dark Knights of Pennsylvania.

Two-time state champion Nick Piccininni got the New Yorkers off to a good start with a major decision at 120 pounds.  However, the opponents from the Keystone State responded with three consecutive victories from 125 to 135 to take a 12-4 advantage.

Fabian, Photo by BV

The two teams then traded wins over the next several matches, beginning with a pin by Sacred Heart-bound TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River at 140.  The Dark Knights were victorious at 145 and 160, while state champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham earned a 5-4 win at 152 and Steven Schneider got his hand raised at 170 with an overtime triumph.  After regulation ended deadlocked at 1, and there was no scoring in sudden victory, Schneider rode his opponent out for the entire 30 seconds and then escaped when it was his turn on bottom to make the team score 19-16 in favor of the Pennsylvania squad.

After the Dark Knights extended their advantage to 22-16 with a decision at 182, Chris Chambers put four big points on the board for X-Cel with a major at 195, followed by a 9-3 decision by Steven Mills at 220 to put the Long Island group ahead for the first time since early in the dual.  When a forfeit at heavyweight was tacked on, X-Cel took a 29-22 lead as the meet returned to the lightweights.

At 106, the Dark Knights made things interesting, earning a fall to make it 29-28 in favor of X-Cel with just one match remaining.  In that contest, former Wantagh star Jose Rodriguez took control with an early takedown and got his hand raised to push X-Cel to the 32-28 win and to the semifinals on Sunday against Iron Horse (New Jersey).

The 32-team High School field included many squads from New York, including teams from Ascend, Cellar Dwellers, Cobra, Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, Iowa Style, Journeymen, Port Jervis, Razor and 631 Elite.

Meanwhile, close to half of the squads in the Youth field came from New York as well.

In addition to Sunday’s action to determine placement in the team standings, there will be some great bouts on Saturday night.  At 8:30 p.m., some of the top individuals will take the mat for an All-Star dual.

Included are a number of New Yorkers, for example (matches subject to change):

83: Adam Busiello (631 Elite) vs. Patrick Glory (A&B Core)

88: Dillan Palaszewski (Journeymen) vs. Gavin Teasdale (Young Guns)

106: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cobra) vs. Devin Brown (Young Guns)

120: Nick Piccininni (X-Cel) vs. Mickey Phillipi (Young Guns)

125: William Koll (FLWC) vs. Kevin Jack (Iowa Style)

140: Nick Kelley (Journeymen) vs. Anthony Ashnault (SKWC)

182: Dan McDevitt (Ascend) vs. Luke Farinaro (Iron Horse)

220: Rich Sisti (Apex) vs. Michael Boykins (Rt. 100)

100: Sam Sasso (Dark Knights) vs. Vince Andreano (APEX)

140: Jason Nolf (Young Guns) vs. Scott Delvecchio (Iron Horse)

152: BJ Clagon (Apex) vs. Miguel Calixto (Catamounts)

170: Chris Koo (Ascend) vs. Ethan Ramos (Iron Horse)

195: Reggie Williams (FLWC) vs. Evan Ramos (Iron Horse)

285: Mike Hughes (X-Cel) vs. Jesse Webb (Catamount)

A Quick Look at the National Ratings: Who From New York Ended the Year Ranked?

 
 
Who ended the 2012-13 campaign in the national rankings? We took a look at the most recent postings by Intermat, Flowrestling, Amateur Wrestling News and WIN to see which New Yorkers were included. The rankings by the former two sites were updated after the NHSCA/Flowrestling events, while the others are from before those tournaments occured.

A number of wrestlers were named on one or more of the websites, with sophomore Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville, junior Burke Paddock of Warsaw and senior Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West ranked in the top 20 at their weights by all four of those publications.

Piccinnini, Photo by BV

Piccininni, a two-time state champion, is Flo’s #7 113 pounder in the nation. He ranges from #15-18 on the other sites.  He is also a top 30 recruit in the Class of 2015 according to both Intermat and Flo.

Grimaldi and Paddock ensured that the Empire State is well represented in the 160-pound standings. Paddock ranges between #10 (Intermat) and #15 (Flo) and is also a top 100 recruit in the class of 2014, according to Intermat and Flo.  Meanwhile, Grimaldi is #12 by both Intermat and WIN and #14 and 16 on the other sites.

While not in the top 20 at their weights at this point, Intermat believes both Greene’s Christian Dietrich and Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis are among the elite wrestlers at their grade levels. In addition, Flowrestling ranks Diakomihalis and Eastport South Manor’s Adam Busiello among the country’s best at the junior high level.

For the full list of rankings, see below: (Please comment with any changes or additions).

SENIORS

Zach Bacon (Hornell) #17 at 220 (Intermat), #18 at 220 (AWN)

TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River) Top 100 Senior recruit (Intermat), #9 at 126 (Intermat), #12 at 126 (Flo)

Tyler Grimaldi (Half Hollow Hills West) Top 100 Senior in the Nation (Flo), #12 at 160 (both Intermat and WIN), #14 at 160 (AWN), #16 at 160 (Flo)

Mike Hughes (Smithtown West) #18 at 285 (Intermat)

Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) #13 at 138 (WIN)

Nick Tighe (Phoenix) #17 at 138 (AWN)

Zack Zupan (Canastota) Top 100 Senior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #8 at 182 (Intermat), #16 at 182 (AWN), #15 at 182 (Flo)

JUNIORS

James O’Hagan (Seaford) #20 at 285 (Intermat)

Burke Paddock (Warsaw) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #10 at 160 (Intermat), #11 (WIN), #13 (AWN), #15 (Flo)

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #13 at 132 (Intermat), #18 at 132 (Flo)

Corey Rasheed (Longwood) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Flo), #13 at 152 (Flo), #16 (WIN)

SOPHOMORES

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville) Top 50 Sophomore in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #7 at 113 (Flo), #15 (Intermat), #17 (WIN), #18 (AWN)

FRESHMEN

Christian Dietrich (Greene) Top 20 Freshman in the Nation (Intermat)

JUNIOR HIGH

Adam Busiello (Eastport South Manor) Top 50 Junior High Wrestler in the Nation (Flo)

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton) Top 10 Junior High Wrestler in the Nation (Intermat and Flo)

 

**AWN Rankings are from March 14; WIN rankings are from April 2, Flo and Intermat rankings more recent

No Time to Waste: Michael Hughes Looks to Keep Winning (and Pinning) at Hofstra

 
 
About 50 minutes.  That’s the total time future Hofstra heavyweight Michael Hughes spent on the mat this year on his way to an undefeated campaign and a state championship for Smithtown West.

That’s an average of less than a minute and a half per match (for his 34 bouts, excluding forfeits).  Not too surprising since he wrestled into the second period only six times all season.

“I expected to be really dominant this year,” Hughes said. “After training with the partners my coaches brought in for me, who are bigger than me and tossed me around, it was so much easier in the matches.  I went on the mat thinking there would be no fooling around.  No matter who I was wrestling or how good they were, I wanted to end it as quickly as possible and show everyone I was the best.”

Photo by BV

The best in Section 11?  He demonstrated that with an exclamation point.  It took him less than two and a half minutes to pin his four Suffolk tournament opponents to capture his second straight Sectional title and punch his ticket back to the Times Union Center.

“I guess I was a little surprised at how fast it was,” Hughes said. “I think I was expecting it to take a little bit longer — but not too much longer. When I got after people, they couldn’t stay with me.  I went all out.”

And that’s exactly what he planned to do in his last chance in Albany as well.  As a junior, he took sixth at the state tournament.  In 2013, he was determined to show that he was #1 in the Empire State despite entering as the number four seed.

“I definitely couldn’t wait to go back [to the state tournament],” he said. “I lost my last two matches there as a junior. It was a tough way to finish. I knew that wasn’t who I was as a wrestler.  It made me step up my training. I think taking sixth actually helped me.”

It may have done that, because the road to a title had a number of potential roadblocks, including foes such as 2012 state runner up El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia and Seaford’s James O’Hagan, the only wrestler to go the full six minutes with Hughes prior to the postseason (in a 4-0 Hughes victory).

“After looking at the bracket, I knew I had the tougher half,” Hughes said. “Last year, I had four of the six placers on my side and the same thing happened this year.  I knew I would have a tough match in the semis [which wound up being a 1-0 decision over O’Hagan], but I was confident about the finals.  I told the coaches that when I made the finals I would pin the kid no matter what.”

His prediction came true as he earned the fall against Spencerport’s Austin Coleman in just two and a half minutes.  And he didn’t just accomplish his mission to win it all.  He made some history as well, becoming Smithtown West’s first-ever state champion.

“I thought it was really cool,” Hughes said. “Knowing all the good wrestlers that came from Smithtown before and watching a lot of them when I was growing up, it was great to get the title for myself and for the school.”

The victories kept coming for Hughes.  He pinned Eric Chakonis in the decisive bout of the Pinning Down Autism Charity Challenge to ensure New York’s third straight dual victory over rival New Jersey.  And a few weeks later, he rebounded from an early 4-1 deficit against the previously mentioned Van Hoesen with a late third period takedown to win 5-4 in the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge, which eventually ended in a tie.

And he still wasn’t done.  Hughes said he wanted to make his mark on the national level and he checked that off the list as well as he made the trip to Virginia Beach to compete at the NHSCA Senior Nationals.

“I wanted to go down and compete against the best in the country to see how I would do,” he said. “I had no clue who anyone was or how good they were. I just thought if I wrestled hard, I could compete with anyone.  My goal at first was to be an All-American.”

He did more than that, going all the way to the championship contest before finishing as the runner up to Will Geary of Kansas.

“Making it to the finals was great.  I couldn’t be any happier,” Hughes said.  “I wish I won the last one, but second place was really great.”

It also spoke to the potential of the three-sport athlete who will fully focus on wrestling in the future after splitting his attention among football, wrestling and track in the past.

“For me, at the start of my senior year, I was trying to figure out what the best fit would be in college,” Hughes said. “I was torn between football and wrestling for a while, but in February, I decided.  I realized then that I didn’t have to ask myself which one I preferred anymore, I just knew that I wanted to wrestle.”

He’ll do that for the Pride after also considering Buffalo, Bloomsburg, Ohio and Sacred Heart.

“I wanted to stay close to home,” Hughes explained. “Hofstra has a great wrestling program and I loved the coaches. They have great personalities and are motivated to push the wrestlers to be the best they can.”

Hughes looks forward to the challenge and said he may add some size as he transitions to being a heavyweight at the college level.  However, he emphasized the importance of maintaining his quickness.  And he expects some other things to stay the same as well.

“I like when things come down to me,” he said. “I don’t want to settle for close matches, I want to keep ending them as quickly as possible.”

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Mike Hughes had a few people he wanted to thank:  “I want to thank my coaches for everything they’ve done for me, especially bringing people in to work with me and spending time after practice just working on the little things that made a difference.  I also want to thank all my friends and family for coming to watch me and supporting me. It was always a great feeling seeing they were there.”

**All match times taken from the NWCA High School Scorebook