Section 9 Preview: Five State Placers Return, Looking for More in 2013-14

 BY MIKE CAREY

Section 9 is the home of the top in-season tournament in New York – the Eastern States Classic.  However, it’s also the home of a number of wrestlers who made the medal stand in 2013 and have the potential to do even more this upcoming campaign.  Read on to find out more about what the Section has to offer in 2013-14.

Division I

Four Division I wrestlers return after reaching the podium in Albany a year ago — the Port Jervis duo of Dylan Booth and Dan DeCarlo, as well as Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa and Pine Bush’s John Stramiello.  Let’s take a look at those wrestlers, plus some others to watch in 2013-14.

Vinny Vespa (Monroe Woodbury) – After battling cancer, Vespa made an incredible return to the mat for the Crusaders, winning 40 matches and taking fifth at the state tournament at 99 pounds.  We’ll see what he can do for an encore, likely at 106.

John Stramiello (Pine Bush) – Stramiello, a four time state qualifier and three-time Section 9 champion, made his second appearance on the podium last February, taking sixth at 113 pounds.  (He was sixth at 106 as a sophomore).  In his senior campaign, Stramiello is looking for his highest finish, likely at 113.

Photo by Josh Conklin

Dylan Booth (Port Jervis) – Booth topped Stramiello three times last season, including in the fifth place bout at the Times Union Center.  After a strong season in which he racked up 34 victories, Booth will be looking for another All-State showing, either at 113 or 120 pounds.

Dan DeCarlo (Port Jervis) –  Like his teammate Booth, DeCarlo nabbed fifth in Albany last year (at 152 pounds).  A two-time Section 9 titlewinner, DeCarlo, who also was fourth at the Eastern States Classic, will move up to 160 this year.

Other than those returning placers, who is ready to make an impact?

From Monroe Woodbury, Evan Barczak and Rob Kelly are good candidates.  Barczak, now a freshman, was a Section champion as an eighth grader at 106 pounds and won a match at the state tournament.  In fact, his two losses in Albany were to the second and third place finishers, one of them in overtime.  He’s projected at 120 pounds this year.  Senior Rob Kelly was the runner up in Section 9 to NYS fourth placer Josh Bonneau at 220 pounds.  Kelly, who had 30 wins last year, will be a factor at either 220 or 285.

Minisink Valley’s Mike Raccioppi and Chris Truglio will be wrestlers to watch as well.  Raccioppi, a two-time state qualifier, was sixth at the Eastern States in a 43-victory campaign in which he defeated All-State wrestler Ryan Snow and won twice in Albany.  He’ll be a podium threat, likely at 138, this year. Truglio is expected to be back at 132, where he notched a win at the state tournament. Their teammate Gerard Daly was the Section 9 champion at 99 pounds in 2012, but missed last season with an injury.  He’s back and will surely be a factor at 113 or 120.

Warwick Valley junior Thomas Wightman dropped an overtime decision to All-State wrestler Matt Caputo in the opening round in Albany last year. The Section 9 champion won 28 bouts in 2012-13.  Look for him to make waves at 145.

James Bethel of Saugerties won 38 matches last year and really boosted his stock with a great offseason, including an undefeated showing at the Cadet Freestyle National Duals and an All-American performance at Fargo in Greco Roman (third at 220).

[2013 Eastern States champion at 99 pounds, Chris Cuccolo of Pine Bush, is now attending school in New Jersey.]

Team Race

Monroe Woodbury and Minisink Valley are the two teams everyone is looking at, but Section 9 will have a bit more depth this year than in the past few seasons.  Monroe Woodbury finished 2012-2013 ranked eighth in the New York State Sportswriters Association poll and they return a state placer (Vespa), two qualifiers (Barczak and PJ Smoot), and three other 20+ win wrestlers.  Meanwhile, Minisink Valley ended last season ranked 17th in New York and the squad returns Raccioppi, Truglio, and multiple other 20+ win wrestlers.

Warwick Valley will once again be in contention with an extremely strong middle of the line up featuring Wightman, Ryan Ferro, and AJ Aeberli.  Cornwall, with NYS Wrestling Hall of Fame coach Don Blaine, should never be overlooked and will have a few wrestlers with a legitimate shot at going to Albany.  Speaking of Hall of Fame coaches, Jeff Cuilty and Wallkill will surprise a lot of teams this year as a program on the rise.  We can also anticipate significant improvement out of Port Jervis, Middletown, Saugerties and NFA as the squads feature several wrestlers who have put in a lot of offseason work.

Division II

Ingraham, courtesy Skip Dickstein/Times Union

Highland’s Austin Ingraham earned sixth place at 113 pounds last year in Albany after coming one win from placing as a sophomore.  The senior will look to end his career in style, possibly at 113 but more likely at 120.

Who Are Some Other Wrestlers to Watch?

Matt Rauch (Red Hook) – The senior was undefeated going into the state tournament last year and had a solid performance in the state capital, finishing one win from placing at 126 pounds.

Sean Cramsie and Troy Grant (New Paltz) Like Rauch, both Cramsie and Grant represented Section 9 in Albany last year.  Both won a match at the Times Union Center, Cramsie at 132 and Grant at heavyweight.  Can they notch a few more victories this time around, likely at 138 and 285, respectively?

Dustin Mackenzie (Onteora) One of the most improved wrestlers in small school Section 9, the senior was a state qualifier last year at 195 pounds.  Look for him to build upon the 33 wins he compiled as a junior.

Edon Lulanaj (Eldred/Fallsburg) – The 2013 Section 9 finalist lost 1-0 to the previously mentioned Grant.  The senior is new to the sport, however, and has a lot of upside for his final high school campaign after going 20-3 last season.

Team Race

Onteora, Red Hook and Highland will be the teams everyone is gunning for this year in Division II.  All three squads are traditionally among the best in the Section and each also has five returning Section 9 medalists returning this year.  Ellenville could be the surprise team of the year, as the Blue Devils also bring back five Sectional placers, including finalists Nick Disessa-Leon and Javier Cortes.

[Aidan Mathews of Marlboro, a qualifier last year at 170, has moved to Wyoming Seminary].

Division I

Returning State Placers from 2013

Vinny Vespa (Monroe Woodbury) – fifth at 99

Dylan Booth (Port Jervis) – fifth at 113

Johnny Stramiello (Pine Bush) – sixth at 113

Dan DeCarlo (Port Jervis) – fifth at 152

Returning Qualifiers from 2013

Evan Barczak (Monroe Woodbury) 106

PJ Smoot (Monroe Woodbury) 120

Mike Raccioppi (Minisink Valley) 126

Chris Truglio (Minisink Valley) 132

Thomas Wightman (Warwick Valley) 138

Kyle McGuire (Newburgh) 170

Division II

Returning State Placer from 2013

Austin Ingraham (Highland) – sixth at 113

Returning Qualifiers from 2013

Taylor Benson (Red Hook) 99

Mike Felicano (Highland) 106

Matt Rauch (Red Hook) 126

Sean Cramsie (New Paltz) 132

Dustin Mackenzie (Onteora) 195

Troy Grant (New Paltz) 285

For more on Section 9 wrestling, see here.

 

For other Section previews see (more to come):

Section 3

Section 10

'The Right Fit': Monroe Woodbury State Placer AJ Voelker Chooses Buffalo

 
 
AJ Voelker left his recruiting trip to Bloomsburg with an interesting dilemma.

“After visiting and meeting Coach Stutzman [at Bloomsburg], AJ felt the coach was the right fit, but not the school,” said Bob Voelker, AJ’s father.

So Voelker continued to look around, focusing on institutions such as George Mason until he heard that Stutzman was leaving the EWL college to take the reins of the Buffalo program.

“I started looking at Buffalo right away,” AJ Voelker said. “Once I saw the campus and talked to [Stutzman] again, that was pretty much it. The campus is unbelievable. It’s just what I wanted. The facilities are very nice. Coach Stutzman is very intense; his practices are very tough and give me the best chance of placing at Nationals. He reminds me a lot of my coaches now [at Monroe Woodbury].”

Photo by BV

Voelker saw a lot of success for the Crusaders throughout his career, placing in Section 9 multiple times. But 2012-13 was a breakthrough year, as he made the podium at the Eastern States Classic, won the Sectional crown and took fourth in New York in his first trip to the state tournament.

That success came as a result of a lot of offseason effort. After missing out on a spot in Albany as a junior, Voelker wanted to make sure he was ready to make the most of his last chance. He said he worked out at Apex Wrestling, trained with Champion Athletes, lifted on his own and spent a lot of time with Coach Johnny Gartiser.

He also continued his move up in weight, going from 112 as a sophomore to 145/152 as a junior to 170 for his last high school run.

“I cut a lot of weight my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “Since then, I grew a lot and my coaches recommended that I cut less weight because they thought I wouldn’t be as tired at the end of the season. It worked out. Size wise, I wasn’t the biggest guy out there at 170, but I felt strong and I thought I could wrestle with anyone.”

He set his objectives: to be top four in New York, to control everyone in Section 9 and to join the 100-win club. He accomplished all of them, spurred by his performance at the Times Union Center in February.

After winning his opening two matches against Sonny McPherson of Indian River and Cedrick Stephens of Wingate in Albany, he said he injured his knee in the semifinals in a loss to St. Anthony’s Johnny Vrasidas. In order to make the bronze medal bout, he needed a victory against Franky Nassivera of Queensbury in the consolations.

“That was a really big match for me,” he said. “My knee was all messed up and I was down by four. I had to wrestle different because I couldn’t put pressure on my knee, I couldn’t really shoot the way I normally do. I hit a throw with about 30 seconds left to take the lead and rode him out to win it.”

That 5-4 triumph pushed him into the third place match, where he was defeated by Wantagh’s Dan McDevitt.

So with all those victories, what was the highlight of Voelker’s final high school season?

The future MAC grappler discussed Monroe Woodbury placing at the Union-Endicott Duals and earning a state ranking. And of course, he talked about winning the Section and making the medal stand at his last high school event. However, when asked about the top moment of the year, Voelker mentioned something else.

“The first highlight was seeing Vinny [Vespa] step on the mat,” he said of his teammate, who fought cancer to return to action about six months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. “I absolutely knew we’d see him wrestling again sometime because he’s the toughest kid I know. But for him to do it this year, it was insane.”

Voelker and his family were deeply involved in the fundraising activities for the Vespa family. At the Takedown Tournament held last summer, Voelker stepped on the mat against Vinny’s older brother Michael in an exhibition match. In an entertaining bout, Vespa hit a “flying squirrel”.

“It was a lot of fun,” Voelker said. “We were just going out there to goof around and [the flying squirrel] happened. It was actually something I was teaching him earlier that week and he did it.”

Voelker clearly did a good job of teaching and that’s something he hopes to do a lot more as he plans to pursue a degree in early education at Buffalo.

In addition to his academic path, Voelker also expects to pursue success on the mat – right away. He said he will compete for a spot in the lineup as a true freshman.

“I don’t plan to redshirt my first year,” he said. “I talked to Coach Stutzman and he thinks I’ll be fine after working out in the room with the way I push the pace on my feet and my top and bottom wrestling. I trust him. I can’t wait to get back on the mat. There aren’t a lot of guys that go Division I from Section 9. I want to rack up wins at the college level.”

U-E Duals Recap: Wantagh Rallies to Capture the Title . . . Plus Other Dominant and Inspiring Performances

Wantagh entered the Union-Endicott Duals as the top team in the Empire State, and after two intense days of wrestling, the Warriors left with that number one ranking intact.

But it wasn’t easy.

After two blowout victories on Day 1 of the event, Sunday brought semifinal and final matches that came down to the wire.  Wantagh prevailed in both, rallying to defeat the number two seed, Sachem East, 35-27 for the championship.

“I’m really happy for our coaches, the guys and the fans,” said 220-pounder TJ Ragusa who has spent much of the season at 220 but wrestled at 285 at times this weekend. “A lot of times these duals are won by the guys who don’t get pinned; who don’t give up bonus. It was a total group effort.”

The finals began at 120 pounds and Sachem East controlled things early, winning six of the first eight bouts and earning a 24-10 lead after Zac Nobre’s decision at 170.

Despite trailing by a sizable margin, members of the team said they believed they would turn things around.

“Our confidence never wavered,” Ragusa said. “We never lost it. I was having a conversation with Danny McDevitt during the dual when we were losing and we were saying that we knew we’d keep fighting and win. One of the keys for our team is that we’re always confident.”

That appeared to be the case, as Wantagh took over from there, capturing six of the remaining seven matches, beginning with a pin from McDevitt at 182.

Afterwards, Wantagh received wins from James Corbett (195), Ragusa (285) and Jonathan Loew (99) to trail by just a point – 27-26.

The Section 8 power then regained the lead in emphatic fashion when 106-pounder Kyle Quinn earned a first period fall to push his squad ahead 32-27. Joe Hill then closed out the championship with a decision at 113.

“Before the match I was thinking I had to get a pin for the team,” Quinn said. “It means a lot for us to win – it gives us something to go home with. I think Wantagh just did a great job as a team.”

The excitement wasn’t limited to the finals.  The third place dual between Islip and Shenendehowa as well as both semifinals (Shenendehowa vs. Sachem East and Wantagh vs. Islip) all were decided in the very last bout.

In the battle for the bronze, the Plainsmen got out to a fast start and following a major decision for 195-pounder Levi Ashley, the Section 2 school was in front 31-15 with five matches to go.  However, Islip took the next four (including two by Shenendehowa forfeit and a huge pin at 106 pounds by Johnny DiPalma) to win 36-34.

Close matches were on tap in the semifinals as well, which started at 106 pounds. Going into the last match at 99, both duals had two point differentials – Sachem East led Shenendehowa 32-30 and Islip was ahead of Wantagh 27-25.

The wrestlers from Sachem East (Bobby Fazio) and Wantagh (Jonathan Loew) both trailed early in their respective matches.

Fazio was behind 4-1 in the second period before notching an escape and a takedown late in the stanza to tie things up going into the third. And he took over from there, earning a technical violation point, an escape, a takedown, near fall and eventually, the pin, to push his team to a 38-30 triumph.

Wantagh’s Loew faced a 2-0 deficit heading into the third but got on the board with a takedown early in that final stanza and rode his opponent out for the last minute and a half to force overtime.  In that extra session, Loew immediately went on the attack, getting the winning takedown and a 28-27 Warrior win.

In other placement matches, Clarence topped Monroe Woodbury for fifth, 34-28, and MacArthur beat Spencerport, 33-29, for seventh.

For full results from all 15 teams see:  Full results here.

A Few Additional (Random) Notes:

Dominance from the Binghamton Trio:  There was some talk at the event about who the most impressive wrestler was for the weekend.  While there was no absolute agreement, two names came up numerous times – Nick Kelley of Shenendehowa and Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks. Both cruised through the competition.

Their future Binghamton teammate, David Almaviva of the Plainsmen, also was outstanding, including controlling a 2-0 bout with the tough Jackson Mordente of Sachem East in the semifinals.

Long Island Looking Good: Suffolk squad Rocky Point, currently ranked #2 in the state Dual Meet poll, wasn’t at U-E this weekend, but Long Island did just fine, taking the top three spots at the event. In addition, MacArthur was seventh despite missing some key contributors such as Justin Cooksey.

Look Out for Clarence:  The Section 6 team didn’t come in as one of the tournament’s most talked about groups, but was very impressive in racking up a 4-1 record on the way to fifth place.  The Red Devils defeated the teams listed #4 and #5 in the first New York State Sportswriters Dual Meet rankings, North Rockland and Monroe Woodbury, by eight and six points, respectively.  (The one loss was to Sachem East).  The lineup’s bookends, heavyweight Nate Ward and 99-pounder Dylan Arena were among those who looked good over the weekend and the team is solid throughout.

And One Last Thing. . . : It’s always a pleasure to see such high level wrestling, but one of the standout performances came from Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa. Many New York wrestling fans know about Vespa’s fight with cancer this spring and summer. From the start, he and his family were confident that he would not only beat cancer, but also get back on the mat and win. Watching him do that in person was inspiring.

Wantagh Wins U-E Duals; Full Results Available

 

 

Full results here for the Union-Endicott Duals. Recap coming tomorrow.

 

 

 

Top NY Teams to Battle at the Union-Endicott Duals – LIVE Coverage on Day 2

 

 

New York Wrestling News will provide LIVE blog and/or video coverage of Sunday’s semifinals/finals at the Union-Endicott Duals. 

The coverage page will be at this link.

———————————————————————————————————————

The outcome of the Union-Endicott Duals typically has a significant influence on the New York State dual rankings.  That seems very likely again this year, in the 30th edition of the event, as four of the top five in the NYS Sportswriters Dual Rankings are in the field.  In fact, 14 of the 15 squads set to compete at the event are either in the top 10 or are listed as honorable mention.

“We always get excited about it,” said Union-Endicott head coach Josh Ruff. “But this year is probably one of the best we’ve had in a while. We feel like we have the best teams and everyone is pretty tough. It should be a fun weekend of wrestling.”

Indeed, it should.

Wantagh, the returning Dual Meet State Champions in Division I, comes in as the top seed.  The Warriors are stocked with quality wrestlers throughout the lineup, including several who are ranked at the state level such as Kyle Quinn (106), Chris Araoz (126), Vinny Turano (132), James Corbett (182) and Dan McDevitt (170).

A year ago, in a contest that essentially decided the Empire State’s top dual team, Wantagh battled to a tie with Shenendehowa at the Civil War Duals and the Warriors were declared the winners on criteria.  A rematch between the two powers could happen this weekend, as the Plainsmen are the number three seed.

While Shenendehowa lost a meet earlier this year to Burnt Hills (with some starters out), the squad was back to dominant form at the Teike Bernabi tournament, with seven finalists and four champions, led by Binghamton bound seniors Nick Kelley (138) and David Almaviva (145), both ranked #1 in New York at their respective weights.

A battle between Wantagh and Shenendehowa would certainly be exciting, but there are a number of other teams traveling to Section 4 who have the ability to make the finals as well.  Among those are the #2 and 4 seeds, Sachem East and Monroe Woodbury.

Sachem East is undefeated and stands atop the current Suffolk rankings.  Undefeated 145-pounder Jackson Mordente has led the way for a lineup that is solid throughout.  The upperweight combination of Cristian Nunez (195), John Vigh (220) and Josh Edmondson (285) has gone a combined 38-4 and two more competitors, Conor O’Hara (132) and Michael Pistone (152) sit in the top two in Section 11.

Monroe Woodbury’s starting group has cruised through the competition. Vinny Vespa, Evan Barczak, JP Vandercliff and AJ Voelker have all made a big splash, including winning the Massapequa Holiday Tournament. Like the teams mentioned above, it’s difficult to find a weak spot in the Crusaders lineup.

The following is a look at each of the pools, including some individual matches of interest. To view the schedule, see here.

 

Pool A: #1 seed Wantagh, Spencerport and Chenango Forks

Spencerport is led by Jon Haas, Trent Egenlauf, Collin Pittman and Austin Coleman.  The first three are all included in the statewide rankings and 285-pounder Coleman was strongly considered. Chenango Forks features one of New York’s best, two-time state champion Kyle Kelly as well as another wrestler who will be in the mix in the postseason – Jake Green.

We expect Wantagh will come out on top of this group, and here are three of the individual matches we’re excited to see.

106 Pounds: Kyle Quinn (Wantagh) vs. Jon Haas (Spencerport) – Both are in the top eight of our first New York State rankings.  Quinn, an NHSCA All-American last year and Haas, a returning state qualifier, are both coming off tournament titles – Haas at the Teike Bernabi and Quinn at the Raider Invitational.

126 Pounds: Chris Araoz (Wantagh) vs. Jake Green (Chenango Forks) – Araoz is fresh off a Most Outstanding Wrestler performance at the Raider Invitational, while Green took third in a tough Windsor Christmas Tournament weight after capturing gold at the PSAL Holiday event.  Both are likely to be fighting for All-State honors in February.

182 Pounds: James Corbett (Wantagh) vs. Trent Egenlauf (Spencerport) – Both Egenlauf and Corbett are ranked in the top eight in New York and both have registered multiple quality victories this year.  (For example, Egenlauf topped Anthony Liberatore of Williamsville South and Corbett beat All-Stater Gio Santiago of Sachem North).  Both are candidates to go far at the Times Union Center. Isaiah Zimmer of Chenango Forks, a bronze medalist at Windsor, shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Pool B: #2 seed Sachem East plus Clarence, North Rockland and Brockport

Sachem East has faced a challenging slate of opponents and is 12-0.  The Suffolk squad will see more strong foes at the U-E Duals including 18-0 North Rockland, a balanced team led by Matt Caputo, Blaise Benderoth and the DiMarsicosJake and Derek; a Clarence group that comes off a runner up performance at the Teike Bernabi and always-tough Brockport, which has received standout showings from Jared Mesiti and Barton Peters.

Despite the stiff competition, we think Sachem East should live up to the second seed and earn a date in the semis. Here are three matches from this pool that we look forward to seeing.

113 Pounds: Barton Peters (Brockport) vs. Derek DiMarsico (North Rockland) – Peters won his first 15 matches after an appearance at the state tournament last year while DiMarsico already has around 20 wins.

126 Pounds: Brandon Glaubner (Clarence) vs. Anthony Messina (Sachem East) – Glaubner was the champion at the Teiki Bernabi Tournament while Messina has put together a very solid 15-1 season. His only setback was a one-point loss to returning state second placer Justin Cooksey of MacArthur.  Troy Feniger of North Rockland could have some interesting matches at this class as well.

145 Pounds: Jackson Mordente is unbeaten and in the top 8 in New York. Matt Caputo has just one loss and has been putting up a lot of bonus point victories. Should be a fun one to watch. [Caputo may wrestle at 138 pounds].

 

Pool C: #3 seed Shenendehowa plus MacArthur, Minisink Valley and Union-Endicott

MacArthur has already seen a number of top notch opponents this year and has solid wrestlers up and down the lineup. Minisink Valley has received strong contributions from returning state qualifier Mike Raccioppi as well as others such as Josh Bonneau (220) and Union-Endicott had six placers at the Windsor Christmas Tournament, including finalist Andrew Brinser at 285 and third placer Xavian Hughes at 132.

Still, at the end of the day, it will be difficult for any of the teams in the pool to overcome Shenendehowa.

Here are three matchups we look forward to:

120 Pounds: Chris Cataldo (MacArthur) vs. Kevin Parker (Shenendehowa) – Cataldo, 17-1, has won his last five bouts by pin or technical fall.  The Generals wrestler lost his opening contest of the campaign at 126 pounds and has been on a winning streak since.  Meanwhile, Parker pinned his way to the finals of the Teike Bernabi Tournament, where he finished second behind Steve Michel. He is a returning state qualifier.

Cooksey, Photo by BV

126 Pounds: Justin Cooksey (MacArthur) vs. Mike Raccioppi (Minisink Valley) – The two wrestled a year ago in the state tournament at 106 pounds where second-seeded Cooksey earned a 7-3 decision.  Will the match be similar months later and up several weights?

138 Pounds: Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) vs. Rob Bennett (MacArthur) – Kelley is always fun to watch as he keeps pushing the pace for the entire duration of the match. Bennett sat on top of the Section 8 rankings at this weight, (although he did drop a match in the dual against Sachem East), and is a quality wrestler.

 

Pool D: #4 seed Monroe Woodbury plus Islip, Johnson City and Fulton

Section 9’s Monroe Woodbury has looked like one of the top dual teams in the state this year.  Islip has also excelled, with an 11-1 mark. (The loss was to Sachem East).  Johnson City boasts one of the state’s top wrestlers in 195-pounder Reggie Williams as well as other state qualifiers like Greg Kleinsmith and Zach Colgan.  Fulton, always one of the best in Section 3, has been propelled by a number of wrestlers, such as Mitchell Woodworth (106) and Thomas Hill (120) this year.

It looks like it should be a great battle between the Crusaders and the Buccaneers for a spot in the semifinals.

Here are three of the many matches of interest:

106 Pounds: Mitchell Woodworth (Fulton) vs. Evan Barczak (Monroe Woodbury) – Both Woodworth and Barczak have made a habit out of making the finals of big tournaments. Woodworth, the top ranked wrestler at his weight in Section 3, finished second at both the Andersen and the Kenneth Haines Memorial while eighth grader Barczak recently won the Massapequa Tournament and is #1 in Section 9.  Johnson City’s Isiah Colgan may also make an impact at this weight.

170 Pounds: AJ Voelker (Monroe Woodbury) vs. Greg Kleinsmith (Johnson City) – Voelker stood on top of the podium at the Massapequa Holiday Tournament and has been a strong presence in the Monroe Woodbury lineup all season. Kleinsmith, a 2012 state qualifier as a freshman, recently returned to action at the Teike Bernabi event, where he took second place.

Williams, Photo by BV

195 Pounds: Reggie Williams (Johnson City) vs. Craig Hinrichs (Islip) – Williams is the top wrestler in New York at 195. Hinrichs has piled up wins this year, with a single loss – to the previously mentioned Nunez of Sachem East.

 

We will be providing blog and/or video coverage of the Union-Endicott Duals on Sunday. 

The coverage page will be at this link.

 

Unstoppable: Vinny Vespa Wrestles Again After Confronting Cancer

When Vinny Vespa was first diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, doctors told his mother Lisa Vespa that he could need treatment for up to a year.

Instead, five months later, almost to the day, Vinny Vespa returned to live wrestling with his teammates at Monroe Woodbury High School.

“I’m working really hard,” he said. “I definitely missed it. I’m really happy to be back on the mat.”

The truth is, he never really left.  While Vespa wasn’t allowed to go live during the treatment process, partially because of a port he had in his chest, he never stopped training and lifting.

And he certainly never lost connection with the wrestling community.

Vinny and his mother Lisa were amazed by the many contributions and well wishes they received, not only in Section 9 but throughout New York State and even beyond.

While they appreciated everything that was done for them, the Takedown Tournament held at Monroe Woodbury High School on June 30 was the highlight.  Over 350 wrestlers competed in the event, which also featured carnival games and other family entertainment.

“It was really fun to watch everyone come out that day not only to wrestle but also to support me,” Vinny Vespa said. “I even got to see my brother Michael wrestle again, which was really cool to watch.  I was surprised that people came from all over.  I knew there were a lot of people supporting me, but I didn’t expect that many people to be there.  I was really grateful.”

“It was surreal for me,” Lisa Vespa added. “It was so heartfelt and it showed the tremendous commitment that the wrestling family has.  I was taken aback by the level of support and I was so appreciative.  It was amazing.”

It was a high point, followed by a summer filled with treatment regimens and hospital visits.  A few days receiving chemotherapy.  A few days at home.  More chemotherapy.  Then a few weeks off and the process started all over again.

“The whole summer was a blur,” Lisa Vespa said. “It was definitely rough, but Vinny was an amazing patient.  He never complained.  He just did what he needed to do.  He was never looking for pity or praise.”

In September, even when in the midst of radiation treatments (and attending school again), Vinny felt like he had turned a corner.

“I really started to feel better,” he said. “I felt less nervous about things – like I knew I was going to be alright.  I started thinking about wrestling and getting back to it as soon as possible.”

A few weeks later, in October, Vinny had a PET scan and the doctors shared good news.

“I’m grateful to say that he’s in remission now,” Lisa Vespa said.  “We know it’s a long haul.  He’ll have another PET scan in January.  But we don’t have to go back to the doctor until then.  There aren’t any restrictions on him now, he just has to listen to his body to figure out what he can and can’t do.”

It took no time at all for Vinny to join Monroe Woodbury practice.  In fact, he participated the same day he was cleared.

“I started right away,” he said. “It’s been really cool, being around the team and wrestling with my teammates.  I think I’m starting to get fully back into it, but I’m definitely already better than last year because of how I feel.”

How he felt last year during matches was tired and out of breath.  He was unable to do what he wanted to late in matches and he was often unable to escape when he was in the down position.

“We couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t get out on bottom when he wrestled,” Lisa Vespa said. “I actually took him out of practice on a Saturday morning in January and asked his coach’s permission to send him to a clinic focusing on that.  Looking back now, it was insane.  Vinny had been wrestling since he was three or four years old — of course he knew how to do it. We were just grasping at straws, trying to come with any reason why he was having trouble.  I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t figure out what.”

The Vespa family explored a number of options, including a new mouthpiece, asthma and bronchitis.  In addition, Lisa Vespa said she considered cancer back in November of 2011 when Vinny complained of terrible itching, which was the only symptom a friend of the Vespa family had when diagnosed with cancer.  However, after a doctor’s visit and some blood work, the Vespas came home with cream for the itching and went back to the drawing board.

It was months later, after Vinny struggled while winning the New York State Freestyle championship in May, that a tumor was found in his lungs that indicated that he had Stage 4 Lymphoma.

Having overcome so much, some people would be satisfied with simply putting on a singlet and getting on the mat again.  Not Vinny Vespa.

“My plan is to wrestle every chance my coach gives me to wrestle,” said the 2012 state qualifier. “As long as it benefits the team, I will go out and wrestle, even I have to bump up a weight.  But for Sections and the end of the year, I’m planning to go 99 pounds again.  I’m still light.  I was at the state tournament and I want to be there again.  This time I want to get to the finals and try to win it.”

That would be a fitting ending for a wrestler who has already won significant battles.

“For me, the most important thing is to look at him and know that he feels 100% again,” Lisa Vespa said.  “Because it was obvious last year that he didn’t feel anywhere near 100%.  Getting back on the mat five months after starting treatment says so much about Vinny.  But I also attribute a lot of it to the tremendous support from the wrestling community and to the sport of wrestling itself.  From wrestling, Vinny has learned an inner strength and perseverance.  He learned that you don’t give up and you dig deep when things get tough.  Wrestling gives you a level of confidence that no other sport can give you. I have no doubt that wrestling has helped him get where he is now.”

 

More Season Preview Articles:

Section 1 Preview

Section 3 Preview

Section 4 Preview

Section 7 Preview

Section 8 Preview

Section 9 Preview

CHSAA Preview

Features:

Section 1 Feature:  Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium

Section 4 Feature: Looking for “Number Nine”: Reggie Williams Aims to Make History at Johnson City

Section 5 Feature: The “Miracle” Continues: The Return of Aaron Paddock

Section 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak

Section 9 Preview: Stramiello and Martinez Look to Make All-State Again, While Fans Await the Return of Vinny Vespa

 

By Mike Carey, sectionixwrestling.com

 

Division I

Returning State Placewinner:

Sixth Place: Johnny Stramiello, Pine Bush, 106 Pounds

 

Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Gerard Daly, Minisink Valley

99 Pounds: Vinny Vespa, Monroe Woodbury

106 Pounds: Michael Raccioppi, Minisink Valley

160 Pounds: Dan DeCarlo, Port Jervis

195 Pounds: Deon Edmond, Kingston

220 Pounds: Connor Leavell, Warwick

Wrestlers to Watch . . .

Johnny Stramiello, Photo by Boris V

Johnny Stramiello, Pine Bush – The three-time defending Section 9 champion placed sixth at the state tournament last season.  His offseason work at Apex Wrestling plus his appearance at tough events such as the Journeymen Classic will greatly improve his chances of ascending up the podium.

Michael Raccioppi, Minisink Valley – Raccioppi is as tough as they come.  Last season, he finished 39-7, was a state qualifier and took seventh at the Eastern States Classic.  His “offseason” has included a fourth place finish at the MAWA Eastern Nationals, a 10-day J. Robinson Intensive Camp and an appearance at the Journeymen Classic.

Dan DeCarlo, Port Jervis – DeCarlo is as strong and athletic as any wrestler in the state but he typically only wrestles four months of the year.  His skill and technique are improving each season, so don’t be surprised if you see him on the podium in Albany.

Gerard Daly, Minisink Valley – As a first year varsity wrestler, Daly recorded impressive wins over state qualifiers Steven Sewkumar of Long Beach (Section 8), Kevin Parker of Shenendehowa (Section 2) and Josh Antoine of the PSAL.  He also earned sixth at the Eastern States Classic.  Daly went 1-2 at the state tournament and was eliminated when he dropped a closely contested 8-5 bout to fourth place medalist Joe Calderone of Walt Whitman (Section 11).

Deon Edmond, Kingston – Edmond is talented, hard working and well coached.  He was one win from making All-State last year when he went 2-2, including an impressive victory over Mike Spinelli from Mahopac in Albany.  Edmond has set his goals very high for his senior campaign.

Also Keep an Eye On . . . 

AJ Voelker, Monroe Woodbury – Talented and self-motivated; he can “taste” it

Travis Edwards, Port Jervis – Wrestled hard all summer; very athletic

Terrence Cheeks, Newburgh Free Academy – Has the ability; defeated Ethan Stanley (New York State fourth placer) in 2012

Brett Johnson, Cornwall – May surprise some opponents; on the cusp of the next level

Donald Brown, Middletown – Explosive wrestler with lots of “upside”

Bryan Mongiello, Washingtonville – 2012 Section 9 finalist looking for his first trip to Albany

Dylan Booth, Port Jervis – Will his 10-day stint at the J. Robinson camp put him over the top?

Team Vinny V

In the hearts and minds of the entire Section 9 wrestling community, the most anticipated moment of the upcoming season will be when Monroe Woodbury sophomore Vinny Vespa steps on the mat for the first time.  Vespa, a New York state qualifier last season, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma this past spring and has been undergoing treatments for several months. Those who know Vinny can attest to the following statement — it’s a matter of “when”, not “if” he returns to the mat in a Monroe Woodbury singlet.

Team Race

Although they graduated five state qualifiers, two-time defending tournament champions Warwick Valley cannot be discounted. However, on paper, Monroe Woodbury and Minisink Valley seem to be the favorites going into the 2012-2013 season.

All three teams finished last season ranked in the top 20 in New York State.  Monroe Woodbury, the 18th ranked team a year ago, returns nearly its entire lineup.  Expect the Crusaders to be led by AJ Voelker, Vinny Vespa, PJ Smoot, Rob Kelly, JP Vandercliff and Drake Barczak.

Minisink Valley also returns the majority of last year’s team which finished the season as the 20th ranked team in the state.  The Warriors are expecting big things from qualifiers Gerard Daly and Michael Raccioppi as well as returning starters Chris Truglio, Nick Truglio, Nick Wentland and Josh Bonneau.

Although hit hard by graduation, last year’s 19th ranked team, Warwick Valley, is expecting another solid year.  The Wildcats will be led by returning state qualifier Connor Leavell as well as Joe Ginley, Thomas Wightman and Andy Sliter.

Several other teams have the potential to be in the hunt for the team title in Section 9.  Cornwall, led by New York State Wrestling Hall of Fame coach Don Blaine, is always tough.  This year’s squad will be no different and has several wrestlers who can make a splash at the sectional tournament including Brett Johnson, Sean Sweeney, Luke Zsido and Quinn Zsido.  NFA is always a solid team, however this year’s squad will have to contend with the loss of Hall of Fame coach Jeff Cuilty, who stepped down from his position in August. Port Jervis, Middletown, Valley Central and Washingtonville are ever-improving and may surprise some teams.

 

Division II

Returning State Placewinner:

Sixth Place: Andy Martinez, Liberty, 182 Pounds

 

Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Dean Stanton, Tuxedo

106 Pounds: Austin Ingraham, Highland

113 Pounds: Declan Dwyer-McNulty, Red Hook

120 Pounds: Eric Januszkiewicz, New Paltz

160 Pounds: Austin Weigel, Onteora

170 Pounds: Mike Rauch, Red Hook

195 Pounds: Dustin Mackenzie, Onteora

285 Pounds: Anthony Tufano, New Paltz

Wrestlers to Watch . . .

Andy Martinez (12) Liberty – Martinez is determined to prove that last season’s sixth place finish in Albany was no fluke.  The gritty and talented senior went 2-3 at the Times Union Center including a 7-5 victory over eventual fourth place finisher Tyler Morris of Section 2’s Salem.

Austin Weigel (12) Onteora – The senior was 2-2 at the state tournament last year.  His hard fought 3-1 loss to eventual third place finisher Hayden Wagner of South Seneca prevented Weigel from making it to the medal stand.  A busy offseason schedule including frequent trips up the Thruway to Journeymen Wrestling Club have continued his progress.  At the Super 32 qualifier in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, Weigel took second at 170 pounds, outscoring his opponents 14-3 to make the finals where he dropped a two-point decision to nationally ranked Garrett Peppelman.  He followed that up by winning his bracket at the Journeymen Classic. The podium is looking like a solid possibility this year.

Austin Ingraham (11) Highland – Prior to the beginning of last season, Ingraham made a commitment to improve his skills and become a competitive wrestler at the state level.  His work paid off.  The Highland junior had a great regular season and was one victory away from placing in Albany.  This year, he has his sights set on the podium.

Eric Januszkiewicz (12) New Paltz – Januskiewicz almost pulled off a huge upset in the first round of last year’s state tournament when he narrowly lost 4-3 to finalist Jeff O’Lena of East Rochester.  The New Paltz senior plans to take home his fourth Section 9 title this year and then cap off his high school career with a trip to the medal stand.

Also Keep an Eye On . . . Jesse Corcoran (12) Eldred – Placed at Eastern States, season ended early due to injury

Team Race

Expect a three-way race in Section 9 D2 between Onteora, Red Hook and Rondout Valley.  Onteora and Red Hook both return two state qualifiers from last year’s squads and neither team was decimated by graduation.  Rondout Valley graduated three Section 9 champs, however coach Dave Hodes always seems to have a competitive team take the mat.  New Paltz returns two state qualifiers and may sneak up on some teams.

 

More Season Previews:

Section 1 Preview

Section 1 Feature:  Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium

Section 3 Preview