By Matt Diano
Returning Placewinners (2012 Weight):
106 Pounds: Freddie Dunau, St. Anthonys – placed fifth at 96 pounds in 2011; Went 1-2 in 2012 @106 pounds despite wrestling with a 100+ degree fever the day of the state tournament
Other Returning State Qualifiers (2012 Weight):
99 Pounds: John Twomey, St. Anthony’s
120 Pounds: Blaise Rufo Monsignor Farrell
126 Pounds: Sam Melikian Fordham Prep
160 Pounds: John Vrasidas St. Anthony’s
182 Pounds: Matt Roberts Monsignor Farrell
195 Pounds: Rich Sisti Monsignor Farrell
Breaking Down the Top Dogs
John Twomey – Expected to be at a loaded 106-pound weight class this season, it is hardly a foregone conclusion that the Friar upperclassman will make it back to Albany in 2013. After having a very quiet freshman year in 2011 where he was not officially listed on the St. Anthony’s roster, Twomey had a breakout year last season, winning just under 30 matches and pretty much cruising to the Catholic state crown, going unscored upon in three matches to pitch the 32-0 shutout at the championship tournament. In Albany, Twomey, who is also an accomplished submission grappler (having won or placed high at multiple NAGA tournaments) went 0-2, having the misfortune of running into the eventual fourth (Joe Calderone) and fifth (Bryan Lantry) placewinners in back-to-back matches.
Freddie Dunau – While there never is a sure thing in the sport of wrestling, Friar junior Freddie Dunau may be the closest thing the CHSAA has to it. A two-time CHSAA champion/NYS qualifier entering his junior year, Dunau has gone untested in two years in the Catholic league, routinely winning all of his matches by bonus points. Known for his unorthodox style that combines his passion for wrestling with his other athletic interest, gymnastics, Dunau has an uncanny ability to put you on your back in the blink of an eye. His combination of arm throws and other common freestyle-like scoring maneuvers has drawn comparisons to former U.S. standout, T.J. Hill, who spent some time on the St. Anthony’s coaching staff a few years ago. A NYS placewinner as a freshman in 2011, Dunau was expected to be on the podium last season before the flu bug bit him at the wrong time, causing him to perhaps wrestle over-aggressively to account for a compromised gas tank. When at his best, Dunau is as dangerous as any wrestler in the Empire State. While there is still some discussion as to whether he will go 120 or 126 in 2013, the consensus is that he will be a heavy favorite regardless. Note: Competing in the international styles, Dunau is a two-time Double Cadet state champion, having won the gold in both FS and GR the past two years. He is also a 2010 NYS Schoolboy Folkstyle state champion.
Blaise Rufo – Winning his first CHSAA state title last season after posting previous finishes of second at 96 (2010) and fifth at 103 (2011), the Lion coaching staff has always been high on Rufo. The younger brother of Gunnar Rufo, who was a two-time CHSAA state placewinner from 2008-2011, the Farrell staff always knew that Blaise was going to be the better of the brothers, dating back to his time as a wrestler at the Lions Club (Farrell’s youth program). Known for his deadly headlocks, when Rufo strikes, it usually means good night for his opponents. Making his first trip to Albany last season, the 2013 Farrell captain garnered a lot of experience, going 1-2, with one of the losses coming at the hands of eventual NYS runner-up, Brady Baron of Section 5. Now, the only real question is whether or not he will get the chance to utilize this experience, as a genuine concern is that he could be destined to run headfirst into Dunau in the CHSAA finals.
Sam Melikian- Joining Dunau as a two-time CHSAA champion, Melikian is like a fine wine, getting better with age. As a sophomore, he was not the favorite on paper to advance to Albany. However, apparently no one told him that as one by one, he notched the necessary three victories to punch his own ticket. He beat the Nassau/Suffolk league champion in the semis, before wrapping up his tournament by avenging a loss from a few weeks earlier in the NYC league finals by pinning his opponent (4x CHSAA state placewinner, Paul Schianodicola) in the title match. As a junior, the word “unstoppable” best described the Ram student-athlete, as he rolled through the CHSAA state tournament, dismantling the competition to the tune of a second period pin and a 25-7 tally in two lopsided semifinal and finals bouts. A regular at John Degl’s Iowa Style Wrestling Club in Section 1, Melikian brings every ounce of that Hawkeye mentality with him to the mat, attacking every second of the match and gradually wearing down his foes. Last year in Albany, this approach witnessed him just barely miss the podium, as he came a single victory short of finishing in the top-6, going 2-2 with his defeats coming to the wrestlers who went on to finish third and fourth, respectively. Now approaching his swan song, Melikian, who is being actively recruited by several top notch academic institutions (including an official visit to the Brown University campus a few weeks ago), seems intent on ending his scholastic career on a high note, hitting every tournament under the sun in an attempt to make himself all the more prepared for one final run at the NYS crown. Thus far this off-season, Melikian has won the Summer Heat Tournament on Long Island, finished first in his pool at the Journeymen Challenge (beating a pair of 2012 Cadet GR All-Americans), and finished second at the Iron Horse Invitational in NJ. Melikian will be favored at either 132 or 138 pounds this season.
John Vrasidas (pronounced Ver-Side-is) – The last of the 2x defending CHSAA champions, Vrasidas seems to save his best wrestling for when it matters most. Considered a contender, but hardly the favorite the past two years (he entered the 2012 Catholic State tournament as the #4 seed despite being a returning champion), the Friar captain just finds a way to get the job done on center stage. Now a senior and the consensus the favorite to win the 170-pound title, he goes from the role of the hunter to the hunted. Going a combined 3-4 in his two journeys to the state capital (1-2 as a sophomore at 152), Vrasidas would have likely found himself on the podium in 2012 if not for the fact that he had the misfortune of drawing 2011 State Champion/current Columbia University freshman Connor Sutton, in the placement round. However, despite common knowledge that he enters 2013 as a sizeable favorite to yet again ascend to the top step, Vrasidas is showing no signs of resting on his laurels. Much like his fellow two-timer, Melikian, Vrasidas is staying active during the offseason, winning his bracket at the Journeymen Classic two weekends ago.
Matt Roberts – If NYS titles were given out for guts, Matt Roberts would be Troy Nickerson. A kid who wills himself to win, the Farrell senior fought off his back in the 2012 CHSAA state finals, rallying from an early 5-0 deficit to gradually fatigue his opponent and emerge with the come from behind victory. It is this ‘never say die’ attitude that makes Roberts dangerous in any match. Like any great upset story, when you watch a Roberts match, you cannot help but think to yourself that if the opposition allows him to stay close, it’s going to be trouble. Roberts is that thorn in your side that you never see coming. Because his success relies a lot on his ability to push the pace and tire his opponents, it is not unusual to see Roberts lose to a particular opponent during the regular season (while in the midst of building his cardio to full capacity), only to see him control that same foe in February. In a way, he reminds me of a younger, albeit larger, version of former 3x Conference Champion, Jon Bonilla-Bowman (Virginia Tech/Hofstra), in that unless you come prepared, he will seize victory from you in the third period. Roberts, who took fourth as a sophomore in the Catholic League, will defend his 182-pound title in 2013. He will look to improve upon the 1-2 record he posted last season at the NYS tournament, losing to eventual state champion, Nick Bellanza in the first round, before being officially eliminated by the wrestler who went on to take fifth in the state.
Rich Sisti – Known by Farrell insiders as the Man Child, Rich Sisti was a legend in Staten Island before he ever even stepped foot inside the school. This young man (only a junior) is so blessed physically that rumor has it that when he was in eighth grade, he and his family were having dinner at a fine dining restaurant and the server gave Sisti a wine list because she assumed he was over the age of 21. To say that this kid is shredded would be an insult to him. A better way to phrase it must to be to tell the truth, in the decade plus that I have been involved in the sport of wrestling, I sincerely cannot recall a high school junior being this defined. Oh, and by the way, aside from his Adonis-like appearance, the kid can also do work on the mat, a revelation easily seen when Sisti pinned his way through the 2010 NYS Schoolboy state tournament. Placing third in the Catholic league as a freshman (former 2x Catholic State Champion/current Franklin & Marshall wrestler Paul Alessandrini was in his bracket), there was no sophomore jinx for Sisti in 2012 as he streamrolled the competition, replicating his performance from 2010 by sticking all three of his opponents (all before the third period) to secure his first birth to the NYS DI tournament. Much like his teammates Rufo and Roberts, Sisti finished 1-2 in Albany, losing to the third and fifth place wrestlers. However, rather than sulk over what might be considered a disappointing showing in his DI tournament debut, Sisti got back to work and the results paid off as he came a single victory away from making All-American at the 2012 FloNationals. He followed up this strong effort by winning the NYS Cadet FS title up a full weight class at 220. In fact, he was so dominant against his peers in Binghamton that rather than wrestle the Cadet GR tournament, he opted instead to enter the Junior Freestyle competition, where he finished fourth (forfeiting his medal match) with a decision victory over Jon Babson, the #4 seed at 220 pounds at the 2012 NYS tournament. Two weeks ago, Sisti added top honors at the Journeymen Classic to his mantel. While able to make the cut to 195 pounds if need be, the belief at this point of the offseason is that Sisti, who figures into the equation at either weight class on the state level, will ultimately remain at 220 in 2013.
Who Will Break out And Make Their Debuts in Albany (lightest to heaviest)?
Christian Briody (Chaminade) – Briody is a student-athlete who many consider the co-best Flyer prospect since 2x Catholic State Champion/2010 NYS placewinner, Troy Sampson. Before coming to Chaminade, Briody spent seventh and eighth grade wrestling for Locust Valley, qualifying for the DI sectional tournament twice, but failing to place as an undersized junior high student. A pupil of former World FS Champion, Vougar Oroudjov at VHW, Briody entered 2012 as the potential favorite to win the 99-pound weight class. Unfortunately, injury ended the fab frosh’s season before it even got started. However, since returning to the mat this offseason, the now sensational sophomore is lending credence to why those in the CHSAA wrestling community were so high on him. A winner of the 2012 Summer Heat tournament, Briody also notched a title at the Steeplechase Open and finished third at the Super-32 regional qualifier in Shippensburg, PA. It was at these latter two events that Briody notched perhaps the biggest wins of his career to date, as he knocked off 2012 NYS DII state runner up Nick Casella by slim margins at both the Super 32 qualifier and the Steeplechase. Adding a bit of humor to this situation is the fact that Casella is also from Locust Valley and actually defeated Christian’s brother, Patrick, in the 2012 Nassau County DII finals. Career note: Briody took fourth at the 2011 Schoolboy state tournament.
Ben Lamantia (St. Anthony’s) – Speaking of super sophomores, one that immediately comes to mind is Ben Lamantia. A varsity competitor at Commack as an eighth-grader, before even starting high school Lamantia proved his worth, winning close to 20 matches. That same year, he went on to win the 2011 NYS Schoolboy crown (in the same weight class as Briody). As a freshman, Lamantia placed third at 106 pounds, finishing behind Dunau and former 2x Catholic state runner-up, Jimmy Gill, who is currently wrestling for the College of New Jersey. The tragedy of this bronze medal showing is that in almost any other year, Lamantia likely would have won the Catholic title. However, just like Sisti in 2012, Lamantia now finds himself in the position to taste the glory of victory if he holds serve and wrestles up to his potential. In fact, while it isn’t anyone’s intention to put unnecessary pressure on him, it would be accurate to say that not only is a CHSAA title expected in 2013, but so is placement in Albany. With 113 shaping up to be one of the fiercest fields in the state, Lamantia will need to bring his “A” game to achieve the objective put before him.
Joey Russ (St. Anthony’s)—The sentimental favorite of the entire Catholic league as a whole, I do not think words can accurately describe the love the CHSAA has for the Russ family. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have referred to the Russes as the heart, soul, and backbone of the league. The fourth of four brothers to compete in the CHSAA (all four making the CHSAA state finals at least once in their scholastic careers), Joey will be looking to become the third member of his family to hoist the hardware, joining Derrick (champion in 2003 at 103 pounds for Chaminade) and 3x Catholic champ/3x NYS placewinner, Stephen, who competed for St. Anthony’s from 2004-2007). A sectional finalist the past two years, it is far from misleading to say that the youngest Russ could easily be a 2x champion at this point of his career if not for the fact that year after year, he runs into juggernauts. As a freshman, he played second fiddle to his teammate Dunau, losing in the 96-pound finals. Then, last season, his luck would be just as bad as he found himself in the same 113-pound bracket as 2x Catholic state champion/2x NYS placewinner, Pat Skinner of Kellenberg, who is now wrestling on the NCAA DI level at Rider. Given past history, the question on the minds of the masses is will 2013 be the year that Joe finally gets to make the journey to Albany? To give a condensed answer, it all depends on what Dunau does. With talk that Dunau may elect to stay at 126, the 120 pound weight class would be Russ’s for taking. However, should his two-time defending champion teammate reconsider and make the cut, for the third straight year, Russ may find himself playing the role of bridesmaid.
Danny Jones (Chaminade) – The runner up as a sophomore in 2012 to Rufo, before there was Briody, there was Jones (a reference to the earlier mention of there being co-top prospects walking the hallowed halls in Mineola). Jones, whose brother Mike was a multiple-time CHSAA placewinner despite battling injuries during most of his career, came to Chaminade with a well established reputation, having placed in fourth in Nassau County as a 103-pound eighth grader for Garden City High School. But alas, just like his sibling, staying healthy has been a major issue for Jones, who missed the majority of his freshman year because of injury and then had to compete for the better half of 2012 with a facemask after suffering a broken nose. Despite the fact that he is a returning CHSAA finalist, it is very feasible that we have not even come close to seeing the best that this young man has to offer. Having spent the last few years working out at Ascend (with Craig Vitagliano) and VHW, if healthy, the world, and for that matter, the Catholic wrestling scene, may prove to be Jones’s oyster. In speaking to a person with knowledge of the situation, the strategy being discussed would call for Jones to go at whatever weight (132 or 138) Melikian doesn’t.
Declan Gray (Chaminade) – Once referred to by a former member of the Flyer coaching staff as “a true student of the sport whose depth of knowledge knows no bottom,” Gray heads into his final season at Chaminade looking to win the title that has escaped him thus far. A fifth place finisher in 2011 at 140 pounds, Gray was on the cusp of a Catholic league title last season, tied at 2-2 with defending CHSAA champion Matt Szilagyi (formerly of St. Anthony’s; currently wrestling for West Virginia) and riding tough, inching closer and closer to backpoints. And then, in an instant, it all fell apart as Szilagyi reversed Gray to his back for the fall. When you consider that a few weeks later, Szilagyi would go on to finish one victory short of the medal stand, this close defeat demonstrates that Gray is every bit in the mix for a top-6 finish in 2013. A runner-up at the Summer Heat Tournament to returning Nassau champion/2012 NYS qualifier, Louis Hernandez, Gray will join Dunau, Briody, and Lamantia at the Super-32 tournament later this month.
Andrew Psomas (Monsignor Farrell) – Joining Joey Russ on the all-sentiments team, if there is one person the NYC CHSAA wrestling contingent wants to see go all the way this season, it is the 160-pound senior, Psomas. In yet another example of “all in the family”, in 2009 Psomas’s brother Christian would enter the Catholic state tournament as a heavy favorite to win the 171-pound title and go to the state tournament. But, as a testament to the phrase “matches are not won on paper”, the elder Psomas was upset in the finals. Now Andrew, who was a 2011 CHSAA finalist before settling for third last season (lost to Vrasidas both years) finds himself in the same scenario as his big brother; one year left to get it done. And, perhaps in what can be called a display of God’s sense of humor, the Psomas family is going to have a strong reminder of the 2009 heartbreaking loss as the Catholic finals will be contested this year in the same gymnasium (St. Francis of Buffalo). Will there be deja vu, or will four years of cruel memories be erased once and for all? The truth is that without a shadow of a doubt, Psomas is the most talented person in the weight class. If he does what he is capable of doing, he will be a champion. Unfortunately, herein lies the problem; if there is one weakness to polished game of Psomas, it is that he has shown a tendency to let nerves get the best of him, turning matches he’d normally win going away into headshaking, heart wrenching losses. On the bright side, after knocking off 2012 NYS DII qualifier, Austin Weigel (Section IX) in the finals of the Hudson Valley Challenge last weekend, the hope is that Andrew Psomas is now a new man who will deliver a new result come postseason.
Danny Fowler (Chaminade) – To be fair, his return to the mat is still very much in the rumor phrase. In fact, none of the Flyer coaches have even mentioned him as being in the projected 2013 lineup. However, a person from within has said that in the past few weeks, Fowler, a 2010 CHSAA placewinner as a freshman at 189-pounds, has recently dropped hints at a return after electing to forego his sophomore and junior seasons to focus on football and lacrosse (he is also an elite goalie who has committed to perennial powerhouse, Duke University). A Schoolboy champion in 2009, it was the opinion of the populace that Danny had a much bigger upside than his older brother, Brendan (a former two-time CHSAA state champion who was the recipient of the Chaminade Student-Athlete of the Year Award as a senior), who came only one win short of placing in Albany at 215 pounds in 2010. A tailback/fullback on the Flyer varsity football team since sophomore year, Fowler is that rare specimen that is successful in everything he attempts; he is a great student, immensely gifted on the gridiron and a dominant force in the cage. It is only because of this pattern of achievement that I would even consider a guy fresh off a two year absence a contender to win it all. Aiding Fowler in his quest to add one more honor to his resume is the fact that with Sisti (who would be favored over Fowler) talking of a move up to 220 pounds, and 2012 195-pound Catholic bronze medalist, Peter Corbett (St. Anthony’s) considering sitting the 2013 season out to focus on other athletic pursuits, the weight class is not expected to be particularly deep, making it ripe for the picking. Of course, this all hinges on the rumors of a comeback being true.
Chris Alianakian (Kellenberg) – A much more natural 220-pounder last season, with 2x CHSAA champion, Andrew Auriemma (formerly of St. Anthony’s) commanding the weight class, the Firebird made the decision to roll the dice and take his chances as an undersized heavyweight. The gamble would come close to paying off as he navigated his way into the finals behind a pair of pins. Unfortunately, he would be unable to conquer that final challenge, falling in the finals. Originally, the conjecture was that the senior big man would likely drop down to 220 for his final year of scholastic eligibility. But, now that Sisti is likely going to make the move up, Alianakian’s intentions may change as he would stand a much better chance of getting to Albany by remaining at 285 in 2013. A football player (like most high school heavyweight wrestlers), MSG Varsity lists the returning finalist as 235 on the KMHS roster. When you consider that the biggest obstacle in his path to a title is 2012 285 third place finisher, Mazen Hassan, who if possible has actually gotten larger in the past year (currently listed at 280), one has to wonder whether or not giving away so much size will prove detrimental to lone returning finalist for the Uniondale-based school. Last season, Alianakian did pin Hassan in both of their meetings (including the CHSAA state semifinals).
Garrett Baugher (St. Joseph’s Collegiate)—A 30+ match winner last season wrestling as an eighth grader for Royalton-Hartland, Baugher took third in the Section VI DII sectional tournament in 2012. Now a Marauder, the gifted lightweight just might be the guy who breaks the curse of five straight years without a CHSAA champion (last accomplished by a Taylor Golba at 96 pounds). The key to making it happen will be for Baugher to effectively cut down to 99 pounds where his past credentials would make him if not the obvious favorite, at least a very heavily slanted contender. Should his body not cooperate and force him to go 106, his title hopes will take a major hit, but on raw talent alone, he would be a high placewinner at the higher weight.
Matt Seitz (Monsignor Farrell) – A 2012 Schoolboy state bronze medalist, Seitz has had the Farrell coaching staff excited for the past several years. A work out warrior, the fantastic frosh routinely makes the trip across the bridge to NJ to hone his skills at the famed Apex Wrestling Club. In addition, so committed to winning are he and his family that a little over a year ago, arrangements were made to have former Penn State wrestler/2008 NCAA All-American Mark McKnight spend time working as a private coach for the talented youngster. An almost surefire lock to have placed at the 2012 CHSAA tournament if rules allowed for junior high students to compete for their neighborhood private school, Seitz will bring to the Lions a certain lightweight firepower that they have not had in their lineup since 2010 when both Rufo and Schianodicola were Catholic finalists at 96 and 103 pounds, respectively. Recently, he proved he was ready to make an immediate impact when he went toe-to-toe with Casella at the Steeplechase Open, dropping a very narrow decision to the returning DII state finalist. While 106 is hailed as a very deep weight class (Twomey and Briody leading the way), Seitz possesses the skills to make serious noise. He is a definite top-4 guy at his weight class, and If he gets on a hot streak at the right time, could feasibly ride the wave all the way to Albany.
Laine Cammarata (Monsignor Farrell) – A fellow Schoolboy medalist, taking fourth at 112 pounds, Cammarata will be called upon to score as many points as possible at 113 pounds this season. While coaches feel he may still be a year away from hitting his stride and becoming the monster that they think he can be, for the time being, they will be content with a solid performance, comparable to the effort they have always been able to get out of their youngsters. A Lions Club member for a number of years, what will assist Cammarata in making the transition from youth wrestling to the scholastic level is that he has been around the program for as long as he can remember. He knows the system and has seen those that came before him go on to great things. There is no replacement for the confidence of knowing that you are in a top program that has proven year upon year that it knows how to properly cultivate talent and turns projects into titlewinners.
1. St. Anthony’s – Until someone knocks the three-time defending team champions off the throne, St. Anthony’s has to be considered the team to beat heading into every new season. A caveat to this is the knowledge that the team was hit hard by graduation in 2012, seeing the likes of NYS champion Jamel Hudson (now at Hofstra) and aforementioned fellow 2012 Catholic champs, Szilagyi and Auriemma, also move on to bigger and better things. A fourth significant loss comes in the person of 2012 126-pound bronze medalist, Sam Ward, who after having a solid freshman campaign, elected to return to his home district of Locust Valley to finish out his scholastic career. What the graduations and defections have resulted in is a team that has a bit of a bipolar identity with a mixture of superstars at some stops and holes at others. Depth wise, with 11 returning All-Catholic wrestlers (not including Corbett who may or may not compete in 2013) from 99-170, the Tony Walters-led Friars look solid, anchored by Will Gutekunst (second at 99 in 2012), Twomey, Lamantia, Russ, Dunau, Nick Ronan (2x CHSAA third place finisher), Kevin Jackson (former NYS Schoolboy state runner-up, who placed fourth last season at 138 pounds), and Nick Alessandrini (brother of Paul, was a 2009 NYS DII qualifier as an eighth grader for Southampton and finished fourth in 2012 at 145). From 182-285, there is much mystery as the coaching staff will attempt to fill out the heavier weights (220 & 285) with football players.
2. Monsignor Farrell – 2013 brings with it the beginning of a new era for the Staten Island-based school as after years of quality service, head coach Louis DeStefano stepped away to focus on family and career. Assuming the reins of the NYC Dynasty will be Rob Pavis and Phil Squatrito, who despite being assistants in name up to this point have had a hand in every iota of the success the past decade. With a trio of returning Catholic state champions to counteract that of the rival Friars, what makes Farrell so dangerous is that the team is steady, if not spectacular, at almost every weight. It’s not always the champions or finalists that bite you, instead the squad kills you in tournament play by finding a way to put someone on the podium at all 15 weights. This season should be no different as Rufo, Roberts, and Sisti will be complemented by presence of Ralph Maio (fourth last season at 113 pounds), 2012 132-pound runner up, Will Wilson, the previously mentioned Psomas at 160, the Big Daddy Hassan at the backend, as well as a wealth of other veterans who have either not yet made the podium, or who are expected to improve upon low finishes in 2012. Seitz and Cammarata will headline the surge of young blood.
3. Chaminade – After an unmatched run of six straight Catholic team titles (2003-2008), the past five years have seen a bit of the changing of the guard as the Flyers, led by Hall-of-Famer George Dlugolonski, have not finished higher than third in the team standings the past five years, falling as far as sixth (2011) before rebounding a bit with a fourth place showing last year. Might 2013 be the year that the mighty return to the top? The answer is that it all depends on how well the team fares in its attempt to remain injury free. With its strongest group of upperclassmen in quite some time, Chaminade has every reason to believe that with a few breaks and clutch performances, it will be in contention at the end. Setting the table for the Marianist religious order-affiliated school will be Jones and Gray, who both saw an opportunity to go to Albany slip through their fingers last season. Joining them among those to watch will be 2x CHSAA placewinner/fourth in 2012 at 106 pounds, Matt Maffucci, as well as returning Catholic placewinners, Connor Watson (fifth at 170), and Charles Pederson (third at 220). Factor in the return of Briody and the possible relaunch of Fowler 2.0, and all of a sudden you have a team that could crown upwards of four individual champions. Joseph Boccardo, a title contender at 99 points in 2012, who missed the postseason after suffering an injury late in the regular season, will also be in the equation to do damage, having beaten Seitz at the Steeplechase Open.
4. Kellenberg – Another school hit hard by graduation, the Chris Alfalla-led Firebirds will have to adjust to life without Pat Skinner, as the program’s most decorated athlete has taken his talents to the college ranks. If Skinner had been the only prominent departure, KMHS would be in solid shape. Unfortunately, Kellenberg also lost the services of fellow 2012 champion, Matt Matouzzi (145), as well as a quartet of Catholic finalists — Chris Federlin (126), Evan Lenci (160), Matt McDaniels (182), and Dan Centeno (195). With a plethora of experience having left the stable, the onus will fall on the four returning All-Catholic wrestlers that do return, spotlighted by the lone finalist, Alianakian, and reinforced by Joe Crowley (third at 145), Will Hallett (fifth at 138), and Tim Davison (fifth at 152).
5. St. Joe’s Collegiate – After stepping aside for a short time, ring leader Pete Kennedy is back at the helm and he is bringing with him a team that might lack the overall ammunition to win the team title, but will have the heavy guns to do damage and play a significant role in which of the teams above does claim the top spot. The landing of impact freshman Baugher does give the Marauders a serious title threat and, where there is a title, there is an abundance of points. Adding to the spark that the rookie will bring to the lineup will be a trio of returning placewinners, Travis Berube (sixth at 126), sophomore extraordinaire Richie Jones (fifth at 145; just missed All-America honors at the 2012 NHSCA National tournament), and Mike Weilgas, who took home a solid fourth place finish at 220 in 2012. With the majority of the guys who finished ahead of them at their respective weights having graduated, there is reason to be optimistic about Baugher having some company among the potential finalists.
More Season Previews:
Season Preview Feature (more to come):
Section 1 Feature: Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium
Section 5 Feature: The “Miracle” Continues: The Return of Aaron Paddock