Diakomihalis Captures the Super 32 Title as Five Others Place in High School Action; Adam Busiello Strikes Middle School Gold

BY MATT DIANO

One year removed from the heartbreak that witnessed several New York wrestlers come close, but only one Empire Stater (Shayne Brady) make the podium at the 2012 Super 32 Challenge, one could not help but feel that when the NY wrestlers took to the mats this weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, they would be competing with a chip on their shoulders; a little extra motivation; a need to prove that last year was an exception and not the rule.

With all the dust having now settled in the Coliseum, 2012 has officially been put in the rearview mirror following an amazing collective effort which yielded six top-8 finishes, the second most ever earned by New York in the 14-year existence of the Battle for the Belt. (New York had nine placers in 2009).

Led by 106-pound champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), the Empire State would also emerge with a runner up finish at 182 (Nicky Hall), a bronze medal showing at 152 (Louis Hernandez), a pair of fourth place finishes (Nick Piccininni at 120 and Vincent Feola at 220), and a seventh place effort from Thomas Dutton at 145 pounds.

Diakomihalis

Diakomihalis entered the tournament as the #3 ranked wrestler in the nation per Flo after winning the 2013 NYS large school title as an eighth grader in the 99-pound weight class. The Hilton star would be nothing short of dominant on Sunday, going 3-0, including back-to-back bonus point performances in the quarter and semifinal rounds to punch his ticket to the title bout.  Kicking off the morning by securing a first period fall over Ohio’s Hunter Lucas via cradle, Diakomihalis would make a huge statement in the semifinals when he upended 2013 Ohio DII state champion Tyler Warner, 14-3, in a clash of the #2 and #3 ranked wrestlers in the country.   The fab frosh would take the title with a methodical 3-0 decision over sixth-ranked Cage Curry of Pennsylvania in a bout that was not as close as the score would indicate.  Scoring a takedown in the first period and then adding an escape in the second, Diakomihalis would never give his Keystone State foe an opportunity to get on the board, racking up a plethora of riding time.  After winning the Middle School crown in 2012,  Diakomihalis becomes only the second New York wrestler to ever win a Super 32 High School title. (Joe Booth in 2007 was the first).

Hall, a fifth-year for coach Scott Green at Wyoming Seminary (PA), would make his home state proud in finishing second at 182.  Because he is considered a postgraduate, the former Longwood standout is not eligible for an individual national ranking.  However, this weekend more than proved that he is among the nation’s elite as he would go on to defeat the #20 wrestler in the land, Stephen Loiseau of Lancaster Catholic (PA), 6-0 in the quarterfinals, before besting 2013 Michigan third place finisher/#19 (@195) ranked, Ty Wildmo (who upset the 11th ranked wrestler in the quarters), to advance to the finals.  In the championship match, the recent North Carolina State commit would give a game effort, constantly looking for his offense.  But alas, a second title for the Empire State would not be in the cards as Hall dropped a 5-2 decision to Zack Zavatsky.  With the #9 ranked Zavatsky headed to Virginia Tech next fall, Sunday’s finals match could have been the commencement of a long ACC rivalry between these two talented competitors.

Taking the long way to the bronze medal would be the defending NYS large school champion from Mepham, Hernandez.  A product of the Ascend Wrestling Club, with his mentor, Craig Vitagliano in his corner, the day would begin with a bit of whimper for the #13 ranked wrestler in the nation.  Pitted in a tight quarterfinal bout against #4 Jake Danishek, Hernandez appeared to be the aggressor for much of the duration, but would be unable to convert on any of his takedown attempts.  With the match deadlocked at 1-1, the three-time Ohio state champion out of Dayton would explode for a controversial takedown in the final half minute and would hold on in the closing seconds to earn the 3-2 decision.  This questionable loss would be the only one of the day for the stud from Nassau County as he would go on to win four consecutive bouts in the consolation bracket, highlighted by a 7-5 decision over the nation’s #3 wrestler, Fox Baldwin (Florida) in the wrestleback semifinals.  Hernandez would also post 10-2 and 8-3 victories over National Prep third place finisher, Toby Hague, and New Jersey fourth place medalist Zack Hertling prior to his aforementioned win over the Floridian.  In the bronze bout, Hernandez would win a low scoring affair, recording the only takedown of the match to secure the 3-2 decision over 2013 Virginia runner up, Jack Bass.

Piccininni would demonstrate the heart and perseverance that has made him a two-time NYS champion for Ward Melville, rebounding from Saturday’s disappointing upset loss in the round of 16 to go 4-1 on Sunday.  Beginning his journey back to a top-four placement with a 3-0 shutout over 2013 Pennsylvania bronze medalist Tyrone Klump of Nazareth, the wrestler from Suffolk would survive a bit of a scare when he was taken into sudden victory by fellow nationally ranked (13th) opponent, Kyle Akins of Illinois.  With the match all knotted up at 3-3, Piccininni would waste little time in making sure he advanced, quickly getting in deep and finishing on the 2013 Illinois state champion.  In the consolation quarters, Piccininni would run into a familiar foe in the person of New Jersey’s Anthony Cefolo.  A 3-0 winner over the Garden State representative two weeks ago at the Iron Horse Invitational, the Ward Melville standout would make it two-for-two against the Hanover Park product, notching an 8-4 decision. The Empire State’s top-ranked junior would pick up his final win of the tournament in the consolation semifinals, defeating fan favorite Troy Gregor, from the host state, 5-1.  In the bout for the bronze, Piccininni would come up just short of third place honors, losing a hard fought 4-3 decision to the nation’s top-ranked wrestler, Sean Russell from Georgia powerhouse Collins Hill.  Russell finished second at the Super 32 last season.

Perhaps the most surprising top-8 finisher for New York would be Feola, who came to the Tar Heel State as a relative unknown, but leaves it as a hot commodity following his 2-2 effort on the final day of competition.  The Walt Whitman High School and Vougar Honors Wrestling Club representative may have raised his stock more than any other Empire Stater this weekend.  A fourth place finisher at the Suffolk County Tournament in 2013 for Walt Whitman, he would lock up a spot on the podium when he jumped out early and then kept his composure late to earn a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals over LaSalle College High School’s Antonio Pelusi.  However, in the semifinals, 2013 Massachusetts state champion Ian Butterbrodt would have his arsenal from the top position on full display, earning several series of back points to deny the Long Islander a spot in the finals with the 11-1 major decision.  Feola would split his final two bouts of the weekend, sticking his consolation semifinal opponent, 2013 Florida runner up Ben Cruz, in 84 seconds before finding himself on the short end of an 8-3 decision in the third place bout to 2012 Georgia silver medalist, Matthew Moore.

Speaking of stock that continues to skyrocket, Rocky Point’s Dutton had another stellar outing. Two weeks after winning the Iron Horse, the junior who finished fourth in Albany last season, would come up clutch again, posting a .500 record (2-2) on day two in North Carolina to become the second member of his family to finish in the top-8 at this event. (Older brother, Stephen, who currently wrestles for the University of Michigan, was a two-time S32 placewinner, including a runner up showing in 2009).

Dutton’s morning would begin on something of a sour note following an 11- 2 major decision loss to two-time Missouri champion/#8 ranked wrestler in the country, Grant Leeth. However, Dutton would need less than a minute in the consolation bracket to guarantee himself a placement finish, earning the fall at the 58 second mark over 2013 Pennsylvania sixth place finisher, Billy Barnes.  Like Feola, Dutton would split his final two matches of the tournament, losing a 10-3 decision to eventual third place finisher, Nick Bennett of Michigan in the consolation semis, but then putting an exclamation on a solid weekend with a 4-3 decision over two-time New Jersey runner up, Gary Dinmore.  This “w” makes two in a row for Dutton over Dinmore, as he also defeated him by one point (3-2) at the Iron Horse.

Falling just short of the podium, but still very deserving of recognition were the following wrestlers who lost in the round of 12: Vito Arujau (113, Syosset), Vincent DePrez (145, Hilton), and Steven Schneider (170, MacArthur).  All were 2013 large school state silver medalists. Arujau would drop a 1-0 decision to eventual eighth place finisher, Eric Hong (PA); DePrez would be defeated by the fourth place medalist, Micheal Longo of California (6-1); and Schneider would be nipped 2-1 by the seventh placer from Ohio, Seth Williams.

Showing that not only is the present bright, but so too is the future were the following Middle School Division placewinners: Adam Busiello (1st @85), Hector Colom (3rd @100), Michael Gonyea (5th @75), Ivan Garcia (6th @ 70), and AJ Burkhart (6th @95).

With a 1-0 victory over Colorado’s Colton Yapoujian in the title bout, Busiello becomes the first New York State wrestler to win multiple Youth Super 32 titles, after cruising to the crown in 2012.  Yapoujian, who won a Super 32 gold medal in 2011 and placed second last season, entered the tournament as the pound-for-pound #6 junior high prospect on the Flo rankings board.  Busiello is expected to compete on the varsity this season as a seventh grader for coach Nick Garone’s Eastport-South Manor squad.

Colom, who set the school record for victories in a single season as a 7th-grader with 37 (37-5) for Dunkirk, would compile a 5-1 record on the day, opening the tournament with three straight wins, including a 4-2 decision over Flo’s #19 junior High School prospect, Mason Turner of Olathe, Kansas. In fact, the 2013 Section VI 4th place finisher appeared destined to go all the way to the winner’s circle before being tripped up in the semifinals by the 32nd rated youth wrestler, Brian Stuart of Maryland. The 12-year-old superstar would return to his winning ways in the consolation bracket, pitching shutouts in each of his final two bouts of the tournament, including a 3-0 decision in the bronze medal match against Council Rock, PA’s Benjamin Radner.

Notching four pins in his five overall victories would be the Journeymen Wrestling Club protege, Gonyea, who went 5-2 with victories over opponents from Vermont, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.  The two opponents who were successful in getting their hands raised against him would later go on to finish 2nd and 3rd overall in the tournament.

Garcia (representing the Apex Wrestling Club) and Burkhart (Waverly) would go a combined 7-6 in rounding out the NYS youth contingent’s performance with their previously noted sixth place finishes.

Congratulations to all NYS placewinners!

FINAL High School BRACKETS

Final Middle School Brackets (free registration required)

Super 32 Update: State Champs Diakomihalis and Hernandez Among the NY Wrestlers Still in Contention in Greensboro

Hernandez, Photo by BV

After a full day of competition in Greensboro, NC, New York has a number of wrestlers alive in the chase for the Super 32 championship belt.  That includes a pair of 2013 state titlewinners – Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton, 106) and Louis Hernandez (Mepham, 152).

Diakomihalis, who won a Middle School crown at this event last year, was dominant with two pins and a technical fall during the day.  Hernandez cruised as well, with seven and nine point wins in his first two bouts before receiving a forfeit in the Round of 16.

After winning a challenging bracket at the Iron Horse a few weeks ago, Rocky Point’s Tom Dutton followed up with four straight victories at 145 to punch his ticket to the quarters.  Another champion at the Iron Horse, Steve Schneider of MacArthur, posted a trio of wins, including a pin at 170. Fellow Long Island wrestler Vincent Feola of Walt Whitman notched a fall and a one-point decision at 220, while former Longwood standout (and current Wyoming Seminary grappler) Nicky Hall will also appear in the Round of 8 tomorrow, at 182 pounds.

In addition to the quarterfinalists mentioned above, several other Empire State wrestlers remain in contention for spots on the podium, including state champion Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville at 120 pounds and NYS finalists Vito Arujau of Syosset (113) and Vincent DePrez of Hilton (145).  Also still in the mix after a successful first day on the mat in North Carolina are East Islip’s Dennis Ferro at 152, Clarence’s Jake Weber and Rocky Point’s Joseph Russo at 170 and former Pine Bush competitor Chris Cuccolo at 106.

Sunday’s Scheduled Matches for NY Wrestlers – Super 32 Challenge

In the quarterfinals:

106: Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton) vs. Hunter Lucas (OH)

145: Tommy Dutton (Rocky Point) vs. Grant Leeth (MO)

152: Louis Hernandez (Mepham) vs. Jacob Danishek (IN)

170: Steve Schneider (MacArthur) vs. Chance Marstellar (PA)

182: Nicky Hall (Wyoming Seminary/Longwood) vs. Stephen Loiseau (PA)

220: Vincent Feola (Walt Whitman) vs. Antonio Pelusi (PA)

 

In the wrestlebacks:

106: Chris Cuccolo (St. Benedicts/Pine Bush) vs. Jarrett Reisenbichler (MO)

113: Vito Arujau (Syosset) vs. Patrick D’Arcy (NJ)

120: Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville) vs. Tyrone Klump (PA)

145: Vincent DePrez (Hilton) vs. Chandler Pyke (GA)

152: Dennis Ferro (East Islip) vs. Paden Bailey (OK)

170: Jake Weber (Clarence) vs. Jacob Cooper (MI)

170: Joseph Russo (Rocky Point) vs. Joe Heyob (OH)

Overcoming Forfeits and Wrangling Snakes: NY Kong Represents the Empire State at Disney Duals

 

Team NY Kong, Photo courtesy of Steve Hromada/Anthony Ciolino


There were some twists and turns along the way, but the Empire State’s debut in the All-Star division at the AAU Scholastic Duals (aka Disney Duals) was a success, as Team New York Kong took eighth place in Orlando in a competition that featured teams from all over the country.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” said coach Anthony Ciolino.  “What they did was awesome. To go to a national tournament, one of the toughest I’ve been to, and get to the All-American round is unbelievable, especially when you’re giving up as many points as we had to.”

According to Ciolino, who hadn’t participated in an AAU event before, the rules of the organization in New York limited the number of scoring team members by region of the state.  When he arrived in Florida, Ciolino was informed that some of the grapplers who had made the trip would not be allowed to figure into the scoring and therefore, every dual meet essentially began with a 12-0 deficit.

“We brought a great team – every one of the guys was an All-State wrestler,” Ciolino said. “I couldn’t believe we had to tell wrestlers like [state second placer finishers] Jacob Berkowitz, El Shaddai Van Hoesen and Nicky Hall that they could wrestle but their matches would be scored as forfeits for the other team.  Those guys wrestled very well, but every dual, 182 and 285 didn’t count.”

Early on, that didn’t matter.  The squad opened with four blowout victories over opponents from Ohio, Michigan and Delaware and went 6-1 overall in pool action, with the one setback against Pennsylvania’s Team Diesel, which was the eventual runner up.

The team then won its next two meets against teams from Missouri and Georgia before dropping its final two contests to Keystone Elite (PA) and Michigan’s MYWA Blue, bouts both Ciolino and Cornell-recruit Dylan Palacio felt would have gone differently with a full strength side.

“Looking at it, I think we were the third-best team there,” Palacio said.  “Diesel beat us, no question.  They were just really, really good.  But the other duals we could have won.  At that level, with nationally ranked kids everywhere, giving up 12 points in a dual [and 18 against Michigan with one team member having to leave], there’s no way to come back.  We took the challenge with a grain of salt and made the top eight.”

In the process of making the top eight, many individuals stood out.  Among them was a pair of undefeated wrestlers – Palacio and Frewsburg’s Nick Mitchell.

Palacio topped multiple nationally-ranked foes, including Pennsylvania state champion Garrett Peppelman, in his only close bout.  In fact, Peppelman took an early 5-0 lead, but Palacio chipped away at the deficit, eventually notching back points very late in the third period to get the victory.

“I wasn’t happy with how I wrestled in that match,” Palacio said. “I had to claw my way back.  There was a point in the match where I had to ask myself if I believed I could win.  But there was no going back. I wasn’t tired. I believed I should win every time I wrestled and I got it done.”

Nick Mitchell, Photo by Boris Veysman

Mitchell, who will attend Edinboro in the fall, got the job done as well.

“Nick Mitchell is one of the slickest kids in New York State.  He was really, really good,” Palacio said. “People like to talk about who’s better, D1 or D2 [Division 1 or 2] in New York.  After this weekend, I know that D2 kids are for real.  I might have been skeptical, but they shut me up really quickly.”

According to Ciolino, several other wrestlers registered seven or more victories for NY Kong during the event in addition to Mitchell and Palacio, including Marathon’s Lucas Malmberg, Lansing’s William Koll, Wayne’s Alec Dierna, Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley, Williamsville East’s Dylan Cohen, Longwood’s Corey Rasheed, Medina’s Tristan Hamner and Niagara Wheatfield’s Max Antone.

“Hamner really battled and beat some very good kids,” Palacio said. “Antone surprised me. He was so athletic, doing flips and cartwheels.  I was in a state of shock.”

A similar state of shock may have been felt by a crowd at the team’s hotel as they saw a large snake on the premises. According to Ciolino, there was Palacio, standing near the lizard, speaking in an Australian accent, instructing people and trying to keep them calm.

“I was acting like the snake wrangler,” he said. “Everyone was listening to me.  That was a funny time, and there were so many others.  There was stuff like that all week. Everyone was funny and laid back.  We became really close – it was like wrestling with my friends and wrestling with family and there’s nothing better than that.”

“I couldn’t believe how the team jelled,” Ciolino agreed. “It didn’t feel like I brought a team from every corner of the state, even though that’s what I did.  It felt like the team was a bunch of guys who went to high school together.  They had a great time at the pool, at Disney World, playing jokes on each other. It was unbelievable.”

Despite some of the initial issues, it’s an experience Ciolino is hoping to repeat again in 2013.

“A lot of the juniors already told me they want to come back,” he said.  “It’s not a hard sell.  It’s a great place to be and you know the kind of competition you’ll see here.  The national exposure is great.  I had college coaches asking me about some of the guys. Now I know the rules and we want to do it again.”

That was a sentiment echoed by Palacio, although he’s headed to college.

“I went with a North Carolina team last year but this was way better,” he said. “I would love to do it all over again.  We took the good with the bad but in the end, I think we showed everyone that New York is for real.”

 

[Ciolino wished to thank Steve Hromada and Kim McClaugherty for all their work during the trip].

Team Members:

Lucas Malmberg, Marathon

Justin Cooksey, MacArthur

Jimmy Overhiser, Corning

William Koll, Lansing

Alec Dierna, Wayne

Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa

Dylan Cohen, Williamsville East

Corey Rasheed, Longwood

Tristan Hamner, Medina

Nicky Hall, Longwood

Dylan Palacio, Long Beach

Nick Mitchell, Frewsburg

Jacob Berkowitz, Scarsdale

Austyn Hayes, Phoenix

Max Antone, Niagara Wheatfield

El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Columbia

 

The Power of Two: Fatherhood, Wrestling, Nick and Nicky Hall

Nick and Nicky Hall at the Section XI tournament

In honor of Father’s Day, we will bring a few stories about wrestling fathers and sons in New York. The first is about Nick Hall Sr. and his son Nicky Hall.

On his way to the state finals in 2012, Longwood junior Nicky Hall was very stingy defensively, giving up more than two points in only four of his 38 bouts.  That wasn’t an accident.

“From an early age I tried to teach my son the mentality I had in wrestling, which was not to get scored on,” said Nick Hall Sr., who was an All-American heavyweight in college.  “I used to tell him I’d rather he win 1-0 than 7-2 because it’s better not to give up points.  I’d say [Nicky] and I are very similar in style.  We aren’t flashy wrestlers but we take a lot of pride in being hard to score on and just getting the job done.”

That includes getting the job done in the postseason, as both earned two Sectional crowns for the Lions – the first father-son combination to achieve that feat in Suffolk County.

For Nicky, who has competed for the varsity squad since seventh grade, it wasn’t hard to find the motivation to stand on top of the podium for Longwood.

“There were huge expectations for me from the beginning,” he said. “My father’s name is on the wall in the wrestling room.  There’s a picture of him right outside the window.  I stared at those things every day.  It was almost haunting me everywhere I looked. I wanted people to think of both of us when they hear Nick Hall. I wanted to make a name for myself, not just live in his shadow.”

His performance on the mat has achieved that, including fourth and second place medals at the New York state tournament the past two campaigns.

Success is nothing new for Nicky – he has been winning since he began taking the sport seriously around 10 years old.  His exposure to wrestling goes back further, however, to the time he attended some of his father’s practices and matches at Old Dominion. That early involvement was significant to Nick Sr.

“Wrestling helped me get into college and get my college degree,” Nick Sr. said. “Wrestling builds character and sets you up to be successful later in life. They say that once you’ve wrestled, everything in life is easy.  I really believe that. It’s so near and dear to my heart that it was important for me to introduce him to wresting when he was young.”

From the start, Nicky said his father was there to coach him and help him in his development.  He considers himself lucky to have had his father’s support and guidance in the room although it occasionally brought about some painful lessons.

“One time I asked him to wrestle me, but about 10 minutes later I was wondering what I was thinking,” Nicky said. “He has a lot of weight on me and is too strong; too tough. My chin was bleeding and so was my nose and lip.  It was definitely a one-sided battle.”

Nick Sr. had a lot of one-sided battles in high school, where he finished his career at Longwood as a state champion at 215 pounds. He picked up where he left off in college, earning a 115-18-3 record and a pair of CAA crowns in addition to All-American honors as a junior.

In his final campaign, he was among the contenders for an NCAA championship.  However, at the tournament, he ruptured the fifth and sixth discs in his spine, which not only forced him to default from nationals but also put an end to his wrestling career.

“That injury changed my whole path,” Nick Sr. said. “I was planning on winning the national title that year. Then I planned to be a graduate assistant coach, getting my graduate degree and becoming a psychologist.  But I didn’t have the opportunity to do that because of my injury.”

The turn of events shaped his thoughts for his son’s future.

“I’ve always told Nicky that there’s no professional wrestling,” he said. “I want him to excel in wrestling because it’s something he loves to do, but much more important is to use wrestling as a tool to go to a college that will allow him to be the most productive person he can be. Nicky has always embraced academics in a way that I didn’t until I got to college. My best advice to him is to seek an Ivy League University where he can come out with a degree that sets him up for life.”

The message is certainly one Nicky has taken to heart.

“My father always reminds me to never sell myself short – in wrestling, at school, in any situation,” Nicky said. “I have a stack of college letters in my room – more than 25.  He reminds me not to be satisfied, to know the kind of school I want to attend and not settle for anything less.”

When he does move away, whether it’s for college or for a possible prep school next year, both Nick Sr. and Nicky talk about the adjustments they’ll have to make.  But for now, they appreciate the time they have.

“We do everything together,” Nicky said.  “Hanging around the house, taking care of the yard, hanging out with my little brothers (Rocco, Jake and Tyler).  We sometimes sit and watch college wrestling on TV, rewind it and talk about what the guys did on the mat.  He’s my go-to person to hang out with.”

“[Nicky] has far exceeded what I ever expected to have in a child,” Nick Sr. added. “He’s a great role model to his brothers and his teammates.  He sets the bar very high academically and athletically. I can honestly say I’m honored and proud to have him as my child.  I didn’t grow up with a father, so it makes it that much more important for me to give him what I never had.  When his birthday comes around, I’m reading cards and crying because he’s the best kid you could have.”

In addition to birthdays, the Halls look forward to Father’s Day, an occasion that Nick Sr. said his son “goes all out” to celebrate.

“He’s very special to me because he’s done so much for me and my family,” Nicky said.  “I really appreciate him. When it comes to Father’s Day, I do it right because he deserves it.”

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Nick Hall Sr. was a two-time CAA Wrestler of the Year, who ranks fourth on the Old Dominion wins list and is tied for first in career pins.

Nicky Hall was a Section XI champion in 2011 and 2012 and the Division I State runner up at 152 pounds this season.