Northeast Duals Recap: From Cornell Victories to Standout Performances to Celebrating Jeff Blatnick

 

By Matt Diano

On an afternoon that marked the 10th anniversary of its creation, the 2012 edition of the Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Duals did not fail to live up to the purposes of its origin. Seeking to establish an event which would both capture the ambiance and intensity of the classic Iowa/Oklahoma State showdowns (which he had been exposed to while watching his brother, Pat, compete for John Smith’s Cowboys) as well as promote the world’s oldest and greatest sport to the upstate community, Frank Popolizio has seen his brainchild grow from being hosted in the Niskayuna High School gymnasium to being considered one of, if not the, preeminent early season clash of the titans.

While still relatively young in age, the NE Duals are, and continue to be, an environment where magic happens. Yesterday would prove no different as the field of 14 teams (seven of which are nationally ranked by at least one major poll) would put it all on the line in the ultimate war for bragging rights in which the real winners were not as much the victorious teams, but rather, the masses of people sitting in the stands of the Hudson Valley Community College Athletic Center. All were treated to nine hours of the most exhilarating action found on the planet Earth. Whether “your team” went 3-0 or 0-4, you walked to your car with an ear-to-ear grin, because you knew you had just spent the 24th in the company of warriors.

Big Red Emerge as the Mighty

Posting an unblemished 3-0 record for the day, if you had to single out a specific program that rose to the occasion, there would be no better choice than the Rob Koll-led Big Red crowd favorites. Round-by-round, the Cornell wrestlers found themselves running the gauntlet, having to best a pair of top-12 teams in back-to-back duals in order to keep “the 0” intact.

Jace Bennett, Photo by BV

As expected, sitting at the head of the table in this effort was three-time NCAA Champion Kyle Dake, who was his dominant self, surrendering a mere two points total in his three matches. Perhaps the Lansing native’s biggest win was the only one in which he did not score bonus points, a 5-0 decision over #8 ranked Bubby Graham of the University of Oklahoma. Having watched his teammates drop three bouts in a row to knot the match at 10 apiece, the seasoned veteran knew that in order for the Big Red to regain the momentum, he needed to come up big. And, as he has done countless times before, he delivered in grand fashion, controlling the action for the full seven minutes in pitching the shutout against the Sooner. The win would serve as a catalyst as Cornell would win three of the final four matches of the dual, including Jace Bennett‘s clincher at 197 when he pinned OU’s Brad Johnson half a minute into the second period to provide the Empire State powerhouse with an insurmountable nine point lead. For good measure, big man Stryker Lane would close out the 25-13 dual win with a 5-2 decision over previously nationally-ranked Keldrick Hall. Nick Arujau‘s 34 second pin of the Sooners’ Cody Brewer in a match-up of the #12 vs. #13 ranked wrestlers in the nation would also stand out. Countering a deep shot from his OU opponent, Arujau would lock up a tight cradle and in the blink of an eye, it was goodnight for Mr. Brewer.

Nahshon Garrett, Photo by BV

In a contest that pitted the #8 Big Red against the #9 Chippewas of Central Michigan, it would be Dake (a 14-2 major decision winner over Mike Ottinger), Bennett and freshman Nahshon Garrett taking care of business, with the latter getting Cornell off on the proper footing with a 6-3 decision over #12 Christian Cullinan. Additional key victories would come from the 141/149 duo of returning All-American Mike Nevinger (2-0 over Scott Mattingly) and Chris Villalonga (5-1 over Donnie Corby). As nice and pertinent as these wins might have been in ultimately propelling the EIWA powerhouse to the eventual 17-15 dual victory, the biggest performance might have come in a losing effort when Lane pushed the #3 ranked heavyweight, Jarod Trice, to the second tiebreaker before dropping a 2-1 decision. Because 285 has been a spot in recent times where the Big Red has struggled to find that hammer at the back-end to complement the rest of the lineup, this hard fought win has given Koll and his staff reason to feel optimistic about what the future may hold for them at heavyweight.

In their first dual of the day, the Cornell wrestlers would go 10-for-10, goose-egging the Dragons of Drexel (coached by former Cornell assistant, Matt Azevedo), 40-0.

Illini And Scarlet Knights Also Finish with the Perfecto
Joining the Big Red as the only other teams to avoid the bitter taste of defeat was the #6 ranked University of Illinois and Rutgers University. While neither program wrestled the same caliber of opposition as Cornell, there was no mistaking their dominance as the Illini outscored Binghamton, Princeton, and Maryland 117-16.  Head coach Scott Goodale’s Scarlet Knights were not far behind, tallying an 86-27 edge over a common opponent in the BU Bearcats, as well as fellow New York institutions, Columbia University and the United States Military Academy at West Point (Army).

Opening up the morning with a 46-0 drubbing of the Tigers, the tone was set for the kind of day it would be for the Big 10 conference member. Simply put, anything and everything that could go the way of the Illini did.  125 pound All-American Jesse Delgado would beat Maryland’s Shane Gentry, Daryl Thomas would get his hand raised over Geoff Alexander, BJ Futrell would pin Binghamton’s Joe Bonaldi, etc. As the day continued to progress, one had to wonder if an Illinois wrestler would ever lose a bout pitting nationally ranked competitors against one another. While Tony Dallago would eventually lose to Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock, it would come only after Illinois posted the biggest individual win of the day when #6 Jordan Blanton avenged his loss from a few weeks ago at the NWCA All-Star Classic, beating #3 Josh Asper of the Terps 3-1 in a fight among the nation’s creme de la creme.

Stephen West, Photo by BV

Spearheading Rutgers to an undefeated record would be upperclassmen — #14 Scott Winston (157), #10 Greg Zannetti (174), and #13 Dan Rinaldi (184). Each tallying at least one victory over a fellow nationally ranked opponent, this trio would be among the seven Scarlet Knight wrestlers to go 3-0. Winning a pair of rather low scoring affairs, it would be the former two who really “did work” against EIWA rival Columbia, as they etched out 3-1 and 1-0 decisions over #11 Jake O’Hara and #13 Stephen West, respectively, en route to the team’s 30-6 victory.  Rinaldi, would earn his signature “w” one dual later when he doubled up Binghamton’s Cody Reed 4-2, one of eight wins for the Garden State school in yet another 30-6 final. In their swan song, the Scarlet Knights would have their closest dual on paper (26-15) against Army, but that would be slightly misleading as they forfeited the 149-pound weight class and inserted a backup at 165 pounds. Rinaldi’s 6-2 victory over Collin Wittmeyer constituted the most significant individual result. Senior Mario Mason, the once highly touted recruit out of Blair Academy, continued to struggle, dropping both of his matches to ranked opponents, 10-2 to the Bearcats’ Donnie Vinson (ranked as high as #1 in some polls; as low as #4 in others) and 4-3 to #10 Steve Santos from Columbia.  Santos remains undefeated this season.

Burning Down the House: Dual of the Day Goes to Maryland/Purdue
In a dual that may have gone overlooked by many because of its location on a far mat in the corner of the HVCC Athletic Center, unofficial honors for “Dual of the Day” unquestionably goes to the back-and-forth slugfest between Maryland and Purdue. A dual of mini streaks, each team would take a turn running off a series of consecutive wins, commencing with the Kerry McCoy-guided Terps jumping out to the early 6-0 lead behind the efforts of Shane Gentry and Geoff Alexander. Ranked towards the bottom of a few polls, each would enter their respective bouts as underdogs on paper. However, as a testament to the cliche about why matches are not wrestled on paper, the two lightweights would find a way to get the job done, as they peeled off back-to-back wins over the #19 and #8 wrestlers in the land, Camden Eppert and Cashe Quiroga by the respective scores of 5-4 and 9-3 to give their team the initial lead.

Unwilling to lie down and play dead, the Boilermakers would waste no time in striking back; and when they attacked, they bit hard, stringing together four straight wins from 141-165 (including two bonus point victories) to launch themselves to the 16-6 lead with only four matches remaining. Playing a prominent role in this rally would be Brandon Nelsen and Tommy Churchard, whose pin and major decision efforts at 141 and 157 would put the Indiana-based program in the driver’s seat.

But alas, you don’t win “Dual of the Day” honors on the strength of one lead change. Nope, with backs against the wall, it would be Maryland’s turn to go streaking, beginning with Asper’s 16-4 major decision against Purdue freshman Chad Welch. Sheptock posted a nearly identical score in his bout against Patrick Kissel, surrendering one extra point (16-5) to bring the ACC contender without a two point margin, 16-14. But again, I say to you, what fun would it be if Maryland simply just came back to win? Instead, drama would ensue when Braden Atwood channeled his inner Cael Sanderson, leading #10 Christian Boley, 11-0 in the third period. Knowing that a major decision would make it impossible for his team to win in regulation, Boley was keenly aware that he would need to get things done in the last two minutes. He responded to the pressure, darn near pulling a rabbit out of his hat when he locked up a tight cradle in the third period, causing the Terp loyalists to go crazy in the stands. While Boley would be unable to earn the fall (Maryland fans might disagree), the five point move would prove to be the difference between victory and defeat. By keeping the bout to a regular decision, the former stud from Brockport High School, would set the stage for what would come next. Needing a technical fall to force criteria or a pin for the win, Maryland big man, Carl Buchholz apparently did not get paid by the hour as he came out like a man on a mission, quickly putting his Purdue opponent on his back and sticking him 24 seconds into the first period to secure the 20-19 win.

#10 Sooners Defeat #11 Chippewas
Unlike the wild dual cited above, when the Mark Cody-coached University of Oklahoma made a move early into the dual against Central Michigan, there would be no looking back as the murderer’s row of Cody Brewer, #1 Kendric Maple, the Lester twins (#8 Nick @149; #12 Matt @157), and Bubby Graham, turned a 3-0 deficit at the onset of the match into a 21-3 advantage late in the dual. Igniting the spark with first period pins in consecutive matches would be Brewer (who did not face #3 Scotti Sentes as originally planned) and Maple, giving the Big 12 school the 12-3 lead. Because everything they do has to bare some resemblance, the Lesters would make it a family affair by etching out back-to-back wins in sudden victory, with Nick getting 4-2 decision over Corby and Matt breaking a 0-0 deadlock with a takedown against Lucas Smith. Adding that always appreciated extra insurance would be Graham who toppled Ottinger 4-1, making it perhaps the toughest day in the wrestling career of the CMU sophomore (lost early to top-ranked Dake).

Central Michigan would get within 10 pouts following a pair of major decisions out of Craig Kelliher and three-time All-American Ben Bennett, but any hopes of a come-from-behind victory would be dashed at 197 when Sooner Brad Johnson reversed his fortune a bit and went from being the goat (loss by fall to Jace Bennett in Cornell dual) to hero when he put the team win on ice with a 6-5 decision over Jackson Lewis. Big Daddy extraordinaire, Trice, would close out the dual with a 7-2 win over Hall in a losing effort for CMU.

Honoring Blatnick; Video Tribute Fitting For the Local Legend

Jeff Blatnick

In what was the most emotional and soul satisfying portion of the afternoon, tournament organizers would awe the crowd with a beautiful video tribute to Section II icon, Jeff Blatnick, who passed away on October 24th from complications following heart surgery. A cancer survivor who would go on to win the gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, Blatnick never strayed far from his roots as a Niskayuna graduate who got his start on the mat under the tutelage of iconic coach Joe Bena, and reached levels that most of us only dream of, belonging to an exclusive company of men who have won a state title, an NCAA title (for Springfield College), and the Olympic hardware. Only 55 when he passed, Blatnick was coaching at Burnt Hills High School at the time of his death. (For more tributes to Blatnick, see here).

Immediately following the glowing tribute which featured highlights from the gold medal match, as well as interviews/recollections from Bena and Dan Gable, donations were taken to assist the family. And, in the spirit of generosity in which Blatnick lived his life, when it came time to give back, those in attendance did so without hesitation, in some instances actually chasing down the individuals holding the donation cups to make sure they had the privilege of contributing to the cause. It was the most selfless act I have ever seen in my decade plus of going to and covering wrestling matches; it was befitting of Mr. Blatnick and would have made him proud the way he did for the us so many times prior.

Full results from yesterday’s action can be accessed by clicking here:

Results from the Northeast Duals for the Five NY Teams; Cornell Notches 3-0 Mark

Five of the Division I teams from New York competed at the Northeast Duals on Saturday in Troy, NY.  Here are the summaries from the Cornell, Binghamton, Columbia, Army and Hofstra websites.  New York Wrestling News will publish a recap later this weekend.

Cornell Stays Undefeated With 3-0 Weekend

The No. 8 Cornell wrestling team notched three wins at the Journeymen Northeast Duals on Saturday. The Big Red opened the day with a 40-0 win over Drexel and followed with a 17-15 victory over No. 9 Central Michigan. Pins by Nick Arujau and Jace Bennett led the Big Red to its final win of the day, 25-13, over No. 12 Oklahoma.

Freshman No. 9 Nahshon Garrett went 3-0 for the day with a tech fall and a major decision. No. 1 ranked Kyle Dake was also 3-0 with a pin and a major decision. Bennett notched bonus points in all three of his wins with two major decisions to add to his fall.

The Big Red will travel to Sin City next weekend for the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 1.

For the remainder of the summary from cornellbigred.com, click here.

Vinson and Schiedel 3-0 As Binghamton Drops Three Matches

Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)

VESTAL, N.Y.—Binghamton wrestling dropped three matches at the 10th Annual Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Duals, held Saturday at the Edward F. McDonough Sports Complex at Hudson Valley Community College.

The Bearcats (0-5) lost to Army (16-15), RV Rutgers (30-9) and No. 6 Illinois (39-10).

Binghamton’s nationally-ranked senior duo of 149-pound Donnie Vinson and 197-pound Nate Schiedel each went 3-0 to highlight BU’s performance.

Vinson, 10-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News, collected two major decisions and a decision. He opened with a narrow 1-0 win over 20th-ranked Daniel Young of Army. Vinson then posted a 10-2 major decision against Rutgers and finished his day with an 8-0 win against Illinois.

For the remainder of the summary from bubearcats.com, click here

Army Edges Binghamton on Criteria, Goes 1-2 at Northeast Duals

TROY, N.Y. – Freshman Bryce Barnes pinned his opponent at 197 pounds, but Rutgers won seven of the other nine bouts contested en route to a 26-15 victory over the Black Knights on Saturday at the Northeast Duals.

Rutgers (4-0) won the first three bouts to establish an 11-0 lead it would not relinquish. Army senior Daniel Young was awarded a win by forfeit in the 149-pound match, and Black Knight junior Paul Hancock posted a 6-3 verdict against Anthony Volpe at 165 pounds to pull Army (1-2) to within 14-9 with four bouts remaining.

RU won the next two matchups to extend its lead to 20-9, but Barnes pinned Hayden Hrymack in 1 minute, 32 seconds in the 197-pound match.  For the remainder of the Army summary and the summaries of the other Army duals, see goarmysports.com

Steve Santos Remains Unbeaten as Columbia Notches 1-2 Mark in Troy

TROY, N.Y. – The Columbia wrestling team took down Drexel, 26-9, but fell to No. 16 Maryland, 27-10, and Rutgers, 30-6, at the 2012 Journeyman Wrestling/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals in Troy, N.Y. Saturday. Steve Santos improved to 11-0 on the year at 149 pounds with a trio of victories.

For the remainder of the summary from gocolumbialions.com, click here.

Snyder Earns Three Wins for Hofstra in Troy, NY

The Hofstra wrestling team dropped four matches, including three to Top 25 ranked opponents, at the 10th Annual Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday afternoon.

The Pride dropped decisions to Bloomsburg (24-10), #10 Oklahoma (36-6), #11 Central Michigan (24-9) and #23 Purdue (32-8).  Hofstra is now 0-6 in dual matches this season.

Senior Paul Snyder (Greensburg, PA), led the Pride with three victories in four matches including a win by forfeit in Hofstra’s finale against Purdue.  Snyder is 7-3 on the year.  For the remainder of the summary from gohofstra.com, see here.


Northeast Duals Preview – What to Watch for As Cornell, Hofstra, Columbia, Binghamton and Army Take the Mat

Five of the six Division I New York teams will compete at the Northeast Duals on Saturday in Troy.  The following provides a preview for each team, including matches to keep an eye on during the event.

Cornell: vs Drexel, Central Michigan and Oklahoma

The Big Red opened with a convincing 30-7 victory over Binghamton without starters Nick Arujau, Chris Villalonga, Craig Eifert/Jesse Shanaman and Steve Bosak.   Arujau and Villalonga are expected back for what should be strong tests, especially from the Chippewas and the Sooners.  It will be the first time Drexel head coach Matt Azevedo faces Cornell, where he was an assistant before taking over the Dragons program.

Matches to Watch:

#9 Nahshon Garrett vs. Christian Cullinan/Joe Roth (Central Michigan) – Garrett entered the 125-pound rankings this week after getting off to a 10-0 start with titles at the Binghamton Open and the New York States.  After defeating #10 Steve Bonanno in his last match, he’ll face either Cullinan, who has a quality win over Sean Boyle of Michigan this season or #12 Roth, who was a mainstay in the national rankings last season.

#12 Nick Arujau vs. #2 Scotti Sentes (Central Michigan) and #13 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma) – After missing a weekend of action, Arujau won’t be able to ease his way back into the lineup as he has a pair of acclaimed foes to battle – an experienced multiple-time All-American in Sentes and a highly touted freshman in Brewer.

Mike Nevinger, Photo by BV

#9 Mike Nevinger vs. #1 Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) – The seventh and fourth place finishers at last year’s NCAA met in the second round in St. Louis with Maple coming away with the victory.  After a solid run last weekend at the New York States we’ll see what adjustments Nevinger has made for his second bout with the nation’s top ranked grappler.

Chris Villalonga vs. #8 Nick Lester (Oklahoma) – Villalonga won his first two bouts of the year before defaulting out of the Binghamton Open.   He will get his first major test of the campaign when he takes on the Oklahoma All-American who is stellar on top.

#1 Kyle Dake vs. #12 Joe Booth (Drexel), #18 Mike Ottinger (Central Michigan) and #7 Bubby Graham (Oklahoma) – Booth may not be in the lineup, but if he is Dake will be the only Big Red wrestler scheduled to meet three ranked opponents. With the Ithaca native in his last year of college competition, every one of his matches is “one to watch”, that is, if you like viewing one of the greats.

#2 Steve Bosak vs. #5 Ben Bennett would be a headliner, but it won’t take place with the 2012 184-pound NCAA champion unlikely to be back on the mat.  In Bosak’s place, freshman Craig Scott has been very effective.  How will he fare against the multi-time All-American Bennett?

Jace Bennett vs. #19 Brandon Palik (Drexel) – Bennett was totally dominant at the New York States last Saturday, with three pins and a major.  He’ll look to keep things going against a wrestler considered to be among the top 20 nationally.

 

Hofstra: vs. Bloomsburg, Oklahoma, Central Michigan and Purdue

Hofstra has already faced two top 25 teams in road duals and the Pride will match up against another three ranked teams – Oklahoma, Central Michigan and Purdue on Saturday as they look for their first victory of the season.  A talented Bloomsburg squad is also on the docket for this weekend.

Matches to Watch:

Steve Bonanno, Photo by BV

#10 Steve Bonanno vs. Christian Cullinan/Joe Roth and #19 Camden Eppert (Purdue) – Bonanno has faced a challenging early slate with Minnesota’s David Thorn and Cornell’s Garrett.  Cullinan/Roth and Eppert will provide additional tough battles.

#17 Jamie Franco vs #2 Scotti Sentes (Central Michigan), #13 Cody Brewer (Oklahoma) and #8 Cashe Quiroga (Purdue) – There’s no rest for Franco after taking third at the New York States.  He’ll have a great opportunity to wrestle some of the nation’s top competitors and move up higher in the top 20.  His fourth opponent, New York native Nick Wilcox of Bloomsburg, isn’t in the Intermat rankings, but is #20 according to Amateur Wrestling News.

#10 Luke Vaith vs. #1 Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) and Brandon Nelsen (Purdue) – Vaith has looked tough this season, defeating Nick Dardanes of Minnesota and losing squeakers to returning All-Americans Tyler Graff and Mike Nevinger.  He’ll get another medalist in the nation’s #1 141-pounder, Maple, and the solid Brandon Nelsen.

Justin Accordino hasn’t taken the mat yet this season but if he does, he’ll be welcomed back by #8 Nick Lester of the Sooners, #14 Ivan Lopouchanski of Purdue and Bloomsburg’s Josh Roosa.

Paul Snyder vs. #4 Jarod Trice (Central Michigan) and #17 Justin Grant (Bloomsburg) – Snyder won the New York State crown last weekend and will look to carry that momentum to Troy.  Grant recently cracked the top 20, while Trice is a top 5 heavyweight nationally.

 

Binghamton vs. Army, Rutgers and Illinois 

Binghamton opened the campaign with duals against EIWA squads Lehigh and Cornell.  The Bearcats are looking to earn first-year head coach Matt Dernlan’s initial victory when they take on two other EIWA foes –  Rutgers and Army – as well as the Big 10’s Illinois.

Matches to Watch:

Joe Bonaldi vs. #3 BJ Futrell (Illinois) and Trevor Melde (Rutgers) – Bonaldi broke into the rankings during the Binghamton Open when he topped a number of heralded wrestlers on his way to first place.  It is unclear whether he will take the mat after sitting out last week with an injury, but if he does, he will face tough tests in All-American Futrell and Melde.

#4 Donnie Vinson vs. #20 Daniel Young (Army) and Mario Mason (Rutgers) – Young made some noise early in the campaign when he defeated returning NCAA fourth place finisher Cam Tessari of Ohio State.  Vinson looked on last weekend as Young took second at the New York States.  This week, the Bearcat 149-pounder will have his chance against the Army wrestler and against the talented Scarlet Knight Mason.

Cody Reed vs. Collin Wittmeyer (Army), #13 Dan Rinaldi (Rutgers) and #11 Tony Dallago (Illinois) – There will be an air of familiarity in Reed’s first bout, as he’ll take on Wittmeyer.  The two wrestled for third place at the New York States last weekend, with the Army grappler taking the bronze. They’ll compete again in Round 1 before Reed faces top 15 competitors Rinaldi and Dallago.

#7 Nate Schiedel vs. #6 Mario Gonzalez (Illinois) – Schiedel’s transition to 197 pounds has been smooth so far, as he sports a 6-0 mark with a victory over All-American Micah Burak of Penn.  This should be another good one between two strong podium contenders for 2012-13.

 

Army vs. Purdue, Binghamton and Rutgers

The Black Knights have been busy in the early season with the Buffalo Invitational, Brockport/Oklahoma Gold and the New York States, but they will participate in their first duals this weekend against Purdue, Binghamton and Rutgers.

Matches to Watch:

Injuries have left some interesting matches in doubt.  Jordan Thome, who won a pair of bouts at the NCAA tournament last year, could get a shot at former All-American Cashe Quiroga of Purdue.  However, Thome defaulted out of the New York States due to injury and goarmysports.com doesn’t list him as the starter.

As discussed above, Joe Bonaldi missed last weekend’s action for Binghamton, but if he returns to the mat, he’ll have a meeting with Connor Hanafee, who has placed fourth and fifth at the Oklahoma Gold and New York States, respectively.  Hanafee will be busy with tough matches as he’s also set to face Brandon Nelsen of Purdue and Trevor Melde of Rutgers.

The match between #20 Daniel Young and #4 Donnie Vinson was discussed above, but Young will get another challenge from a ranked grappler – #14 Ivan Lopouchanski of Purdue.  Also already mentioned in the Binghamton section was the match between Collin Wittmeyer and Cody Reed.  In addition to Reed, Wittmeyer should see Scarlet Knight Dan Rinaldi, currently 13th nationally.

If Coleman Gracey makes his debut at 174 pounds, he’ll take on Greg Zannetti of Rutgers, currently #11 according to Intermat.

Freshman Bryce Barnes has already faced top 10 foes in his rookie campaign – dropping close decisions to Ohio State’s Andrew Campolattano and Maryland’s Christian Boley. He’ll see how he measures up against #7 Schiedel and Purdue’s NCAA qualifier Braden Atwood, currently ranked 18th.

 

Columbia vs. Maryland, Rutgers and Drexel

The Lions had strong performances at the MSU Open and the New York States, with a trio of wrestlers – Steve Santos, Jake O’Hara and Stephen West earning titles at both events.  They’ll seek to keep their undefeated streaks going against some solid competition.

Matches to Watch:

#15 Steve Santos vs. Mario Mason (Rutgers) Mason isn’t in the current rankings but has been in the top 5 in the past and was one of the nation’s top recruits when he was at Blair Academy.  Santos handed Mason a loss a few years ago and will look to do so again.

Jake O'Hara, Photo by BV

#13 Jake O’Hara vs. #9 Scott Winston (Rutgers) – O’Hara is unbeaten in his eight bouts.  In comes Winston, who has risen to ninth in the country.  Who will keep their undefeated run alive?

#18 Stephen West vs. #11 Greg Zannetti (Rutgers) and #3 Josh Asper (Maryland) – West is 9-0. A good weekend against two highly touted wrestlers will certainly move him up further in the national picture.

Nick Mills vs. #10 Christian Boley (Maryland) and #19 Brandon Palik (Drexel) – Mills earned silver at the New York States and will look to continue his improved wrestling against two experienced and ranked foes.

 

***Individual rankings from Intermat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

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

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

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

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Dave Gilchrest

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

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

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

Team Results

Champion: NJ Elite

2nd Place: Superior

3rd Place: Olympic Gold

4th Place: G2 World Wrestling Academy

5th Place: Mass Maniacs

6th Place: Team NY

7th Place: Apex

8th Place: Marcaurelle

9th Place: Virginia Slaughter House Black

10th Place: Mercury Rising

11th Place: Olympic Black

12th Place: Virginia Slaughter House Blue

 

Superior Wrestling – 2nd Place Team:

Johnny Aceri

Bryce Bailey

Emerson Block

Jon DeRidder

Freddy Eckles

Ethan Ferro

Dakota Gardner

Myles Griffin

Nathaniel Grubham

Kyle Mock

Stevo Poulin

Theo Powers

JP Puca

Drew Schafer

Jace Schafer

Carter Schubert

Joey Sliowski

Mike Venosa

G2 World Wrestling Academy – 4th Place Team:

48 Pounds: Michael Santore

53 Pounds: Carson Alberti

58 Pounds: Andy Lucinski

63 Pounds: Greg Diakomihalis

68 Pounds: Ryan Burgos

73 Pounds: Max Kropman

78 Pounds: Cooper Kropman

85 Pounds: Brian Courtney

93 Pounds: Derek St. James

99 Pounds: Parker Kropman

105 Pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis

112 Pounds: Louie DePrez

119 Pounds: Charlie Kane

126 Pounds: Keith Penny

134 Pounds: Logan Smith