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

 BY MIKE CAREY

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

Division I

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

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

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

Photo by Josh Conklin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Race

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

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

Division II

Ingraham, courtesy Skip Dickstein/Times Union

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

Who Are Some Other Wrestlers to Watch?

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

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

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

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

Team Race

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

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

Division I

Returning State Placers from 2013

Vinny Vespa (Monroe Woodbury) – fifth at 99

Dylan Booth (Port Jervis) – fifth at 113

Johnny Stramiello (Pine Bush) – sixth at 113

Dan DeCarlo (Port Jervis) – fifth at 152

Returning Qualifiers from 2013

Evan Barczak (Monroe Woodbury) 106

PJ Smoot (Monroe Woodbury) 120

Mike Raccioppi (Minisink Valley) 126

Chris Truglio (Minisink Valley) 132

Thomas Wightman (Warwick Valley) 138

Kyle McGuire (Newburgh) 170

Division II

Returning State Placer from 2013

Austin Ingraham (Highland) – sixth at 113

Returning Qualifiers from 2013

Taylor Benson (Red Hook) 99

Mike Felicano (Highland) 106

Matt Rauch (Red Hook) 126

Sean Cramsie (New Paltz) 132

Dustin Mackenzie (Onteora) 195

Troy Grant (New Paltz) 285

For more on Section 9 wrestling, see here.

 

For other Section previews see (more to come):

Section 3

Section 10

Buffalo Bound: Onteora's Austin Weigel Set to Join the Bulls

 
 
Austin Weigel knows the route from Onteora to the Albany area well.

Extremely well.

At least three times per week, the Section 9 standout made the 1.5 hour trip after school up to Journeymen Wrestling Club practices. And afterwards, he’d get back in the car for another 1.5 hour drive, typically arriving home around 9 p.m. to start his homework.

However, as Weigel talked about his recent commitment to the University at Buffalo, he had no doubt that all the time on the road was worth it, helping him emerge as a Division I prospect.

“I really got into wrestling after my sophomore year,” Weigel said. “Before that I was a three-sport athlete who wanted to get better but wasn’t totally into it yet. As a sophomore, I lost in the Section 9 finals and it motivated me. Wrestling was what I wanted to do and I wanted to win – not just the Section, but everything.”

Courtesy of Austin Weigel

He decided that competing in the offseason, in addition to his training with Onteora, would provide him with a boost.

“Working with Journeymen pushed me to more serious tournaments and competition,” he said. “I went to Super 32 and Fargo. I went to a lot of new and different places and got more experience.”

That experience showed during his 38-4 junior campaign at 160 pounds (after a 26-11 mark as a sophomore).

“It took me a few matches to realize how different things were, how much better I was,” he said. “I wasn’t cutting a lot of weight and I felt good the whole year.”

He captured the Section 9 title with ease, winning all of his bouts by bonus points. And he followed up with a pair of victories at the state tournament, falling one win shy of All-State status.

“Being there in Albany wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I wasn’t seeded but I just wrestled hard and was just one match away from placing. It was a close [3-1] loss [to the eventual bronze medalist] and it definitely motivated me.”

Weigel perhaps used some of that motivation at the Journeymen Classic in the fall, winning a round robin bracket full of accomplished wrestlers – fourth place finishers Daesean Johnson (New Jersey, 160), John Messinger (New York DII, 170) and Dale White (New York DI, 160).

“It was a really tough group up at 170,” he said. “I wrestled really well and had a lot of good wins there.”

He had a lot of good wins as his senior campaign began for Onteora as well, including a major over 2012 All-State grappler Andrew Martinez of Liberty. In the earlygoing, Weigel wrestled up at 170 but wasn’t sure where he would finish the season.

“I contemplated staying at 170 with my coaches but we felt that my best shot at a state championship was at 160,” he said. “I committed to 160 at Eastern States and knew that’s where I would be the rest of the year.”

It looked like a solid choice as he made the medal stand at the prestigious tournament held at SUNY Sullivan. After winning his first two contests, he faced nationally-ranked Burke Paddock in the quarterfinals. In a hard-fought match, Paddock came out on top, 1-0, his closest victory of a dominant season.

Courtesy of Austin Weigel

Weigel then won two of his three consolation bouts, to grab seventh. His setback was to eventual state placer Andrew Psomas in sudden victory.

“I was pretty happy with how that tournament went overall,” he said. “Getting down to weight wasn’t always ideal this year, but I felt pretty good there. I thought I could beat Paddock and wrestled a tough match against him. I was a little shaky afterwards, and had a really disappointing loss to Psomas. I was in on his legs the whole match, but I just couldn’t score. He kept going out of bounds. It was a frustrating loss.”

He rebounded to pin his way to his second straight Section title and picked up his 100th victory during the campaign for good measure.

He began his quest for a state title well, picking up a major in round 1. He then met Greene’s Mike Beckwith, who handed him a defeat in Albany in 2012. One year later, the outcome was the same and Weigel moved into the wrestlebacks where he dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Section 6’s Gunnar Van Curen.

“It’s hard to think about, but [Beckwith] just wrestled the better match,” he said. “I didn’t get to do anything I wanted to. He got an early takedown and rode me well. I was really disappointed and tried to get my head straight afterwards. In the next one, I don’t know what it was. It was like the Psomas match because I was in on his legs a lot and couldn’t score. It was one of the worst losses of my career because he escaped with 30 seconds left to win 1-0 and I knew my high school career was over. I didn’t perform like I should have and know I could have. For a while, I felt bad about myself but looking back now, I realize I can’t take away from the rest of my accomplishments because of one disappointing weekend. I’ve beaten kids that did much better at states, but that’s the way it went.”

He got a chance to face some of those that fared better in Albany this spring, at the Journeymen Freestyle Duals. He said he expected to wrestle at 182, but due to team needs, he cut to 170.

In the first dual of the day, Journeymen met Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW), the eventual winner of the event. Weigel was set to face Division I 160-pound state runner up Steven Schneider of MacArthur.

“I was really tired that morning after the cut, but I was excited because we were wrestling a team of Long Island studs first,” he said. “I saw Schneider at Eastern States – he beat Psomas and other guys I lost to. My teammate Jimmy Marquez got a pin at 160 and he came off the mat and slapped my hand and got me all amped up because he lost to Schneider at the state tournament. He told me I could beat him and I got fired up.”

Weigel took the first and third periods to get the victory in what he called an important win for him.

“I was in a funk, still getting over the season and that was a big momentum moment – wrestling to my potential against a great wrestler. I was relaxed and wrestled the match I wanted.”

There wasn’t much time to celebrate, however, as he next faced Matt Fisher, the Sacred Heart-bound senior who earned bronze in the same bracket as Weigel at the state tournament.

“I knew he beat Beckwith to take third at states,” he said. “I was thinking about the win I just had and there wasn’t a time I was worried about giving up points or losing. I got back on track and showed what I didn’t show at the state tournament.”

The future exercise science major hopes to keep showing what he can do at Buffalo, where he believes he will begin at 174 pounds but could go up higher given his six-foot-one frame.

“I took trips to other schools and liked every school I saw,” he said, mentioning Binghamton and Bloomsburg, among others. “I really liked Coach Stutzman when I went to Bloomsburg and when I heard he moved to Buffalo, I felt like I was basically done with the process. I liked everything about Buffalo – the campus, the facilities, the big school atmosphere. I’m really excited to be part of a program that’s going in the right direction and revamping everything. I think Coach Stutzman will rebuild the program strong.”

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Austin Weigel had a long list of people he wanted to thank.

“I want to thank my family, friends, coaches and the community for everything. The support for the program is amazing and helped me to get where I am.”

He mentioned the huge contributions of Journeymen’s Frank Popolizio and his high school coaches Lou Chartrand and Eric Pezzello “who are more than coaches – they are second and third fathers to me.” He also thanked Donnie Van Buren, CJ Goldizen and Dustin MacKenzie for being influential workout partners and his “brother” Avery Leighton who “was my best practice partner because we did everything together. I owe a lot to him. He made me the hardest worker I could be and was a huge part of my wrestling career.”