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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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].
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
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):