Before Jason Bross even finished his question after the Saturday night finals at the New York state tournament in Albany, 145-pound champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham said yes.
Hernandez wasn’t alone. He was only one of the top New York wrestlers to enthusiastically commit to representing the Empire State at the Pinning Down Autism All-State Weekend Festival on March 16 and 17 at West Orange High School in New Jersey.
For the past two seasons, Bross has organized the New York vs. New Jersey Charity Challenge, which pitted All-Star squads from the neighboring states against each other in a dual meet to raise money for autism causes.
With the success and excitement around this “Border War” in recent years, the event was expanded in 2013. On Saturday, the teams from the Garden and Empire States will battle squads from Michigan, New England and Delaware. (For the schedule, see below).
While there is sure to be some great competition in those Saturday duals, the main event will take place on Sunday when New York and New Jersey do battle at 1 p.m..
Every wrestler taking the mat for Team New York for the feature dual has been a state champion, with 14 of the 15 capturing gold medals at the Times Union Center in 2013. (Another three champions and seven silver/bronze medalists will compete on Saturday). In all, 10 different sections will be represented.
Needless to say, the list is an impressive one (see below for details). After all, state pride is on the line and New York is determined to beat the Jersey crew for the third straight year.
“The event has been very well received,” Bross said. “Most of the guys were really excited to be invited to be a part of it. It should be a great dual because I know losing two years in a row doesn’t sit very well with New Jersey. Last year, they expected to beat us and it didn’t go that way. I expect them to have a ferocious team and you can see that New York will be well represented. I think you’ll see a battle at every weight.”
While the rivalry and the opportunity to wrestle high-level competition prior to the upcoming National tournaments are significant, the weekend’s events will serve another important purpose – to raise money for charity.
“This year’s beneficiary is Autism New Jersey,” Bross said. “What I like most about them is that they provide much needed facilitation for families impacted by autism to find the services they need. When Congress recently had hearings on autism, what struck them most was that most families are left to their own devices and have no idea what to do or where to look for services they need. Autism New Jersey really helps with that and provides great value. We’re happy to be raising money for them.” (For more information on Autism New Jersey, see http://www.autismnj.org)
Entry into the event will be a $20 donation each day. Those who attend will have the chance to participate in a clinic on Sunday with Lee Kemp at 10 a.m. and, of course, will see some top notch wrestling on both weekend days. That includes Round 3 of the New York vs. New Jersey challenge.
“The rivalry speaks for itself now,” Bross said. “Damion Logan from Apex is the Team Leader for New Jersey and he’ll put together a very good team. I have a hunch that the match will look like a Big 10 dual meet with the intensity of something like an Iowa vs. Penn State dual. That’s what we’re hoping for. Great action, great intensity, fire through every match. It should be fun.”
Team New Jersey will be updated when available.
Team New York for the Sunday event (and some Saturday matches) is:
99 Pounds: Yianni Diakomihalis (2013 State Champion, Hilton, Section 5)
106 Pounds: Kyle Quinn (2013 State Champion, Wantagh, Section 8 )
113 Pounds: Nick Piccininni (2013 State Champion, Ward Melville, Section 11)
120 Pounds: Alex Delacruz (2013 State Champion, Ossining, Section 1)
126 Pounds: TJ Fabian (2013 State Champion, Shoreham Wading River, Section 11)
132 Pounds: Tristan Rifanburg (2013 Runner Up, 2010 State Champ, Norwich, Section 4)
138 Pounds: Nick Tighe (2013 State Champion, Phoenix, Section 3)
145 Pounds: Louis Hernandez (2013 State Champion, Mepham, Section 8 )
152 Pounds: Corey Rasheed (2013 State Champion, Longwood, Section 11)
160 Pounds: Tyler Grimaldi (2013 State Champion, Hills West, Section 11)
170 Pounds: Adis Radoncic (2013 State Champion, RKA, PSAL)
182 Pounds: Shayne Brady (2013 State Champion, Carthage, Section 3)
195 Pounds: Dan Choi (2013 State Champion, Syosset, Section 8 )
220 Pounds: Rich Sisti (2013 State Champion, Monsignor Farrell, CHSAA)
285 Pounds: Mike Hughes (2013 State Champion, Smithtown West, Section 11)
On Saturday, the following wrestlers will also compete for New York (and more may be added):
113 Pounds: Dillon Stowell (2013 State Champion, Gouverneur, Section 10)
120 Pounds: Travis Passaro (2013 State Third, Eastport South Manor, Section 11)
126 Pounds: Keanu Thompson (2013 State Runner Up, Grand Street, PSAL)
132 Pounds: Sam Melikian (2013 State Third, Fordham Prep, CHSAA)
138 Pounds: Nick Kelley (2013 State Champion, Shenendehowa, Section 2)
152 Pounds: Rowdy Prior (2013 State Runner Up, Phoenix, Section 3)
152 Pounds: Joe Mastro (2013 State Third, Yorktown, Section 1)
160 Pounds: Steve Schneider (2013 State Runner Up, MacArthur, Section 8 )
170 Pounds: John Vrasidas (2013 State Runner Up, St. Anthony’s, CHSAA)
195 Pounds: Hunter Ayen (2013 State Champion, Gouverneur, Section 10)
Schedule of Events:
Saturday March 16th
Round 1 10:00 am Delaware (DE) vs New England (NE) and New York (NY) vs Michigan (MI)
Round 2 12:00 pm NJ vs NE and DE vs MI
Round 3 2:00 pm NY vs DE and NE vs MI
Round 4 4:00 pm MI vs NJ and NY vs NE
Round 5 6:00 pm DE vs NJ
Sunday March 17th
10 a.m. Feature clinic with Lee Kemp
1 p.m. The main event: New York vs. New Jersey
For more information, see Weekend Festival