Journeymen Classic: NY State Champions Claim Titles at Highly Competitive Event

They don’t call it a FloMajor for nothing.

Photo by BV (Radoncic vs. Schneider)

On Sunday, over 200 wrestlers from all over the country took the mat at Niskayuna High School for the Journeymen Classic. Everywhere you looked there were highly acclaimed wrestlers. There were national champions, state champions and All-Americans from Fargo, FloNationals and NHSCAs.  Of course, included in the mix were a number of New York’s top grapplers and there were many highlights for Empire State competitors.

2013 state titlewinners Yianni Diakomihalis (113), Nick Piccininni (120), Louis Hernandez (152), Corey Rasheed (160) and Rich Sisti (225) all captured first place at the event.  They weren’t the only New Yorkers who earned the top spot on the podium in the “A” brackets on Sunday.  All-State grapplers Matteo DeVincenzo (106), Christian Dietrich (195), Travis Passaro (130) and Connor Calkins (285) also grabbed gold.

The Most Outstanding Wrestler Awards went to Diakomihalis (lightweights), Rasheed (upperweights) and Piccininni (overall).

More, including videos and observations on some standout performances, will come later in the week. (The event was in round robin format).


“A” Brackets

106 Pounds (A): Matteo DeVincenzo dec Josh Logiudice, 6-5

Third: Peter Pappas pin Vinny Vespa

113 Pounds (A): Yianni Diakomihalis dec Jesse Dellavecchia, 6-2

Third: Vito Arujau dec Kyle Quinn, 3-0

120 Pounds (A): Nick Piccininni maj Radley Gillis, 10-2

Third: Thayer Atkins (TX) dec Troy Gassaway, 8-1

125 Pounds (A): Tommy Stokes dec Troy Gregor, 4-3

Third: Ryan Pomrinca maj Jonathan Ryan, 10-1

130 Pounds (A): Travis Passaro dec Payton Shuford, 6-0

Third: Kevin Jack over Zach Valley, fft

135 Pounds (A): Chase Zemenak dec Kent Lane, 4-1

Third: Sal Profaci dec Chris Mauriello, 8-1

140 Pounds (A): Clay Walker dec Sam Ward, 6-1

Third: Joseph Ghione over Anthony Petrone, 9-2

145 Pounds (A): Gary Dinmore dec Jakob Restrepo, 3-1 SV

Third: Frank Carrozza dec Brandon Lapi, 4-3

152 Pounds (A): Louis Hernandez dec Tommy Dutton, 7-3

Third: Fritz Hoehn dec Jake Spengler, 12-5

160 Pounds (A): Corey Rasheed dec Christian Stackhouse, 7-2

Third: Andrew Labrie vs. Tyler Mann

170 Pounds (A): Luke Farinaro dec Steve Schneider, 3-2

Third: Adis Radoncic dec Nicholas Weldon, 10-5

182 Pounds (A): Joe Balboni dec Brett Perry, 9-4

Third: Austin Price dec Phil Woods, 1-0

195 Pounds (A): Christian Dietrich dec Nicholas Costa, 6-3

Third: Nick Weber dec Joe Chimelski, 2-0

225 Pounds (A): Rich Sisti dec Jeff Velez, 9-2

285 Pounds (A): Connor Calkins dec Jesse Webb, 6-3

Third: Patton Gossett pin Matt Kaminer

Additional Brackets

106 (B): Hector Colom TF Calvin Call

113 (B): Tito Colom maj Noah Malamut, 13-2

120 (B): Noah Gonser dec Marcel Laplante, 2-0

120 (C): Anthony Hernandez dec Nick Barbaria, 5-2

120 (D): Jon Errico maj Evan Barczak, 11-0

125 (B): Peter Robinson dec Jake Gillis, 3-1

125 (C): Cross Cannone over Brian Guerrero

125 (D): Joseph Ferinde dec James Szymanski, 7-3

130 (B): Christopher Muce dec Christian Vallis, 3-1

135 (B): Elijah Cleary dec Mike Raccioppi, 6-4

135 (C) John Amato over Mason Byrne

140 (B) Jimmy Leach pin Anthony Lombardo

145 (B): Skylar Kropman fall John Mazza

145 (C): Eduardo Ramirez over Kevin Jackson, 8-5

152 (B): Trevor Hoffmier dec Alec Donovan, 6-4

152 (C): Anthony DePrez pin Jason Hoffman

160 (B):  Ryan Kromer dec Konstantin Parfiryev, 7-3

160 (C): Dan Woughter over Garon Pelesauma

170 (B): Jaison White pin Christian Murabito

182 (B): Collin Pittman dec Rocco Hladney, 4-3




Commanding Presence, Future of Service: State Champion Luis Weierbach Pledges to Army

It was summer break, but Hoosick Falls state champion Luis Weierbach was up before 6:00 in the morning and running by 6:30.  At the Ranger Intensive wrestling camp at West Point in July, that was just the start of the day’s exercise, which also included three practices per day.

“I got an inside look at Cadet life,” Weierbach said of the experience. “The counselors were Cadets, so they gave us inside knowledge on what to expect and I got to know the coaching staff.  It was intense. The atmosphere there reaffirmed what I already thought I wanted for my future and told me that West Point was where I needed to go.”

Weierbach captured the attention of the Army staff during his time on campus and a few days ago he made things official, as he gave a verbal commitment to head coach Joe Heskett and the Black Knights.

The decision wasn’t a surprise to those familiar with the Section 2 star.  Weierbach has known for quite some time that the military would be an important part of his life. (He also considered the Naval and Merchant Marine Academies).

“At a very young age, I knew I wanted to serve,” Weierbach said.  “My grandfather was a Marine. He left service life behind when he passed, and I felt that legacy was left to me.  I realized early on that service academies have a lot to offer.”

He saw a lot more of what the United States Military Academy offers during his time at the Ranger camp.

“We ran a lot, so I had a chance to see a lot of the campus,” Weierbach said. “Additionally, there were leadership seminars, where we learned about West Point and the military.  The speakers talked about qualities common among Cadets and also general life lessons. I really took a lot from these leadership seminars – it was really insightful information.”

While Weierbach was the recipient of insightful information at those presentations, he also has experience on the other side of leadership seminars – as the teacher.

Earlier this year, the senior was a keynote speaker at the “Life of An Athlete” conference in Lake Placid along with his school’s superintendent.  The audiences included students from various parts of the country as well as school administrators and staff.

“The conference in general was about how an athlete should live including nutrition, fitness and a healthy lifestyle,” Weierbach said. “We talked about our Hoosick Falls Code of Conduct and how implementing it has impacted our sports performance over the past few years.”

Weierbach knows plenty about successful performance in sports.

As a freshman, he qualified for the state tournament and went 2-2, just missing All-State status.  As a tenth grader, he moved up the ladder, earning fifth place at 99 pounds.  Then, in 2012-13, Weierbach made another leap, putting together a perfect 37-0 campaign at 106 pounds in which he won 30 bouts by bonus points.

What helped him get to that next level?

“The mental game changed for me,” he said. “I realized that while this sport is largely defined by athleticism, strength, speed and technique, a lot of it comes down to the mental aspect. It’s one of the things my coach, Landon Nelson, has helped me with – being mentally prepared, envisioning possible scenarios and taking no opponent lightly.  Whether it’s the first match of the season at a small tournament or the state finals match, you need to have the same mentality.”

That approach definitely came in handy in Albany, in his third appearance at the biggest event of the New York high school season.

“The atmosphere at the state tournament can make or break any wrestler,” Weierbach said. “Having that experience before was definitely an advantage.  I was nervous my freshman year, but by last year, I was used to it.  I would go so far as to say that having my supporters there empowered me and motivated me to do better.”

He began strong, pinning Brody Sheppard in just over three minutes in his opening contest before recording a pair of shutout decisions in rounds two and three.  And then, wearing a “throwback” Hoosick Falls singlet, Weierbach defeated Dolgeville’s Danny Fox 3-1 in the title bout to strike gold.

“The state title was the product of so many hours of hard work, so in that regard, I appreciate it more than anything else in my career,” he said. “But what was most special about the state title was that it was the first one in my school’s history. More exciting than hearing them say ‘Weierbach’ when they were announcing the winners was when they said ‘Hoosick Falls’.  I wore the throwback singlet to show that I represent Hoosick Falls.  I would not have accomplished it without the support of my team, my coach and the whole community.”

That’s a theme that’s very important to the future Army 125 pounder. Weierbach emphasized on a number of occasions that his championship was the product of the efforts of many around him.

“We set the goal of bringing home a state title at the beginning of the season – myself, my coach and my team – not just me,” he said. “I think in wrestling it’s often misunderstood that it’s an individual sport because you’re the only one on the mat.  I’ve played football, baseball and soccer and I think wrestling is just as much a team sport. In the room, behind the scenes, when the opponent isn’t watching, there’s a team effort to develop the speed, technique and toughness to go out on the mat alone.  Nolan Foster was my main workout partner and he really stepped up his game this year.  He was excellent.  He pushed me and I wouldn’t have done what I did without him, my other partners or my coach.”

So what’s next?

Weierbach said his offseason regimen “isn’t typical of a state champion.” He wrestles with Journeymen at some tournaments, trying to get in around 20 matches.  But he also has a lot of other things on his plate, including working at his high school doing maintenance and being a lifeguard at the town pool.

“I try to stay active all the time,” he said. “I drill with the New York National Guard, so that certainly keeps me in shape. Right now, I’m playing varsity soccer, which I love too. But once the wrestling season starts, it’s game on and wrestling gets my attention.”

It’s had his attention in the winter season since he first discovered the sport upon arriving in Hoosick Falls as a seventh grader.

“I grew up in New York City and I never knew about the sport of wrestling until I moved,” he said. “I never even heard of it outside of what we see on TV [in the WWE].  I’m certainly glad that I got involved.  I never would have thought I’d end up where I am now with wrestling.”

He did, however, think he’d end up serving his country.  That journey begins next fall when he moves to West Point.  For now, though, he has a few more things left to achieve.

“I haven’t decided on what weight I’ll wrestle next year, but one thing’s for sure,” he said. “We will work harder than anyone in New York State and refine and perfect and do whatever is necessary to win another state title.”


Luis Weierbach said that there were so many people who have helped him behind the scenes that he couldn’t mention them all by name and didn’t want to leave anyone out. He wanted to thank Hoosick Falls – a community that has supported him over the years and made his accomplishments possible.


A Win Against Cancer: The Match Against Leukemia Raises Over $10K; Provides Great Competition

A number of teams hoisted trophies over Memorial Day weekend at the Albany Academies Field House, but perhaps the true winner was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That’s because the fifth annual “Match Against Leukemia” tournament raised $10,380 for the organization.

The event, hosted by the New York Titan Wrestling Club, featured 12 teams from states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire.  Each squad had an action-packed weekend, with seven dual meets.

“The competition was pretty fierce with a lot of high level wrestlers,” said event organizer Jefferson LaMountain. “There were at least 30 wrestlers who placed at their state tournaments.”

Coming out on top was the host team, Titan Red, followed by the Canastota Raiders from Section 3 in second place. Right behind them in the Gold Division in third and fourth were the Silverback squad from Connecticut and the North Jersey Warriors. (Rockland Force took top honors in the Silver competition, while Excelsior did the same in the Bronze bracket).

But there were many other awards in addition to the trophies awarded to the top squads. A Most Outstanding Wrestler and Coaches Award were selected for each club. (For the championship Titan Red squad those honorees were Tyler Moses and Nolan Foster, respectively).

And the biggest trophy of them all went to Ironman Wrestling of Dutchess County, for raising the most money for the cause ($2100).

“Ironman, under Jim Baker, has been here since Year 1 of the event and we appreciate their support,” LaMountain said.

Helping to make the event successful were around 50 volunteers, doing everything from running the concession stands to ensuring that every match was recorded and posted on the Flowrestling website.

And the weekend included more than wrestling. On Saturday night, the competitors enjoyed a dinner full of pizza, wings and more. Each participant also received a t-shirt with the leukemia ribbon on the back and his club name on the front. There was even a therapist on hand to provide massages for the wrestlers when they weren’t on the mat.

“It went really well with a good number of kids and strong donations,” LaMountain said. “Everyone loved the event – I got 40-45 e-mails from parents saying they enjoyed it and that the community service component makes it special.  Most of the time tournaments raise money for clubs or teams, but this is different.”

It’s different because it is held in memory of the late Sol Kahn, a founding member of the New York Titan Club, who passed away from an aggressive form of leukemia as a high schooler. (He was set to attend the University of Rochester). According to LaMountain, his story was read at the beginning and end of the event.

“Sol possessed more than a willingness to help others; it would be better described as a desire to help others,” the event website said. “He helped his friends, family, teachers and coaches whenever necessary and also went out of his way to help people he did not know. He was committed to his community and his dream was to work in the field of Law Enforcement.”

His community and wrestlers from all over the East Coast showed their willingness to help (and compete) on the holiday weekend.

“Although fierce rivals on the mat, these clubs are working together off the mat to defeat leukemia,” the event website said. “This is a great example of the local wrestling community coming together to support the fight against blood cancers while honoring and remembering one of their own.”

To learn more about the Match Against Leukemia or to contribute, see this link.

To watch the action on Flowrestling, see this link.

The results of the event:

Gold Division

  1. Titan Red (NY)
  2. Canastota Raiders (NY)
  3. Silverback (CT)
  4. North Jersey Warriors (NJ)

Silver Division

Rockland Force (NY), Ironman (NY), Pin2Win Combat (NY), Gate City (NH)

Bronze Division

Excelsior United (NY), Colonie Raiders (NY), Titan Black (NY), Ravena Fury (NY)


LaMountain wished to thank many people for the success of the event.  They include:

Club President Ken Walberg

Strength and conditioning coach/club spokesperson George Featherstonhaugh

Gabrielle LaMountain, the communications director and business manager who organized the corporate sponsors

Frankie Tangora, the head of concessions

Tournament director Bill Shell

Jim Romanski, who ran the film crews and made sure all the matches were placed online


Who Has Earned Spots in Albany? Sectional Championship Results

For the results of the Sectional Championships around the state (by Section), click here.

For the list of qualifiers by weight class, click here.

We will update these as information becomes available.

Columbia's El Shaddai VanHoesen: By "Almighty", Refuse to Lose

When your name translates to “God Almighty”, high expectations have been set from birth.

New York’s top high school heavyweight, El Shaddai VanHoesen, isn’t intimidated.

VanHoesen, Photo by BV

“I have ‘God Almighty’ tattooed on my forearm,” VanHoesen said. “My mom is very religious and always instilled me with confidence. My mom and dad said they were thinking of a bunch of names and that’s the one they felt was right for me.  They wanted me to live up to it.”

The Columbia High School senior, who was second at the state tournament in 2012 and who has earned accolades in competitions both in the Empire State and nationally over the years, is pushed by more than living up to his name.

In fact, he draws a lot of his strength from his 13-year old sibling.

“When my brother was younger, he needed a liver transplant,” VanHoesen said. “He was living a normal life for a couple of years after that.  But right before the postseason last year, his liver failed again. He needed another transplant and not just for his liver. He had to go out to a hospital in Nebraska and before he left he told me wanted to see me keep winning. He gave me inspiration.”

That inspiration helped VanHoesen go on a tremendous run in the season’s most important event. After taking third at the Section 2 championships, VanHoesen earned the last wildcard spot in the 285-pound draw for the state tournament.  He wanted to make the most of it, despite dealing with a high ankle sprain.

“It’s rare that three wrestlers get in from the Section,” said Columbia head coach Anthony Servidone, noting that Section 2 champion Cory Quintana and All-State wrestler Cole Lampman got bids as well. “We felt that [Van Hoesen] had a great opportunity and he took advantage.”

After wins in his first two matches, VanHoesen was set to face a familiar foe, Lampman, in the semifinals.  Earlier in the season, the Shenendehowa wrestler (now starting at Princeton), defeated VanHoesen, 5-1.

It was a different story at the Times Union Center as VanHoesen came out on top, 4-2, in what he called the biggest win of his wrestling career.

“Beating Lampman made me realize what I could do if I put my mind to it,” VanHoesen said. “I was wrestling to the level of my competition before, wrestling not to lose. When you go out there, you need to fully believe that you’re the better guy. The coaches have always pounded into my head that I work hard and I should win. I realized that I am a top level guy and I need to wrestle like a top level wrestler.”

So while he fell a point short in the New York title bout against Syosset’s Evan Kappatos, his belief carried through to the offseason where he earned All-America status for the third straight year at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach and also registered quality victories at the Disney Duals in Florida and at the Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.

“After the state tournament, he took just one day off,” Servidone said. “On Monday, he wanted to drill. He wanted a partner to start getting ready for nationals.  That’s when I knew he was really focused.  I see a big difference in him this year all the way around from work ethic to overall attitude toward the sport. He committed to wrestling this past spring, summer and fall.”

And he’s committed to having wrestling as a part of his future. He is being pursued by four Division I programs, but hasn’t completed his official visits yet. VanHoesen said he isn’t sure on the timetable for his college decision as he’s focused on making the most of this season first.

That focus has been significantly enhanced by the addition of a new workout partner in the Columbia wrestling room — former New York state champion and Sacred Heart grappler Brandon Lapp.

“Bringing [Lapp] in has really paid dividends,” Servidone said. “Last year [VanHoesen] was wrestling guys half his size sometimes. It was difficult to find anyone who was big enough and could challenge him.”

“It’s probably made the biggest difference of anything in my career,” VanHoesen added. “[Lapp] is the perfect size where he forces me to move and work on my speed, positioning and leverage.  I wrestled with a lot of smaller guys before who couldn’t really push me. Having a partner like this is huge for me.”

With that extra push in practice on a daily basis and a boost from feeling better at around 270 pounds, VanHoesen expects to not only win every time he takes the mat, but to win with dominance.

VanHoesen, Photo by BV

So far, he’s done just that, capturing all but one of his matches this season by pin.  (The other victory was by technical fall).

In fact, this past weekend, VanHoesen pinned his way through the PSAL Holiday Tournament and only had to wrestle into the second period once.

The title in New York City was significant for a number of reasons.  First, he collected a milestone win and second, he became the first-ever high school wrestling champion crowned at Madison Square Garden. (The finals of the event started at heavyweight).

“It definitely wasn’t a bad place to get my 100th win,” VanHoesen said with a laugh. “I tend not to let big stages get to me.  I just try to focus and take care of business. So before the match, I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was wrestling at Madison Square Garden.  But after the match, it was like, ‘wow’.  It really hit me that I was the first person to win a high school tournament there.”

It’s likely that there will be a number of other titles for VanHoesen this year, however, the senior’s accolades on the mat aren’t the only things that impress Servidone.

“With his brother in the hospital in Nebraska, his mother has to spend a lot of time there,” Servidone said. “He’s a high school student living a young adult life.”

“My mom spends a lot of time out there [Nebraska],” VanHoesen added. “It’s tough for my little brother and two younger sisters who are here.  But we have a strong support system with my grandmother and I feel like I stepped up as the older brother. We all take on a lot of roles and a lot of responsibilities.  But along with that comes a lot of rewards too.  And I feel like I have two families. Columbia wrestling has been with me the whole way. Coach Servidone takes care of all of us and the Columbia parents show me every bit of love they can. Everyone is so supportive.”

That support will continue. In February of 2013, VanHoesen expects that a special guest will help him in his quest to get to the top of the podium at the Times Union Center.

“I think my brother will be back from Nebraska for the state tournament this year — I’m confident about that,” he said. “He’s making progress, getting better every day. He’s the toughest kid on the planet. With the transplants and everything going on, he’s always positive and he refuses to give up.  That’s my mentality in wrestling – refuse to lose. It’s sad that he can’t wrestle because he has the spirit for it.  So I feel like I’ll keep doing it for him.”

And he’ll keep working to live up to his name.

Section 2 Overview: Kelley and Almaviva Lead Nationally-Ranked Shenendehowa; Finalists Van Hoesen and Soutiere Look for Titles


By Mike Carey


Division I

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

285 Pounds:  El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Columbia, Second Place

132 Pounds: Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa, Third Place

138 Pounds: David Almaviva, Shenendehowa, Third Place

113 Pounds: Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam, Fourth Place


Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa

106 Pounds: Corey Ali, Shenendehowa

106 Pounds: Dominic Inzana, Saratoga

113 Pounds: Jesse Porter, Shenendehowa

120 Pounds: Zach Joseph, Shenendehowa

132 Pounds: Joey Butler, Burnt Hills

152 Pounds: Angelo Kress, Columbia


Top Seniors

Nick Kelley, Photo by BV

Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) – Arguably the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state, Kelley will have laser focus this season as he attempts to claim an elusive state title.  His only loss last season came at the hands of state champion Jamel Hudson in the state tournament semifinals.  Kelley has had a busy offseason highlighted by his fourth place finish at the Freestyle Junior Nationals in Fargo.  In August, Kelley gave a verbal commitment to continue his career at Binghamton.

David Almaviva (Shenendehowa) – At last year’s state tournament, Almaviva lost his opening match to Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi . . . and then reeled off five straight victories and took home third place honors. Like Kelley, Almaviva placed in the prestigious tournament at Fargo, earning eighth place honors at 145 pounds. He will also be continuing his academic and wrestling careers at Binghamton.

El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Photo by BV

El Shaddai VanHoesen (Columbia) – The heavyweight was one takedown away from a state title last year.  The Columbia senior lost his “all-wildcard” final bout against Evan Kappatos of Syosset by a score of 3-2.  His team’s competitive schedule affords the 285 pounder the opportunity to grapple against many of the top wrestlers in the state.  Of his seven losses last year, five were at the hands of foes who finished in the top four in New York.


Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)

Corey Ali, Levi Ashley and Zach Joseph (Shenendehowa) – Seven Plainsmen competed at the state tournament a year ago and the Section 2 power will likely send a large group again. Ali, the defending Section 2 champion, is expected to be among them.  He was not able to compete at the state tournament last year, but prior to the event, he posted victories over some impressive foes, including qualifiers Dominic Inzana and Kyler Harrington and All-State wrestler Johnny Stramiello from Section 9.  Ali is motivated to make a run at a state title this year and it won’t be surprising if he does.  Teammate Ashley didn’t get a bid to states last year after taking second in Section 2 behind Matt Lashway, who was the number two seed at the Times Union Center.  However, he went 34-7 in 2011-12 including quality victories over wrestlers such as state placers Rrok Ndokaj, Andrew Jones and Tyler Morris (twice).  Frank Popolizio said he believes Ashley “will shock some people” in 2012-13.  Joseph is looking for a return trip to the state capital after going 1-2 in Albany after a season with over 30 wins.

Brandon Lapi (Amsterdam) – Without question, Lapi is extremely talented.  He finished last season with a 50-4 record, with two of his losses coming in Albany to state champion Dylan Realbuto of Somers and third place finisher Patrick Skinner, who now wrestles for Rider.  Both of those matches were tight, with a 4-3 decision against Realbuto and a 4-2 margin versus Skinner. It is likely that he’ll be high on the podium again in the state capital.

Angelo Kress (Columbia) – In a 41-6 sophomore season, Kress registered 26 pins and came within one win of making All-State at 152 pounds.  He dropped his opening round match in Albany to eventual runner up Nicky Hall of Longwood but responded with a pair of victories in the wrestlebacks.  The Columbia wrestler’s achievements go beyond the state borders, as he was an All-American at the NHSCA Nationals in both 2010 and 2011.  He also showed his prowess in the international styles, going a combined 13-1 at the Cadet Freestyle and Greco Duals for Team New York in Florida. He will be a podium threat in February of 2013.

Blake Retell (Shaker) – After winning Section 2 titles in 2010 and 2011, Retell missed the postseason a year ago while injured.  Up to that point, he had been impressive, notching a 28-2 record at 120 pounds, including a victory over Jesse Porter.  He captured his bracket at the Journeymen Classic earlier this fall and after winning one match in each of his two visits to the state tournament, he’ll be looking to get back and win some more as a junior.

Joey Butler (Burnt Hills) – Butler racked up a 41-6 mark with 29 pins.  He took second in the Section behind Kelley and got his hand raised once in Albany after receiving a wildcard bid.  Now a junior, Butler is looking to go further in a follow up trip to the state capital.  He is off to a 4-0 start.

Frank Nassivera (Queensbury) – Nassivera won over 30 matches as a sophomore at 160 pounds.  A few weeks after the season was over, he earned All-America status at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach.  At that tournament, he lost his first round match but responded with five straight victories in the wrestlebacks.  After a loss, he came out on top in overtime in the fifth place bout.  That performance could propel him to a breakthrough year in Section 2 in 2012-13.

Brendan Goldup (La Salle) – Goldup took sixth at 112 pounds as a ninth grader in 2010 at the state tournament.  He’s also made an impact in the international styles, including taking fifth nationally in Greco Roman at Fargo this summer at 152 pounds. According to Columbia head coach Anthony Servidone, Goldup has what it takes not only to get back to the state tournament but to do some damage there.

John McHugh (Columbia) – McHugh took third at the Section 2 event a year ago to cap off a 42-8 campaign for Columbia.  Servidone believes he’s primed for a breakout year.  His younger brother Matt has earned All-America honors in Schoolboy events and is another wrestler to monitor after earning 20 wins as a seventh grader.


And A Few More to Keep Tabs On . . . (Sophomores and Younger)

Dominic Inzana (Saratoga) – Inzana went 44-8, primarily at 106 pounds as a ninth grader.  Five of his losses were to New York placers, including a pair in Albany, where he came within one win of earning All-State honors.

Chris Tangora (Bethlehem Central) – As a freshman 182 pounder, Tangora won 26 matches with 18 pins for Bethlehem Central.  His offseason work put him on the radar of wrestlers to watch when he earned All-America status at 195 pounds at the Cadet Nationals in Fargo.

Kevin Parker and Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa) – Parker won more than 30 matches as an eighth grader at 99 pounds, including solid wins over Division II placer Luis Weirebach and qualifier Tyler Hartinger.  He earned a trip to Albany, where he went 0-2.  Also making an appearance in the state capital was Porter after a 36-7 campaign at 113 pounds.  Porter had a successful summer in the international styles, taking fourth in Greco Roman in Fargo at 132 pounds.

Kyle Greene (Columbia) – Greene went 41-7 as a freshman at 120 pounds in 2011-12, including a win over Zach Joseph. According to Servidone, he’s ready to take the next step this year and will be a contender in the lightweights.


Team Talk

Shenendehowa is currently the only Empire State squad in Intermat’s national rankings.  There is little doubt that the Plainsmen will be a force.  Servidone said simply, “Shenendehowa has an exceptional team.”

While the Plainsmen will be difficult to beat not only in Section 2 but statewide, there are several other large school teams to keep tabs on in Section II this year, according to Servidone, including Columbia, Burnt Hills, Queensbury and Averill Park.

Columbia did part with high quality wrestlers such as Evan Wallace, Matt Greene and Brendan Morgan, however the squad returns a pair of qualifiers from 2012 in state runner up Van Hoesen and Kress and several others ready to make an impact this season.

“We lost quite a lot of guys to graduation, but we still have a very good team,” Servidone said. “We’ll have some guys do very well this year.”

Burnt Hills welcomes back state qualifier Joey Butler as well as bronze medalist Race Viedt, fourth placer Jake Ashcraft and several other medalists, including Christian Gramuglia, Nolan Hale and Jack Hatton.

“I think Burnt Hills will be a very good and consistent dual team,” Servidone said.  “They return almost everyone.”

Queensbury said goodbye to Section champion Matt Lashway and second placers Casey Jones, Josh St. John, Mike Hewitt and Alex Pontiff as well as medalists Tyler Wood and Nick Rouse. However, the squad returns plenty of talent and experience with bronze winners Evan Myers and Frank Nassivera as well as additional medalists Nick Robbins, Brandon Winchip and Brian Stevens.

“Queensbury graduated a number of guys, but they always put a lot of good guys out there. I expect they will again this year.  I also think there will several other good teams in the mix, including Averill Park.”


Division II

Returning State Placewinners (from 2012)

285 Pounds: Alex Soutiere, Ravena CS, Second Place

182 Pounds: Tyler Morris, Salem, Fourth Place

99 Pounds: Luis Weierbach, Hoosick Falls, Fifth Place

170 Pounds: Brad Burns, Hoosick Falls, Sixth Place


Additional Returning State Qualifiers (from 2012)

99 Pounds: Alexis Bleau, Schoharie

106 Pounds: Carter Merecki, Salem

106 Pounds: Jerome Gladney, Ravena CS

113 Pounds: Kyler Harrington, Hudson Falls

120 Pounds: Al Aubin, Whitehall

138 Pounds: John Diekel, Whitehall

145 Pounds: Geno Brancati, Hudson Falls

145 Pounds: Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg

152 Pounds: Nick Gallo, Schalmont

170 Pounds: Mike Green, Colbeskill-Richmondville

220 Pounds: Joe Sprung, Berne-Knox Westerlo


Top Seniors

Alex Soutiere, Photo by BV

Alex Soutiere (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk) – Soutiere had a good regular season and an outstanding state tournament.  In the semifinals, he pulled of one of the bigger upsets of the tournament when he upended Section 5 standout Kacee Sauer by a score of 5-3.  Do not be surprised if Soutiere uses the momentum of last season’s finale to propel him to his ultimate goal, the state title.

Brad Burns (Hoosick Falls) – Burns had a 27-4 record last year, with all four of his losses coming to wrestlers who placed in the top 6 in New York.  Expect Burns to have another stellar year and improve upon his sixth place finish in Albany.

Tyler Morris (Salem) – Morris earned fourth in New York in 2012 at 182 pounds for Salem.  He began the state tournament with a loss in his opening bout but bounced back with four straight wins before dropping the bronze contest to Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer. With only three of the top eight finishers back in the bracket, Morris will look to move up the podium.  Looking to join him on the stand is teammate Carter Merecki, a junior, who came within one victory over making All-State last year when he went 33-4 at 106 pounds.


Also Keep an Eye On . . . (Juniors and Seniors)

Brandon Lapi, Photo by BV

Luis Weirebach (Hoosick Falls) – Weirebach won over 30 matches at 99 pounds and took fifth place in New York State.  Now a junior, Weirebach will aim to move a bit higher on the podium in the lightweights.

John Diekel (Whitehall) Diekel had over 30 wins at 138 pounds, with a Section 2 championship and a 2-2 performance at the state tournament. He’ll try to make the medal stand in his final year of high school wrestling. Trying to do the same is Diekel’s teammate Al Aubin, who went to Albany as well after a 25-win campaign.

Mike Green (Cobleskill-Richmondville) – Green went 39-6 in his junior campaign at 170 pounds.  In the Section 2 final, he dropped a one-point decision to All-State wrestler Brad Burns.  He followed that up by going 1-2 at the Times Union Center and is looking for a return trip.

Joe Sprung (Berne-Knox Waterlo) – Sprung and teammate Matt Casullo were the first wrestlers in their school’s history to make the New York state tournament.  Sprung lost a match the first weekend of the season and then reeled off over 30 straight victories to win the Section 2 title at 220 pounds.  In Albany, Sprung came within one match of placing and will look to make more history for his school as a senior.


Youth Movement (Sophomores and Younger)

Nick Gallo (Schalmont) – As a freshman 152 pounder, Gallo went 41-7, including a pair of victories at the state tournament, which left him one victory short of making All-State.  His losses were to the third (Tristan Hamner) and fourth place finishers (Dan Dickman, by a 4-3 score).

Geno Brancati (Hudson Falls) – Brancati recorded a 31-8 mark as a freshman at 145 pounds, earning the Section 2 title and a trip to Albany.  He won a match at the state tournament, defeating fellow Section 2 grappler Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg 3-2.  It was the second time Brancati had topped Lawrence by one point in a matter of weeks.  Lawrence is also one to watch, as he went 39-8 as a ninth grader, and also made the journey to the Times Union Center. Brancati’s teammate Kyler Harrington, a senior had over 40 wins at 113 pounds a year ago and went to the state capital.  His opening bout was a loss to eventual state champion Sean Peacock, but he rebounded with a win by fall in his next match, which he will look to build on in 2012-13.

Alexis Bleau (Schoharie) – As an eighth grader, Bleau registered a 41-5 record at 99 pounds, taking second in the Section tournament and earning a wildcard spot at the Times Union Center.  The first state qualifier in school history, Bleau will be looking for more in 2013.

Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George) – Hoffman is a wrestler we were told to keep an eye on over the next few years. He competed at 126 pounds as a seventh grader, winning 24 matches, and remained active in the offseason, including recent trips to Las Vegas and California to wrestle some of the West Coast’s best.


Thank you to Frank Popolizio and Anthony Servidone.

Season Preview Articles:

Section 1 Preview

Section 3 Preview

Section 4 Preview

Section 5 Preview

Section 6 Preview

Section 7 Preview

Section 8 Preview

Section 9 Preview

Section 10 Preview

Section 11 Preview

CHSAA Preview

PSAL Preview


Section 1 Feature:  Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium

Section 4 Feature: Looking for “Number Nine”: Reggie Williams Aims to Make History at Johnson City

Section 5 Feature: The “Miracle” Continues: The Return of Aaron Paddock

Section 9 Feature: Unstoppable: Vinny Vespa Wrestles Again After Confronting Cancer

Section 11 Feature: Nick Piccininni Looks to Continue Winning Streak



Update: Nick Kelley Discusses His Commitment to Binghamton (Over Iowa, Among Others) and Working Towards a State Title

Photo by BV


Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley has achieved quite a bit in his athletic career.  He was a taekwondo national champion when he was 10 and was also successful in judo.  And he has piled up numerous medals in wrestling, ranging from his trips to the podium at the New York state tournament (fourth at 130 in 2011 and third at 132 in 2012) to his All-America performances (third at NHSCA Freshman Nationals at 125, fifth at FloNationals as a sophomore and fourth at Fargo this past summer in freestyle at 132 pounds).  But when asked what he considered to be his best accomplishment to date, he didn’t hesitate.

And he didn’t choose any of the previously mentioned accolades.

“I think it’s committing to great college like Binghamton and getting ready to take the next step,” he said.

The Section 2 star’s verbal to the Bearcats gave Coach Matt Dernlan and his staff the pledges of two of the Empire State’s top seniors, as Canastota’s Zack Zupan committed a few weeks ago.  The competition for Kelley, Intermat’s #93 ranked recruit nationally, was fierce, as he gave consideration to Iowa, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and North Carolina State before informing the Binghamton coaches on Friday that he would be staying in his home state after graduation.

“It’s a really good fit for me,” Kelley said of the CAA institution. “The coaches have the same philosophy as me – working hard and working smart.  I like the campus, the program and the coaches.  Really, I like everything about it. I feel like the staff really cares about the wrestlers.  I know there will be some tough New York kids there and we think we can make some real noise across the country.”

The future Business major is first concerned with making noise for one more season as a member of the Plainsmen.  He emerged on the Empire State wrestling scene as a seventh grader when he qualified for the state tournament.  Over the years, he has won over 200 matches and several Section 2 titles.  In his mind, there’s only one thing missing.

“The main focus is definitely to win states this year,” Kelley said, adding that he will likely compete at 138 pounds. “I am completely focused on winning a state title.”

As a junior, Kelley compiled an impressive 45-1 record, with 40 bonus point wins.  His sole setback was a one-point semifinal defeat in Albany against eventual state champion and Most Outstanding Wrestler Jamel Hudson, now a freshman at Hofstra.

“I think I was good at states, but not my best,” Kelley said.  “I put all my athleticism out there and I wrestled hard, but I could’ve wrestled smarter, especially in the semifinals.  I kept going after him and made some mistakes doing it.”

Going after opponents throughout the match is characteristic of Kelley’s style, one that has been fostered in the Shenendehowa room and at the Journeymen Wrestling Club.

“Our room is so tough and competitive,” Kelley said.  “It has been since seventh grade and it’s helped me so much.  I kept getting better and stronger by wrestling the bigger guys and the older guys and with workout partners like [2012 New York third place finisher and Fargo All-American David] Almaviva. Now, after all these years, I feel like I’m one of the stronger guys.”

He certainly is, but he believes it will take more to reach his ultimate high school goal.

“I’ve been wrestling a ton since the season ended,” Kelley said. “I got a lot of matches at the Disney Duals in Florida and at Fargo and training camps.  I’ve been working with Journeymen and coaches Rob Weeks and Frank Popolizio.  I’ve been running and getting stronger.  I’ve also spent a lot of time focusing on my match strategy.”

Kelley has still found time to paint houses over the summer with Weeks.  And he often finds good spots to engage in another of his favorite activities – fishing.  In fact, he was on the water while answering questions for this story.  But while he said that he loves fishing, few things compare to wrestling.

“My dad got me into combat sports early – I think I started when I was three,” he said. “Taekwondo and judo helped me with balance and core strength and they made me tougher.  But I stopped those other sports by eighth grade to focus on wrestling.  To me, wrestling is the best. It’s harder and requires so much commitment.  You can’t stop working.  I’m doing everything I can to get ready for the season and I can’t wait to do some damage in college.”

Alexis Porter Discusses Her National Championship at Fargo and Her Quest for More

Before she competes, Alexis Porter likes to visualize her matches.   But even she didn’t imagine winning a National Championship with a first period pin.

“That wasn’t really in my plan,” Porter said from Fargo on Sunday. “But the opportunity was there and I had to take it.  I was a little surprised.  I didn’t expect it to be that short of a match.”

It was short – 1:32 to be exact.  That’s how long it took for the Ballston Lake native to notch an early takedown and a pair of throws, leading to the fall over California’s Anna Naylor and a Cadet Women’s Freestyle National Title at 143 pounds.

The victory came a year after a successful debut in North Dakota, during which Porter earned All-America honors in both the Cadet (third place) and Junior (fourth) divisions.

“Last year was a little difficult because it was my first time and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “Considering it was my first time, I was okay with how I finished. It left me with something to do because I knew I hadn’t given it everything I had.  I wanted to work harder and get first place this year.”

She was able to achieve that, and will look for another appearance on top of the podium when she takes the mat on Tuesday in the Junior division at 138 pounds, closer to her actual weight.

But before she does that, she’ll watch another member of her family, her brother Jesse, in Cadet Greco action.

Wrestling is truly a family affair for the Porters.  Her father, Jesse, introduced the whole clan to the sport, including her mother Melovee.  Alexis was learning wrestling even prior to officially stepping on the mat.

“I was always my brother’s practice partner,” Porter said.  “Even before I knew much about wrestling.”

At age nine, she made a decision to delve deeper into the sport as more than just a hobby.

“When I first started, it was just a fun thing to do and a good way to stay active.  I didn’t care that much about winning and losing,” she said. “But as I got older, I started to take it seriously.  I dropped other sports (track and field, skiing and gymnastics) and made wrestling a priority. I fell in love with the sport and I set a lot of goals for myself.”

She has reached quite a few of them with the help of great workout environments both inside and outside her household.

The grappler trains not only with her family, but with Journeymen Wrestling with coaches such as Frank Popolizio and Jeff Blatnick, among others.  She is also part of one of the Empire State’s best high school programs at Shenendehowa with head coach Rob Weeks.

In fact, during the season with the Plainsmen, Porter found herself in an excellent situation, practicing with a pair of 2012 New York State bronze medalists, Nick Kelley (132) and David Almaviva (138).

“We have one of the toughest rooms in the state,” Porter said.  “It’s definitely helped me.  I get pushed further than I think I can go.  I get pounded by the boys at times, but I’m glad they beat me up a little bit.  It helps me a lot when I get out there in touraments like Fargo.”

So when it comes down to it, does she like wrestling with the boys or girls better?

“Wrestling with the boys is a challenge that helps me get better,” she said.  “But I like to win and I don’t do that as often with the boys.”

She has done a lot of winning, including titles at the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals and New York Freestyle and Greco States, among others.  She is grateful to those who have assisted her on her path.

“I definitely want to thank my parents,” she said. “They are the most supportive people in my life. They’ve done so much for me. Ever since I started, they’ve put time, money and energy into it with me, hoping one day I’d get here.”

But it doesn’t end in Fargo.  Porter, who wants to wrestle at the collegiate level, has her sights set on another medal stand in the future.

“I’d say, if you’re doing something, do it with your whole heart,” she said. “Dream big, whether it seems realistic or not, dream big.  Yesterday’s championship [at Fargo] is my biggest accomplishment so far as far as Freestyle goes.  But I’m going to keep working because I want to win an Olympic medal someday.”