Staying Home: All-American Travis Passaro Selects Hofstra

Travis Passaro has traveled around the country seeking the best competition.  But when it came time to decide on his future home, he didn’t want to go far at all.

After considering Cornell, Duke and Maryland, the Eastport South Manor (ESM) senior announced a few days ago that he would attend Hofstra in the fall of 2014.

His arrival will double the number of Passaros on the Pride squad as older brother Maverick is now a freshman on the Hempstead campus.

“My brother transferring to Hofstra made me really want to go there,” Travis Passaro said. “I’ve worked out with him my whole life – he’s a great workout partner.  We’ve been drilling for a long time.  That gave me a big reason to go there. I also think the team will just keep getting better.  There are some really good Long Island kids who want to go to Hofstra. And I like that it’s close to home.”

Travis Passaro, Photo by BV

Passaro will get the chance to stay on Long Island, a place where he is already a three-time Suffolk County placer.  He captured his first Section 11 title in 2013 during a 49-4 campaign in which he made a statement in his initial appearance at the state tournament in Albany.

After winning his first two bouts at the Times Union Center, Passaro dropped his semifinal contest against Steve Michel.  However, he responded in the consolations, topping Commack’s Mike D’Angelo in a rematch of the Sectional finals before majoring Pearl River’s John Muldoon, the number two seed, 12-4 to earn bronze.

“I was looking to win the state title going into the tournament, so taking third was a big letdown,” Passaro said. “But, I have another year to come back and win it, so I’m really happy about that.”

For that last campaign, Passaro has set his goals high.

“I want to go undefeated during the season, win states and then go to the FloNationals finals,” he said.

The FloNationals is a significant event for Passaro.  He has had success at a number of events outside of the Empire State, including a fourth place showing at the NHSCA Nationals as a freshman.  However, he said that his eighth place medal at FloNationals in the spring really stands out to him.

“It’s a great tournament, with great competition,” he said. “I wanted to do better, but placing at Flo was something I was really excited about.”

Before he gets another crack at that event, Passaro will face a loaded field at the Super 32 Challenge in October.  A year ago, he came within one win of the podium at the prestigious tournament, losing to Florida’s Jared Prince twice.

This time, he’ll take the mat in Greensboro, North Carolina at 126 pounds, the weight he expects to wrestle for ESM this year.

He got off to a great start in the new class over the weekend at the Journeymen Classic, taking the title (at 130) in a bracket that included All-Americans Kevin Jack (CT) and Zach Valley (PA) as well as New York state champion Alex Delacruz.  He picked up a commanding 6-0 victory in the championship match over Payton Shuford, a multi-time North Carolina placer/2013 3A State titlist.

The future college 133 or 141 pounder believes it’s only the beginning of what he’s capable of accomplishing this year.

“I’ve been training every day, whether it’s lifting or wrestling,” he said. “I’ve been working out with [two-time state champion Nick] Piccinnini, [NHSCA National champion Chris] Mauriello and [Suffolk finalist] Jimmy Leach. I’m just focused on getting better every day.”

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Travis Passaro wanted to thank his workout partners, his parents and his coaches.

Journeyman Classic Breakdown: Thoughts and Observations on Sunday's Competition

The Journeymen Classic attracted participants from more than 20 states with top notch talent across the weights. Given that, it wasn’t surprising to see college coaches all over Niskayuna High School, watching the action throughout the day. With six mats in two different gyms, we didn’t watch everything that took place, but here are some thoughts on the event:

(To see videos from the event, click this link).

Corey Rasheed, Frank Popolizio, Yianni Diakomihalis, Nick Piccininni; Courtesy of Adam Burgos

1. Not surprisingly, the undefeated state champions looked like …. undefeated state champions. The Most Outstanding Wrestler honors were awarded to Yianni Diakomihalis (113), Nick Piccininni (120) and Corey Rasheed (160).  All were impressive in going unbeaten and capturing titles.  Diakomihalis faced a tough field (see #2) but continued his winning ways, while Piccininni was in control throughout, including a 10-2 major in the finals against Florida’s Radley Gillis, an NHSCA National champion. Rasheed said that he didn’t feel 100% in his return from injuries, but you wouldn’t know it, as he topped New England champion Andrew Labrie and Fargo All-Americans Jesse Porter and Christian Stackhouse by a combined score of 21-5.  Fellow unbeaten New York gold medalist Rich Sisti cruised to the 225 title, while Louis Hernandez did the same at 152.  And Christian Dietrich, who joins the previously mentioned Empire State grapplers in the national rankings (at 170), went up to 195 pounds and still was in charge all the way through, with a technical fall, a pin and a 12-3 combined score in his other matches.

2. Any time a returning state champion finishes fourth, you know the weight is tough. That was the case at 113 pounds where Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn was defeated early in the day by East Islip’s Jesse Dellavecchia (fourth in New York at 99 in 2013).  Later on, fellow Nassau County grappler and NYS finalist Vito Arujau topped Quinn for bronze, 3-0.  That came after some other great bouts in the bracket, including a state championship rematch between Diakomihalis and Arujau. It’s too early to say whether all of those wrestlers will be at 113 during the high school season, but it was certainly fun to watch this weekend.

3. Those weren’t the only championship performances for New York. At the NUWAY Nationals on the Jersey Shore this summer, Matteo DeVincenzo won the title in a field that included New York placers such as Kelan McKenna and Theo Powers.  That was once again the case on Sunday, as the Port Jefferson state runner up captured a 106 “A” bracket full of heralded competitors, including McKenna and Powers as well as Super 32 Middle School silver medalist Peter Pappas and All-Stater Vinny Vespa.  In Sunday’s finals, DeVincenzo defeated Section 2’s Josh Logiudice, a state qualifier who will be a tough matchup for anyone in his senior season.  Logiudice picked up quality victories over Powers and Vespa.

And how about Connor Calkins of Alfred-Almond?  At the Times Union Center in February, he bested returning state finalist and top seed Alex Soutiere in the opening round of the state tournament and made the medal stand, grabbing fifth.  It looks like he’s ready to go even higher in 2014, as he won the 285 weight at Journeymen with a 6-3 triumph over national champion Jesse Webb of Vermont.

It would be fair to say it’s been a good week for Travis Passaro.  First, he committed to continue his career at Hofstra.  In Albany, he celebrated by winning a challenging weight which included state champion Alex Delacruz, New York placer Mike D’Angelo and All-Americans from out of state such as Kevin Jack and Zach Valley. He cruised in the title bout, 6-0, over Payton Shuford.

4. Several other wrestlers made statements.  One was Jakob Restrepo, who topped a pair of New York silver medalists – Frank Garcia and Brandon Lapi, as well as Pennsylvania state placer Jalen Palmer on his way to the finals in the 145 “A” bracket.  He lost in sudden victory there to New Jersey’s Gary Dinmore, one of the top 100 seniors in the nation according to Intermat.  Restrepo’s performance comes after a successful offseason in which he earned All-America honors in Cadet Freestyle at Fargo and won the Super 32 qualifier at Shippensburg. Another second placer, Sam Ward of Locust Valley, looked good on Sunday, beating multi-time New Jersey placer Joe Trovato as well as Florida medalist Anthony Petrone on his way to the 140 “A” title bout, where he was topped by NHSCA National champion Clay Walker of South Carolina.  He’ll be a contender in Division 2 this year after taking fifth last season at 132.

5. There were plenty of standout showings outside of the “A” brackets as well.  Hector and Tito Colom, who racked up significant victory totals at Dunkirk High last year, breezed through the competition on Sunday, winning all of their matches by bonus points on the way to crowns in the 106 and 113 “B” brackets, respectively.  Middleweights Jimmy Leach (140), Skylar Kropman (145) and Trevor Hoffmier (152) were all unbeaten. Leach went to the Suffolk County finals a year ago and Kropman placed at the Eastern States in 2013.  Both look ready for a breakthrough year as do returning state qualifiers Anthony DePrez (152) and Collin Pittman (182).  Ryan Kromer (160) has already made an appearance on the medal stand in Albany and looks prepared to do it again after beating fellow All-State wrestler Konstantin Parfiryev and qualifier Connor Lawrence at the Journeymen Classic. Jaison White, who won big over the weekend, also went undefeated at the Pop & Flo event in the spring and looks to be someone to keep an eye on at 170.

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).

RESULTS (from tournaflex.com)

“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

 

 

Disney Duals Recap: New York Kong Captures Second at the Prestigious Event With an Impressive 10-1 Record

 
 
40 teams began the competition in the All-Star bracket at the AAU National Duals (Disney Duals) in Orlando on Saturday.

When the competition ended at the prestigious event on Tuesday evening, New York Kong captured second place after compiling a 10-1 record with victories over squads from places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and South Dakota.

“It was just a great tournament,” said John Passaro, who made the trip and whose son Travis competed at 120 pounds. “The facilities were great, the experience was great. Taking second shows the direction New York wrestling is going. The team had some amazing wins.”

Indeed, after capturing eighth at this event in 2012, the group made it all the way to the finals, shown live on ESPN3.com. To get to that championship bout, the squad picked up a meaningful semifinal victory over Diesel, a Pennsylvania team that defeated the New Yorkers a year ago at this tournament.

“We wrestled lights out overall and especially in the semifinals against Diesel,” said Steve Hromada, who coached the team along with Anthony Ciolino. “Everyone was amped up and excited for that one, especially since they beat us pretty badly last year.  Getting payback was nice, but it wasn’t just that match.  The kids came together more and more as time went on – the more matches we wrestled, the hungrier and better they looked.”

That semifinal win was a hard fought one, with a 30-12 final score. The Ohio Hawks also provided a challenge in a 30-18 contest in the quarters.

However, the outcome in most of the earlier meets was never in doubt. In fact, the team won at least 12 of the 14 matches in each of the first seven duals, including shutouts.  The dominance wasn’t surprising considering the team featured state finalists at 10 weights and every spot in the lineup was filled by a top five NYS finisher (see roster below).

The first place tilt was a different story, however as the powerful Young Guns squad from the Keystone State came out on top convincingly.

“You never know how good you can be until you see a certain level,” Hromada said. “It was a humbling experience. We have very accomplished wrestlers who were fantastic, but the finals showed that you can always get better. Our state champs want to be more than that – they want to be national champs too.”

One national champion, Spencer Lee of Young Guns (ranked #2 in the country by FloWrestling at 106), began with a major decision for the Pennsylvania squad in the championship dual.

However, Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni, who was a perfect 11-0 at Disney, responded with a decision over another highly-regarded foe, Luke Pletcher, at 113. (Pletcher sits fourth in the national rankings).

At that point, Young Guns led 4-3 on the scoreboard, but they took over from there, collecting several bonus point wins.

Gaining bonus points of his own was Hofstra-bound Mike Hughes of Smithtown West who ended the dual with a 9-1 major decision over Luke Fleck at heavyweight to complete an undefeated tournament. In addition to Piccininni and Hughes, 152-pounder Joe Mastro, who will attend North Carolina State, also notched an unblemished 11-0 mark on the trip.

“[Piccininni] is a true warrior and he has the attitude and tools needed to be an elite wrestler. It showed when he beat the competition he faced,” Hromada said. “Having Hughes as the anchor of your team is the best feeling. You know that you’re always in a good position at the end of the match and that you’ll end on a positive note. And Joe Mastro is a diamond in the rough. He has great technical skills, endurance and toughness.”

In addition to the unbeaten wrestlers, a number of others picked up “silver status” at the event with a single loss. According to Hromada, those included Eastport South Manor’s Travis Passaro (120), Columbia-bound Matt Leshinger (132) and future Binghamton Bearcat Nick Kelley (138). Despite an injury, Minisink Valley graduate Josh Bonneau (220) also racked up wins.

While the squad was looking for one more victory, the journey was seen as an undeniable success.

“We took out some great teams,” Hromada said. “We showcased ourselves and it was an eye-opening experience for some people. We had a bunch of people walk up and say they didn’t know New York could be that tough. It was a nice feeling.”

Leading the charge were coaches Ciolino and Hromada, who put together the very formidable crew to represent the Empire State.

“Anthony Ciolino and Steve Hromada assembled a great team,” John Passaro said. “There is so much that goes into assembling a team of accomplished wrestlers like this. There were no egos — all the kids, who are competitors with each other back home, were teammates this week. It’s very hard to coordinate schedules, meals and travel for 17 wrestlers and also wrestle at such a high level. The coaches did a wonderful job.”

The same could be said for the New York Kong wrestlers. They went from eighth in 2012 to second in 2013 at the Disney Duals. And they’ll be back for more in 2014.

“We’re working to perfect the system,” Hromada said. “We learned from last year and did things better this year and we’ll be even better prepared for next time. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to coach the elite athletes in New York this week and we’ll up the ante and go back looking to win it all next year.”

New York Kong – 2nd Place Disney Duals

106 Kyle Quinn, Wantagh (2013 State Champion)

106 Jesse Dellavecchia, East Islip (2013 State 4th)

113 Nick Piccininni, Ward Melville (2013 State Champion)

120 Travis Passaro, Eastport South Manor (2013 State 3rd)

126 Alex Delacruz, Ossining (2013 State Champion)

132 Matt Leshinger, Sayville (2013 State Champion)

138 Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (2013 State Champion)

145 Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam (2013 State 2nd)

145 Frank Garcia, Norwich (2013 State 2nd)

145 Jakob Restrepo, Sachem East

152 Joe Mastro,Yorktown (2013 State 3rd)

160 Steven Schneider, MacArthur (2013 State 2nd)

170 Carlos Toribio, Brentwood (2013 State Champion)

182 James Corbett, Wantagh (2013 State 2nd)

195 Nick Weber, Kings Park (2013 State 5th)

220 Josh Bonneau, Minisink Valley (2013 State 4th)

285 Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (2013 State Champion)

Team NY Kong Moves to 5-0 at Disney Duals After Three Lopsided Wins on Sunday

 
 
On Saturday, Team New York Kong cruised through the competition on the way to two dominant dual victories. On Sunday things were even more lopsided in the squad’s three victories over Doughboy Blue, South Dakota Red and Team Ohio Mafia.  In fact, the Empire State grapplers shut their opponents out in the first two meets and overall captured 40 of the 42 individual matches during the trio of dual wins, according to John Passaro.

Day three of action on Monday will begin bright and early for the New Yorkers, as they start at 8 a.m. against Brawlers Fire. After that, it will be a match with Michigan Freeze in the early afternoon.

And then, the “playoff” portion of the event begins as a national championship team will be crowned. Stay tuned for further updates.

Team New York Kong

106 Kyle Quinn

106 Jesse Dellavecchia

113 Nick Piccininni

120 Travis Passaro

126 Alex Delacruz

132 Matt Leshinger

138 Nick Kelley

145 Brandon Lapi

145 Frank Garcia

145 Jakob Restrepo

152 Joe Mastro

160 Steven Schneider

170 Carlos Toribio

182 James Corbett

195 Nick Weber

220 Josh Bonneau

285 Mike Hughes

Long Island's X-Cel Advances to the Semifinals at Pop & Flo National Duals on Saturday

 
 
X-Cel won the title at the Pop & Flo National Duals last year.  The Long Island group will try to repeat that feat on Sunday after advancing to the semifinals on the first day of competition.

The squad looked completely dominant early, opening with a 84-0 blanking of Kryptonite Wrestling Club, followed by a 71-6 triumph over Journeymen Gold.  The quarterfinals brought a tougher challenge, however, as X-Cel squared off with Dark Knights of Pennsylvania.

Two-time state champion Nick Piccininni got the New Yorkers off to a good start with a major decision at 120 pounds.  However, the opponents from the Keystone State responded with three consecutive victories from 125 to 135 to take a 12-4 advantage.

Fabian, Photo by BV

The two teams then traded wins over the next several matches, beginning with a pin by Sacred Heart-bound TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River at 140.  The Dark Knights were victorious at 145 and 160, while state champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham earned a 5-4 win at 152 and Steven Schneider got his hand raised at 170 with an overtime triumph.  After regulation ended deadlocked at 1, and there was no scoring in sudden victory, Schneider rode his opponent out for the entire 30 seconds and then escaped when it was his turn on bottom to make the team score 19-16 in favor of the Pennsylvania squad.

After the Dark Knights extended their advantage to 22-16 with a decision at 182, Chris Chambers put four big points on the board for X-Cel with a major at 195, followed by a 9-3 decision by Steven Mills at 220 to put the Long Island group ahead for the first time since early in the dual.  When a forfeit at heavyweight was tacked on, X-Cel took a 29-22 lead as the meet returned to the lightweights.

At 106, the Dark Knights made things interesting, earning a fall to make it 29-28 in favor of X-Cel with just one match remaining.  In that contest, former Wantagh star Jose Rodriguez took control with an early takedown and got his hand raised to push X-Cel to the 32-28 win and to the semifinals on Sunday against Iron Horse (New Jersey).

The 32-team High School field included many squads from New York, including teams from Ascend, Cellar Dwellers, Cobra, Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, Iowa Style, Journeymen, Port Jervis, Razor and 631 Elite.

Meanwhile, close to half of the squads in the Youth field came from New York as well.

In addition to Sunday’s action to determine placement in the team standings, there will be some great bouts on Saturday night.  At 8:30 p.m., some of the top individuals will take the mat for an All-Star dual.

Included are a number of New Yorkers, for example (matches subject to change):

83: Adam Busiello (631 Elite) vs. Patrick Glory (A&B Core)

88: Dillan Palaszewski (Journeymen) vs. Gavin Teasdale (Young Guns)

106: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cobra) vs. Devin Brown (Young Guns)

120: Nick Piccininni (X-Cel) vs. Mickey Phillipi (Young Guns)

125: William Koll (FLWC) vs. Kevin Jack (Iowa Style)

140: Nick Kelley (Journeymen) vs. Anthony Ashnault (SKWC)

182: Dan McDevitt (Ascend) vs. Luke Farinaro (Iron Horse)

220: Rich Sisti (Apex) vs. Michael Boykins (Rt. 100)

100: Sam Sasso (Dark Knights) vs. Vince Andreano (APEX)

140: Jason Nolf (Young Guns) vs. Scott Delvecchio (Iron Horse)

152: BJ Clagon (Apex) vs. Miguel Calixto (Catamounts)

170: Chris Koo (Ascend) vs. Ethan Ramos (Iron Horse)

195: Reggie Williams (FLWC) vs. Evan Ramos (Iron Horse)

285: Mike Hughes (X-Cel) vs. Jesse Webb (Catamount)

Going With the Flo: Many New York Wrestlers Prepare for 2013 FloNationals

 
 
According to organizers, it will have the “feel of an NCAA championship.” Riding time will be a factor, seasoned college referees will officiate, video review will be used for challenges and many of the nation’s top wrestlers will take the mat.

The scene won’t be Des Moines, Iowa but instead Indiana, Pennsylvania for the FloNationals, beginning on April 5.

Competition will start at 9 a.m. on Friday in the high school division on 12 mats and will continue through the finals on Saturday evening. The action doesn’t stop then, however, as the middle school and elementary tournaments take place on Sunday, beginning at 10.

Kelley, Photo by BV

A year ago, the Empire State featured eight All-Americans at FloNationals. This time, New York will once again be well represented, with over 85 entries as of press time, including state champions such as Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), Luis Weierbach (Hoosick Falls), Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville), Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa), Tyler Grimaldi (Half Hollow Hills West) and Rich Sisti (Monsignor Farrell).

In addition, a number of medalists, including 2013 top three finishers Vincent DePrez (Hilton), Christian Dietrich (Greene), David Almaviva (Shenendehowa), Joe Mastro (Yorktown), Alex Soutiere (Ravena), Travis Passaro (Eastport South Manor) and Sam Melikian (Fordham Prep) will look to add All-American honors to the All-State accolades they picked up in February.

Registration remains open until Wednesday at midnight here. But for those who won’t be present in person, there are still ways to keep tabs on the New Yorkers as they strive for national titles.

Each match will be streamed live on FloWrestling.org with a Tech Wave subscription, and according to organizers, viewers will be able to see the score and time on the screen to make the bouts easy to track. (In addition, results will be updated throughout the weekend on http://www.trackwrestling.com).

“I think it’s exciting that every match will be shown live on the internet so people back home can watch,” said two-time state champion Nick Piccininni. “It also lets college coaches watch.  I know some coaches will be there in person too and even though I can’t talk to them yet, I want to put myself on their radar for the future.”

Indeed, FloNationals is a place where coaches are on the lookout for potential recruits.  Just ask 2013 New York State bronze medalist Joe Mastro of Yorktown, who recently committed to become a part of Pat Popolizio’s Wolfpack.

“FloNationals was the place that first got the NC State coaches interested in me,” Mastro said. “I’ve been going since my sophomore year and the competition gets tougher each year.  I think it’s really become the premier postseason national tournament.”

Both Mastro (preseeded ninth at 152) and Piccininni (preseeded #1 at 113), fell just short of the podium a year ago.  Both expect better this time.

“Last year, I came within a round of placing,” Mastro said. “The goal is to definitely come home with All-American honors. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since last year.”

“I definitely wasn’t happy with the outcome last year,” Piccininni added. “It doesn’t really matter that I’m preseeded #1. I’m just trying to go out there, wrestle my toughest and dominate each match. It’s a really tough tournament, but my goal is to win the national championship.”

 

All Tied Up: Long Island and Upstate All-Star Squads Battle to 27-27 Result in Ithaca

 
 
The poster for the first annual Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge said, “The Debate Will Finally Be Settled.”  But after a great day of wrestling, neither team earned bragging rights as the squads battled to a 27-27 tie at the Friedman Center on the campus of Cornell University.

It’s fair to say that neither team was thrilled with the outcome.

“We weren’t happy.  I actually think were kind of shocked to have tied,” said Long Island 120-pounder Travis Passaro. “I didn’t think it would be a blowout, but I thought we would win.”

Upstate 195-pounder Reggie Williams wasn’t pleased either.

“Even after they tied it up, we were hoping we would still win on criteria,” the Johnson City star said. “We would have won if they went to criteria. We really wanted to win this in the first year of the event.”

The dual featured some of New York’s best wrestlers, including 13 state champions and another 15 placers.  As a result, the fans were treated to a back and forth affair that came down to the final bout, where Connetquot’s Brendan Dent edged Hilton’s Vincent DePrez at 145 pounds 5-4 to complete Long Island’s comeback from eight points down with just two matches remaining.

Photo by BV

The main event began with a pair of 99 pounders who took first (Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton) and third (John Busiello of Eastport South Manor) in Albany.  Diakomihalis took charge early and never relented, winning a 9-3 decision and giving Upstate a 3-0 advantage.

Long Island responded, however, as state champion Mike Hughes of Smithtown West used a late charge to top Columbia’s El Shaddai Van Hoesen 5-4 at heavyweight.  The Columbia wrestler scored the first takedown and later added a reversal, but Hughes rebounded to knot the team score at 3.

Next to the mat was yet another state gold medalist – 106-pounder Kyle Quinn of Wantagh.  He took an early lead against third placer Jon Haas of Spencerport, but it was Haas who picked up the pace as the match continued, erasing the early deficit and coming from behind to win 7-4.

Building on that momentum for the Upstate team was Holley’s Mike Silvis at 220.  He used a big throw to propel himself to a 7-3 decision over New York runner up Steven Mills and pushed the Upstate group’s advantage to 9-3.   On top of that, the Long Island squad was docked a team point, which would prove costly at the end of the day.

Ready to turn the tide was two-time state titlewinner Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville.  The Section 11 star got his team back on track with a 6-0 blanking of Lockport’s Anthony Orefice at 113 to pull Long Island within 9-5, bringing up a rematch of a quarterfinal tilt at the Times Union Center.

At the state tournament, Syosset’s Dan Choi upended top-seeded Reggie Williams of Johnson City 14-4 on his way to the NYS crown.  Williams couldn’t wait to take another shot at the Section 8 grappler.

“I was really excited to have a rematch because I wasn’t at my best at the state tournament,” Williams said. “I was really looking forward to it.  I wanted to prove that I just had a bad weekend.”

He definitely had a better day on Saturday in an entertaining clash that featured a number of throw attempts by the 195-pounders.  With a lead in the third and time winding down, Williams picked up significant points for the Upstaters when he put Choi to his back and recorded the fall.

“Ending it that way did mean a little more,” Williams said. “I know [Choi] committed to Cornell and he’ll be scarred with his first experience there losing by pin. Getting a pin at this level of competition, at an event like this was big. It really helped my team out.”

It definitely did, giving Upstate a 15-5 lead. With that 10-point deficit, Long Island sent bronze medalist Travis Passaro out to face 120-pound champion Alex Delacruz of Ossining.  Thanks to some outstanding work on the mat, including a number of turns for near fall, the Section 11 standout beat Delacruz by major decision to pull his squad within striking distance, 15-9.

“I really wanted to wrestle him; I felt like I should have been in the state finals,” Passaro said. “It was a big match for me. Top is one of my best positions and when I got on top, I was able to work for turns and score a lot of points.  I wasn’t expecting to score so much, but I wasn’t surprised.  I felt like I did what I should have done.”

And not too long afterwards, Gio Santiago answered the pin by Williams with a fall of his own to bring the scoreboard to a 15-15 tie.  Santiago, a prolific pinner throughout his career, ended his bout with Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer with an exclamation point.

Photo by BV

“Gio Santiago came through with a huge pin to tie it up and bring us right back into it,” Passaro said. “That was really big.”

So, eight matches down, seven to go and it was deadlocked between the squads.  What could make things even more exciting?  How about a clash between a pair of 2013 state champions?

TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River and William Koll of Lansing met at 126 pounds at the Eastern States Classic in January, with the Long Island wrestler walking away with the triumph and the tournament title.  This time, the tables were turned as Koll jumped out to a quick lead with a takedown and back points.  Despite Fabian’s strong top work in the third period which earned points both for riding time and stalling against the Section 4 wrestler, Koll came away a 5-4 winner and pulled the Upstate squad ahead 18-15.

Long Island then briefly took its last lead of the day on the strength of Danny McDevitt’s major decision over Clarence’s Jake Weber at 170.  McDevitt showed his dominance on the mat, reversing his opponent on multiple occasions and collecting nearfall to put the Section 8 and 11 squad up 19-18.

However, the next three bouts went to the Upstaters as Brandon Lapi and Connor Lapresi both registered shutouts over their opponents, Chris Mauriello and Vinny Turano (at 132 and 138).  Both Lapi and Lapresi notched first period takedowns and then demonstrated strong work on the mat, with significant riding time.

In between those two performances came one of the most anticipated matches of the event – a meeting between Division I state champion Tyler Grimaldi and his Division II counterpart Burke Paddock at 160 pounds.  Grimaldi said before the weekend that it was the “grudge match” as he had beaten Paddock in Freestyle while Paddock had returned the favor at the Eastern States.

After some early handfighting, the Warsaw junior grabbed control, throwing Grimaldi to his back for a 5-0 advantage.  He added to his lead in the second to enter the third up 7-1.  Despite a comeback from the Hills West star, who earned some takedowns late, Paddock came away with a 9-5 victory.

And so entering the final two bouts of the afternoon, at 152 and 145 pounds, Upstate was in front 27-19.

“I was confident in [Corey Rasheed and Brendan Dent]; I felt like they could both win,” Passaro said. “I thought we had a chance to win the dual.”

Rasheed, one of the most dominant grapplers in all of New York this year was set to face  fellow 152-pound state champion Kevin Thayer of Unatego.

Photo by BV

Those present at the Times Union Center saw Rasheed cradle his opponent and end the state title bout in less than a minute.  That move led to many falls during the campaign for the Longwood junior.  He slapped that cradle onto Thayer more than once, but the Section 4 wrestler refused to give in, fighting off his back multiple times.  In the end, Rasheed was just too much and with less than 20 ticks left in the third period, he finished off a 15-0 technical fall, putting his squad behind by just three points, 27-24.

“Kevin Thayer is a good wrestler who goes hard, but Corey Rasheed is just a really, really tough kid,” Williams said. “I was proud of Kevin because even though he was losing, he kept fighting. He never stopped fighting and he didn’t give up the pin.”

So it all came down to the 145 pound contest.  It was two-time state runner up Vincent DePrez of Hilton for the Upstate squad, (second at 138 in 2013) against NYS fourth placer Brendan Dent of Connetquot.

Dent got on the board first with a takedown and ended the first ahead 2-1. He added to his lead with an escape in the second, but DePrez made it 3-3 with a takedown in the middle stanza. In the third, DePrez moved ahead 4-3 when he got out from bottom, but Dent answered with a takedown with just over a minute remaining to lead 5-4. DePrez worked for the reversal as time ticked down, but Dent held on for the 5-4 victory.

Following the match, the scoreboard changed to 27-all and that’s how it would end. One thing was unanimous – neither team liked that deadlocked tally.

“There’s always tension between Upstate and Long Island,” Passaro said. “It was a really fun weekend, but we wanted to win it.”

Williams felt the same way.

“We had a great time as team; did a lot of bonding.  When good wrestlers get together, you learn a lot and make new friendships.  It was a good weekend, but no one wants to end on a tie,” he said. “We really wanted to come out on top in the first year. But, there’s always next year.”

 

Winning and Not Getting Pinned: John Passaro's New Book "6 Minutes Wrestling With Life"

 
 
When the toughest challenge of his life struck, John Passaro understood.

He had been bitter.  He had stayed away from wrestling – no participating, coaching or even following what was going on in the sport.  After all, he had spent six years doing far more than he was asked.  And then his dreams of county and state glory ended when he was injured and didn’t make the podium at the Suffolk tournament for William Floyd High School.

“I remember putting everything I had into it – total dedication, total discipline,” Passaro said. “If it was an hour and a half practice, I stayed for two and a half.  If we were supposed to a run a mile, I ran three.  My goals were to win leagues, win counties and win states.  I damaged some ribs in the league tournament as a senior and didn’t even place. I lost to a kid who I teched earlier in the year.  I couldn’t believe it.  I asked myself what the heck I did everything for.  I hated wrestling for a while; I probably avoided it for 17 years or so.  I wanted no part of it.  I felt like it wasn’t worth it – I did everything I should do and felt like I got nothing out of it.  Of course, I was wrong.”

While he slowly changed his mind and got back into the sport with sons Maverick and Travis, it was when his daughter Jess was suddenly rushed to the hospital with a brain injury in 2009 that he realized wrestling gave him the tools he needed to face a foe more powerful than ever before.

“I never realized what wrestling meant to me until I had adversity,” Passaro said.  “It just kicks in and you go into wrestling mode. You block everything out, you figure out what the obstacles are and figure out how you will overcome each one. There are setbacks and you work harder. You work as hard as you think is possible and then you have to work harder again.  It’s about constantly moving forward and not listening to the noise around you.  The biggest thing about wrestling is that you always reach a point when you’re on the mat with someone better than you.  You have to find a way to win anyway.  Life is the same way.  There are things bigger than you; my family was faced with an opponent much bigger than us.  You still have to come up with a plan to win.  You realize you have the ability to take yourself to levels you never thought possible.”

In his book, Passaro brings it all to life, telling the tale of what can happen when a family believes and sacrifices, even in the face of unlikely odds.  It details the battle Jess and the Passaro family had (and have) in dealing with significant illness and talks about the trials and triumphs of sons Maverick and Travis, both All-State grapplers in New York.

We don’t want to give away too much because the book is worth reading. It pulls no punches and will move, touch and inspire.  You’ll feel the power of the story.

Instead, we’ll share some of the answers John Passaro gave us about his work in an interview last week.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): The book provides such a compelling story.  Have you done a lot of writing before?

John Passaro (JP): It was the right time and place to write about my own personal experience.  As the events of the book were going on back in 2009, I was sending out text messages to close family and friends. I saved all of those and that was where I was drawing from.  It allowed me to remember minute details.  I took me about two months, writing a few chapters a day.  I really wanted it to be simple to read, a book you could read in one sitting.  I love to read, but a lot of times I get into a book and a paragraph or a chapter goes on forever and it loses me.  I didn’t want that – I wanted it to be something that would be hard to put down.

The funniest thing is that whenever I wrote in high school and thought I wrote a really good paper in honors English, I would get a grade much worse than I expected.  I was always baffled by it. I thought I could write. Let’s just say I wasn’t encouraged to write by my teachers, especially because I wrote about things like politics and religion, which were controversial.

But I always loved to write and I always knew I was going to write someday.

NYWN: What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

JP: What was really hard for me was I always knew the first chapter had to be gripping as well as accurate and detailed and emotional. I wanted to write a long time before I really got going because I probably started the first chapter five or six times before it finally really came together.  After that, I never forced myself to write. I needed to go chronologically and any time I felt the next chapter, no matter where I was, I sat down and did it.

NYWN: You spent a lot of time talking about the early times when Jess got sick, but then skipped over multiple years of time.  Why did you choose to take that approach?

JP: The hardest part of the book was making it as positive as possible.  It’s highly emotional.  I don’t think people want to hear about the day-to-day since Jess came home. I wanted people to focus on the messages instead.

NYWN: What do you see as the key messages you wanted to get across?

JP: A lot of it is about keeping the faith and not allowing yourself to get pinned.  At a tournament, no matter what the score, you’ll see guys flop over and get pinned.  Then you’ll see guys who are down 10 points with 10 seconds left and they’re still fighting. You can’t break them. That’s the whole point.  Whether or not you’re broken is up to you. I never wanted to break. Wrestling taught me never to give in.

I also believe that things happen for a reason. If I was successful in wrestling earlier on, I probably wouldn’t have married my wife or had the desire to coach as much as I did or get my kids involved as much as I eventually did.  In the end, the prize was that I didn’t get the prize. It’s funny because I feel like I won by not being as successful in wrestling as I wanted to be.

NYWN: Were there things you wanted to put in the book but couldn’t?

JP: When you go through something like this, you’re part of a special club.  Your take on life is different.  You see other people with difficult circumstances and you hurt with them.  It’s a different way of looking at life. Things are hard, but I wouldn’t trade it because it gave me a new attitude and approach to life. You have to believe that somehow, some way, something good will come out of everything.  And more than believing it, you have to make something good come out of it.

There have been some situations in the wrestling community that I felt a connection to over the years.  When [Hauppauge’s] Nick Mauriello was on life support [in 2011], I didn’t know the family but sent his father an e-mail, telling him I kind of knew what he was going through.  I told him to hang in there and believe, and we’ve become good friends.   Nothing made me happier than seeing Nick make a full recovery.

When I heard about Aaron Paddock’s injury, I felt the pain that was involved. Same thing with Vinny Vespa.  It’s been great to see them bounce back too.  I know wrestling had something to do with those guys getting better.

NYWN: Were you ever hesitant to put such personal experiences in the public eye?

JP: My wife is very private and didn’t want me to do it.  She lived everything and didn’t want to re-live everything.  I definitely saw her point of view and there have probably been only one or two things in my life I overruled her on, but this was one of them.  I felt like it was something I needed to do.  Sometimes you write an e-mail and don’t know whether or not to send it.  The book was the same way because of how personal it was.  But I hit send.

The outpouring of support brings some happiness.  The wrestling community has been unbelievable; it’s been heartwarming.

NYWN: Any last thoughts you wanted to get across?

JP: There is one other part I wanted to mention – in sports, people always say it’s not about winning or winning isn’t important. I disagree. It is important. If you don’t have the burning desire to win a wrestling match, you won’t figure out how to score points or what you need to do.  If something’s important in life, you figure out what you need to do.  You need to win. We had an opponent much bigger than us, probably the most ferocious opponent we’ve ever faced, but we needed to figure it out.  The best wrestler doesn’t always win, it’s the guy who’s willing to do whatever it takes.  It’s about winning and learning; not winning and losing.  I can guarantee that if I wasn’t involved in sports, wrestling in particular, I never, ever would have made it through this situation. Our family never would have made it through and never would be where we are now.

 

To find out more about the book, you can go to amazon.com, where it is available in the paperback ( here) or Kindle edition (here).  The Kindle edition is available on iPad or iPhone or any type of tablet.

———————-

Editor’s Note: Maverick Passaro was the 2012 New York State Champion at 126 pounds and is now at Rutgers University. Travis Passaro took third in New York in 2013 at 120 pounds.

Team New York Pushed to the Limit, But Emerges With 29-21 Victory over NJ in 2013 All-Star Charity Challenge

 
 
BY MATT DIANO

For the second straight year, all of the talk on the various forums leading up to the All-Star Charity Challenge centered on uneven lineups and lopsided outcomes. And, for the second straight year, nothing would be further from the truth as the student-athletes from the two cross-state rivals would wage war on one another, taking the dual to the final weight class and entertaining all those lucky enough to be on the campus of West Orange High School for this afternoon’s festivities.

For the match-by-match summary, see New York 29, New Jersey 21 Details.

On paper, with 11 2013 State Champions in the lineup, the Empire State was supposed to enjoy a significant advantage. However, as was so eloquently put by event organizer, Jason Bross, when it comes to New Jersey, “we never sleep on them.”

Bross’s sentiments would prove prophetic as in contrast to the opinions of the so-called prognosticators, there was never a moment in the dual that witnessed either side having a moment of relaxation or relief. Every time it would seem that one team would begin to seize momentum, the other would respond with a mini winning streak to keep the dual within reach.

In the end, it would be the wrestlers from New York improving their record to 3-0 against their opponents from the Garden State, 29-21, but in the bigger picture, as is the case every year, there would be no losers as all of the student-athletes did themselves, their schools, and their states proud. On a day where nothing would come easy, the greatest satisfaction was not from winning the dual, it was in the knowledge that 30 young men with bright futures gave selflessly of themselves to do a world of good for two event organizations, Pinning Down Autism and Autism New Jersey. You can’t see on a scoreboard the kind of victory that is earned each and every time these two states go to battle in this event.

Getting the Empire State off to a great start would be Hilton High School eighth grader Yianni Diakomihalis, who scored off the opening whistle and never looked back, collecting another takedown off a scramble midway through the second and then adding a reversal at the beginning of the third to take a 6-2 lead over New Jersey freshman, Alec Kelly.

The St. Peter’s Prep underclassman would cut the lead to 6-3 and would be in deep on a single-leg, but would be unable to finish as the buzzer sounded, making the 2013 NYS DI Champion the winner by decision, 6-3, to give the visitors from New York the 3-0 team lead.

Evening the score for the Garden State at 106 would be regional tournament qualifier, Ryan Freeman, who had a knack for picking his moments, scoring takedowns in the closing seconds of both the first and seconds periods to carry a 4-1 lead into the final two minutes. The freshman 30+ match winner would quickly increase his lead over the 2013 NYS DI champion from Wantagh, Kyle Quinn, getting a body lock and tossing his opponent from Nassau to the ground on the edge of the mat to make the score 6-2. Following a Quinn escape, Freeman would tack on one more takedown for good measure, taking the decision by an 8-2 tally.

Piccininni, Photo by BV

Two-time Division I champion Nick Piccininni would give New York the lead back at 113, dominating his foe, two-time New Jersey placewinner AJ Vindici (3rd in 2013), scoring a takedown and then adding near fall to lead 5-0 at the end of the first period. The Ward Melville sophomore would earn the reversal with half a minute remaining in the 2nd period to jump the lead to 7-0 at the end of the middle stanza. The third takedown of the bout for Piccininni with 1:05 remaining would put him in a position to earn bonus points for the “Evil Empire”. He would ride out the sophomore from Randolph to pitch the 9-0 shutout, making the team score, 7-3. “Picc” improves to 2-0 in as many appearances for New York in the Charity Dual.

Competing in the first match of the afternoon that did not feature a state champion on other side, it would be Eastport-South Manor junior Travis Passaro winning a low scoring affair over 2012 New Jersey 8th place finisher Marc Mastropietro of Hasbrouck Heights High School, 1-0. Scoreless after the 1st period, the 2013 NYS DI bronze medalist would ride out the entire second period and then escape early in the third to record the deciding point. To the credit of his opponent, Mastropietro, would really push the pace following the escape, getting in deep on a single-leg late in the bout. However, maintaining his poise, Passaro whizzered hard and forced a stalemate with only :07 remaining in the match. With so little time remaining on the clock, there would no time for the nearly 40 match winner from the Garden State to pull off the comeback. The victory would increase New York’s cushion to 10-3.

Fabian, Photo by BV

After seeing two non-state champs go to war in the previous bout, 126 would feature a battle of 2013 titlists in Shoreham Wading River’s TJ Fabian and Anthony Giraldo of North Bergen, New Jersey. Striking first would be the #7 ranked wrestler in the nation, Giraldo, earning the takedown and the rideout to lead 2-0 at the end of the 1st period.

With the choice in the second period, Fabian would respond in a big way, choosing down and getting the reversal to the back for 2+2 to take his first lead of the match over the three-time placewinner. It would then be Giraldo’s turn to answer, which he would, reversing back to square the match at 4-4 at the end of the period. In the third period, it would be a third caution against the Jersey grappler that would ultimately prove to be the difference maker, as Fabian gained the 5-4 lead with short time on the clock.

Left with no other alternative, Giraldo would attempt a desperation roll attempt and get caught on his back for three near fall, making the match 8-4 in favor of the future Sacred Heart University Pioneer, Fabian. The “w” for the New Yorker avenged a pair of losses he suffered to Giraldo during the preseason at the Journeymen Classic and the Ironhorse Invitational.

Knowing that he needed to stop the three-match winning streak, Jason Estevez, the senior from Livingston, would answer the call to duty, scoring the only three takedowns of the match to earn the 7-3 decision over Fordham Prep’s Sam Melikian. Using his quickness and polished technique, the two-time New Jersey 3rd place finisher would prove to be too much for his fellow 2013 bronze medalist. Looking for a déjà vu moment from his victory the previous night over New England, Melikian would attempt a cement mixer late in the match, but Estevez would roll through it to preserve his win. The triumph would cut the Empire State lead to 13-6.

In another match where points would be at a premium, it would be the 2013 3rd place finisher from New Jersey, Richie Lewis, scoring a takedown with short time on the clock in the third period to upend three-time New York DII champion, Nick Tighe of Phoenix High School. All tied at 1-1 following the exchange of escapes in the second and third periods, both would have multiple opportunities to grab the lead in the third, but neither would be able to convert until the Toms River East senior was able to come up huge, getting behind the Binghamton University-bound Empire Stater for the 3-1 win to bring his team ever closer on the scoreboard. The win is yet another in the long and growing list of impressive victories for Lewis, whose only loss this season came at the hands of four-time undefeated NJ state champion, Anthony Ashnault.

Making it three in a row for the host state would be three-time finalist/two-time champion, Bryant Clagon, who just missed scoring the fall when he took 2013 NYS DI State champion, Louis Hernandez of Mepham High School down and then put him on his back. Saving the Nassau County representative would be an injury time out. However, the damage had already been done by the Rider University recruit as he would cruise to the 9-2 decision to bring New Jersey within three points. Clagon, who earned his way into this dual by winning a barn burner in the state finals last weekend, remains undefeated in 2012-2013. In a match that the New York contingent felt it could steal, Clagon showed just why he is the third-ranked wrestler in the USA. Clagon has now won his match in back-to-back All-Star Charity Challenges, as he defeated current Brown University freshman, Anthony Finocchiaro, 8-4 in the 2012 event.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

With momentum beginning to shift in the other direction, New York would turn to two upperclass leaders, junior Corey Rasheed and senior Tyler Grimaldi of Longwood and Hills West, respectively. Well aware that a few 11th hour scratches from the lineup might leave NY vulnerable up top, the pair of 2013 DI State champions would do their jobs and help their squad to regain control of the dual, combining to score seven team points to again open up the NY lead, 20-12, with five bouts remaining.

Asserting his will in every position on the mat, Rasheed would light up the scoreboard, earning bonus points with the 10-0 shutout over Glen Ridge High School’s John Faugno, a regional qualifier who did not advance to Atlantic City in 2012/2013.

Finding it much more challenging, but still stepping up and walking away with the essential victory, would be the future Harvard University student-athlete, Grimaldi. All tied at 2-2 against Delbarton’s 7th place finisher, Josef Johnson, the nationally-ranked Suffolk grappler would fight off a shot in the last half minute and then capitalize on the over aggressiveness of Johnson, countering a TD attempt in the closing seconds to snap and spin behind to survive with a 4-2 decision in a match that in all likelihood, both sides saw as a potential bonus point opportunity for the boys in blue (NY was donning blue singlets).

Having two equally solid choices in the #10 and #14 ranked wrestlers in the nation, New Jersey head coach Damion Logan would elect to go with 2013 NJ State champion Ethan Ramos over the man he defeated by a narrow margin in the title bout last weekend, Jadaen Bernstein. New York would counter with a state champion — the first-ever titlewinner from the PSAL — Adis Radoncic of RKA in the Bronx. Interlocked in a back-and-forth bout, it would be the future UNC Tar Heel, Ramos, taking the 5-4 lead in the third period with a miraculous double-leg. Fighting like a warrior to earn the equalizer, Radoncic would come close to earning a reversal during the final ticks of the clock, but in the end, it would be the still undefeated Ramos maintaining control of his opponent’s leg to ride out the last minute plus to seize victory.

Winning what could be considered the most important match of the dual would be North Carolina State signee Shayne Brady, a two-time NYS DI finalist for Carthage High School, who hoisted the hardware in Albany a few weeks ago. Scoreless after the first period, it would be Ali Yildiz of South Brunswick that would get on the board first when the 2013 3rd place finisher earned a reversal in the second period. Brady would escape late in the second period and then again at the beginning of the third to tie the match up at two apiece. However, again it would be Yildiz going back ahead when he finished a takedown midway through the final period to take the 4-2 lead. All too keenly aware of the fact that his team would have its least credentialed individuals coming up at 195 and 220, Brady would rise up and play the hero, earning a reversal and then riding out the remainder of the period to send the bout to sudden victory. Now one score away from putting his team in a very solid position to win, the 2012 Super 32 8th place finisher would waste little time, getting in deep and eventually popping his head out to emerge with the 6-4 decision to give NY the 23-15 lead. The loss was only the second of this season for the Jersey representative, the other occurring at the hands of eventual state champion, Johnny Sebastian of Bergen Catholic.

In two of the few bouts that they were definitively favored in, the Garden State wrestlers would again prevent their neighbors to the north from establishing control of the dual, as state runner-ups, Anthony Messner and Zack Chakonis, would control the action, whistle to final buzzer in earning 8-2 and 9-3 decisions respectively over 2013 6th place finisher, Kevin Tynes of Brooklyn Tech and 4th place performer, Josh Bonneau of Minisink Valley. Messner and Chakonis, the super sophomore from Don Bosco Prep, would score the only offensive points of their matches make the team score 23-21.

Finding ourselves in the exact same position as we did last season, the dual would come down to the big daddies in a clash of the present versus the future as 2013 NYS champion, Michael Hughes of Smithtown West would be opposed by eighth grade standout, Eric Chakonis, who will join his brother at Bosco next fall.  Utilizing his experience and size advantage, it would be the two-time New York placewinner Hughes opening up a sizable lead heading into the third period before putting the dual to bed with a pin at the 5:40 mark.  Team NY wins 29-21!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF TODAY’S PARTICIPANTS.  As I say quite often, on a day like this one, you are all champions !!!

For the original story, see Gotham City Wrestling here.