Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open Recap: Garrett Defeats Megaludis; Cornell Sends Eight to the Finals and Much More

Around 400 wrestlers competed on Sunday at the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open at Binghamton, including some of the best wrestlers in the country.  In one of the most highly anticipated matches of the weekend, #3 Nahshon Garrett of Cornell topped #2 Nico Megaludis of Penn State in the championship bout at 125 pounds.  The Big Red and Nittany Lion wrestlers saw a lot of each other, meeting in six of the finals matches.  In fact, the two schools accounted for nine of the 10 champions (six for Penn State and three for Cornell).

(A recap of many other weekend events is here).

Here’s a quick glance at the weights:

125 Pounds:

Garrett, Photo by BV

Last year at the NCAAs, Nahshon Garrett avenged earlier losses to Iowa’s Matt McDonough and Missouri’s Alan Waters.  After dropping a close decision to Megaludis at the Southern Scuffle last year, however, Garrett didn’t get another shot at the Nittany Lion.  That opportunity came on Sunday and Garrett took full advantage with a 7-4* decision that ended a 5-0 day for the Big Red sophomore.  Garrett also had two majors and two technical falls along his path.

New York Note: Binghamton’s David White earned fourth, winning four times on Sunday.  In addition, Connetquot’s Sean McCabe (Rutgers) made the top six.  (Only first and third place matches were contested).

133 Pounds:

The talk prior to the tournament was about a showdown between Cornell’s Mark Grey and Penn State’s Jimmy Gulibon, two wrestlers currently in the top 10 nationally.  However, Grey capped off a strong tournament with a 3-1 finals victory over another Nittany Lion – Jordan Conaway.  (Conaway topped Gulibon in the semis, the same round during which Grey beat #16, Geoff Alexander of Maryland, by a 7-0 score).

New York Note: Two 2013 NYS champions looked solid in their first college tournaments.  Sacred Heart’s TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River) went to the top 6, racking up a 4-2 mark with two majors and a fall.  He beat Bobby Rehm of Lock Haven, a placer at this event in 2012, along the way.  Meanwhile, Binghamton’s Nick Tighe also captured four victories in his debut for the Bearcats.

141 Pounds:

Penn State freshman Zain Retherford had a strong start to his career with a title at this weight, defeating Lehigh’s Will Switzer for gold.

New York Note: Binghamton’s Dylan Caruana lost his initial contest on Sunday morning, but came back to win four straight in the consolations before losing to eventual third place finisher Adam Krop of Princeton.  New York native Patrick Hogan followed a similar road, losing his first match before taking five in a row, including over highly-regarded Rutgers rookie Anthony Ashnault.

149 Pounds:

It came down to Big Red vs. Big Red.  Cornell teammates Chris Villalonga and Alex Cisneros both won their first five matches of the day to make the title bout.  Villalonga had two pins and two majors, while Cisneros also collected four bonus wins.  Villalonga took the title by forfeit.

New York Note: Binghamton’s Joe Bonaldi followed up a first place showing at 141 at last year’s Bearcat Open with a bronze finish in 2013 at his new weight.  To earn a spot in the bronze bout, he topped Cortland’s Bobby Dierna, another New York wrestler who had a solid day.  Dierna, a Division III All-American in 2013, had two pins and two majors.

157 Pounds:

Boston’s Nestor Taffur was the only champion not from Cornell or Penn State on Sunday.  He edged James Vollrath of the Nittany Lions, after placing second at this event last year to Cornell’s Brian Realbuto.

New York Note: Speaking of Realbuto, the Big Red freshman had an eventful day, beginning with a technical fall and pin.  He was then upset by Anthony Perrotti of Rutgers, but bounced back well, with four consecutive falls in the consolations and then a six-point decision over Perrotti to reach the third place match. Also reaching that match was Cornell’s Taylor Simaz, who won five bouts (four by bonus).  There was no contest, however, as Realbuto and Simaz double forfeited. Perhaps we will see them compete at next weekend’s Big Red wrestle-offs.

2013 NYS state champion Tyler Grimaldi of Harvard (and Half Hollow Hills West) looked good in the opening event of his career for the Crimson, grabbing four victories.  He earned his way to the quarterfinals before dropping an 11-10 decision to eventual champion Taffur.

165 Pounds:

#1 David Taylor blitzed his way through the field as expected.  In the championship match, he pinned Cornell’s Craig Eifert.  Eifert had won three straight to make the finals, including over Mitch Wightman of Boston and Jake Kemerer of Lock Haven.  Of the three candidates mentioned by head coach Rob Koll a few weeks ago for the 165 starting job, Eifert was the only one to take the mat on Sunday. (Dylan Palacio and Marshall Peppelman are the others).

New York Note: The previously mentioned Wightman, from Warwick Valley in Section 9, earned a fourth place finish on Sunday with five victories.

174 Pounds:

Returning NCAA finalist Matt Brown of Penn State took care of business, defeating Cornell’s Owen Scott to win the bracket.  Scott, a sophomore who missed all of last season with injuries, went 5-1 for the Big Red in his return to the mat.

New York Note: Scott wasn’t the only Cornell wrestler at 174 to end the day with only one loss.  Jesse Shanaman, moving up from 157 pounds a year ago, nabbed third with a 6-1 mark.

184 Pounds:

Like fellow top-ranked teammate David Taylor, Ed Ruth won it all on Sunday.  His finals opponent was Cornell’s Gabe Dean, a freshman who topped a pair of nationally-ranked competitors – Nathaniel Brown of Lehigh and Fred Garcia of Lock Haven.

New York Note: Cortland’s Nick Bellanza, a 2012 New York State champion for John Glenn, had two wins on the backside to make the final six of the tournament.  Bellanza is in his first season with the Red Dragons.

197 Pounds:

For the fourth straight weight class, the championship match pitted Penn State versus Cornell. This time, it was Nittany Lion Morgan McIntosh over Jace Bennett for the crown at 197 by a major decision.

New York Note: Bennett was joined by teammate Steve Congenie in the top four.  The freshman from Illinois won five times, including three pins, to notch fourth place.

285 Pounds:

Penn State’s Jimmy Lawson won in a field consisting of multiple nationally-ranked competitors.  He defeated one of those grapplers, Billy Smith of Rutgers, in the championship match.

New York Note: Tyler Deuel of the Bearcats earned fourth place with four victories during the day.  That included a pin of Cornell’s Stryker Lane, an opponent who had defeated him last season.  Lane also reached the top six.

 

* The score of the 125 pound finals is a typo in the brackets, according to the Big Red staff.

For full results, see http://www.trackwrestling.com and search for the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open.  For the top four at each weight, see below:

NCAA – 125
1st Place – Nahshon Garrett of Cornell
2nd Place – Nico Megaludis of Penn State
3rd Place – Scott Delvecchio of Rutgers
4th Place – David White of Binghamton

NCAA – 133
1st Place – Mark Grey of Cornell
2nd Place – Jordan Conaway of Penn State
3rd Place – Geoffrey Alexander of Maryland
4th Place – James Gulibon of Penn State

NCAA – 141
1st Place – Zain Retherford of Penn State
2nd Place – Will Switzer of Lehigh
3rd Place – Adam Krop of Princeton
4th Place – Casey Stasenko of Rutgers

NCAA – 149
1st Place – Chris Villalonga of Cornell
2nd Place – Alex Cisneros of Cornell
3rd Place – Joe Bonaldi of Binghamton
4th Place – Kevin Moylan of Princeton

NCAA – 157
1st Place – Nestor Taffur of Boston University
2nd Place – Jimmy Vollrath of Penn State
3rd Place – Forfeit Forfeit of Unattached
4th Place – Brian Realbuto of Cornell
4th Place – Taylor Simaz of Cornell

NCAA – 165
1st Place – David Taylor of Penn State
2nd Place – Craig Eifert of Cornell
3rd Place – Garett Hammond of Penn State
4th Place – Mitch Wightman of Boston University

NCAA – 174
1st Place – Matthew Brown of Penn State
2nd Place – Owen Scott of Cornell
3rd Place – Jesse Shanaman of Cornell
4th Place – Eric Morris of Harvard

NCAA – 184
1st Place – Edward Ruth of Penn State
2nd Place – Gabe Dean of Cornell
3rd Place – Nathaniel Brown of Lehigh
4th Place – Fred Garcia of Lock Haven

NCAA – 197
1st Place – Morgan McIntosh of Penn State
2nd Place – Jace Bennett of Cornell
3rd Place – Hayden Hrymack of Rutgers
4th Place – Steve Congenie of Cornell

NCAA – 285
1st Place – James Lawson of Penn State
2nd Place – William Smith of Rutgers
3rd Place – Jon Gingrich of Penn State
4th Place – Tyler Deuel of Binghamton


What's the Recruiting Experience Like? A State Champion's Perspective (Part 2)

 
 

Last Monday was July 1, the first day that college coaches can contact members of the Class of 2014. What is it like for high schoolers and their families during the recruiting process?  We asked Harvard-bound Tyler Grimaldi and his father Frank to share their experiences.  

Last week, we posted Part 1 of this article. To read about the beginning of the recruiting process, the craziness of July 1 and the phone and mail contact from schools all over the country, see Part 1 of this article.

The second part of the story begins below:

Narrowing Down the Field

Tyler Grimaldi: As important as wrestling is, school comes first.  Always has. Based on academics, I started to narrow the list down.

Frank Grimaldi: When we saw a lot of Ivies were interested, we put others on the backburner.  All along, we’ve talked about how wrestling is a means to an end. Tyler loves to wrestle; he lives for wrestling. But he knows that success on the mat will help him in life.  He had a very high average; high test scores. But that by itself doesn’t get you into some of the best schools.  We decided that it was time to take some unofficial visits.

So in the summer, it was off to a number of campuses across the Northeast to get a closer look – including Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Hofstra, Penn and Princeton.  He walked around the schools, met the coaches and teams and tried to get a feel for the environment at each place.

Tyler Grimaldi: I didn’t know anything about the college experience or being a college wrestler. I went in with an open mind.  It was such a new world for me. I was looking for a place to grow as an athlete, a student and a person.  I wanted to find the place that would mold me into the person I want to be.

His trip to Harvard was eye opening.  Ironically, Tyler said the Crimson staff didn’t contact him early in the recruiting period, as he said head coach Jay Weiss first reached out in August.

Frank Grimaldi: On the trip to Harvard, we sat down with Coach Weiss and Coaches [JP] O’Connor and [Muzaffar] Abdurakhmanov. We talked for three hours, but not one second was about wrestling.  Before we went on the tour, he reinforced that he doesn’t do negative recruiting; doesn’t talk about other programs.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

The visits went in both directions, as Grimaldi not only made trips to colleges, but several coaches traveled to his home in Dix Hills.  Frank Grimaldi talked about how great it was to “have these amazing coaches in my kitchen for three or four hours.”

Frank Grimaldi: The unofficial visits absolutely helped narrow it down.  He set up five official visits.  He went to Harvard first and loved it.  Then he went to Princeton next and loved it.  After that, he said he didn’t want to go on any other visits because he wanted to go to one of those places.

Decision Time

Frank Grimaldi: With it down to Harvard and Princeton, I told him I couldn’t give him a hint of what to do.  I didn’t want to push him one way or another and have him regret the decision.  The decision was all his. He couldn’t lose either way. His guidance counselor felt the same way. She asked him, ‘If you could never wrestle another day in your life, where would you rather go to school?’ Three hours later, he told me his decision was made.

Tyler Grimaldi: When I was in sixth grade, I told my parents I wanted to go to Harvard.  Originally, I didn’t think they were interested in me.  But after Fargo [Grimaldi took sixth at 160 in Freestyle], we talked and really hit it off. I still was torn between Harvard and Princeton, though. My relationship with coach Weiss was the deciding factor. I saw him as a second father figure.  He stays in touch with all the people he’s coached and he develops us as wrestlers and people. I had a different kind of connection with Coach Weiss. I feel like he knows what’s best for me.

A week or two after making his choice, Grimaldi got a “likely letter” from Harvard, indicating that his chances of being admitted were high.  In October, he received a call that he had been accepted on what was “one of the coolest nights ever” according to Frank Grimaldi.

The Hardest Part – By Far

Having a final decision meant a lot of good things for Grimaldi and his family.  Contacting all the other coaches who had been recruiting him was not one of them.

Tyler Grimaldi: That was the worst part of the whole process; by far the worst.  It was horrible.  All of those coaches went out of their way for me, came to my house, took a lot of time with me. I felt really bad.  But you know what? Most of the coaches were very cool about it.  They wished me the best and told me the door was always open if something changed.

Any Advice?

Frank Grimaldi:  My advice would be to talk to everybody you can.  Take good notes and understand that it is a business.  You have to understand that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread when you talk to some coaches, but they’re saying the same things to other people.  They have a numbers game – they have a list of wrestlers they really want, a list that they’ll settle for and a list they’ll take if they have to in order to fill numbers.  You have to figure out where you are in the pecking order.  I was kind of shocked at the response of one of the coaches when Tyler told him his decision. It’s a business, but when it’s the business of your son, you take it personally.  At the end of the day, it’s a great process, a great ride.  There were so many great people and great opportunities that Tyler couldn’t have made a bad decision.

Tyler Grimaldi: One thing I learned is that there’s no opportunity that’s too small.  Keep all of your doors open and don’t close off anything right away. Hear everyone out and listen carefully because you might find a gem in a program you never imagined.

Also, enjoy the opportunities you get from the process.  I loved taking the visits and seeing the schools.  It was amazing to learn more about what it takes to compete on the mat and in the classroom at a high level.  I got to tour parts of the country and see places I’ve never seen.  You’re made to feel really important and that’s a lot of fun. It’s a great experience.

The Road Ahead

Now, the new challenges commence. As Frank Grimaldi said, “All [Tyler] has so far is admission to Harvard, and while that’s great, he knows he’s not guaranteed anything from here.”

Tyler expects to begin as a 157-pounder but may see 165 down the road.  In the classroom, he will likely concentrate in biology or psychology as he hopes to attend medical school in the future.   He experienced quite a bit in past year and will no doubt experience a whole lot more.

“From July through October, it was a whirlwind of calls, mail, visits and discussions,” Frank Grimaldi said. “It was quite a ride. In the end, I’m the happiest person in the world with the way it worked out.”

A Wrestler's Perspective: Tyler Grimaldi's "Whirlwind" Journey through the Recruiting Process (Part 1)

 
 
What is it like to be a top wrestler entering his final year of high school?  The recruiting process is “out of a movie” and a “whirlwind”, according to Harvard-bound Tyler Grimaldi, a 2013 state champion from Half Hollow Hills West High School, and his father Frank.  With July 1 marking the beginning of the official recruiting period for the Class of 2014, we asked the Grimaldis to share some insights on what they experienced as Tyler made his college choice.  

This is part 1 of a two-part article.

 The Beginning

The story of the recruitment of Tyler Grimaldi goes back to the summer of 2011, when he competed at the Junior Freestyle National championships in Fargo, North Dakota between his sophomore and junior years.

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

Frank Grimaldi: At Fargo, Tyler was coached by Columbia’s Carl Fronhofer. Tyler decided to take an unofficial visit to Columbia during his junior year and after he finished second in the state that year [2012], Coach Fronhofer talked to [Hills West coach Mike] Patrovich with a lot of interest. I was ecstatic; I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  I thought Columbia would be a great place for Tyler.  I sat down with a friend and Tyler’s coaches and they were excited too.  They told me it was awesome; amazing.  But they also told me that we should go through the process fully.  They said, ‘Just wait until July. A lot more will show interest then.’”

Grimaldi continued to bolster his resume, earning All-America honors at the NHSCA Junior Nationals in Virginia Beach where he took fourth at 160 pounds in April (2012).  College coaches definitely took notice.

Frank Grimaldi: In Virginia Beach, it was the quarterfinal round and Tyler was about to wrestle. One of Tyler’s buddies was close to the mat and he was telling me that he almost got knocked over by someone trying to get to the match.  It was really cool – because I saw who it was.  It was [an Ivy league assistant coach], who had run almost across the entire convention center to watch Tyler.  It was really cool to watch.”

 July 1, 2012

Many know that July 1 is the big day when the first official calls and visits can occur.  But the Grimaldis admitted that what happened during that 24 hours was beyond their imagination.

Tyler Grimaldi: It was totally different than I expected. I expected a couple of calls.  What happened was straight out of a movie.  You wake up and your phone doesn’t stop ringing. Some were from schools I e-mailed with before [Grimaldi said he e-mailed coaches as a junior to introduce himself to programs he might be interested in], but some were from schools and coaches I never even heard of or schools I had no idea had any interest in me.  I really felt like I was in a movie.

Frank Grimaldi:  It was a Sunday and it started at about 9:30 a.m. By the end of the night, Tyler had received more than 25 phone calls.  It continued on Monday.  It was a dream come true. I couldn’t imagine it. It was everything from DI powers to D3 schools to Junior Colleges. It got really, really crazy.  Tyler talked to everyone and listened to what they had to say. We would sit down after each call and write down what the coach said, maybe do some research on the school.

The phone interactions continued throughout the summer.  NCAA rules stipulate that schools can only call once every seven days and for the most part, that’s exactly what they did.

 And It Continues . . .

Tyler Grimaldi: Most coaches would call every week on the dot – same exact time. I wasn’t used to it – all these people calling and pulling in different directions.  They wanted to know what my thought process was and where I stood. It became stressful at times.

Frank Grimaldi: The first calls came on that first Sunday.  Some continued to call on Sunday and some switched to another day, but it was pretty much every seven days throughout the summer.

It wasn’t just calls, however.  The postal service saw a big increase of activity at the Grimaldi house as well.

Frank Grimaldi: The mailbox filled up almost every day and so did the school mailbox.  It was like Christmas morning, every morning.

Tyler Grimaldi: There was a lot of mail, and to be honest, I read every single recruiting letter. It made me feel really good to have all those schools gunning for me. A lot of it was pretty basic, asking me to fill out questionnaires or information on the school.  Some was more personal.  Cornell’s stood out – they had some funny letters and some hand written, personal ones specific to me.

Frank Grimaldi estimated that around 75 programs contacted his son during the process, with at least 40 of them doing so by phone.

Tyler Grimaldi: It was pretty overwhelming at first. The big thing is that we didn’t close off anything early on.  I wanted to hear what all the options were.

Frank Grimaldi: There were many different opportunities. One school said with the classes he was taking in high school, he could come in as a sophomore [academically] and wrestle four years and get a redshirt year.  That way, he’d graduate in three years and have two years of grad school or med school paid for.  Everybody was offering different things – there were different packages and scholarships. Some of that was incredibly tempting.  In the end, I told Tyler that he needed to figure out what college he wanted to go to; what was right for him, and we’d figure out the next steps from there.

One of those key next steps was narrowing down the field to a handful of schools.  How that occurred and the rest of Tyler Grimaldi’s recruiting story is at Link to Part 2 of the article.

A Quick Look at the National Ratings: Who From New York Ended the Year Ranked?

 
 
Who ended the 2012-13 campaign in the national rankings? We took a look at the most recent postings by Intermat, Flowrestling, Amateur Wrestling News and WIN to see which New Yorkers were included. The rankings by the former two sites were updated after the NHSCA/Flowrestling events, while the others are from before those tournaments occured.

A number of wrestlers were named on one or more of the websites, with sophomore Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville, junior Burke Paddock of Warsaw and senior Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West ranked in the top 20 at their weights by all four of those publications.

Piccinnini, Photo by BV

Piccininni, a two-time state champion, is Flo’s #7 113 pounder in the nation. He ranges from #15-18 on the other sites.  He is also a top 30 recruit in the Class of 2015 according to both Intermat and Flo.

Grimaldi and Paddock ensured that the Empire State is well represented in the 160-pound standings. Paddock ranges between #10 (Intermat) and #15 (Flo) and is also a top 100 recruit in the class of 2014, according to Intermat and Flo.  Meanwhile, Grimaldi is #12 by both Intermat and WIN and #14 and 16 on the other sites.

While not in the top 20 at their weights at this point, Intermat believes both Greene’s Christian Dietrich and Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis are among the elite wrestlers at their grade levels. In addition, Flowrestling ranks Diakomihalis and Eastport South Manor’s Adam Busiello among the country’s best at the junior high level.

For the full list of rankings, see below: (Please comment with any changes or additions).

SENIORS

Zach Bacon (Hornell) #17 at 220 (Intermat), #18 at 220 (AWN)

TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River) Top 100 Senior recruit (Intermat), #9 at 126 (Intermat), #12 at 126 (Flo)

Tyler Grimaldi (Half Hollow Hills West) Top 100 Senior in the Nation (Flo), #12 at 160 (both Intermat and WIN), #14 at 160 (AWN), #16 at 160 (Flo)

Mike Hughes (Smithtown West) #18 at 285 (Intermat)

Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) #13 at 138 (WIN)

Nick Tighe (Phoenix) #17 at 138 (AWN)

Zack Zupan (Canastota) Top 100 Senior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #8 at 182 (Intermat), #16 at 182 (AWN), #15 at 182 (Flo)

JUNIORS

James O’Hagan (Seaford) #20 at 285 (Intermat)

Burke Paddock (Warsaw) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #10 at 160 (Intermat), #11 (WIN), #13 (AWN), #15 (Flo)

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Cheektowoga) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #13 at 132 (Intermat), #18 at 132 (Flo)

Corey Rasheed (Longwood) Top 100 Junior in the Nation (Flo), #13 at 152 (Flo), #16 (WIN)

SOPHOMORES

Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville) Top 50 Sophomore in the Nation (Intermat and Flo), #7 at 113 (Flo), #15 (Intermat), #17 (WIN), #18 (AWN)

FRESHMEN

Christian Dietrich (Greene) Top 20 Freshman in the Nation (Intermat)

JUNIOR HIGH

Adam Busiello (Eastport South Manor) Top 50 Junior High Wrestler in the Nation (Flo)

Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton) Top 10 Junior High Wrestler in the Nation (Intermat and Flo)

 

**AWN Rankings are from March 14; WIN rankings are from April 2, Flo and Intermat rankings more recent

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.”

 

First Annual Long Island/Upstate Challenge Coming Up This Saturday in Ithaca!

Courtesy of Finger Lakes Wrestling Club

Ithaca, NY– The Finger Lakes Wrestling Club will host the 1st Annual Long Island/Upstate Challenge on Saturday, March 30, 2013, at Cornell University’s Friedman Wrestling Center.

The Long Island/Upstate Challenge is the newest premier high school wrestling event in the state of New York. The match has attracted some of the best high school wrestlers in the Empire State, in a two dual meet format. The preliminary dual pits some of the best wrestlers from the central New York area representing the host club the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club against the Rochester-based team Section V at 2:00 PM. This match will feature two state champions (Shayne Brady (FLWC)) and Sean Peacock (V)) and three state finalists (Ryan Snow (FLWC), Ryan Wolcott (FLWC) and Christian Dietrich (FLWC)).

Rasheed, Photo by BV

The feature match of the evening at 4:30 PM showcases the best-of-the-best high school wrestlers from across the upstate New York area challenging the Long Island elite, featuring fourteen current or former state champions. The highlight of this dual will be three matches between 2013 Division I vs. Division II state titlewinners: 126 TJ Fabian (LI) vs William Koll (Upstate), 152 Corey Rasheed (LI) vs Kevin Thayer (Upstate) and 160 Tyler Grimaldi (LI) vs Burke Paddock (Upstate).

Proceeds from the challenge benefit local FLWC resident athletes to aid in their pursuit of International and Olympic glory.

Tickets for the event are available at flwrestlingclub.org and at the door. Ticket prices are as follows: $15.00 Reserved Seating, $10.00 General admission

Contacts:

Kris Harrington 585-738-3906 Fingerlakeswrestlingclub@gmail.com
Rob Koll 607-255-7307 rk45@cornell.edu