Down to Durham: State Runner Up Alex Tanzman Decides on Duke University

With a pair of Suffolk County titles and two All-State showings, Duke University-bound Alex Tanzman is the most decorated wrestler in Westhampton Beach history.

However, when the squad looked to clinch the league title in January, the Hurricanes planned to do it with their star sitting on the sidelines.

“It was our last dual meet of the year against Shoreham Wading River and we needed to win it to win the league,” head coach Paul Bass said. “We were hoping to do it without him because he had hardly practiced in three weeks and was in a lot of pain. He had done his job for us 48 hours before when we upset [then-#3 in the state] Rocky Point and we didn’t want to wrestle him again.”

Things did not go according to plan, however.  When it came time for the 106-pound weight class, instead of being in a solid position to capture the meet, Westhampton Beach trailed by double digit points.

“Alex put his head gear on, took his warm ups off and said he had to go out there for the team,” Bass said.

Tanzman wasn’t facing just an average opponent.  He was set to take on James Szymanski, ranked in the top five in the state at the time after an outstanding third place performance at the Eastern States Classic.

According to Bass, Syzmanski jumped out to a three point lead lead after two periods.  But Tanzman fought back in the third, escaping to begin the stanza and picking up a takedown to tie things up.  In overtime, Tanzman completed the comeback to win 7-5 and propel his squad to the championship.

“It was the gutsiest thing I’ve seen in 31 years of coaching,” Bass said.

Coming from behind late in a match against a top foe takes guts, but Alex Tanzman was dealing with much more.  He always had his mother, Jina Tanzman, and her battle with pancreatic cancer in his thoughts.  And physically, he suffered a painful intercostal rib injury in early 2013 that impacted him the rest of the season.

“It was January 5 at our home tournament,” Tanzman said. “It was a short match.  I just did a wrong motion and twisted the wrong way. After that, I slowed down.  I took three weeks off to try to heal, but it didn’t really work. I wasn’t going to not wrestle my senior year so I just toughed through it.  I had to change the way I wrestled. I just had to adapt.”

Adapt is a good word for what he did, according to Bass, as he moved away being from the ultra aggressive wrestler he had always been.

According to his coach, Tanzman set the Long Island record with 37 pins as a junior and was on pace to challenge that mark with 11 falls in November and December.  However, the injury didn’t allow him to attack the way he typically had.

“He couldn’t be aggressive,” Bass said. “He started using a very defensive style.  He gave up more takedowns in the last three weeks of the season than he had in his whole career combined.  He had to square up his stance and score off of defense.”

That led to falling behind in bouts, something that had not been common for the senior in the past.

“I actually was losing in a lot of matches this year that I ended up winning,” Tanzman said. “I never got too nervous, I just tried to stay focused.  I never expected to lose, even with the pain.”

A great example was in the Suffolk County finals against West Babylon’s Steven Lee.  He trailed early in the contest, but responded with a pin and his second straight Section 11 title.  At that point, he had a 32-1 record with his only setback coming up a weight against nationally-ranked Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville.

A few weeks later, the returning New York State bronze medalist (at 99 pounds) was the top seed at the Times Union Center at 106 and he went all the way to the championship bout before dropping a decision to Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn.

While Bass desired a different outcome, he marveled at Tanzman’s ability to achieve second place.

“To win Suffolk and go all the way to the state finals in that kind of condition is pretty amazing,” the coach said. “Everyone we talked to said that injury shuts most guys down completely.  You can’t really twist certain ways.  Honestly, Alex couldn’t do much and we were nervous about the lack of work he was able to do.  It was touch and go for a while and we had to take one day at a time, one week at a time.  He kept coming through.”

That kind of ‘can do’ attitude was reflected by the entire Westhampton Beach squad this year. Both Tanzman and Bass emphasized how the tight-knit group pulled through a lot of adversity – and on top of that, earned a lot of success on the mat.

“We had a bunch of hard, tragic events going on all around us,” Bass said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years of coaching.  But the kids stuck together.  There was no quit in anyone.  Alex was a perfect example. He was wired from his parents and teammates to keep going no matter what.”

“Our team was really close this year, all of us,” Tanzman added. “We stuck together and encouraged each other through some really hard times.  It was everyone – family, friends, coaches, teachers.  We were proud to win the leagues, which we wanted so bad.  We were able to support each other.”

One of the many evidences of that support came from the T-shirts the team sold.  According to Tanzman, the shirts were purple for pancreatic cancer and there was a “JT” on the sleeve for Jina Tanzman.  The money from the sales of the apparel went to the Lustgarden Foundation, an organization that funds pancreatic cancer research.

Tanzman’s ability to fight through it all was one of the many reasons the Duke coaching staff was excited to welcome him aboard.  His outstanding work in the classroom was, of course, another.

“I was always interested in Duke for the academics,” he said. “I visited a few weeks ago and met with Coach [Glen] Lanham and the wresting team.  It’s a beautiful school with great sports and I really liked the coaches.  It was my number one choice since the beginning of the year.”

The future economics major, who said he weighs about 122 pounds now, will redshirt his first year in Durham, North Carolina with the intention of wrestling at 125 the following season.

“Alex has all the tools,” Bass said. “He’s a very good athlete who is very explosive and strong for his size.  We always knew he was tough, from the time he was in our kid program in fifth grade.  He listens, he’s smart and he learns quickly.  You’re on your own a lot more in college and you need to be self-motivated and independent to succeed.  That’s Alex.  He has his priorities straight. He chose a great university and knows that education comes first.  I know he’ll do awesome.”


Weekend Recap: Titles for Wantagh, Johnson City and S. Jefferson; Mayor's Cup and More News and Notes from Around the State

As the postseason draws closer, the action continues to heat up.  Over the past few days, fans were treated to previews of some of the key matchups we’ll see at state qualifiers in the coming weeks.  We also saw teams like Wantagh, Johnson City and South Jefferson pick up additional trophies, as well as a plethora of other results.  Here are some of the highlights (and more may be added):

  • Wantagh, the Empire State’s top-ranked squad, followed up titles at the Union-Endicott Duals and the Eastern States Classic with the Nassau County Dual Championship at Clarke High School on Saturday. The Warriors ended a dominant four match run with a 45-16 result in the championship match against MacArthur.


  • South Jefferson and Johnson City followed up dual meet crowns in Sections 3 and 4 with additional first place showings at the Frontier League and STAC tournaments, respectively.  Nearby, Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton stood atop the MAC while Holland Patent did the same at the Center States and Phoenix won the Liberty/Patriot League.


  • The Mayor’s Cup in Manhattan showcased the best the five boroughs has to offer.  State contenders such as Sam Melikian, Cheick Ndiaye, Andrew Psomas and Richard Sisti were overpowering champions, while Monsignor Farrell captured the team race.


  • West Seneca West edged Kenmore West at the Ken-Ton Invitational, where Renaldo-Rodriguez Spencer of Cheektowoga was once again dominant in taking the title.  Also in Section 6, Lewiston Porter won the Peter Rao Memorial Tournament with 138-pounder Dan Reagan notching MOW honors at 138 pounds.


  • At the Rockland County Championships, John Muldoon of Pearl River responded to his recent overtime loss to Anthony Calvano by taking the rematch.  A number of other Section 1 stars were on display at that event as well as the Super 16 tournament in Yonkers, where Fox Lane took top billing.


  • John Arceri of Huntington upended Eastern States Champion Chris Cuccolo to take the 99-pound crown at the Big Ten Invitational in Albany over the weekend. More details on that tournament which had representation from Sections 1, 2, 7, 9, 11 and from Massachusetts.  The final results are here:  Big 10 Results


  • It’s worth noting that Westhampton Beach captured a league title over the weekend with a win over Shoreham Wading River in Section 11. A few days earlier, the Hurricanes put themselves in position for the championship when they topped the state’s third-ranked dual team, Rocky Point, 31-28.  In addition to a pin by the state’s top ranked 106 pounder, Alex Tanzman, Westhampton Beach was propelled by a pair of upsets. Jake Martin upended Sean Ferguson at 220 while Pete Broccoli‘s victory over James Matias sealed the victory for the Hurricanes.  Both Ferguson and Matias are ranked in Suffolk County.


  • In addition, Brockport ended a big week with a 71-15 win over Lansing on the campus of Cornell University. According to head coach Mike Ferris, 113-pounder Barton Peters had a standout performance with a technical fall at 113 while Bobcats junior William Koll also was impressive at 126.  The triumph in Ithaca came a few days after the Blue Devils recorded their first victory over rival Spencerport in 28 years to seal a league title.

For more on some of these stories, read on:

Another Title for Wantagh . . .

Quinn, Photo by Josh Conklin

Wantagh has continued to win week in and week out.  The state’s top-ranked squad captured the Union-Endicott Duals, the team title at the Eastern States Classic and, on Saturday, the Nassau County dual championship.  The Warriors cruised through the event, beginning with a 51-18 pounding of Island Trees.  They followed with a 57-12 win over Division, a 50-18 semifinal result against Mepham and a 45-16 triumph in the finals against MacArthur.  Leading the way were wrestlers ranked among the top 8 in the state –  Danny McDevitt (170), Chris Araoz (126), Vinny Turano (132), Kyle Quinn (106) and James Corbett (182), who combined for eight pins and eight technical falls.

Johnson City Picks Up More Hardware

Williams, Photo by Josh Conklin

Johnson City followed up last weekend’s Section 4 Duals title with another crown – this time at the STAC.  The Wildcats piled up 232.5 points to outdistance runner up Vestal and third place squad Union-Endicott. Johnson City was propelled by four champions (Isaiah Colgan at 106, Joseph Hamdan at 145, Zach Colgan at 152 and Reggie Williams at 195) as well as silver medalists Tyler Brazinski (99), Nick Bidwell (138), Conner Halladay (160) and Dominic Taylor (170).

Vestal’s run was highlighted by 182-pound champion James Benjamin, a returning All-State wrestler who won his title by fall in less than 30 seconds.

Benjamin will be in the mix in Albany for another spot on the podium.  Also prominently figuring into the title picture at the Times Union Center will be two-time state champion Kyle Kelly.  The Chenango Forks star earned a pin in the 113-pound finals against returning state placer Jimmy Overhiser of Corning, who bumped up from his usual weight. Another clash of contenders happened at 126 pounds, where Kelly’s teammate Jake Green edged Ithaca’s Richie Burke, 3-2 in the tiebreakers.  Former state champion Tristan Rifanburg of Norwich also earned gold with a technical fall at 132 pounds.

For more results, see STAC here.

Also in Section 4 . . . BGA Takes the MAC

Also in Section 4, Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton won the MAC tournament at Unadilla Valley.  Leading the way for BGA were a trio of titlewinners, Jesse Griswold (132), Justin Cirigliano (138) and Mark Viviano (195).  Second place Unatego was very strong in the middleweights, boasting winners in three consecutive classes – Codie Nichols (145), Kevin Thayer (152) and Leland Slawson (160).

For more results, see here.

South Jefferson Keeps the Momentum Going

South Jefferson and General Brown have seen a lot of each other lately.  The Spartans won a regular season dual against the Lions and then defeated them again for the Section 3 dual meet title a few days later.  On Saturday, South Jefferson added another trophy with the Frontier League championship, won by over 30 points over General Brown.

Jared Carroll (99), Caleb Beach (106), Jon Crast (132), Daniel Smith (170) and Ryan Charlebois (195) took gold for South Jefferson while Nick Toutant of Indian River was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler after defeating Ryan Snow for the 126 pound crown.

For more results, see here.

Also in Section 3 . . . Holland Patent and Phoenix Victorious

At the Center States tournament, the top three teams finished within seven points of one another, with Holland Patent taking first, followed by Dolgeville and Canastota.  The top squad featured a pair of champions – Hunter Richard at 113 and Josh Langley at 220.

The state’s top ranked 182-pounder, Zach Zupan of Canastota, breezed to the championship with a pin, while his teammates Jesse Puchales (170) and Wyatt Albanese (195) also won titles.

In matches featuring wrestlers who could figure into the picture at the Times Union Center, Ilion’s Laken Cook picked up a 3-1 decision over Rome Free Academy’s Antonio DeLuco at 126 pounds. In addition, highly regarded 99-pounder Ryan O’Rourke of Adirondack won a 2-0 battle against New Hartford’s Kelan McKenna while his teammates Derek Spann (106) and Tyler Spann (160) were named the event’s Most Outstanding Wrestlers.  In a bout between previous state qualifiers, Tyler Spann edged Oneida’s Matt Fisher.

In the Liberty/Patriot tournament, Phoenix was first by a margin of more than 25 points. Nick Tighe dominated his way to the 138 pound crown while teammates Rowdy Prior (152) and Justin Rhodes (160) joined him on top of the podium.

For more results, see Center States and Liberty/Patriot.

West Seneca West, Rodriguez-Spencer Shine at the Ken Ton Tournament

The Ken-Ton Invitational included some of the best in Section 6, including Cheektowoga’s Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer.  The returning state runner up cruised through the competition at 132 pounds, including a technical fall, a first period pin and a 15-6 major over All-State grappler Cody McGregor of Tonawanda.  West Seneca West was the 7.5 point winner of the event over second place Kenmore West.

For more on the event, see here.

Reagan, Photo by BV

A number of other standouts from the same area took part in the Peter Rao Memorial.  Lewiston Porter grabbed top billing, with Lockport next.  Lew Port’s Dan Reagan earned MOW honors after two pins and a major on his way to the 138 pound title.  Other notable winners included Lockport’s Anthony Orefice, an All-Stater who stood atop the podium at 120 pounds.



 Rockland County Championships and Super 16 Feature Section 1 Standouts

Muldoon, Photo by Josh Conklin

In Section 1, a pair of tough tournaments took place over the weekend – the Rockland County Championships and the Super 16. Among the finals bouts that stood out at the RCCs was the 120 pound contest between Pearl River’s John Muldoon and Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano.  Muldoon avenged a recent overtime loss to Calvano with a convincing victory.  Just to reach the title bout, the Pearl River wrestler had to beat the very tough Blaise Benderoth of North Rockland.  Another intriguing contest took place at 138 pounds where Benderoth’s teammate Matt Caputo topped Colby Kash, 9-2.

Among the champions at the Super 16 tournament were multi-time state placer Drew Longo of Ardsley (138) and Yorktown’s Thomas Murray (182), who has had a very strong season.

For an in depth look at these events, see here.


 Who is the Best in the City? Mayor’s Cup Results

Who is the best in the City?  That question was answered this weekend as the best from the five boroughs gathered at the Armory in Manhattan for the Mayor’s Cup.

Monsignor Farrell was the overall winner with 225 points, with Brooklyn Tech second (212 points) and Poly Prep third (168).

Farrell’s victory was fueled by dominant performances from a number of champions.  At 160 pounds, Andrew Psomas earned a pin or a technical fall in all five of his bouts on the path to the title.  Similarly, teammates Richard Sisti (220) and Matt Roberts (182) won by bonus points in all but one of their matches on the way to first place. The final gold medalist for Farrell was 138-pounder Karl Weisner, who topped teammate Blaise Rufo, 7-4, in the championship tilt.

Brooklyn Tech was paced by upperweights Shaquille Williams and Kevin Tynes. Williams defeated Quasar Hampton 1-0 but otherwise stuck all of his opponents at heavyweight while Tynes recorded a trio of falls in addition to his 3-1 title victory at 195.

Melikian, Photo by Josh Conklin

Poly Prep’s Noah Malamut put on an impressive show, pinning his way to the top of the 106-pound podium.  Also demonstrating complete control were a number of wrestlers who competed in Albany last season.  These included returning state runner up Cheick Ndiaye of Brooklyn International at 113, Sam Melikian of Fordham Prep at 132 and Nigel Williams of Eagle Academy at 145.  A highly anticipated showdown between Tottenville’s Santo Curatolo and Grand Street’s Keanu Thompson didn’t come to fruition in the 126 pound final as Curatolo got the win by default.

For the full results, see here.

In the female competition, Curtis had champions in three consecutive weights – Leslie Schoberl at 120, Rosemary Flores at 126 and Shannon Henry at 132.

For the results of the girls competition, see here.

To report results, e-mail