Pop & Flo National Duals: X-Cel Takes Third … and Much More from Lake Placid

A year after winning the tournament championship, X-Cel once again made a strong impression at the Pop & Flo National Duals with a third place showing.

“I really feel that the kids showed tremendous heart to come back and win against a team full of PA studs to take third,” said X-Cel coach Nick Garone. “But we felt that we went up there with the best team and still feel that way. The guys are really disappointed, but to go out of the tournament with a win in our last match was nice, especially for all of our seniors.”

The squad opened with three consecutive triumphs on Saturday to make the semifinal round against Iron Horse, the eventual champions.

In the semis, the New Jersey club got off to a fast start, capturing four of the first six bouts, including two pins, to take a lead that would never be relinquished in a 30-25 result. (One of those falls for Iron Horse was by Section 1 star John Muldoon of Pearl River, who was joined by fellow New Yorker Dale White on the title-winning team).

In the bronze bout, X-Cel rebounded to defeat Pennsylvania’s Young Guns despite dropping the first four bouts to fall behind 14-0. (The dual began at 130 pounds).

However, X-Cel took over from there, beginning with a 7-3 win by Connetquot’s Brendan Dent at 152. It was the first of seven consecutive victories for the Long Islanders, as Corey Rasheed picked up a forfeit at 160 and Steven Schneider (170), Gio Santiago (182) and Steven Mills (225) notched decisions. Putting up key bonus points were Chris Chambers (195) and Mike Hughes (285), who both recorded falls. After the heavyweight bout, X-Cel had turned a large deficit into a 30-14 lead.

“Brendan Dent started us off with a win, and that was great,” Garone said. “All our guys stepped up. Chambers had a really nice throw to get the pin and Hughes just worked the kid, kept working and working. At the end of the second, he closed it out with a really big pin for us. We knew were in good shape going into the lower half, even if we lost a few. Travis Passaro (125) ended the match with a really big one, beating the NHSCA National champ Josh Patrick in overtime, 1-0.”

It was one of many quality wins Garone pointed to from the two-day event. Those triumphs and the overall experience had Garone already talking about the return trip to Lake Placid in 2014.

“Everyone played a key role for us,” Garone said. “It’s a great bunch of guys. To take third at that tournament – it’s nothing to sneeze at. But it’s not what we wanted. Trust me when I tell you that we’ll work all year to get back to the top of the national scene.”


X-Cel was the highest placing team from New York in the field, but many other Empire State squads had success over the weekend.

The 32 teams in the high school competition were split into four divisions after the opening round matches. Here’s a rundown of the results for New York:

X-Cel wasn’t the only New York team in the “A” bracket, as Journeymen Black took eighth. The host squad won its first two duals against Pioneer and Doughboy Black on Saturday to make the quarterfinals before falling to a pair of Pennsylvania groups – Young Guns and Dark Knights. In the seventh place dual, Smitty’s Barn came out on top 41-22.

“B” Bracket (For the teams that lost in the first round of the “A” Championship bracket)

631 Elite began the experience in Lake Placid with a setback against the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club 39-28, but then went on a winning streak, taking three in a row over Atlas, Razor and Catamount to earn a spot in the title bout of the “B” Bracket. During that run, the team’s smallest margin of victory was 22 points.

The Long Island-based group kept it going, besting Apex II for the top spot in the “B” Division and finished the weekend with a 4-1 record. Picking up wins in the final dual for 631 were Matteo Devincenzo (106), Jesse Dellavecchia (113), Joe Calderone (120), Jack Taddeo (130), Jimmy Leach (135), Dennis Ferro (152), Dylan Kane (160) and Vincent Feola (225).

Also placing in the same bracket were Iowa Style Black (fourth) and Razor (eighth). Iowa Style notched triumphs against Barre Wrestling Club and Doughboy Gold by a commanding combined score of 102-43 after an initial loss.

Razor was eighth, collecting a win over Metrowest United in Round 2, led by a pin by Chaz Leo at 225 and four major decisions.

“C” Bracket (For the teams that won in Round 1 and lost in Round 2 in the “A” Championship bracket)

In this bracket, Empire State teams claimed third through eighth places.

Cobra took the bronze after getting past Finger Lakes Wrestling Club 33-28, winning nine of the bouts. The contest featured a pair of two point decisions between All-State wrestlers as William Koll topped Kellen Devlin 2-0 at 125 and Vincent Deprez edged Connor Lapresi in sudden victory, 3-1, at 152. Both of those squads were 2-2 heading into their clash in the third place tilt.

Meanwhile, Ascend recorded fifth with a 55-9 victory over Journeymen Gold. It was the third dual win of the weekend for the Nassau County-based club, led by undefeated wrestlers Chris Koo and Jaison White.

In another battle of New Yorkers, Cellar Dwellers picked up seventh with a 53-10 decision over Iowa Style Gold. The Cellar Dweller squad began and ended the tournament with wins.

“D” Bracket

Port Jervis grabbed third, finishing with a 37-33 triumph over Metrowest United. The Section 9 squad also topped Powers Forty High 33-15 in its third meet of the weekend.

For full results, see tournaflex.com.


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)

Finalists as Freshmen, Mark West and Eric Lewandowski Prepare for One Last Title Run

In 2010, a pair of freshmen met for the 96-pound state championship.  Mark West of Hauppauge capped off an undefeated campaign with a 2-1 victory over Lancaster’s Eric Lewandowski and it looked like the duo would be fixtures on the New York state podium for years to come.

“Mark was intense from the time he was in the youth program,” said Hauppauge head coach Chris Messina. “To be honest, we weren’t surprised that he was a state champion that early. We knew him and his work ethic and what he was capable of, especially competing against guys mostly his own age at 96 pounds. Look at his record and the guys he beat, it was a great year.”

The record shows that it was indeed a great year.  West’s 43-0 mark included wins over eventual state champions or finalists Kyle Kelly, Dylan Realbuto, Drew Longo, Justin Cooksey, Trey Aslanian and Mark Raghunandan as well as other placers such as Sayville’s Matt Leshinger and Walt Whitman’s Joe Calderone.

Lewandowski’s title bout appearance wasn’t shocking to those around him, either.

“It didn’t surprise me when Eric went to the state finals as a freshman,” said Keith Maute, Executive Director of Cobra Wrestling Academy and head coach at Niagara County Community College, who has worked with Lewandowski since he began wrestling in elementary school. “I thought all year he’d be at least top four.”

The success hasn’t stopped for either wrestler since the 2009-10 campaign.  West went a combined 76-11 in his sophomore and junior seasons while Lewandowski compiled an 83-18 mark over the same time frame.  But neither made it back into the top six at the Times Union Center.

For West, it’s been a combination of injuries and stacked weight classes.   In 2011, he looked to be in good shape to get a ticket to the big dance, but in the bronze medal match at 112 pounds in Section 11, he suffered a concussion and had to injury default.  As a fourth place finisher, a bid to the state event wasn’t in the cards.

And then as a junior, the Hauppauge grappler competed in arguably the toughest Sectional tournament bracket in all of New York at 120 pounds.  The top three finishers, Matt Leshinger of Sayville, TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River and Sean McCabe of Connetquot all made the medal stand in Albany.  In fact, McCabe, who topped West 3-1 in the third place bout in Suffolk, became the state champion.

“It was difficult because Mark beat all the guys who finished ahead of him at some point that season,” Messina said. “He was right there with all of them. We felt that if he got to states, he would do well but it was a matter of getting there.”

He didn’t get a spot in the field, but West did travel to Albany to support his teammates and take in the experience.

“Mark’s been up there in Albany every year,” Messina said. “He was right by Nick’s [Mauriello, the fourth place finisher at 132] side, trying to help. He was a frustrated to not be on the mat, though.”

“It was upsetting to have to watch,” West added. “After a big year as a freshman, I wanted to make it back again. People expected so much and not making it out of the Section after all the work I put in, it was really upsetting.”

So coming into this season, West knew it was his last chance to get back on the floor at the Times Union Center.  He also knew it would be far from easy.  At 126 pounds, he would once again face Fabian and several other All-State caliber competitors such as Huntington’s Corey Jamison and Islip’s Brad Wade to earn top billing in Section 11.

He did what he always does, according to Messina — got back to work at a feverish pace.

“He’s really intense,” Messina said. “He’s one of the toughest, meanest kids I’ve ever seen or coached and I mean that in a good way. Mark goes so hard; he tears most guys up.  Hurt or not, he doesn’t let up.”

That’s a good thing because injury struck during his semifinal bout at the Eastern States against Dylan Realbuto of Somers [in a 5-4 loss].

Photo by LISportsshots.com

“It wasn’t a new injury,” Messina said of his shoulder issue. “He tweaked it against Realbuto and we made the decision to scratch him from the third place match.  He really wanted to wrestle.”

He wasn’t only held out of the bronze bout.  West was restricted from any activity for about a week and a half, according to the coach, and then resumed only cardio to keep his weight in check.

In fact, West didn’t go live at all from Eastern States until the League qualifier.  He only began to drill two days prior to that tournament.

“Holding him out wasn’t an easy task,” Messina said. “He was furious. When he returned, we had to slow him down. It was like he wanted to make up for lost time.“

West took out his frustration on his opponents, pinning his way through the League 4 event (plus a forfeit).

He then came into the Section 11 championships with a shoulder brace and a lot of confidence and he wrestled that way, looking dominant in a bracket where dominance wasn’t really expected from any wrestler given the quality of the competition.

In his first three contests, he recorded a technical fall and a pair of majors, including over Islip’s Brad Wade, a wrestler ranked in the state, in the semis.

“We were a little worried that he would lose his conditioning, but he came back so much stronger,” Messina said. “With those wrestlers in the bracket, it’s like picking your poison. They’re all tough. But Mark took it to another level. He told me he felt really good and he was focused – all business.”

“It was pretty hard to not be able to do anything for that amount of time,” West added.  “But it worked to my benefit. I had lots of time off to rest and heal everything.  I think it was an advantage.”

Photo by LISportsshots.com

He finished off a controlled, 5-2 victory over Jimmy Leach of Eastport South Manor to claim his second Suffolk crown and a trip to the biggest tournament of the year.  In the process, he received more hardware.

“With the terrific performances from so many wrestlers, Mark getting Most Outstanding Wrestler and Champion of Champions is really a credit to him,” Messina said. “He was shocked to say the least. I actually got a smile from him.”

Why not smile? For the first time since his freshman campaign, Mark West was returning to the state capital to compete.

“He’s done a terrific job,” Messina said. “He just focused on winning this county title.  He didn’t think about Fabian or Jamison or Wade.  He just got it done.  There’s so much pressure to win if you’ve won before, especially when you were young.”

Lewandowski can relate, but his journey has been different.  He has been back in Albany the past two years after his silver medal as a ninth grader.

“Early in my freshman year, we were paying a lot of attention to state rankings,” Lewandowski said. “I thought I could do really well. I expected to go in and win. I came up a little short, but it was a good experience to have early in my career.”

The next season, Lewandowski made a leap in weight, moving up to 119 pounds.  He had a solid season, followed by a 1-2 performance at the Times Union Center.

Lewandowski in 2010, Courtesy Bob Koshinski

“I knew 96 wasn’t the toughest weight class,” Lewandowski said. “And I knew moving all the way to 119, I was in for a test with kids who were stronger, better and older. It was a little harder than I thought. It was actually a little shocking to get beaten on because I was used to winning.”

The following year, his junior campaign, brought about another jump – up to 132 pounds.  Lewandowski once again won over 40 matches, including two in the state capital.  However, in the placement round, he dropped a 4-3 decision to eventual fourth place medalist Nick Mauriello [West’s teammate] to come up one match short of the medal stand. (His other loss in Albany was to champion Jamel Hudson of St. Anthony’s).

“I really thought he was going to place last year,” Maute said. “But I think that last loss made him very focused on this year.  I definitely think he’ll be in the mix to win it all.”

He has looked sharp for much of the campaign.  At the Eastern States, he took sixth after being tantalizingly close to the finals.

After a pin and a technical fall in his first two matches, Lewandowski won an exciting 9-7 bout against Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi in the quarterfinals at SUNY Sullivan.  In the semis, he led top-seeded Beau Donahue of Westfield, Virginia until a very late two points gave his opponent a 2-1 victory.

“He was right there at Eastern States,” Maute said. “There might have been five seconds left when he gave up those points. Eric hates losing.  He doesn’t handle it the best.  But those losses [including a 4-3 setback to Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva in the consolation semifinals] will help him now for one last shot.”

Photo by Josh Conklin

Lewandowski, whose brother Mark wrestles at Buffalo, said the fact that this is his last tournament with Lancaster has hit him.  And it’s led him to increase his workload, trying to get in additional lifts or runs after practice to “get that little extra that could make the difference.”

“I’m ready to go six minutes plus any overtime or whatever it takes,” he said. “I’m ready for it all.  Obviously, before the season started my goal was to win the state title and it’s still my goal now. I’m getting toward the end and I can see the finish line in sight.  I just have to go out there and take advantage of the opportunity.”

That’s the same sentiment expressed by West.

“This year I’ve pretty much been wrestling with no regrets,” West said.  “It’s my last year so I don’t want to hold back.  I want to wrestle like I have nothing to lose.“

The two keep in touch, seeing each other at the Eastern States and in Albany.

“I see Mark a couple of times a year and talk to him a lot,” Lewandowski said. “He’s a good kid and I try to keep up on how he’s doing. He’s a really tough wrestler.  He’s had a hard time at his Sectionals the past few years, but right now he has the same goal as everyone else.  There’s just one more time to get there.”

Indeed, for both West and Lewandowski and Class of 2013 wrestlers all around New York, this week represents the last chance.

Mark West and Eric Lewandowski battled for the ultimate New York wrestling trophy as freshmen in 2010.  With West at 126 and Lewandowski at 145, they won’t meet again in Albany this weekend.  However, both look to take the mat on Saturday night, three years later, and leave the sport as champions – the way they expected to as ninth grade finalists.

“It would mean the world to me if I won another state title,” West said. “I came into high school winning a state title and it would be the greatest thing in the world to leave that way.”


Lewandowski wished to thank his coaches and family, as well as his longtime practice partner Steve Michel.

West spoke highly of all his coaches and family, and specifically thanked his father.

At Full Throttle: Sacred Heart-Bound TJ Fabian Takes Over Top Spot After Eastern States Championship

Earlier this week, TJ Fabian explained how his two passions are similar – the competition, the drive, the practice, the adrenaline as he works toward the finish line.

However, there is a big difference.

“I’m not that good at dirt biking,” Fabian said of one of his favorite activities. “I love to do it and I’ve gotten a lot better, but I don’t think I’ll ever be the #1 racer around.”

That may be true.  But after his championship in a loaded bracket at the Eastern States Classic last weekend in his other passion, wrestling, he is now the #1 126-pound grappler around.  Not only in Long Island — but in the state of New York. Rankings are here.

Photo by Josh Conklin

The Shoreham Wading River senior won all five of his matches at SUNY Sullivan, topping a weight class that featured four former state or national champions as well as at least three other placers and several additional qualifiers.

In fact, he had to overcome New York titlewinners in both the semifinals and finals, William Koll of Lansing and Dylan Realbuto of Somers, respectively, to earn what his father Ted called “probably the biggest tournament win of his life.” His efforts didn’t go unnoticed as he was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the lightweights as well as the Champion of Champions at the event.

He can thank his mat wrestling.  After all, Fabian is known as a pinner. According to Ted Fabian, TJ has amassed 168 wins in his career, with 113 coming by fall.

And it’s not just his work turning opponents from the top.  Many of those results have come from underneath, where Fabian typically works for the defensive fall.

That was the situation on Saturday, where he changed the course of his matches against both Koll and Realbuto from the bottom, which he calls his best position.

All of his points in his 5-1 victory over the Lansing wrestler came when Fabian reversed Koll to his back.

And against Realbuto, Fabian trailed late in the third period 2-1, but earned a key reversal with little time left on the clock to capture the title bout 3-2.

“When [Realbuto] was riding me, I was thinking the whole time of trying to do a reachback for the defensive pin,” Fabian said. “He was a crab rider and it actually helped me because he rolled himself and allowed me to get the reversal.  Then, I was able to hold on for the win.”

According to TJ Fabian, it was the first time he defeated the Somers senior after losing to the Section 1 wrestler in eighth grade by five and later at the Eastern States by a point.

“I was just so excited,” Fabian said. “He beat me before and he is one of the tougher kids I’ve beaten in my career.  It’s also the first big tournament I ever won.”

That may the case. But it was an incredible performance at an event in which he didn’t even place that set the stage for his 25-0 start to the 2012-13 campaign.

Back in October, Fabian had high hopes going into one of the nation’s most prestigious tournaments, the Super 32 Classic in North Carolina.

In a bracket of more than 60 competitors, however, he began with an opening round loss.

“I barely remember my first match,” Fabian said. “It took a lot to drop the weight at the time and my body wasn’t up to its normal fitness.  I remember just sitting around and thinking of what was ahead of me.”

What was ahead was a long road back.  And Fabian got to work.  He won his next bout. And then another.  And another.

In fact, in a grueling event, Fabian won seven consecutive contests, including a triumph over nationally-ranked Ken Bade of Michigan to get to the round of 12.  It was there that his streak finally ended against Pennsylvania’s Colby Ems.

Photo by Josh Conklin

“He was down in the dumps after his first match after he came in expecting to place,” Ted Fabian said. “Lots of kids would have packed it in, especially knowing what it would take to place after that. For him to win seven in a row – that shows the heart he has and what he’s all about. He has that quiet drive; he knew he could do better and he was determined to do better. After that he started to truly believe in himself 100%. I think the Eastern States made him believe that even more.  He was always confident, but I think this weekend was fulfilling for him. It’s like he knows that he can compete with the best because he is one of the best too.”

The staff at Sacred Heart certainly thinks so. Fabian has given a verbal commitment to the Connecticut-based institution and looks forward to continuing his wrestling career in Division I as a 133 pounder.

“I am excited about Sacred Heart,” he said. “The coach [Andy Lausier] there believes in his wrestlers and their potential.  I feel like he really wants me and all the wrestlers to reach our goals and mine are to become an All-American and then a national champion.”

He knows that it won’t be easy.  Ted Fabian was a Division I wrestler at Wagner and said that it was challenging.

“I was a big fish in a small pond in high school but once I got to college, it was physically more demanding than I ever expected,” Ted Fabian said. “I got beaten up a lot, which never happened in high school. But I did enjoy it. It was a good experience, but it definitely takes a special breed to wrestle DI for four years.”

Fabian believes his son is part of that special breed, especially given the trajectory his wrestling career has taken.

“I really like his progression,” Ted Fabian said. “Each year, TJ has improved, record wise and status wise.”

Indeed, he has. He took fourth at the state tournament at 120 pounds last year after earning third in the county two years prior.

Those results came after a youth career which Fabian labeled as “okay” where he once took seventh in the Suffolk kids tournament but “never really placed in kid counties or states otherwise.”

Like in his early years of wrestling, Fabian is in the learning stages in dirt biking.

“I pretty much do it for fun,” he said. “I haven’t gotten great results.  I think I got second in a race once and another time, I think I was third.”

Fabian said he was satisfied with those results, for now, on the bike.  But in his other passion, it’s a different story.  Because after last weekend, Fabian isn’t second or third as a wrestler – he is at the top.

TJ Fabian wished to thank his father Ted as well as coaches Joe Condon, Darren Goldstein, Steve Hromada and Nick Garone, among others.

Hernandez, Fabian, Dellavecchia, Calderone and Chambers Add Another Summer Title at Wantagh Tournament

Louis Hernandez, Photo by PhotoTrens, http://www.phototrens.com

Louis Hernandez has spent the summer trying to not only win matches, but to win those matches convincingly.

“I like to be dominant and be in the driver’s seat,” he said. “I try to go out there and break my opponent.  I definitely don’t like to leave the match in the referee’s hands.”

This August, mission accomplished.

The Mepham junior won his second tournament in the past three weeks when he captured the 155-pound title at the Wantagh Summer event on Saturday after earning the championship at the Ken Lesser Memorial Summer Heat earlier in the month.  In those two tournaments five of his six wins were by bonus points and the other was a comfortable 8-2 decision.

“I’m really happy with the way I’ve been wrestling,” he said. “All my training is paying off.”

Hernandez has been motivated by the way his sophomore campaign ended.  He compiled an impressive 26-4 record but missed a chunk of the season in January.  When he returned to the lineup in February, he earned the Section 8 title and had high expectations for his first appearance in Albany.

“My goal before the season even started was to win counties and go All-State,” he said. “But I broke my rib the week before the state tournament. I still went and gave it everything I had.  Even though I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, I thought it was a good experience to compete there to get ready for next year.”

At the Times Union Center, Hernandez dropped a one-point decision to John Northrup of Rush Henrietta in his opening bout before recording a 17-1 technical fall over Richie Lupo of Union Endicott in the wrestlebacks.  In his next contest, eventual fifth place finisher Dale White came out on top, 8-5.

“He didn’t place but he wrestled well at states,” said Craig Vitagliano, who coaches Hernandez at Ascend Wrestling Club. “I think he put things in perspective and realized what he did despite being injured.  He’s been wrestling the whole spring and summer.”

Hernandez said he has followed a simple regimen throughout the offseason.

“Lift, run, wrestle,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing.  I work out in the gym in my basement, go out for a run and go to Ascend to practice. I am focused on learning and getting better.”

Vitagliano believes he’s on the right path.

“[Hernandez] is one of the most talented kids I’ve ever coached,” Vitagliano said. “He’s a natural who is physically mature for his age.  He’s extremely strong and athletic and great on his feet.  He also has that killer instinct.”

That killer instinct has served him well in his bonus wins in the past few weeks.  He hopes to keep piling up the victories as he puts himself to the test several more times before his high school season begins at either 145 or 152 pounds.

“I definitely want to go to Super 32 [in North Carolina] this year and try to be an All-American there.  I’ll also be going to Waterway Duals in Pennsylvania because there’s always some great wrestling in that state.  I want to get as much good competition to prepare for this season as I can because I’m hungry for a state title.  That was what I was thinking after my last loss at states – I’ve experienced states now and next year, I plan to win the whole thing.”

TJ Fabian, Photo by PhotoTrens http://www.phototrens.com

Hernandez wasn’t the only wrestler to win the title at Wantagh after finishing on top at the Summer Heat earlier in August.  The same could be said for a pair of East Islip grapplers, Jesse Dellavecchia (109) and Chris Chambers (198) as well as returning state placers Joe Calderone of Walt Whitman (123) and TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River (141).  All were dominant. Fabian and Calderone both had two pins while Chambers had a pin and a major and Dellavecchia outscored his opponents 26-1.

About 180 wrestlers took the mat at the tournament in four divisions – Youth, Middle School, High School and Open.  One of the organizers, Ray Handley Sr., was pleased with the event overall.

“We had wrestlers from a lot of different places – Albany, New Jersey and of course Suffolk and Nassau,” he said. “We lost the football players because of the timing, but the crowd was great and we got a lot of help to make it run well and end on time.  All the money we raised goes back into the program to help with the travel during the season. Our goal with the tournament is to get the wrestlers sharp in the summer and I think we saw some quality wrestling throughout the day, at all levels, from Youth to Open.”

 Championship Results – High School

102 CJ Archer (Rocky Point) over Jordan Richter (Longwood), 6-0

109 Jesse Dellavecchia (631 Elite) over Ryan Holzgruber (Ascend), 5-0

116 Gary Sidoti (Wantagh) over Paul Capobianco (VHW), 8-2

123 Joe Calderone (Walt Whitman) over Kevin Parker (Journeymen), Pin

129 Tyler Walsh (West Islip) Fft Travis Passaro (631 Elite)

135 Vinny Turano (Wantagh) over Chris Cataldo (5 Star), 18-2

141 TJ Fabian (X-Cel) over Brandon Aviles (Huntington), Pin

148 Ken Gallagher (VHW) over Brandon Mendez (Huntington), 5-4

155 Louis Hernandez (Ascend) over Chris Morrissey (Albany Titans), 18-3

163 Dennis Ferro (East Islip) over Matthew Russo (Apex), 7-2

173 Steve Schneider (Levittown) over Andrew Psomas (Lions), 5-0

185 James Corbett (Wantagh) over Kevin Rodriguez (Pat-Med), 3-2

198 Chris Chambers (East Islip) over Christian Araneo (Ward Melville), 14-0

223 Joe Marcantonio (Calhoun) over Larry Baker (Wantagh), Pin

Championship Results – Middle School

Dylan Rider (631 Elite) over James Langan (Wantagh)

John DeRidder (Wantagh) over Kyle Mosher (Gladiators)

Thomas Rohan (Wantagh) over Joe Conklin (Wantagh)

Johnny Devine (Albany Titans) over Albert Hernandez (Grand Avenue)


Elijah Rodriguez (Gladiators) over Tyrese Byron (Gladiators)

Harley Lopes (VHW) over Daniel Finkelstein (Jericho)

Caleb Wilson (Kensington) over John Hayes (Wantagh)

Championship Results – Open

Jamel Hudson (Quiet Storm) over Kevin O’Hagan (Sachem North)

Evan Wallace (Albany Titans) over Nick Miceli (X-Cel)

Elton Gonzalez (Fallout) over Chirs Dolon (Unattached)

Anthony Bonaventura (Warzone) over Brian Adriance (Albany Titans)

Steven Hromada (Rocky Point) over Carlos Torres (Fallout)

Christian Psomas (Lions) over Steven Vidal (Fallout)

Championship Results – Youth

Marco Codignotto (Wantagh) over Aidan Araoz (Wantagh)

Josiah Encarnacion (Wantagh) over Nico Berlingeri (Olympic)

Christian Encarnacion (Wantagh) over Bobby Moore (Wantagh)

Joe Moore (Wantagh) over Nicholas Killard (Wantagh)

CJ Andres (N Haledon) over Joe Russo (Wantagh)

Kyle Mosher (Gladiators) over Kerik Pollock (SEQKWA)

Stefan Major (631 Elite) over Jacob Tutuska (Brentwood)

Check out Videos from the Long Island Summer Heat Tournament, Including Fabian, McDevitt and More

For a recap and results of the 2012 Ken Lesser Memorial Long Island Summer Heat tournament, see the tournament recap.


135-Pound Champion TJ Fabian (X-Cel) vs. Jarron Koretz (Oceanside)


173-Pound Champion Dan McDevitt Discusses College Options and Weight Classes


102-Pound Champion Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) vs. Brett Brice (Longwood)


109-Pound Champion Christian Briody (Chaminade) vs. Joseph Perino (Leonia)


116-Pound Runner Up Evan Corso (X-Cel) vs. Bohang Liu (Beat the Streets)


148-Pound Runner Up Matthew Haenel (VHW) vs. Anthony Ottaviano (Hauppauge)


123-Pound Third Placer Jack Taddeo (SWR) vs. Timothy Johnson (VHW)


135-Pound Third Placer Michael LaNasa (Plainedge) vs. Donald Knowlan (Fairfax)


Open Division – Top 2 Placers Colin Gironda (F&M, Comsewogue) vs. Patrick Argast (Belmont Abbey, Fordham Prep)


Open Division – Nassau Champ John Lanzillotti (Ohio State, Roslyn) vs. John Steiger (Miller Place)


135 Pounds: James Matias (Rocky Point) vs. William Hernandez (Pitch Fork)


116 Pounds: Paul Capobianco (VHW) vs. Eduardo Montecer (Glen Cove)


116 Pounds: Isac Brizuela (Brentwood) vs. George Albert (Wantagh)


129 Pounds: Anthony Arena (Lynbrook) vs. Anthony Castro (Glen Cove)


109 Pounds: Donald Cassidy (Commack) vs. Eric Fisher (Longwood)


163 Pounds: Erik Adon (East Islip) vs. Mike Urso (Clarke)


141 Pounds: Omar Elmeshad (Leonia) vs. Adeel Butt (Beat the Streets)


129 Pounds: Hekmat Naeemi (Walt Whitman) vs. Paul Merzbacher (SWR)



X-Cel Tops Apex to Win Second Annual Eastern Nationals Championship; Check out Videos from the Event



The championship featured the same two clubs. The end result was the same, too.

Two weeks ago in Lake Placid, X-Cel met Apex in the finals of the Pop and Flo National Duals with the Long Island squad coming out on top by a 25-24 score.

This weekend, the two teams squared off again for the title at the Eastern Nationals at Eastport South Manor High School.  X-Cel was once again victorious, this time by a much larger margin, against an Apex team with several lineup changes from the Pop and Flo competition.

One of the holdovers from the Apex team that competed in Lake Placid, Rutgers-bound Tony Pafumi, was named the event’s Most Outstanding Wrestler by vote of the coaches.   The St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) standout notched several impressive victories on the weekend, including decisive wins over New York placewinners Gio Santiago of Sachem North and Dylen Seybolt of Longwood. (Match video of Pafumi is available below, along with several other bouts).

“Pafumi is very, very tough,” X-Cel coach and event leader Nick Garone said. “He definitely impressed a lot of people, especially on his feet.  It says a lot to win the MOW when you aren’t on the championship team.”

X-Cel’s title squad also boasted several top-notch performances and a host of undefeated wrestlers. Rather than singling out any individuals, however, Garone preferred to talk about X-Cel as a unit.

“The team we put out there could have competed with anyone in the country,” Garone said. “The kids were spectacular and I’m very proud of them. It’s phenomenal for us as a club to win Pop and Flo and now this event; it shows that we’re doing things right and getting guys to compete at a high level.“

Another group competing at a high level, according to Garone, was the squad from Sachem East, which defeated nearby Sachem North in the third place dual.

“East was tough; they were right there in the mix with Apex, but Apex had just enough to overcome them,” he said. “Most of the teams here were club teams with kids from lots of different schools, but Sachem East mostly came as their high school team, with a few fill-ins.  It’s darn impressive to place in an event like this as a high school team.  I give them a lot of credit.”

There were a lot of people Garone wanted to give credit to following the event.  He mentioned great refereeing and the work of Dean Zenie, Kim Leo, Darren Goldstein and Teddy Fabian, among others.  He also was grateful to MSG Varsity for agreeing to provide television coverage of both the championship and third place bouts (on July 2).

“It’s very difficult to get somebody to agree to air wrestling,” he said.  “MSG came on board and stepped up to the plate.  It adds credibility and exposure for the kids and we’re really excited it will be on TV.”

Garone also expressed his excitement about X-Cel winning its second title in the past three weeks.  And he is thrilled about the future of the Eastern Nationals.

“We’re trying to provide a platform for the kids in this area to wrestle in a high profile event without having to get on a plane or travel far and spend so much money,” he said. “We were up against some obstacles this year like proms and SATs which made the number of teams a little lower than we wanted, but we will work on that and find a better date next year.  We believe this event will grow into something tremendous that will allow our Long Island wrestlers to wrestle the best competition without having to go far from home.”

Below are some of the videos from the Eastern Nationals 2012.  


T. Pafumi (Apex) vs. G. Santiago (Sachem North)


J. Rodriguez (X-Cel) vs. DiBartolo (Smithtown East)


C. Rasheed (X-Cel) vs. Greenberg (Smithtown East)


Nick Garone Talks Eastern Nationals 2012 and Team X-Cel


D. Salkey (X-Cel) vs. Smithtown East


Dante Salkey on X-Cel and What’s Next


Sean McCabe Headed to Rutgers


S. McCabe (X-Cel) vs. Forca (Smithtown East)


N. Hall (X-Cel) vs. Outcault (Smithtown East)


T. Fabian (X-Cel) vs. Truncale (Smithtown East)


N. Piccininni (631 Elite) vs. O’Connell (KT Kidz)


C. Ladd (Sachem North) vs. P. Merzbacher (Apex)


Milo (Sachem North) vs. Voelker (Apex)


Z. Mullen (X-Cel) vs. Kipkowski (Port Jefferson)


S. Schwartzapfel (X-Cel) vs. Cavanagh (Port Jefferson)


J. Sanzone (Sachem North) vs. D. Fried (Apex)


J. Szymanski (X-Cel) vs. Cummings (Smithtown East)


Calderone (631 Elite) vs. Kane (KT Kidz)


M. Marino (Sachem North) vs. M. Barber (Apex)


A. Marino (Sachem North) vs. Balboni (Apex)


M. Stallone (Sachem North) vs. M. Seitz (Apex)


A. Nunziatta (Sachem North) vs. Burkert (Apex)


Perez (Sachem North) vs. Russo (Apex)


Sparacio (Sachem North) vs. Cancellieri (Apex)


Mazzella (631 Elite) vs. Davis (KT Kidz)