Photo by BV
One of the fastest risers on the list is Sandy Creek’s Joe Benedict, who entered our radar early last season with his dominance at 195 pounds. Benedict went 38-2 with 34 of those wins by bonus points. His only two losses were to state champ Jack Buell. On his way to the state championship match against Buell, Benedict picked up a first period pin and a pair of major decisions in which he outscored his opponents 19-1.
Let's talk about a few more middle and upperweights who have stood out, often against older competition.
Hector Colom of St. Francis made his presence felt as an eighth grader, earning All-State honors while at Dunkirk High School (fifth at 106 pounds). He didn’t compete in the postseason as a freshman after a strong campaign. However, in 2016, Colom captured the CHSAA title at 132 pounds after a stellar regular season which featured wins over top three NYS finishers Fred Eckles and Audey Ashkar. He didn’t make the medal stand but will be a favorite to do so as a junior.
Brewster’s Grant Cuomo was one of our picks for a breakout season in 2015-16 after a very strong freshman year at 138 pounds in which he won more than 35 times and finished second in Section 1. While he missed significant time with an injury as a sophomore, Cuomo impressed when he returned, capturing the Section 1 championship and earning All-State honors at 152 pounds with a fifth place showing. He won 24 times, with 23 of those by bonus points and his only two contested losses came at the state tournament. The NYS Freestyle champion will be a middleweight to watch.
Tyler Barnes of Ballston Spa came within one victory of placing as a freshman at 160, and this time he got onto the medal stand in fifth place at 170. Barnes continued to star in the offseason, including double titles at both the NYS championship and the Southeast Regionals in Freestyle and Greco Roman.
Switching gears to the lightweights for a bit, AJ Burkhart is another standout in this class. The Waverly wrestler won a state title as a freshman, beating Orion Anderson at 99 pounds at the Times Union Center and made his mark again as a sophomore, this time notching sixth place at 106. He’ll look to make it three straight years on the podium in 2017.