New York Wrestling News has been previewing Sections throughout the state in recent weeks. For the list of articles already published, see the end of this story. The following discusses Section 1.
Last year, Section 1 was the king of New York when it came to the 120 pounds, with NYS champions in both Division I (Alex Delacruz of Ossining) and Division II (Trey Aslanian of Edgemont).
On the large school side, it was much more than Delacruz, however. In fact, the winner of the Section 1 crown was state fourth placer John Muldoon of Pearl River, who owned a pair of victories over Delacruz during the season. In addition, North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth captured multiple victories at the Times Union Center. And that doesn’t even include Arlington’s Nick Tolli, a wrestler who impressed at the Eastern States (taking fifth), before an injury ended his campaign early.
This year, these talented competitors are likely to spread out in weight, giving Section 1 state title threats at many classes.
“Every one of those guys is very high level,” said North Rockland coach Jeff Swick. “We can do really well at the state tournament as a Section with those guys in different weights. We know whoever we’re sending to the tournament can win a lot of matches there.”
Let’s take a quick look at those members of the 120 pound class in 2013:
Alex Delacruz (Ossining) – The state champion racked up 38 wins a year ago, rebounding from his 10-7 loss to Muldoon at the qualifier with an overtime triumph over the Pearl River grappler in the semifinals in Albany. He followed with an 11-7 victory over Steve Michel of Lancaster to capture gold at the Times Union Center and saw offseason mat time at events such as the Disney Duals and the Journeymen Classic. He will likely be at 126 pounds this season.
John Muldoon (Pearl River) – The future SIUE Edwardsville wrestler earned All-State honors after a 46-win season. He took second at the Eastern States and plans to go higher on the medal stand this year at 132 pounds.
Blaise Benderoth (North Rockland) – Benderoth, a multi-time state qualifier, had a strong season, with over 40 wins and a third place showing at the Eastern States. He will make a significant weight jump in 2013-14, according to his coach.
“Blaise grew a lot in the offseason and put on a lot of weight – good weight,” Swick said. “He worked hard with assistant coach John Hoke to put on a ton of muscle. He’ll probably wrestle at 145 – he’s much bigger than last year. He did a lot of wrestling in the offseason, working out four days a week, wrestling two or three days a week. He made big gains and I see him on the state podium – high on the podium.”
Nick Tolli (Arlington) – Tolli was 33-3 before his season was cut short due to injury. He’s looking to make up for lost time, likely at 132.
“Tolli was having a great season until he got hurt,” Swick said. “I definitely think he could have done well at the state tournament.”
Those were all 120 pounders a year ago. One wrestler Swick thinks could be effective at that weight this year is Jon Errico of Byram Hills.
“If Errico is a full '20' pounder, he can do very well at the state tournament,” Swick said. “He’s very, very tough."
Errico was the Section silver medalist at 106 last season. North Rockland's Derek DiMarsico was also a runner up -- at 113. He will also be a contender after winning over 35 matches as a sophomore.
DiMarsico's teammate Matt Caputo is another wrestler who is sure to make waves in 2013-14. A two-time state placer, Caputo had a stellar 11th grade year, with 54 wins and a fifth place position on the medal stand in Albany at 138.
“Matt’s expectation is to be at the top of the podium,” Swick said. “He has worked really hard his whole career. He’s been on the podium before and wants to get to the top. He’s a strong kid who could be at 38 or 45, but I would think 38 come states. You can see in the light middleweights, it’s pretty tough in our Section. There are no easy roads and there’s no wiggle room.”
That's seems to be the case, especially when you factor in the return of last year's 132 pound Section 1 champion Liam Erickson of Brewster and the third placer in that bracket, Ben Ettlinger of Fox Lane.
“Ettlinger is right in there,” Swick said. “He split with [state qualifier] Jake DiMarsico last year. He’s been all-section for years and been right there with everyone, but hasn’t won the Section title. He’s a very tough kid who will be a handful whatever weight he goes.” (Rumor has it, he'll be up a few weights).
We haven't forgotten about Ettlinger's teammate Frank Surace, who was fourth at 138 a year ago, or the wrestler who beat Surace in the bronze match, Larry Courtien of Somers. And the second and third placers at 145 in 2013, Brad Marvin of Ketcham and Mitch Klein of Horace Greeley could be primed for big seasons as well.
Moving into the upperweights, a pair of returning Section gold medalists return – Tappan Zee teammates John Hartnett (220) and Mike Manni (285). Manni made the medal stand in 2013, nabbing fifth at heavyweight.
“John Hartnett winning 220 might have been a bit of a surprise to some people because he wasn’t the favorite coming in,” Swick said. “But he was ready come postseason and wrestled really well. They have a good situation there, with Hartnett and Manni wrestling together since middle school, working together to get better.”
Like Manni, John Jay East Fishkill’s Brett Perry earned All-State accolades with a fifth place showing at 170 pounds. He’ll be a heavy favorite to return to the state capital, possibly at 182.
“Perry had a great year and did well this offseason too,” Swick said. "He wrestled well at the Journeymen Classic [where he was second at 182]."
Who are some others to watch in the upperweights?
Adam Hofling of Sleepy Hollow was the runner up to Perry at 170 in 2013 and is looking for more, while Austin Maurer of Clarkstown South is back after notching bronze at 195.
“[Maurer] is ridiculously strong,” Swick said. “He’s a pinner and a really tough kid who put in a lot of work. I think he’s the real deal. Every time I went to Clarkstown South, he was there, working hard.”
If he’s back at 195, he could face future Binghamton Bearcat Andrew Grella of Beacon. The silver medalist at 182 behind Thomas Murray last year, Grella had a strong campaign with more than 25 wins and is ready for a breakthrough season.
“If [Grella] has a senior year anything like his brother [Vincent, a starter for the Bearcats], he’ll do really well,” Swick said. “He has a lot going for him and will be someone to watch.”
Mamaroneck’s Youssif Hemida took seventh at Fargo in Cadet Freestyle this summer at 220 pounds.
We’ve mentioned All-State grapplers like Delacruz, Muldoon, Caputo, Manni and Perry. There was another returning Section 1 wrestler on the medal stand – Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle - who was fifth at 106. Barbaria, who twice defeated state champion Kyle Quinn of Wantagh last year, stayed quite active in the offseason and will be at 113 this year.
Another qualifier coming back is Pearl River’s James Kelly, who went to Albany at 99 pounds after a 40-plus win season. He'll likely be up a weight (or two). In addition, Fox Lane had some standouts at 99 and 106 a year ago, Brandon Fay (second in the Section at 99) and Matt Grippi (third at 106 as a seventh grader). They are championship threats. Also keep an eye on John Jay East Fishkill's Jay Albis (third at 113).
North Rockland took the title a year ago and while the squad lost contributors such as state qualifier Jake DiMarsico, the Red Raiders bring back a number of accomplished wrestlers and have what it takes to make it two in a row.
“The goal is obviously to repeat our Section 1 dual meet title and Section 1 tournament title,” Swick said. “We also want to have a strong performance at UE [Union-Endicott] Duals, which is like the unofficial state dual meet championships and be top 10 in the state. It’s a little different because this is the first time we’ve had a target on our back. We know people are coming after us.”
People are coming after North Rockland for a reason. Several reasons, as a matter of fact. The squad brings back seven Section placers, including the previously mentioned Matt Caputo, Blaise Benderoth and Derek DiMarsico. In addition, the squad will feature Nick Didio (third at 160), Connor Reigottie (fourth at heavyweight), Anthony Sulla (fifth at 99) and Marlon Borge (sixth at 106).
“We have seven guys back who placed and we believe all seven will be competing for Section titles,” Swick said. “Sulla should be back at 99 and Borge put in a ton of work and made big improvements. We also have guys like Alex D’Angelo, who probably will be at 106 by the end of the year, who would have been All-Section if he didn’t get hurt. We expect big things out of him.”
Who will push North Rockland?
“Fox Lane is definitely the first team that comes to mind,” Swick said. “They’re returning most of the guys who placed in the Section last year and many of those guys are capable of placing high. We know Fox Lane will be very tough.”
Indeed, the aforementioned Brandon Fay, Matt Grippi, Ben Ettlinger and Frank Surace all finished in the top four in the Section and all had more than 30 wins. In addition, Scott Rodrigues picked up 35 victories as a freshman and should be formidable again.
Swick also mentioned Pearl River as a contender, led by the previously discussed John Muldoon and James Kelly, both Section champions in 2013. In addition, Rob Gullo grabbed fourth at 152 after winning more than 35 matches and Sean McGarvey is an up-and-comer to watch after compiling more than 30 wins as an eighth grader.
“It’s a big Section with lots of teams out there," Swick said. "I also think John Jay East Fishkill and Arlington will be challengers. We need to focus on getting our team ready and not think so much about the other teams. We just need to focus on our guys.”
There will certainly be some changes on the way in Division II this year, as a number of longtime stars moved on. That includes three-time NYS finalist and 2013 champion, Trey Aslanian of Edgemont, who is now competing at Princeton. And it also includes the graduation of 10 starters from Nanuet, the three-time defending Section champions. But with the departure of those standouts, there is room for some others to take center stage.
There aren’t any 2013 NYS placers returning, but Matt Acevedo of Pawling has been to the Times Union Center twice (at 220 in 2012 and at 285 in 2013). He won a match in Albany in his last appearance and is looking for more. However, it won’t be a walk in the park to get back to the state capital at either weight.
Who are some upperweight challengers? Nanuet’s Jason Levine was sixth at the qualifier last year at 285 in his first year of wrestling, according to Edgemont head coach Peter Jacobson.
“[Levine] really impressed me,” Jacobson said. “He’s a tough kid and now that he’s had more time to get up to speed technique-wise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him right there for a section title at 285."
Jacobson also mentioned others he expects to excel in the higher weight classes - Alek Pavloff of Croton-Harmon (26 wins at 220, second in the Section), Evan Shlom of Ardsley (fourth at 195) as well as Irvington’s Anthony DiNardo (close to 30 wins overall and a 1-0 loss to Acevedo at the Sectionals).
Staying in the higher classes, Chris Kim of Edgemont spent much of last season at 170 before moving up to 182 late in the year, capturing the Section title there. He went on to the state tournament, where in his first match he took eventual fifth placer Ryan Marszal of Unatego to the limit in a 6-5 loss that went three overtimes. Jacobson believes the experience will serve Kim well.
“Chris just had a phenomenal football season and is a tremendous athlete,” Jacobson said. “We’re not sure whether he’ll be at 182 or 195 yet, but more likely 182. He’s really tough and able to pick things up really quickly. He was fully capable of being All-State last year, but I think the difference was experience. Being a three-sport athlete, he doesn’t put in the time in the offseason in wrestling as many state level kids do. I think the first time being at states in that kind of situation, his relative inexperience hurt him. But now having been there, we expect he’ll do very well this year.”
Peter Jones of Irvington will also be one to watch after his 24-victory sophomore season at 160 pounds, in which he took third at the Section 1 tournament.
Moving down in weight, Kim’s teammate Colin Hopkins had some solid victories a year ago, but didn’t get the chance to compete in the postseason. He’ll look to make up for it with a strong 2013-14 campaign at either 145 or 152.
“Colin had placed every year in the Section since he was an eighth grader,” Jacobson said. “He was third as a freshman and second as a sophomore. He beat [state placer and Section champion] Matt Dillon in our dual meet with Nanuet last year. But he blew out his elbow in late January and missed Sectionals. He’s not only talented, but wrestles year round and has made big jumps this year. He got a lot stronger. He’s absolutely an All-State caliber wrestler and I think his work will pay big dividends.”
Another wrestler who could be in a similar weight range this year is Chris Santana of Pawling, who earned third at 132 in the Section last year. He won over 30 matches and had 18 pins.
“[Santana] is a brawler, a hard-nosed kid who comes to wrestle every time,” Jacobson said. “I expect him to have a great season.”
Of course, Angelo Zegarelli of Putnam Valley will be a force this year after taking the runner up spot a year ago at 160 during a 30+ win season in which he had over 25 bonus point victories.
Jacobson also mentioned Daniel Kraemer of Woodlands as a possible sleeper.
“He’ll be the leader of their team,” Jacobson said. “[Kraemer] took fourth at the Sectionals at 145 pounds last year and is probably the most technical wrestler on their team. I think he’s capable of doing some good things.”
In the lightweights, there’s no shortage of talent. While Trey Aslanian is now a college wrestler, his brothers Tyler and Kyle look to make their own impacts at the state level.
Tyler Aslanian was one round shy of making the podium in Albany two years ago, however, he didn’t get a return ticket in 2013 after an abbreviated campaign. According to Jacobson, he suffered an injury in early December and missed nearly the entire season prior to Sectionals.
“When you wrestle guys who have been through the grind all season and you haven’t really competed, it’s tough,” Jacobson said. “He wasn’t where he wanted to be from a technical perspective and a timing perspective. But I expect Tyler to be All-State this year [at 120 or 126]. He’s that caliber of wrestler and the work he’s put in and the leadership skills he’s developing are along the same lines of All-State wrestlers I’ve coached in the past.”
Like Tyler, Kyle Aslanian notched second in the Section last season. This time, he’ll be at 106 or 113 and will look to get his first taste of the state tournament.
“The biggest thing holding Kyle back last year was that he wasn’t as confident as he could have been in his go-to offense,” Jacobson said. “We’ve focused a lot on being more aggressive on his feet and I think we’ll see that. I think he’ll create scrambles when he needs to and he’ll use his athleticism to his advantage.”
The Aslanians will be a good one-two punch for Edgemont early in the lineup. Similarly, Pleasantville will also have some high quality grapplers in the lower weights, including returning state qualifiers James Bathon and Stephen Paternostro.
“They are both very impressive,” Jacobson said. “Paternostro is such a physical kid. He hit an awesome high crotch and put his opponent on his back in the Section finals for a very quick pin. I’m not sure anyone short of Paternostro and his coaches saw that coming. I think they’ve both developed really well and will be really, really tough this year.”
The wrestler Paternostro defeated for Section gold last year, AJ Mirabal of Putnam Valley, will be back as well. After picking up 38 victories (and 24 pins) as a junior, he’ll be looking to wear the Section 1 singlet in Albany.
Speaking of Albany, Mirabal's teammate Noah Kelvas wrestled there in February (and won a match) after nabbing the 106-pound Section 1 crown in 2013 during a 35-win campaign.
Like Kelvas, Joe Dillon of Nanuet has represented Section 1 at the state tournament during his career. In 2011, Dillon competed at 96 pounds in the state capital. He has come close to returning the past two seasons, but hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. Last year he was 32-6 and took third at the Sectionals at 126. Can he make the trip to the Times Union Center again as a senior?
“Joe Dillon is a very good wrestler who has the experience at the state level,” Jacobson said. “It always depends on where people certify and wind up, but I think his chances of winning Sectionals this year are very, very good."
Dillon’s Section 1 title came in his freshman campaign. Another wrestler looking for gold as a ninth grader is his teammate Dylan Mateo, who was third at 106 last year.
And like Dillon, Andrew Barsuch of Croton-Harmon is a senior wanting to make his final scholastic season a memorable one after a 37-4 showing as a junior, which included a runner up finish at the state qualifier.
“Barsuch has a lot of experience,” Jacobson said. “He’s always been right there, but just a little short. I don’t know him personally, but he strikes me as the type of senior who is really hungry after knocking on the door for so long. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break through.”
Nanuet has ruled the Section in the recent past, grabbing three consecutive titles. However, the significant graduation losses will create a window of opportunity for some other squads.
One of those is Putnam Valley, the runner up a year ago.
“I think Putnam Valley is definitely a contender, if not the favorite,” Jacobson said. “They are very well coached – Will Carano always does a great job of developing his kids. They have established wrestlers like Noah Kelvas, Angelo Zegarelli and AJ Mirabal. And then they have a smattering of young guys who placed in the third, fourth and fifth range who will do really well also.”
That "smattering" includes competitors such as Mike Bruno (third at 99 at Sectionals last year), Jared Eliopoulous (fourth at 106), Willie Messinger (fifth at 160) and Dan Kelly (fifth at 182).
Another threat is Pleasantville, led by the previously mentioned returning Section 1 champions Stephen Paternostro and James Bathon. But it’s the squad’s depth that Jacobson emphasized.
“Pleasantville had a lot of kids who were third to sixth in the Section last year,” Jacobson said. "Last year they were stronger than the year before and I expect this year, they’ll be even stronger. Because of the balance of their lineup, you have to put them in the mix and I believe they’re right there with anyone.”
Some of those others to watch include Steven Montes, Brandon Castro and Thomas Marrone (third at 152).
A year ago, Jacobson’s Edgemont squad nabbed third. With Chris Kim, Colin Hopkins and the Aslanian brothers as well as wrestlers who have seen significant mat time such as Will Graybeal, Sam Klein and Max Worobow, the Panthers should certainly be in the thick of things come February.
“We have some experienced wrestlers and also some younger kids who we think can come in and accomplish a lot more this year,” Jacobson said.
And while Nanuet will send many fresh faces on the mat, no one is counting the Golden Knights out.
“Nanuet has been and will continue to be a strong program, even with all of the guys they lost,” Jacobson said. “I’m sure they will have more than capable guys to step in and fill those holes. They always have a solid stable of athletes and a good feeder system, as well as great tradition. They always seem to have one or two new names every year who come in and place high in the section.”
In addition to the wrestlers mentioned earlier such as Joe Dillon and Dylan Mateo, there are others who will make their presence felt. That includes Eric Boyle and Chris Lowery, both fourth at the state qualifier a year ago as well as Frank Paratore, who took fifth at 152. Another name mentioned was Alex Slaybaugh, who could be in the mix to make the medal stand in the Section. Vinny Skokos, who had a stellar ninth grade season in 2011-12 when he won over 30 matches, including one in Albany, didn’t take the mat last year. He could be a difference maker if he's in the lineup.
So, will it be a four-peat for Nanuet? Or a new team at the head of the class?
“I think a number of teams could win,” Jacobson said. “It seems that injuries often play a tremendous role and keeping teams fresh is important. It often doesn’t come down to the big guns; it’s the other kids getting points on the backside, getting those third-fourth-fifth place finishes that really lift the team. It should be a good race this year.”
To read more of the Section previews released this season, see the links below: