Now it's time to talk about some of the 11th graders to keep tabs on this season. There were significant differences of opinion on how these wrestlers stack up against each other. The order of this list could go numerous different ways and will no doubt look different as the season progresses. For now, however, here's a look at some of the stars in the Class of 2015.
#1 Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville)– In the eyes of some, Piccininni is the top pound-for-pound wrestler in New York. The two-time state champion breezed through his sophomore campaign, winning all 43 matches with only four regular decisions. In a bout many were anticipating the entire season, Piccininni completely dominated multiple-time state titlewinner Kyle Kelly, 14-4, to grab his second gold medal in Albany. The Ward Melville standout finished second at the FloNationals this spring and went undefeated at the Disney Duals in the summer against top flight competition. He did the same thing at the Journeymen Classic and the Iron Horse Invitational. Currently ranked #12 among juniors by FloWrestling and #30 by Intermat, Piccininni is a heavy favorite to capture state crown number three. For more on Piccininni see this link.
#2 Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich) – Rifanburg burst onto the scene several years ago when he grabbed a state championship as a seventh grader. He has been back to the title bout at the Times Union Center two more times, earning second place in 2011 and 2013, while finishing sixth in 2012. As a freshman, Rifanburg also earned the silver at the NHSCA National championships. The Section IV standout is ranked as one of the top 100 juniors in the nation by FloWrestling.
#3 Adis Radoncic (Poly Prep) – The PSAL’s first-ever state champion (for RKA) didn’t face an easy path to gold in February, defeating top-seeded Christian Dietrich and multi-time placer Troy Seymour. In fact, by defeating Dietrich 4-3 in the title bout, Radoncic avenged one of his two losses in a 27-2 campaign. The three-time state qualifier also came within one win of placing at the state tournament in 2012. Radoncic, who transferred to Poly Prep and confirmed that he will be a junior in 2013-14, was active in the offseason, taking fifth at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach and competing at Fargo, the Journeymen Classic and the Iron Horse Invitational.
#4 Kyle Quinn (Wantagh) – Quinn had an excellent 36-2 campaign for Wantagh, picking up a state title at 106 pounds. The multiple-time NHSCA Nationals All-American (third at 106 in 2013) defeated a number of New York state medalists, including Steven Sewkumar and Jon Haas, in the regular season. In Albany, he pinned All-State wrestler Jimmy Overhiser in the second round before avenging his only two losses of the campaign by beating New Rochelle’s Nick Barbaria, 7-1. In the state title bout, Quinn came out on top against Westhampton Beach’s Alex Tanzman. The Nassau County standout also collected victories for Team Kong at the challenging Disney Duals. His credentials land him high on this list and he will certainly face challenges as a junior, as he may get to face wrestlers who have defeated him in recent weeks – Jesse Dellavecchia, Vito Arujau and Yianni Diakomihalis.
#5 Tommy Dutton (Rocky Point) – Dutton has been competitive at the varsity level for quite some time. In his 10th grade season, he made his first appearance on the podium in the state capital, taking fourth at 138 pounds after an impressive 50-4 campaign. The Section 11 star picked up fourth at the Eastern States Classic with his only setbacks coming against an out of state grappler, Derek Arnold of Virginia. Dutton collected All-American status in 2012, both at the NHSCA Nationals and at Fargo in Freestyle. He didn’t compete at those events in 2013, but his activity this fall demonstrates that he’s ready to go in his 11th grade campaign. Dutton took second at the Journeymen Classic up at 152 pounds, losing only to returning state champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham. He then captured the title at the Iron Horse Invitational, including an impressive victory over Gary Dinmore, a two-time New Jersey state runner up who is ranked among the top 100 seniors in the land.
#6 Nick Casella (Locust Valley) – After taking second place at the 2012 New York State championships, Casella earned his way back to the finals in Albany this February where he picked up his second silver medal, this time up at 113. It was the end of a 39-4 campaign in which half of his losses were to eventual state champion Dillon Stowell of Gouverneur. Casella followed up the high school season by showing he could compete with some of the nation’s best. He collected All-America accolades at Virginia Beach and at Fargo, where he took seventh in Greco Roman. He also competed at the Junior Duals for Team New York in Oklahoma in a busy offseason.
#7 Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa) – Porter has made only one trip to Albany after taking the Section II title as a freshman. A year ago, he didn’t have the opportunity, as an injury sidelined him after the end of December. However, he demonstrated clearly this summer that he is formidable wrestler on the national level when he went all the way to the finals in Cadet Greco Roman at Fargo at 152 pounds before placing second. He followed that showing with a fifth place medal in Freestyle in North Dakota. Porter looks to be ready for a breakout year in the Empire State.
#8 Nick Gallo (Schalmont) – Gallo grabbed the silver medal at the state tournament in February at 160 pounds, after falling one win shy of the podium as a freshman at 152 (losing to the third and fourth place finishers). This February, Gallo had a tough path to the finals, besting placers in each of his first three bouts – Gunnar Van Curen (6th), Tyler Silverthorn (5th) and Matt Fisher (3rd). He went 45-4 as a sophomore in Section II, also making the medal stand at the Eastern States Classic where his losses were in sudden victory to Virginia’s Steven Aiello and 4-2 to the state runner up in Division I, Steve Schneider (and by disqualification).
#9 Frank Garcia (Norwich) – The Division II state runner up at 145 pounds this year also took fifth at the Eastern States Classic in January. After missing time early in the season, Garcia came back strong, avenging a loss to fellow All-Stater Jordan Torbitt to win the Section IV title and collecting a win against past state medalist Isaiah Riccio along the way. The Norwich grappler was one match from placing at 132 as a freshman where he was edged by eventual state champion Connor Lapresi, 3-2.
#10 Anthony Orefice (Lockport) - The two-time placer from Lockport began last season at 113 pounds, where he notched impressive wins such as a convincing 7-1 triumph over eventual Division II state champion Dillon Stowell. He transitioned up to 120 as the season progressed and went 41-6 overall. All but one of his losses were to All-State wrestlers – three times to New York runner up Steve Michel as well as to Travis Passaro and Mike D’Angelo. A multiple-time NHSCA All-American, Orefice will likely be right back in the mix in 2013-14.
#11 Sam Ward (Locust Valley) – Ward notched his first appearance on the medal stand at the Times Union Center when he took fifth at 132 pounds. He compiled a 38-4 mark, including quality wins over state placers Vinny Turano and Ryan Kromer. Three of his losses were to top three medalists in New York – champion Matt Leshinger (by a 3-2 score), runner up Tristan Rifanburg (by a 3-1 tally) and Clyde Carey. He has also made his mark on the national stage, capturing All-America status at Fargo in 2012 and in Virginia Beach in 2013. He recently was second at the Journeymen Classic.
#12 Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) The Section 11 grappler had a great year at 99 pounds for East Islip, earning fourth at the state tournament and beating several strong opponents. He also tacked on a fifth place showing at the NHSCA Nationals tournament and notched a victory over the previously mentioned Kyle Quinn at the Journeymen Classic. He’ll be moving up in weight, but has the potential to go very high on the podium in Albany once again.
Mike D’Angelo was discussed by a number of contributors to this article as someone who will no doubt move up this list as the season moves forward. In a tough weight in Suffolk County, he had a strong sophomore campaign in which he racked up 40 victories and took fifth in Albany. He was defeated twice by state champion Alex Delacruz and twice by third placer Travis Passaro, but registered solid wins over state qualifiers Joe Russ and Lou DePrez as well as All-Staters John Muldoon, Santo Curatolo and the aforementioned Anthony Orefice. The previous season, as a freshman, D’Angelo was also stellar as he went 33-3 with all three setbacks coming by decision to Nick Piccininni.
Speaking of accomplished wrestlers, Tony Recco of Lyndonville was a state champion as a freshman, but was injured prior to the postseason as a tenth grader and was unable to go for another title in Albany. We look forward to seeing him back in the fray.
Another lightweight to consider is Mike Raccioppi of Minisink Valley. The Section 9 grappler faced many of the Empire State’s best last year and took sixth at the Eastern States as well as winning two matches in Albany to come one win from a medal at 126. Richie Burke of Ithaca, did the same, capturing two victories at the Times Union Center at 132 while Andrew Shomers of Lewiston Porter also got his hand raised in Albany. While we're mentioning lightweights, Shoreham Wading River’s James Szymanski put on a show at the Eastern States Classic, taking third at 106 pounds. He didn’t earn a bid to the state tournament, but will be someone to monitor this year as well. Another wrestler who notched third at SUNY Sullivan, North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth, a multiple-time state qualifier, will look to place for the first time. As will Islip's Brad Wade, a wrestler with a number of quality wins who looks join three other 'Wades' on top of the state podium.
How about some others who did find a spot on the medal stand in 2013? Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa earned fifth at 99 pounds while Dolgeville’s Danny Fox grabbed second at 106. Cody McGregor placed twice in NYS for Tonawanda but didn’t make an appearance on the mats at the Times Union Center this year. He’ll look to get back in 2014.
One of the wrestlers who has grabbed our attention this offseason is Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East. He and Jordan Bushey of Peru both earned All-American status at Fargo at 145 pounds. (Connetquot's Gino Titone also picked up five wins in the same bracket, just missing the podium). In the last few weeks, Restrepo has defeated a trio of state silver medalists – Brandon Lapi and Frank Garcia at the Journeymen Classic and Vincent DePrez at the Iron Horse Invitational. It looks like he’s ready for a breakout year.
In addition to those victories, Restrepo was also sixth at the NHSCA Nationals in the spring where other New York wrestlers placed. They are: Brandon Aviles (Newfield), Ben Lamantia (St. Anthony’s), Richie Jones (St. Joseph’s Collegiate), Vincent Feola (Walt Whitman) and Trevor Allard (Mexico).
In the middleweights, Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg came within a match of placing in Albany, defeating another 40-win wrestler, Max Lloyd of Palmyra Macedon along the way. Section 2's Jake Ashcraft and Geno Brancati also have been mentioned as wrestlers with the potential to make a jump, along with Clarence's Nathan Schwab, Locust Valley's Michael Dusold and Indian River's Nick Toutant.
In the upperweights, Ryan Marszal is another wrestler to keep tabs on in 2013-14. The Unatego wrestler nabbed fifth at 182 pounds in his sophomore campaign in Division II and is the only returning placer in that bracket. Marszal had a 36-win season where he moved between 170 and 182 pounds. Another 182-pounder to mention is Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy, who went 0-2 as a freshman in Albany at the Division II tournament, but bounced back this February in the Division I event, coming within one win of placing at 182 pounds. He also fell just one victory short of medaling at Eastern States. This could be the year he finds his way onto the podium.
Who else will make their presence felt in Albany in 2014 from the Class of 2015? There are bound to be other juniors ready for outstanding seasons. Send us an e-mail at email@example.com with suggestions.
Thank you to Mike Carey and Matt Diano for all their hard work to make this article possible and to Kris Harrington for his insights. Thanks to all of the other contributors around the state - too many to name, but they know who they are.