BY ZAKKARIAH ROLFE
At last season's state tournament, two of Section IV's biggest point scorers, returning placers Reggie Williams of Johnson City and Corning's Jimmy Overhiser were beaten early on by eventual champions Dan Choi and Kyle Quinn, both of Section VIII. Neither was able to come back and notch a spot on the podium. Williams is back, along with two wrestlers who made the medal stand last year - Curtis Grant of Elmira and Zach Colgan of Johnson City. Even though there weren't any champions from in 2013, don't count Section IV out this year.
With Overhiser transferring to Wyoming Seminary and two-time NYS titlewinner Kyle Kelly moving on to Division I college wrestling, there will be some new blood taking over the reins in the Section IV lightweights. A few returning state qualifiers, Tyler Brazinski of Johnson City and Cole Ford of Newark Valley look ready for big years. Ford went 1-2 in Albany last season, while Brazinski looks to get back to the Times Union Center and get his hand raised for the first time.
There are others to watch out for, such as Collyn Shippos of Ithaca, who beat Brazinski before dropping the Section finals match to him and Isiah Colgan of Johnson City, the runner up to Overhiser last season, who looks to finally make it to the top of the podium after taking third and second in his eighth and ninth grade campaigns. In addition, Mikey Carr of Union-Endicott, a two-time Sectional silver medalist (behind Overhiser and Kelly), aims to take the next step and get his ticket to Albany.
Carr wrestled Blake Abbey of Corning five times last season, with the most recent bout a 4-2 win for Carr at the state qualifier. Abbey may be ready to make some noise, along with his training partner Charlie Kennedy (formerly of Elmira), who was a finalist at 120 pounds last year.
A possible darkhorse? Charlie Mahon of Elmira, who picked up third as a seventh grader in a relatively strong 113-pound weight class. Watch for the now-eighth grader to take some steps forward toward a title.
The middleweights may be the toughest part of Section IV’s lineup this year, as all of the returning state qualifiers won at least one match at the Times Union Center last year.
“My goal is to capture that title at the end of the year,” Colgan said. “I plan on going 170. I'm going to work every day possible to be better than the person ahead of me. When they’re working 100%, I'll be working 110%. I only have one more shot at that crown.”
Richie Burke of Ithaca has been to the state tournament three times, and last year was close to placing for the first time. He lost to eventual runner up Brandon Lapi 2-0 in the first round, but came back strong with two victories before falling in the placing round, 6-4. Burke only lost to four opponents last year; three made the medal stand in 2013. He is primed for a breakout year.
In one of the most exciting matches of the 2013 Sectional championships, Johnson City's Nick Bidwell captured a 9-8 victory over the previously mentioned state placer Curtis Grant in the 138-pound finals. After losing to Grant 13-2 two weeks before, Bidwell picked up three third period stalling calls, including one in the waning seconds, to get the one-point win and the Section IV crown. Bidwell continued his momentum in Albany, winning his opener, but then was defeated by eventual runner up Vincent DePrez before dropping his wrestleback contest.
In addition to the previously mentioned Cole Ford, Newark Valley sent Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb to the state capital last season. Many Section IV fans expected them to make the podium, however, Hoffmier dropped a pair of 1-0 heartbreaking matches (along with a victory). After a title at the Journeymen Classic, the future Buffalo Bull is looking to make a statement in his senior season. That's also the case for his current (and future) teammate Holcomb. Last season's 160-pound Section IV champion has some quality offseason wins, including over 2013 NYS champion Adis Radoncic. We could see Colgan and Holcomb go head-to-head a few times this year.
Like Hoffmier and Holcomb, Isaiah Zimmer of Chenango Forks got in the win column in Albany. In fact, he had two victories and came within one more of making the medal stand. (His losses were to the fifth and sixth placers). In the spring, Zimmer captured a win in freestyle over multiple-time state medalist (and current Clarion wrestler) Tim Schaefer. He may be a dark horse statewide, but he's capable of making a splash in Albany.
While those wrestlers all competed at the state tournament last year, there are others who could be representing Section IV this season. They include Conner Halladay of Johnson City, the runner up at 170 and Vinnie Darpino of Newark Valley (a two-time Sectional runner up). In addition, a pair of Union-Endicott wrestlers could excel. Xavian Hughes gave Richie Burke a scare in the Sectional finals last year and Sammy Davis, a finalist in 2012, is back from an injury that sidelined him in 2012-13. One more darkhorse is Ian Van Valen of Ithaca, who was third a year ago and will put everything on the line for his first crown.
Future Binghamton wrestler Reggie Williams, a 2012 state finalist, didn't have the performance he was looking for in Albany after spending the entire campaign as New York's #1 ranked 195-pounder. He has had quite an offseason, however. Just a few weeks after his 14-4 loss to Dan Choi in the quarterfinals in Albany, Williams pinned the Syosset grappler in a rematch at the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge in Ithaca. He then took second at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach, defeating highly regarded opponents such as University of Minnesota recruit Nathan Rose along the way. At the Junior Duals in Oklahoma, Williams won a significant number of matches for Team New York.
The Union Endicott duo of Lucas Depofi (220) and Andrew Brinser (285) is back after making an appearance in the state capital. Brinser upset Elmira's Sean McGinley in overtime in the Section IV finals and kept things going by defeating the number three seed, David Varian of Yorktown, in the first round at the state tournament. After that, he ran into the eventual second and sixth placers. However, he showed that he is capable of making some waves at the Times Union Center this year. Depofi had over 30 wins, although his season didn't end the way he wanted with losses in both of his matches in Albany (to All-State wrestlers).
Who may be a darkhorse? Nikola Cejic of Johnson City placed third last year at 220 as a sophomore and is going to be a big factor in his team’s success. Depofi beat him twice last year. Can he challenge for the title this season?
Johnson City comes into the year as the clear cut favorite again as the Wildcats return nine Sectional finalists plus several more All-Section wrestlers, led by state placers Zach Colgan and Reggie Williams and Section IV titlewinners Tyler Brazinski and Nick Bidwell. (The other returning finalists, who are all capable of stellar seasons, are Isiah Colgan, Corey McCormick, Joseph Hamdan, Conner Halladay and Dominic Taylor).
“We are going to work our butts off to be the top team in the state," Colgan said. "It's something that all 12 of our seniors have pictured since peewees. We want that banner hung up in the gym with all of our names on it.”
Sammy Davis and Union Endicott are looking to stop the Wildcats from even being Sectional champions. The Tigers bring back double-digit All-Section wrestlers, including 2013 finalists Andrew Brinser, Lucas Depofi, Mikey Carr and Xavian Hughes.
Vestal returns nine All-Section wrestlers from last season, and the squad is never out of the question for a title. The Golden Bears know how to get a pin when they need it with their always-deadly crossface cradle. Watch out for those bonus points!
Chenango Forks is typically very strong, but may have to do some rebuilding this year. However, with head coach Rick Gumble, you can't count them out. And Newark Valley, led by a trio of 2013 Section titlewinners Cole Ford, Trevor Hoffmier and Derek Holcomb as well as runner up Vinnie Darpino, could be in the race as well.
The darkhorse team this year has to be the Elmira Express, with eight returning All-Section wrestlers, including the team's first All-State wrestler since 1996, Curtis Grant. The team is full of talent and doesn't have many holes.
Section IV had strong representation in the state finals last year, with eight wrestlers competing on Saturday night. Three of them - Lansing's William Koll, Unatego's Kevin Thayer and Windsor's Matt Abbott, came away with titles. Koll returns, along with a number of those 2013 silver medalists who are hungry for titles of their own - Greene's Christian Dietrich, Waverly's Ryan Wolcott and the Norwich duo of Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia.
Section IV has seven returning state qualifiers in the first five weights, led by Koll, who won it all at 126 pounds last year. The future Cornell wrestler already is a two-time state champion and will be a heavy favorite to add a third crown to his collection as a senior. He added an All-America finish at Fargo this summer to his resume.
Koll's showing in Albany in February wasn't a surprise, but the run of BGA’s Chris Cirigliano at the end of the season may have caught many off guard. At the end of January, Cirigliano was 12-8, but he performed well in the postseason and finished on the podium in Albany as a freshman (sixth at 106). Also earning a bid to the Times Union Center at 106 was Joe Rorick of Odessa-Montour. He should be a factor again in the lighter weights.
Dean Raymond of Deposit entered the state tournament with just one setback. However, he lost to eventual runner up Matteo DeVincenzo in round one and after picking up a win on the backside, lost to placer Theo Powers of Mexico. Can he win a few more in the postseason this year?
Keep an eye out for 10th graders Dylan Wood of Walton and Koby Garrehy of Maine-Endwell as they come back after wrestling in Albany. Both lost to two All-State grapplers and look to build upon those experiences.
In addition, Nate Hayes of Windsor came in as the number three seed, but had two heartbreaking losses by a point at the Times Union Center at 120 pounds. Can he get on the podium as a senior?
Also look out for former NYS third placer Joe Nelson of Oxford and a wrestler who beat him at the Section IV tournament - Logan Robinson of Walton, who was the runner up at 113 to the previously mentioned Wood. Nelson's teammate Nate Hansen was the runner up at the Section IV tournament at 99 pounds.
The next five weights include only three returning qualifiers from 2013, but those three are all among the best in the Empire State - Tristan Rifanburg, Frank Garcia and Whitney Point's Jordan Torbitt.
Last season, Torbitt took the hard way to the podium. After losing his opening round match to Matt Dillon of Section I by one point, Torbitt went on a three-match winning streak to guarantee himself a spot on the podium before medically forfeiting to sixth. Torbitt won the NHSCA Freshman Nationals in Virginia Beach this spring at 152 and is a threat to finish high on the medal stand in Albany. He split bouts with Frank Garcia a year ago and the two could battle a few times again.
Speaking of Garcia, the Norwich wrestler made his third trip to the state tournament last season and had his first All-State showing, grabbing second at 145. He competed at some notable offseason events, including the Journeymen Classic.
Jesse Manuel of Tioga is another stud to watch out for as he'll be looking to make his first trip to the state tournament after losing to current Bucknell wrestler Connor Lapresi last season in the Section finals. Also look out for Nick Hansen of Oxford, who was third in the Section last year after pinning former state placer Dan Dickman of Greene and Brandon Ellers of Waverly, who also took bronze in 2013 (at 160) and has made big improvements.
The upperweights are headlined by Greene's Christian Dietrich, a state finalist as a freshman at 170 pounds, after taking sixth as a seventh grader. Dietrich, ranked 14th nationally by FloWrestling at 182, placed fourth at the FloNationals in the spring and won the Journeymen Classic while wrestling up a weight class. He'll be a favorite to win his first state title this year.
Also taking second a year ago was Waverly's Ryan Wolcott at 220. After dropping a 1-0 decision to nationally-ranked Zack Bacon of Hornell for the title, he traveled to Virginia Beach and earned fourth at the NHSCA Nationals. Wolcott will be ranked among the top 220 pounders in New York and is certainly a strong contender for state gold.
Another returning placewinner, Unatego's Ryan Marszal, jumped between 170 and 182 last year before settling on 182 for the end of the year. He wrestled his way into the semifinals in Albany and nabbed fifth, finishing on a high note with a pin of Gage Bourdeau. The only medalist back from that field, Marszal will look to climb higher on the podium.
Who are some others to keep tabs on in 2013-14? Garyn Huntley of Oxford went from placing fifth in the Section as an eighth grader to taking sixth at the Greco Nationals in Fargo this summer. He will be someone to watch this year, as will Andrew Barnhart of Whitney Point. Barnhart was second in the Section at 195 and had close to 30 wins. Also coming off a silver Section finish is heavyweight Austin Dean of Sidney, who will turn some heads this season after enduring only four losses a year ago.
Last season saw the Greene Trojans win their second consecutive Section IV title. However, the squad lost some top-notch talent, such as Mike Beckwith, Dan Dickman and Joel Roselle. Christian Dietrich will certainly score a lot of points again, along with Ryan Castle and Brendan Wheeler, who were both fourth in Section IV last year. But will we see a new team at the top?
This season’s race looks to be the tightest in quite a while. Deposit-Hancock returns the most Sectional placers with five, including champion Dean Raymond. The other four - Dan Babcock, Brandon Macumber, Stephen McKee and Jason Lobdell - were all fourth through sixth in the Section a year ago. Meanwhile, a host of teams have either three or four All-Section grapplers back including: Tioga, Oxford, Greene, Whitney Point, Susquehanna Valley, Maine-Endwell, Watkins Glen (led by returning 170-pound runner up Josh Burge) and Norwich. Norwich is one of the teams with three placers back, however, no other squad has a pair of All-Staters like Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia leading the way.
The season's race will be like no other. We’ll have to see what team will put it all together in February.
To read more of the Section previews released this season, see the links below: