McKenna, Photo by BV
Just a few more days until the New York state championships!
We plan to have a detailed LIVE BLOG throughout Friday and Saturday, as we did last year, so join us for that!
Until then, here’s a preview of some of the things we’ll be watching at the Division 1 tournament. (Division 2 will be posted tomorrow).
And if you haven't already, feel free to enter our Prediction Contests (link here).
The Top Seed: Kelan McKenna of New Hartford nabbed sixth place at this weight a year ago and followed up with a stellar season, with just a single loss (by one point at 106) and an Eastern States championship.
Returning Medalists: McKenna is the only placer from last year. In fact, only one other wrestler (McKenna's first round opponent Anthony Sgorrano of South Glens Falls) competed in Albany in 2013.
Right Off the Bat (First Round Match): Bennie Baker of Newark Valley is having a spectacular seventh grade campaign, nabbing the number three seed after compiling a 37-3 record. In an interesting first round bout, Baker will battle a grappler we’ve had high in the rankings all year long – Derek St. James of Gates Chili, a sophomore who has just one loss and who captured a SuperSectional crown.
In addition, Dylan Arena of Clarence topped fourth-seeded Christian Gramuglia of Burnt Hills at the Union-Endicott Duals in early January. The two will square off in the opening round on Friday morning.
Also Keep an Eye On: There’s so much young talent and a high degree of unpredictability in this lightest weight class. But you can't discount the motivation of a senior - and 12th grader Alfredo Olmedo of Arlington is certainly one to watch as he looks to cap his career with a high podium finish.
Suffolk County had two top-four finishers at 99 last year and certainly could do it again. North Babylon’s Anthony Sparacio captured a brutal bracket in Section 11 and will be handful for any opponent, as will the wrestler he beat in overtime for that crown - Deer Park's Tommy Cox. Cox has recorded a number of quality wins and could meet up with the one opponent who handed him a convincing loss this year (Long Beach's Jacori Teemer) in round two if both advance. We mentioned Baker, but he's not the only seventh grader in the field. Eastport-South Manor's Adam Busiello (32nd nationally according to FloWrestling among junior high wrestlers) went to the Eastern States title match during a terrific debut season.
Last year, we felt pretty confident in our prediction of Yianni Diakomihalis and Vito Arujau meeting for state gold in this class. This year, we see a number of wrestlers who have finalist potential. But at the end of the day, McKenna has the experience of not only taking the mat at the Times Union Center, but making the podium. We think that will be the difference.
The Top Seed: The nation’s #1 106 pounder, Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton, has been nothing short of dominant throughout the season. He showed the whole country what he could do on his path to the Super 32 Challenge title last fall.
Returning Medalists: In addition to Diakomihalis, Vinny Vespa of Monroe Woodbury placed at 99 a year ago and is the only other 2013 All-Stater in the bracket. However, a few others wrestled in Albany last season, including Josh LoGiudice of Guilderland, Ryan Brown of Canton and Malik Grant of Curtis.
Right Off the Bat: We had a few “sleeper” picks in mind when the Sectional tournaments were over. LoGiudice was one of them, although perhaps that's not such a surprise since he is a returning qualifier. The Guilderland wrestler is unbeaten, as is one of our other "dark horses" – Peter Pappas of Plainview. We've also been impressed by Suffolk County champ Matt Stallone of Sachem North who had only one loss at 106 this year – back on January 4. We believe they are all capable of excellent showings, but they’re all packed together in the bracket. LoGiudice and Pappas will square off in the opening round, while Stallone would meet the winner if he wins his first bout.
Also Keep an Eye On: Parker Kropman isn’t a secret to New York fans, especially after his Eastern States crown in January. The number three seed has taken a few losses to Diakomihalis this year, but will be a tough out for anyone.
As an eighth grader in 2013, Diakomihalis won his first state championship with an ultimate tiebreaker victory at 99 pounds. We expect to see him collect another gold medal and don’t believe he’ll need overtime this time to get it done.
The Top Seed: Vito Arujau was the wrestler who went to multiple overtimes with Diakomihalis last year in the state finals (which was his only loss of the campaign). Currently in the top 15 nationally, the Syosset freshman has stormed through the year with a perfect record.
Returning Medalists: This group already has a whole bunch of hardware. Kyle Quinn of Wantagh won the state title at 106 a year ago, with Jon Haas of Penfield and Golan Cohen of Colonie taking third and fourth in that bracket. Johnny Stramiello nabbed sixth each of the past two seasons, while Walt Whitman’s Joe Calderone was a 2012 All-Stater.
Right Off the Bat: We admit we did a bit of a double take when we saw two-time NYS placer Stramiello matching up with Quinn in round one. Right above them in the bracket is another interesting bout featuring NHSCA All-American Anthony Argentieri of Kenmore West and Suffolk champ John Arceri of Huntington. Those aren't the only eye-opening first round contests. On the top half, Arujau will face a stiff test right away with a wrestler he has trained with - John Twomey of St. Anthony’s. Twomey is having an outstanding season (38-1 with the only loss to a top ten wrestler nationally).
Also Keep an Eye On: We've already mentioned a number of big names who will factor into the race for the top. In addition, Gerard Daly of Minisink Valley has put together a strong season, with both of his losses at 113 coming to his first round opponent – the previously mentioned Calderone. Jon Haas only began taking the mat for Penfield in mid January and has won 14 of 15 bouts. Can he repeat his podium run from last year?
We’ve had Arujau at the top of this class throughout the season. He certainly doesn’t have an easy path to a title, with tough challenges right from the start, but the way he's wrestled, we think he has what it takes to add another title to the Arujau family. [Nick Arujau won multiple titles and now is at Cornell].
The Top Seed: Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville was an undefeated NYS champion in both 2012 and 2013 after taking third as an eighth grader in 2011. He looks to be on his way again after another outstanding campaign, featuring 41 wins -- only one of which was a regular decision (5-0 over Wayne's Bryan Lantry).
Returning Medalists: Both Dylan Booth of Port Jervis and Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip made All-State a year ago. Booth was fifth at 113, while Dellavecchia was fourth at 99.
Also Keep an Eye On: In addition to those mentioned above, Ben Lamantia of St. Anthony’s has been on a roll all season. He dropped an early bout to Pennsylvania phenom Spencer Lee (#1 nationally) but has gotten his hand raised after every other match in 2013-14. He won twice in Albany last year to just miss placing and we think he can increase that total this time around. Several others will be making return trips to the event - Monroe Woodbury's Evan Barczak, Niagara Falls's Donny McCoy, Guiderland's Mike Lainhart, Saratoga's Dominic Inzana, and Fulton's Mitchell Woodworth. Woodworth absolutely dominated his way to the Section 3 crown, cruising past a previously undefeated grappler in the finals.
Nationally-ranked Piccininni majored Dellavecchia for the Suffolk County title. He earned a technical fall in the Eastern States championship bout. He even picked up a major in the NYS finals last year against Kyle Kelly. We see him making it three in a row at the Times Union Center on Saturday night - and bonus points never seem to be out of the question.
The Top Seed: Travis Passaro of Eastport-South Manor has gone wire-to-wire as the number one wrestler in New York at this weight, according to our rankings. He earned All-American honors at FloNationals last year and cemented his spot in the national polls when he topped returning state champion Alex Delacruz of Ossining and two nationally-ranked opponents (Michael Knoblauch of California and Kevin Jack of Connecticut) to win the Eastern States Classic.
Returning Medalists: As mentioned before, Delacruz took gold a year ago (at 120). Also placing in that bracket was Mike D'Angelo of Commack (fifth). Joining Passaro and D'Angelo in the top half of the bracket this weekend will be Anthony Orefice of Lockport, a two-time All-Stater, who has breezed through the season with a perfect record.
Right Off the Bat: Blake Retell of Shaker has wrestled in Albany three times and was one win from the podium a year ago. He'll have an immediate test with Division's Ricky Stamm, the Nassau champion, who is 34-1 this year.
Last season, St. Anthony's Joe Russ took second seed John Muldoon of Pearl River to the limit in the opening round in an overtime loss. Russ will again face a tough opponent in his opener - Section 9 titlewinner Da'mani Burns of Newburgh Free Academy in a match we're looking forward to seeing. And speaking of #2 seeds, the previously discussed Delacruz will face Chris Fantauzzo of Greece (a wrestler who has put together a great season with several quality wins) in his initial match.
Nicholas Toutant of Indian River won a match at the Times Union Center in 2013 and will begin with Adam Smith of East Meadow in a battle of wrestlers with 36 wins.
Also Keep an Eye On: We've already mentioned a number of guys to watch. We'll add Richie Burke of Ithaca to the list. The Section 4 standout made the Round of 8 in Albany in 2013. This will be his fourth trip to the state tournament after a terrific campaign in which he placed at Eastern States and notched seven wins over state qualifiers (including the top seed in Division 2, Kellen Devlin of Amherst). His only losses have been to a pair of nationally-ranked out of state wrestlers and up at 132 to two-time NYS champ William Koll.
Like Burke, a few others who haven't already been mentioned have previous experience in Albany, including PJ Smoot of Monroe Woodbury and Dempsey King of New Hartford.
Maverick Passaro, Travis's older brother, won a state title as a senior back in 2012. Can Travis do the same after taking third a year ago? An early match with Orefice, if it occurs, could be interesting and rematches with others he's already beaten like D'Angelo or Delacruz could be in the cards, but Passaro certainly can.
The Top Seed: Chris Mauriello of Hauppauge navigated through a tough Suffolk County class which sent two wildcards to Albany - and did it in commanding fashion. The sophomore returns to the Times Union Center after a 44-1 campaign in which his only loss came to Lansing's William Koll, the top seed in the small school tournament.
Returning Medalists: Two podium finishers from 2013 are in the group - Pearl River's John Muldoon (the #2 seed who was fourth at 120 a year ago) and Said Kakhramonov of New Utrecht, who nabbed sixth at this weight last February. If both win their first two bouts, they would meet in the semifinals.
Right Off the Bat: Chris Truglio of Minisink Valley and Jack Reina of Garden City were slated to square off for seventh place at the Eastern States, however, the bout ended up as a forfeit for Truglio. They actually will clash in Albany - in the first round.
In the opening round we'll also get a chance to see John Freda of Williamsville North take on Sean O'Hagan of Sachem North. Freda earned a 12-0 major over NHSCA All-American Freddy Eckles in the Section 6 title bout and had an under-the-radar 32-2 year. Meanwhile, O'Hagan had over 40 wins, including several over qualifiers.
Also Keep an Eye On: Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield made his state tournament debut as a seventh grader a year ago and won a match. He continued to impress in 2013-14, with another strong showing at Eastern States (fourth, with two wins over former state placers - Kakhramonov and Cody McGregor of Tonawanda). Ranked in the top 10 nationally among junior high wrestlers, we expect Gissendanner to register more than one victory this time around.
Brad Wade of Islip has some solid wins and the ability to go far. He hopes to join his brothers on top of the NYS podium. And speaking of relatives, Patrick Quinlan will represent Fayetteville-Manlius as the number three seed, a year after now-graduated Tommy Quinlan won a bout in Albany.
Mauriello stood on top of the podium in Virginia Beach as an NHSCA Freshman National champion last spring. Now, he hopes to stand on the top of another podium - on Saturday night.
The Top Seed: Brandon Lapi is very familiar with the Times Union Center medal stand, having finished as a NYS placer three times. Last year, he came closest to a title with a silver showing at 132. In his final campaign for Amsterdam, he sits in the top spot in the bracket.
Returning Medalists: In addition to Lapi, Freddie Dunau took fifth a year ago, as did North Rockland’s Matt Caputo. Elmira’s Curtis Grant nabbed sixth in 2013, while MacArthur’s Justin Cooksey was second at 106 in 2012.
Right Off the Bat: The previously mentioned Caputo and Grant battled for fifth place in Albany last year. They’ll renew that rivalry when they square off in the first round on Friday. That isn’t the only intriguing bout of the Round of 16. Dunau and Frontier’s Rocco Russo, two wrestlers with extensive experience at the state tournament, will clash right away, as will Cooksey and Suffolk County champion Jimmy Leach of Eastport-South Manor. Two other previous qualifiers – Louie DePrez of Hilton and Danny Graham of West Seneca East will also do battle right away. Those are all matches in the lower half of the bracket. Wow.
Also Keep an Eye On: The survivors of the bouts we mentioned already certainly fit into this category, as does Minisink Valley's Mike Raccioppi. The Section 9 champ came within one match of placing last year and has wins over second-seeded Caputo and the previously mentioned Russo this year. In addition, Bethpage’s Jake Einbinder is one to watch as he had a convincing 6-1 win over Cooksey in the Nassau finals (after two earlier losses to the MacArthur senior). Kevin Parker of Shenendehowa is always dangerous.
Lapi has taken third, fourth, and second in Albany. He believes it’s time to complete the set with a first place showing. We'll see if his solid all-around wrestling gets the job done in one of the deepest and seemingly most unpredictable brackets out there.
The Top Seed: Vincent DePrez of Hilton has taken second place the past two seasons at the state tournament. He comes into the biggest event of the year 42-0 with just four regular decisions.
Returning Medalists: DePrez, Joey Butler of Burnt Hills and Tommy Dutton of Rocky Point were second, third and fourth at 138 pounds last year, respectively.
Right Off the Bat: Both DePrez and the number two seed, Jakob Restrepo of Sachem East, drew seniors who have racked up many victories in their careers but are making their Albany debuts – Ben Ettlinger of Fox Lane and Vinny Romeo of Canadaigua, respectively.
Also Keep an Eye On: Newark Valley’s Trevor Hoffmier returns to Albany after a 35-win campaign in which he placed at Eastern States and lost only to some of the state’s best while twice topping the number two seed in Division 2 (Andy Mollevik of Duanesburg). Matt Langan of Wantagh has won over 25 matches in a row.
All year long, we’ve heard talk about the “big four” at this weight – DePrez, Restrepo, Butler and Dutton. There have been some meetings among them – DePrez beat Dutton 5-0 at Union-Endicott Duals, Restrepo topped Dutton twice, Butler and Dutton split. We think they will be the semifinalists after the dust settles on Friday. And on Saturday, we may see if the third time in the NYS title bout will be the charm for Vincent DePrez before he becomes a Binghamton Bearcat.
The Top Seed: Louis Hernandez of Mepham won it all in the state capital last year at 145. He had some stellar offseason victories, including during a third place showing at the Super 32 Challenge, and is ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Returning Medalists: Hernandez is the only wrestler in the field who was on the podium last year. However, Dennis Ferro of East Islip made the Round of 8, beating Hilton’s Anthony DePrez along the way. Blaise Benderoth of North Rockland, Dylan Lundmark of Jamestown and Jesse Porter of Shenendehowa have also seen action in Albany before.
Right Off the Bat: Benderoth has had a strong season for North Rockland, including a runner up showing at the Eastern States, after moving up several weights from last year. In round one, he’ll square off with Wantagh’s Nick Vines, whose path to Albany was an interesting one. The Warrior wrestler suffered an injury last year, but returned to give it a go for the postseason, nabbing third in Nassau County at 138. He competed at four different weights this year for the team, including a number of matches at 138. However, he took that mat at 152 for the qualifying events and will try to break through in his last scholastic campaign.
Also Keep an Eye On: Anthony DePrez has made huge strides and looked phenomenal throughout his 42-0 season in which he had wins over Jesse Porter, Lewiston Porter’s All-Stater Ryan Kromer, Nate Schwab of Clarence (twice) and other state qualifiers.
After a loss to Deer Park’s Zach Lugo in early January, Dennis Ferro has come on strong, with two wins over Lugo (including a major). Their paths could cross in the quarters should both advance. Porter, a double All-American at Fargo last summer, is back in the Times Union Center after missing the second half of last season with an injury. He gave Hernandez his closest bout of the season in a 5-2 loss at SUNY Sullivan. Will the two face off again?
In the end, Louis Hernandez is one of the nation’s best at 152 pounds and it would be an upset if he didn't bring two state gold medals with him to the next level.
The Top Seed: Shakur Rasheed is nationally ranked and rolled to a title in 2013 at 152 pounds, including a pin in less than a minute in the championship round. He has continued that kind of dominance this year, with a perfect 16-0 mark, with every win by pin, technical fall or forfeit.
Returning Medalists: In addition to Rasheed, Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis, Konstantin Parfiryev of James Madison and Zach Colgan of Johnson City all earned All-State status in 2013.
Right off the Bat: Before the brackets were released, we had a few “dark horses” in mind for this bracket, including Jericho’s Jaison White and Clarence’s Nate Schwab. They’ll meet in round one. White has perhaps flown a little bit under the radar this season, but he went undefeated at some solid offseason events and has an unblemished record so far in 2013-14. Schwab has put together an impressive campaign. Either one of them can go far over the weekend.
Also Keep an Eye On: Columbia’s Angelo Kress made a late move up to 160. After taking the mat as the second seed in Albany last year with an injury, he is again capable of making noise. We've been impressed by North Rockland's Nick Didio, who won a tough bracket in Section 1 with a dominant victory over Eastern States placer Dom Celli of Somers. At SUNY Sullivan, Didio fell in the "Round of 12" to Newark Valley's Derek Holcomb, the Section 4 champion who comes in as the number two seed after a 41-1 campaign and two wins over Colgan. Holcomb has been a force all year and will look to top Didio for the second time in the opening round.
Colgan, DeCarlo and Parfiryev made great runs at this event last year and have the ability to do it again. However, Rasheed is a superstar who is a tough test for anyone in the nation. In 2013, he won state and national championships and he said he was looking to repeat those achievements. We think he'll get a good start this weekend.
The Top Seed: Steve Schneider of MacArthur took second at the state tournament at 160 pounds in 2013 behind current Harvard starter Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West. Schneider responded with a strong 45-1 campaign with the loss coming in multiple overtimes to 2013 NYS champion Adis Radoncic (now at Poly Prep).
Returning Medalists: Franky Nassivera of Queensbury was sixth at this weight a year ago and will look for another podium finish. Several others competed at the Times Union Center last season, including the wrestler who beat Nassivera for the Section 2 title (Jake Ashcraft of Burnt Hills), Sonny McPherson of Indian River, Jared Cascanette of Canton and Jake Weber of Clarence.
Right Off the Bat: Northport’s Ken Gallagher had a tremendous campaign, going undefeated and winning a very deep Section 11 bracket. His reward? #2 seed Jake Weber of Clarence in round one. Weber’s only three losses last year came to the wrestlers who finished #1, 2 and 3 in the state. But he’s been a force all year with his only setback coming at the hands of Schneider. The winner of the Weber-Gallagher contest could certainly make a deep run.
In addition, we're intrigued by the opening bout between Nassivera and East Islip's Erik Adon, the Suffolk runner up who has the ability to contend.
Also Keep an Eye On: As usual, there are too many to name. McPherson has been impressive in his sophomore campaign after wrestling in the state capital last year and earning All-American honors in the offseason. We expect he’ll make a jump in performance after winning once in Albany last year. The same goes for Ashcraft, the number three seed who is one of only two wrestlers to beat McPherson this year. We saw those wrestlers compete on the big stage last year, but Gino Gioielli of Brewster emerged this season. He took fourth at Eastern States and is a definite medal threat.
Steve Schneider beat Weber in a close match last year, but this time around majored him. Schneider won decisively against Ashcraft and Gioielli as well. Those are the second, third and fourth seeds. The future Bearcat has been thinking about his finals setback for a whole year and plans on a different outcome in a few days.
The Top Seed: What a year for John Jay East Fishkill's Brett Perry. The senior holds a 43-1 mark, with his loss against the #2 seed, Mark Tracy of Sachem East, at the Eastern States in the quarterfinals. The two met again in the third place match, with Perry coming out on top to avenge the earlier result.
Returning Medalists: Perry was fifth at 170 a year ago and is the only returning placer. However, Plainedge’s Robert Ng came within one win of the medal stand, while Spencerport’s Collin Pittman competed at the event as well (up at 195).
Also Keep an Eye On: Three of the four top seeds are from Section 11, with Deer Park’s David Hamil making the podium at Eastern States, and Shoreham Wading River's Dom Pirraglia falling one win short (2-1 loss to Perry). Ng made a strong run a year ago and could do so again. And Pittman has looked terrific at the lighter weight, with only an early season loss to South Jefferson’s Daniel Smith (the Eastern States runner up) keeping him from a perfect record.
Tracy is battle tested, as is Perry, who has been here before and knows what this tournament is like. Pittman does too and we like his chance to end his career with a strong performance.
The Top Seed: Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa was a finalist in this class last year and followed up with a perfect senior campaign. He won an Eastern States Classic bracket that included a number of the top contenders.
Returning Medalists: Reggie Williams of Johnson City has multiple podium finishes, including second place in 2012, while Nick Weber of Kings Park was fifth a year ago. In addition, Ben Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt, Trent Egenlauf of Spencerport, James Empfield of Lancaster and Jeremy Malone of Massena all competed in Albany in the past.
Also Keep an Eye On: Weber blitzed through the campaign with a 38-0 mark (28 pins). He beat Ashley in an offseason event (the Iron Horse Invitational in New Jersey) and would like another chance at the Shen star. He could potentially collide with Jamesville Dewitt’s Honis in the quarters in what could be a fun one to watch. On the other side, Andrew Grella of Beacon has quietly had a strong season and could do battle with Egenlauf if both make the round of 8. Egenlauf entered Albany as the #2 seed in 2013, but didn’t advance to day two.
Ashley has stepped up his game. The path won’t be easy, but he’s shown his ability to win against some of the top competitors this year with two victories over Williams and another over Egenlauf. Shenenedehowa has had a state champion the last two years. Will Ashley keep that streak going?
The Top Seed: Rich Sisti introduced himself to many New York fans last year at the state tournament, controlling his four matches on the way to a title. In 2013-14 he picked up where he left off and cruised through his senior campaign.
Returning Medalists: Sam Eagan of Churchville-Chili came into the Times Union Center in 2013 as the #16 seed, but worked his way to a fifth place performance. The Wyoming-bound grappler isn’t the only returner in this field. Marshall Taylor of Lockport went to the Round of 8 last year, while John Hartnett of Tappan Zee was the second seed and Bryan Tenny of Farmingdale took the mat at heavyweight.
Right off the Bat: Youssif Hemida went from a double-digit seed at the Section 1 tournament to the #4 seed in Albany. After competing just a handful of times during the regular season due to injury, Hemida upset Hartnett in the semis before capturing Sectional gold. The 2013 Fargo All-American from Mamaroneck will take on Monroe Woodbury’s Rob Kelly in the opener. Kelly has a number of quality wins, including over Hartnett.
Lockport’s Marshall Taylor is a returning qualifier who has been dominant in his senior year. Wayne Burt of Colonie has been similarly in command since moving up to 220 just a few weeks ago. Who will control their first round tilt?
Also Keep an Eye On: It’s hard to know where to start. Tyler Schaefer of Pittsford beat Eagan twice and captured the SuperSectionals crown. Vin Feola of Walt Whitman earned multiple All-American honors this offseason. Speaking of offseason glory, James Bethel of Saugerties made the medal stand at Fargo. He’s been spectacular all year long (40-0 with 26 pins) and was in complete command of his 5-0 win over Kelly for the Section 9 crown. More than a few people who have watched him this year told us he’ll surprise some people in Albany.
Sisti has proven that he can get it done in the state capital. There are many strong challengers in this bracket, but it will be no small feat to top Sisti on his quest for two in a row.
The Top Seed: James O’Hagan of Seaford beat last year’s top seed, El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia, twice in Albany on his path to third place. Now, the senior headed to the University at Buffalo (to play football), will be the favorite at heavyweight.
Returning Medalists: Mike Manni of Tappan Zee topped Ian James of Greece in the fifth place bout in Albany in 2013. Also returning to the state capital are Trevor Gibbons of Carthage and Nolan Terrance of Massena.
Also Keep an Eye On: Edwin Rubio of John Glenn emerged this year, winning Suffolk County as a sophomore after earning All-American status at the NHSCA Nationals last spring. He won two of three against Manni this season and the pair could square off for a fourth time in the semis if both advance to that point. Austin DiCerbo of Colonie has many quality wins over the years and could certainly make his presence felt, while Gibbons and James, neither of whom has lost to a New York opponent this year, could have a quarterfinal date.
O’Hagan had a breakout performance in Albany last year. This time we believe the nationally-ranked grappler will break through again – for state gold.
Check back on Wednesday for a look at Division 2. Our live blog will begin on Friday morning from Albany.