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DIVISION 2 State Championships: Recap and Highlights from the Weekend

By BV, 03/04/14, 7:15PM EST


Hunter Dusold, Photo by BV

The season seemed to fly by and has come to an end.  We provided you with some thoughts on the Division 1 state championships yesterday (link here).  Today, here are some of the many things that stood out to us in Division 2.


Falcons Finish First in the Team Race

Locust Valley had seven qualifiers at the state tournament in 2013.  Five of those wrestlers were back with experience under their belts, including All-Staters Nick Casella and Sam Ward, and they were joined by three new teammates.  The Falcons started off strong in Albany and never looked back, capturing the Division 2 team title by 20 points over Mexico. 

Hunter Dusold, who was disqualified in the "blood round" last year because of too many cautions, bounced back to win what he told us was the first state crown in Division 2 by a Nassau County grappler (see here).  99 pounder Jonathan Gomez also competed on Saturday night, earning silver in his first trip to Albany. Also on the podium again were Ward (third at 138) and Casella (fifth at 120), with several others representing the squad at the Times Union Center - Mike Dusold, Jordan Formicola, Zach Holowchak and Spencer Mattaei.  A strong core will be back next year for another run.


A Change at the Top . . . Section 3 Breaks the Streak

From 2007 to 2013, Section 5 came out on top at the Division 2 state tournament.  That streak was broken this weekend, when Section 3 earned the #1 spot by a 30 point margin. S3 boasted a pair of champions - Alex Herringshaw of Holland Patent and Trevor Allard of Mexico - as well as seven additional finalists and a host of placers.  Earning silver were Derek Spann of Adirondack, Ryan Snow of General Brown, Laken Cook of Central Valley Academy, Tyler Silverthorn of General Brown, Daniel Smith of South Jefferson, Lane Frost of VVS and Jake Benedict of Sandy Creek.

Herringshaw, the number four seed at 145 pounds, made his second trip to the medal stand, after taking sixth as an eighth grader.  The sophomore dedicated his season to close friend Kasey Proper, a former VVS wrestler who passed away last year.  His performance spoke volumes as he picked up the only pin of the Division 2 finals in the third period against top seed Andrew Shomers of Lewiston Porter.  (See more here).

Meanwhile, Allard emerged from the eight/nine spot in the bracket to take state gold.  In fact, when we interviewed him on Saturday night he said, "Three days ago, I wouldn't have even thought I would place." (Link here). But he did more than just make the medal stand. His path was interesting following his opening 10-4 victory. In the quarters, he won in triple overtime against #1 seed Alex Smythe of Eden.  After that, in the semis, he trailed Oxford's Nik Hansen for nearly the entire contest, but he managed an escape and a takedown in the waning seconds to grab a 4-3 win and an appearance in the title tilt.  Once again, there was drama as he notched a takedown in overtime for a 3-1 triumph and a championship against Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg.


The Finale for a Legend

That extra time win for Allard over Lawrence was significant as it was the last match on the sidelines for legendary coach Joe Bena of Duanesburg.  It was amazing that Bena was even in attendance this weekend, as he suffered a stroke less than two weeks ago.  There was a long standing ovation for Bena after that bout concluded.  It was well deserved recognition for a longtime teacher, coach and inspiration to many.  For more on Bena, see here.


This Time . . . One Step Higher

Lawrence, a junior, will have an opportunity to come back and compete for another title.  That's a journey a number of wrestlers completed on Saturday night. In 2012, Matteo DeVincenzo of Port Jefferson, Frank Garcia of Norwich, Christian Dietrich of Greene and Ryan Wolcott of Waverly nabbed second in Albany.  This time around, all four won crowns at 106, 152, 182 and 220, respectively.  Dietrich and Wolcott (see more here) both put together undefeated campaigns and stormed through the tournament, giving up one point combined.  DeVincenzo (see more here) had a 36-1 campaign with his only loss in the Eastern States finals match, while Garcia was 47-2 with his only setbacks at SUNY Sullivan as well.

Kellen Devlin of Amherst, like the wrestlers mentioned above, had only one loss at the Times Union Center last year as he took third at 120.  On Saturday night, he climbed two rungs higher on the ladder at 126 to pick up his first NYS crown. He had two technical falls and then topped a pair of state medalists in his last two bouts - Rafael Mateo of Midlakes and Ryan Snow of General Brown.


Champions . . . Again

Many will return in 2014-15 to pick up more hardware - the same way several wrestlers did a few days ago. 

That includes Most Outstanding Wrestler Burke Paddock of Warsaw, who won for the second straight time in the state capital.  In the last two years in Albany he has six pins and two majors in his eight matches.  This time, the future Iowa Hawkeye (link) defeated returning placer Ryan Marszal of Unatego 9-1 for NYS gold.

William Koll has also made a habit of winning at the Times Union Center (and elsewhere).  The Lansing star earned his third state championship on Saturday night, this time at 132 pounds.  In the finals, he topped Sean Peacock of Midlakes, a four time All-Stater who handed Koll his only loss in Albany - back in 2012. 

The third crown didn't come without a little drama for Koll, as his first round bout was perhaps a bit more exciting than he expected.  However, he was in control the rest of the way and his championship put him atop the Lansing leaderboard ahead of another Bobcat superstar named "Kyle" as was mentioned in this interview.

Fellow Section 4 wrestler Tristan Rifanburg is also very accustomed to wrestling in the championship round.  He took the mat in the finals for the fourth time this weekend and nabbed his second crown.  (His first was as a seventh grader in 2010).  He was in command from the start against Central Valley's Laken Cook in the 138-pound title bout after an impressive showing in the semis against Locust Valley's Sam Ward, a wrestler who handed him his only defeat of the season at the Eastern States.  This time, it was all Rifanburg in a 5-0 decision that he discusses here.


Two in a Row for the PSAL

Last year, the first-ever PSAL champ was crowned when Adis Radoncic won gold at 170.  Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy (see more here) made it two in a row when he captured first at 195.  Rose breezed through the tournament with two major decision and a pair of five-point wins.  He'll be back to try to become the City's initial two-time titlewinner next year.


Three More for Section 5

We talked about Burke Paddock before, but he wasn't the only Section 5 grappler to stand on the top of the podium. Seniors Connor Calkins of Alfred Almond and Bryan Lantry of Wayne ended their careers with championships at 285 and 120, respectively.  Nationally-ranked Calkins, who will wrestle for Binghamton, had a pair of pins and a five-point finals victory as well as a crazy 14-13 semifinal win that he discussed here.  Lantry, a multi-time All-Stater, navigated a challenging path with three of his four victories coming against state placers.  The future Buffalo competitor topped former medalist Drew Marra of Olean in the quarters, two-time NYS runner up Nick Casella in the semis and 2013 state champ Luis Weierbach for gold.

While Calkins and Lantry will move on to college, ninth grader Dane Heberlein of Alexander has a long time to go at the high school level.  He finished off an undefeated campaign by outscoring his opponents 30-0 over the weekend in a totally dominant performance.  For more on Heberlein, see here.


More Young Guns . . .

Heberlein, the wrestler he faced in the finals (Jonathan Gomez of Locust Valley) and 113-pound state champ Hunter Dusold are wrestlers that fans will be excited to watch for years to come.  Fellow freshmen Hunter Richard of Holland Patent (third at 126), Tanner Cook of Central Valley Academy (fourth at 106) and Jason Hoffman of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George (fourth at 145) all placed in Albany as well.  In addition, eighth grader Hector Colom of Dunkirk made his podium debut (fifth at 106) after gathering numerous national honors in the offseason, while a pair of seventh graders picked up medals at 99 - Zach Lawrence of Duanesburg and Jake Nolan of Saranac.


If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

In 13 of the 15 weight classes, a wrestler lost his opening match and fought back to make the medal stand.  That included a pair of third placers - Abdul-Fatah Alshawai of Lackawanna at 120 and Carter Merecki of Salem at 132. Both won five straight in the consolations to take bronze, with Alshawai avenging his initial defeat and Merecki earning a medal for the second consecutive time.

In the upperweights, Trevor Spicer of Frewsburg got pinned in his opening match at 195, Rafal Rokosz of Southampton lost a high scoring bout to eventual runner up Jake Benedict at 220, and Kyle Fiske of Port Jefferson dropped his first contest at heavyweight.  All three bounced back to nab fourth, with Fiske winning two overtime bouts along the way. 99 pounder Joe Sliwoski of Wayne had a similar story, as he lost to Zach Lawrence in round one but won the rematch and took fourth.

Notching fifth after a first round setback were Port Jefferson's Tristin DeVincenzo, VVS's Simon Breckinridge and Falconer's Kyle Ross.  Earning sixth in the same situation were Warsaw teammates Colin Royce and Corey Farrell, Edgemont's Kyle Aslanian and Maple Grove's Howie Nolan.

What's Next?

16 finalists from 2014 will return as will other placers from this weekend who have been in the title match before, such as Nick Casella of Locust Valley, Anthony Recco of Lyndonville, Nick Gallo of Schalmont and Dakota Gardner of Fredonia.  (The silver medalists set to be back include Jonathan Gomez of Locust Valley, Luke Yankloski of Wayne, Derek Spann of Adirondack, Andrew Shomers of Lewiston Porter, Connor Lawrence of Duanesburg and Ryan Marszal of Unatego).

In addition, multi-time NYS medalists such as Mexico's Theo Powers, Maple Grove's Brad Bihler, Tonawanda's Cody McGregor, Locust Valley's Sam Ward, Adirondack's Ryan O'Rourke and Southwestern's Ryan Hetrick are scheduled to return. There will be no shortage of established stars in the small school competition in 2014-15.


13 Out of 15 Correct, Congratulations!

Geno Murphy was our Division 2 Prediction Contest winner, correctly choosing 13 of the champions and picking Locust Valley as the top team.  His only two misses were Hunter Dusold (who got 2% of the votes) and Trevor Allard (3%).

The most commonly selected champions were Burke Paddock (88%), Christian Dietrich (76%) and William Koll (73%).


To see our Division 1 tournament observations, click here.  We also will be posting more video interviews, so keep an eye out for those!

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