With high school practice underway and the start of weight certifications, it's time to continue our previews from around New York State, with a look at Section 2.
This article is written by New York Wrestling News, with contributions from coaches and observers.
Gonyea, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Michael Gonyea (Columbia)
Returning Qualifiers: Trent Nadeau (Columbia), Christian Gramuglia (Burnt Hills), John Devine (Columbia)
Michael Gonyea nabbed fourth place at the state tournament at 99 pounds and looks to climb higher this time around.
"He's a guy that has hundreds of youth matches and that produces survival skills in competition," said Frank Popolizio of Journeymen Wrestling Club/Shenendehowa. "He stepped up at the state tournament in an extremely competitive weight. I think he'll do that again this year and even more."
"He's put in a solid offseason," added Columbia head coach Anthony Servidone. "It was good for him to expand into freestyle. He made the Fargo trip and came within a match of placing, knocking off an All-American along the way. His goals are high and he's committed year round."
Gonyea will once again be part of a solid lightweight group for Columbia, which includes state qualifier Trent Nadeau (formerly at LaSalle), multi-time NYS tournament participant John Devine (who came within one win of placing last year) and Dom Poggoli.
"Trent [Nadeau] will be very good for our lightweight group," Servidone said. "John [Devine] put in an absolutely solid offseason. He also expanded into a little bit of freestyle. He had about a 100 match offseason, which is really key for him. He's been there [to the state tournament] twice and he'll certainly be in the mix at the state level. We have three section champs going at it every day. We also brought in a lightweight coach to fit that group really well, David White [an NCAA qualifier at Binghamton]. Dom Poggoli will be in the mix too in the lightweight group."
Christian Gramuglia of Burnt Hills also took the mat in Albany last year and will look to return. Popolizio expects that will be the case, saying, "he's a guy who should do some good things. He's certainly worked hard this offseason."
Who else could earn bids to the biggest tournament of the season? How about Section silver medalists Caiden Mondore (LaSalle), Austin Lewis (Colonie) and freshman Kiernan Shanahan, who had some impressive victories as an eighth grader.
"Kiernan is an extremely good athlete," Popolizio said. "A lot of young people get nervous and intimidated, but he's the opposite. He embraces it. He has an extensive background in judo and wrestling and when you combine his unorthodox style with his attitude, it makes for success. He has to keep working. He came on the scene and may have caught some people off guard, but people make adjustments. If he continues doing what he's doing, I think he'll get better and better."
Shanahan edged Josh Reed (Schenectady) in the semifinals in overtime at the Sectional tournament last year.
"Josh is a tremendous athlete," Servidone said. "He's not a year round wrestler, but when he wrestles, he's certainly a worthy contender at whatever weight he may go. His match with Shanahan could've gone either way." Guilderland's David Wolanski and Shenendehowa's Dietrich Hartman, who were at 120 last year as well, could be factors.
Some others to track include Will Hughes (Queensbury), and fellow top three finishers Tristan Biviano (Saratoga Springs) and Shiva Bhoge (Mohonasen). Andrew Dennis (Averill Park), the bronze medalist at 113, wrestled Derrick Finnegan (Queensbury), whom he beat for third, five times.
In addition, Trent and Caleb Svingala are now at Albany Academy.
"Trent will be very solid," Servidone said. "We double entered Caleb at 99 last year and he won a match in the Section 2 tournament last year - knocked off a seeded kid. I could see both of them doing really well."
Devin Wright of Bethlehem could be in the thick of things, while one new face to pay attention to is Brock Delsignore of South Glens Falls.
"Brock is one of the top youth wrestlers on the East Coast and I imagine it will start translating over to high school. He'll get some quality wins," Popolizio said.
Returning Qualifiers: Max Tempel (Averill Park), Kyle Jasenski (Albany Academy), Eoghan Sweeney (Niskayuna), Matt McHugh (Columbia)
A number of state qualifiers are back, looking to string together victories at the end of the season. In 2015, Averill Park’s Max Tempel got his hand raised at the Times Union Center.
"He has an unbelievable gas tank and wears guys out," Popolizio said. "He puts in the work."
Meanwhile, Albany Academy’s Kyle Jasenski, Niskayuna’s Eoghan Sweeney and Columbia’s Matt McHugh all made their debuts at the big event. Jasenski and Sweeney are standouts in multiple sports.
"Matt McHugh has been in our lineup since seventh grade," Servidone said. "We expect him to do really well. We're also excited about Tommy O'Neill who was fifth in the Section last year up a weight class. He's been in our program for quite some time. He's someone I hope will be knocking at the door come February."
Who else could make their way to the tournament? Jon Law of Queensbury was the Section runner up at 138, while a number of Shenendehowa grapplers will be in the mix, including Section placers Tom Burns, Kevin Guardino and Anthony Dinallo. Zach Zebrowski of Albany Academy and Antonio Zamora of Schnectady are among the others we’re keeping tabs on this year, with wrestlers who had more than 30 victories such as Anthony Laniewski of Niskayuna, Matt Saville of South Glens Falls and Dom Nassivera of Queensbury.
In addition, Servidone said one of Nassivera's teammates will make an impact.
"Nick Robbins of Queensbury would've been up there as a section title contender last year if he wasn't hurt," Servidone said. "He missed the postseason."
Parker, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Kevin Parker (Shenendehowa)
Returning Qualifiers: Tyler Barnes (Ballston Spa), Brandon Bruttomesso (South Glens Falls), Dylan Dubuque (Columbia), Joe Messare (Burnt Hills), Jake Warren (Burnt Hills)
One of New York’s top seniors, Kevin Parker of Shenendehowa, is back looking to win his second straight state title before moving on to college at Princeton. Parker continued to impress after the high school season, placing at the FloNationals and in Junior Freestyle at Fargo.
"I look for more of the same from Kevin," Popolizio said. "He’s got confidence behind him and now the sky’s the limit because now you can work on dominating rather than just winning. That’s the next challenge for him. He's capable of doing some serious damage on the state and national levels."
"Kevin Parker is an outstanding individual with a work ethic that's off the charts," Servidone added. "His mental and physical approach to matches is a big strength."
While he’s the only returning upperweight medalist in large-school Section 2, there's a good chance he'll be joined on the podium this year.
Parker is likely to compete at 182 pounds, which was a deep weight a year ago in the Section, featuring [graduated] NYS finalist Jake Ashcraft and qualifier Dylan Dubuque of Columbia.
"Dylan should be rock solid at 195," Servidone said. "He walked through the freestyle and Greco state tournaments this year. He'll do really well in our section and hopefully in the state too."
Two wrestlers Dubuque split with last season, Schenectady’s Collin Derboghossian and Mohonasen’s Joseph Galusha, are back as well.
"In season, those guys have stepped it up," Servidone said.
In addition to those grapplers, Section 2 brings back two wrestlers who competed at 160 pounds in Albany, Brandon Bruttomesso of South Glens Falls and Tyler Barnes of Ballston Spa. Barnes had a strong freshman year, finishing with a pair of victories at the state tournament to fall one win short of placing.
"He did a lot of competing this year," Popolizio said of Barnes. "He's a young guy who can compete at an upperclassmen weight. You look at it and say, wow, every guy he wrestles is a junior or senior and he does well against them. His best days are definitely ahead of him."
Joe Messare of Burnt Hills also made the Round of 8 in Albany at 220 and will look to return to the Times Union Center with teammate Jake Warren, the reigning Section 2 heavyweight champion.
"Messare is a very tough wrestler," Servidone added. "He placed at Eastern States last year and I expect him to do very well. Warren rose to the occasion at the Section 2 tournament. He was only a 10th grader and that experience should really help him."
Also look out for Ballston Spa’s Garreck Golish, the runner up at 195 a year ago, and placers like Jake Lanzillo of Averill Park, Albany Academy's Addison Groesbeck and David Wingate of Columbia.
"Golish is tough," Servidone said. "He put some time in this summer and made the trip out to Fargo. I think David Wingate is flying under the radar. He didn't have a good Section 2 tournament but he had a solid offseason. He won a couple matches at Fargo, he's been on some National Duals teams and he's a guy who certainly should be watched."
Some Amsterdam wrestlers were also mentioned - returning Section placer Chris Garrison and Marcus Torres, who missed the postseason, but could certainly be a factor.
"When he's on, he's really good," Popolizio said of Torres. "He may catch people on their heels. I've brought him everywhere and put him in high end wrestling environments and he's produced. I imagine he'll do really well."
Every year when we do the preview for Section 2, coaches tell us to expect Shenendehowa, Columbia and Burnt Hills to be in the mix and battle for the top spot. That was the case last year, when they finished in that order at the Sectional tournament.
The Plainsmen lost star Jesse Porter and several other Section placers, but bring back plenty of firepower with state champ Kevin Parker and All-Section grapplers like Kiernan Shanahan, Kevin Guardino, Anthony Dinallo, Dietrich Hartman, Tom Burns and Mike Dimonda.
"We have a really good group of guys who may not all be world beaters in the greater picture but who are all very, very good," Popolizio said of Shenendehowa. "They're all sectional place finishers or better. They could do some damage. It's hard to say who the favorite is as a team because there's some movement of guys but also we know everyone is out there working. We respect all the other teams. We're focused on ourselves and that's part of a formula for success."
Columbia is a definite threat with eight representatives who placed at the Section 2 event last year, including state qualifiers Michael Gonyea, John Devine, Matt McHugh, Trent Nadeau and Dylan Dubuque, as well as Dom Poggoli, Tommy O’Neill and David Wingate, while graduating Kyle Greene and Robert Merrill.
"We lost some key guys," Servidone said. "We have a lot to replace, but we have some kids that wrestled sparingly last year who I think will step up and do well and hopefully become household names later in the year. That's the plan anyway. We also have a lot of kids back. Our focus is to improve every day and peak when it counts in the last few days of February."
Meanwhile, Burnt Hills looks for Christian Gramuglia, Joe Messare and Jake Warren to go back to the NYS tournament to lead the way.
Who else is in the running?
Averill Park brings back a tough group with state qualifier Max Tempel as well as Section placers like Lucien Louper, Jake Lanzillo and Andrew Dennis as well as Joey Cauwenburghs, who Servidone said may be "under the radar".
Queensbury, last year’s fifth place squad, could make a run as the team brings back Section place winners Jon Law, Derrick Finnegan, Will Hughes, Antoine Grace and Dom Nassivera as well as Nick Robbins, while losing state qualifier Chris Goudy.
Another team mentioned was Schenectady, while Albany Academy returns several placers and has added some tough wrestlers.
Anderson, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Orion Anderson (Schuylerville), Dillan Palaszewski (Galway), Nolan Foster (Hoosick Falls), Zachery Lawrence (Duanesburg)
Returning Qualifiers: Dylan Callahan (Schoharie), Jordan Sartin, Brandon Merchant (Cobleskill-Richmondville)
The lighter classes were well represented in Albany in Section 2, as four returning wrestlers medaled. At 99 pounds, Orion Anderson was in control all the way to the state finals before taking silver to cap off a stellar freshman season.
"Orion Anderson is fantastic," Popolizio said. "I love to watch him wrestle. He's non stop; he just gets after it the whole time."
Meanwhile, Zachery Lawrence notched his second All-State performance before entering ninth grade (fourth at 113). He's listed here with the lightweights, although that might not be the case as Lawrence registered at 132 pounds for the Super 32 after wrestling at Journeymen at 140 pounds.
"He's definitely gotten big," Popolizio said. "This offseason was the most time he's put in and I think it will pay off for him. He's so scrappy and he hates to lose."
Dillan Palaszewski (fifth) and Nolan Foster both earned their first podium finishes, with Foster winning his first two bouts before defaulting to sixth place. Palaszewski recorded three pins during the tournament.
"Palaszewski is a guy who puts a lot of work in," Popolizio said. "He came back from a long wrestling trip this summer and I definitely see growth, physically and mentally. Galway hadn't had a state place finisher in a while and for him to get through was a great sign. I think there are more good things to come."
Dylan Callahan and Brandon Merchant each notched a fall at the Times Union Center, while Jordan Sartin drew a pair of state champs in his first appearance at the event.
Who else could be in the fray?
Ryan Allman of Ravena Coeymans Selkirk was edged by a point in the finals of the state qualifier against Callahan.
Meanwhile, a host of bronze medalists, such as Scott Nappi of Corinth, Connor Spellburg of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George, Charles LaBelle of Watervliet and the Hudson Falls duo of Connor Paige and Chris Jett are wrestlers to watch.
"Connor [Spellburg] did quite a bit of wrestling in the summer and is very focused," said Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George head coach Larry Rounds. "He knows he's close to getting to that next level and that he can get to the state tournament. Connor Paige and Chris Jett had strong finishes last year and have been active in the offseason also."
Anthony Cardinuto of Schuylerville represented Section 2 at the NYS championships in the past and will be someone to keep tabs on after he defaulted to fourth in the Section a year ago. Meanwhile, Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George's Gideon Jardine is looking to make a statement as well.
"Gideon is one to look out for in the lightweights," Rounds said. "He beat Jon Payack [the Section runner up] for the Class C title, but didn't beat him in the Sectional semifinals. He's always working out, always giving all he has."
Hoffman, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George)
Returning Qualifiers: Josh Bressette (Whitehall-Fort Ann)
Jason Hoffman of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George had a spectacular sophomore season, beating previous state finalist Connor Lawrence twice, including in the Section 2 title bout, before taking second place at the state championships. His loss to two-time NYS champ Alex Herringshaw was his only setback of the season.
"Hoffman is on a mission," Rounds said. "I don't know yet if he'll be at 160 or 170, but either way, he's right there. Alex Herringshaw is unbelievable. Jason has been gunning for a state championship since that match. He's done an incredible amount of wrestling this summer and he knows how close he is."
Joining him in Albany was Whitehall-Fort Ann’s Josh Bressette, who won over 35 matches during the year.
"He has always stayed the course," Popolizio said. "He's one of the hardest working guys ever to come through our program and certainly one of the most dedicated. He spends three hours in the car and two more at practice on a daily basis and that's the definition of commitment. Because of that, he's positioned himself for a lot of success."
Who else will be in the mix this year?
Watervliet’s Collin O’Brien nabbed third at 152 a year ago in a season with more than 30 victories. Also registering top four finishes at the Section tournament were Jesse Lints Jr (Schoharie), Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Devin Cooper and AJ Fletcher, and Salem’s Ryan Slater.
"It's wide open in those middleweights," Rounds said. "Collin O'Brien did well last year and placed before as well. He's been close. AJ Fletcher and Devin Cooper are tough. Cobleskill definitely has a good group this year."
Who could forget about Schoharie's Alexis Bleau, a Cadet World bronze medalist this summer who was a state qualifier a few years back and will look for another run as a senior.
Returning Qualifiers: Tyler Green (Schuylerville), Forrest Kubricky (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George)
Tyler Green made his mark in the state capital, coming within one victory of All-State status. He’s a definite threat to go deep in the tournament this time around. In the Section 2 title match, he defeated Jacob Gregory of Whitehall-Fort Ann, who completed a 35-5 season, in which three of his losses were to Green.
"I think Tyler Green could place at the state tournament this year," Rounds said. "He doesn't stop wrestling. He's a very strong kid and I could see him making it to that next level and placing at the end of the year."
Who else could make a run? Forrest Kubricky has the talent, but his status for this season was unclear at the time this article was written. However, his teammate at Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George, Mike Sutliff, comes off a third place showing at 170 as a freshman, while Keith Houghtaling of Ravena Coeymans Selkirk and Lucas Sanders of Glens Falls are also returning bronze medalists in the Section. They both had battles in their third place bouts, against Colton Dean of Cambridge (now a sophomore) and Mason Osborn of Coxsackie-Athens, respectively.
"Mike [Sutliff] has done a lot of wrestling in the offseason," Rounds said. "If he works hard during the season, he'll be in the mix. A huge rival of his, Naphtali Steward of Ravena, will definitely be in it too. I wouldn't be surprised to see Houghtaling and Sanders at 285. I think it would be a collision course for those two."
Keep an eye on Dan Hayner of Mechanicville, Joe Goldson of Glens Falls, who was sixth at 220 as an eighth grader, and heavyweight placer Alex Hull of Hoosick Falls.
Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George won the Section 2 title by over 50 points and while the team lost some heavy hitters like state placer Tyler VandenBogaard and qualifier Patrick Barber, plenty of talent returns with the previously discussed two-time state medalist Jason Hoffman. Section bronze finishers Conner Spellburg and Mike Sutliff as well as fourth placer Gideon Jardine give the team potential for a lot of points come tournament time.
"I'm really excited for the season," Rounds said. "We lost some really great wrestlers and most of them won just about all their matches by pin, so it was like having an extra placer in the Section. We have some good young kids like Richie Conte, a former placer in the Section who seems poised to get back to the podium. He's put in the work. We think we have some young guys who will make a bit of a splash this year and have a chance at placing. If our younger guys perform like I think they can, we have a chance to win the Section. I think Ravena is going be right there as well as Cobleskill. Hoosick Falls is always good and I think Hudson Falls is on the way back. There are a lot of teams that could do really well."
Bringing back five 2015 Section 2 top six wrestlers is Cobleskill-Richmondville, which was second last year as a team. State qualifier Brandon Merchant returns, along with placers Devin Cooper (fourth), AJ Fletcher (fourth), Laine Pleickhardt (sixth) and Devin Lampron (fifth), while a pair of medalists graduated.
Ravena Coeymans Selkirk features four grapplers who placed in the Section a year ago in Ryan Allman, Brandon Mogul, Keith Houghtaling and Naphtali Steward, while Mechanicville and Schuylerville offer three returning placers. For the Black Horses, state qualifiers Orion Anderson, Tyler Green and Anthony Cardinuto all could make a big impact at season’s end.
Hoosick Falls, which was third last year, is always tough, as are teams like Hudson Falls and Salem. Schoharie should be solid as well.
"Wrestlers like Dylan Callahan, Dillon Warner, Alexis Bleau and Jesse Lints have been really dedicated this offseason," Popolizio said. "Schoharie should have an upkick. It's a program that has had individuals, but now has a nice cluster of wrestlers coming through."
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Thank you to all of the contributors to this article, with special thanks to Frank Popolizio, Anthony Servidone and Larry Rounds.