With the high school season underway, it's time to continue our previews from around New York State, with a glance at Section 6.
Seaver, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Mitch Seaver (Lockport), Anthony Argentieri (Kenmore West)
Returning Qualifiers: Warren McDougald (Niagara Wheatfield)
Mitch Seaver of Lockport nabbed third place in the state after an impressive season at 99 pounds. He’ll look to finish the year with yet another podium finish.
"Mitch had a great year and he'll move up in weight and we think he'll be very successful again," said Lockport coach Joe Scapelliti.
The same is true for Kenmore West’s Anthony Argentieri, who picked up sixth place at the Times Union Center at 120 and followed up with another All-American performance at Virginia Beach.
"Anthony is a great kid," Scapelliti said. "He's an incredibly hard worker who loves the sport. I'd love to see him do really well again, he deserves it."
Seaver and Argentieri were joined in Albany by Warren McDougald of Niagara Wheatfield, who will once again be a contender, along with teammate Justin McDougald, the returning runner up at 99.
"Both Warren and Justin will be in the mix again," Scapelliti said. "Niagara Wheatfield is gonna be really good as a team and those two will be major contributors."
And while we’re mentioning similar sounding names, it’s worth discussing Willie McDougald, who handed Seaver one of his few losses last year as a seventh grader. He took third in the section behind Warren McDougald and the tough Tommy Michel of Lancaster, but will be someone to watch.
"Willie had a pretty extensive youth background and was very good last year as a seventh grader," Scapelliti said. "Tommy [Michel] has been around forever. He's a great kid who has been in the finals in the Section a bunch of times. I know they have high hopes for him. Hopefully he can bust through this year."
Also keep an eye on top four finishers Dontay Gill of Lockport, Cory Day of Iroquois, Dominic Crouse of Sweet Home, Seth MacTavish of Jamestown and Matt Genau of Williamsville South.
"There are lots of quality kids in the lightweights - you can't take anything for granted," Scapelliti said. "We're excited about Dontay Gill who should fare well, probably at 120."
Returning Qualifiers: Connor Day (Iroquois), Fred Eckles (Lake Shore), Tristan Almeter (Iroquois)
Connor Day was the MOW at last season’s state qualifier after pinning Anthony Orefice of Lockport, the eventual NYS bronze medalist at 126. Day and teammate Tristan Almeter will all look to pick up more victories at the state tournament this year after representing Section 6 there a year ago. (Almeter got his hand raised at 138).
"Connor and his coaches had a great gameplan for Anthony [Orefice] and executed it perfectly," Scapelliti said. "I'm looking for big things from Connor and Tristan Almeter. They're both sons of former varsity coaches in our section. They come from good pedigree and will definitely be ready to go. They're gonna be tough."
Also wearing the Section 6 singlet in Albany was Lake Shore's Freddy Eckles, while Troy Keller of North Tonawanda came within one win of placing at 106 pounds in 2014 at the state championships and will be looking to get back.
"Eckles is another kid who's back with a lot of experience," Scapelliti said. "Troy Keller got a lot bigger and will make a weight jump. He's trained a lot and will be a bonafide middleweight."
Like Keller, Deion Harris of Niagara Falls was a silver medalist in the Section last year.
"Deion Harris is tough," Scapelliti said. "He's definitely a kid everybody has to look at because when he's on, he can beat anybody."
Some others to track include Section second placers Jacob Smeader of Hamburg and Charlie Milks of Kenmore West, as well as Vinnie Falvo of Niagara Wheatfield, Anthony Cooper of Williamsville South, Steven Kapuscinski of Lockport, Dylan Vernen of Iroquois, Dillon Knoll of Hamburg and Brandon Joslyn of Lake Shore.
"There are a lot of guys who have been solid in the Section but haven't taken the next step yet," Scapelliti said. "There are a lot of clear cut favorites in the middleweights with wrestlers who have been to the state tournament before. It will be a challenge for other guys to get past those kids, but it will be exciting to see who steps up."
Returning Qualifiers: Mitch Currey (Kenmore West)
Mitch Currey is the lone upperweight Section 6 champion returning.
"Currey kind of came out of nowhere," Scapelliti said. "He was a younger kid, only a sophomore. I think breaking through and qualifying for the state tournament should give him more motivation to make a run again."
Who else could join him in the higher weight classes? Matt Cicco of Niagara Wheatfield was the runner up at 170 a year ago, with Brandyn Whitacre of Jamestown nabbing third.
"Matt Cicco and Colin Goodrich from Niagara Wheatfield are tough," Scapelliti said. "Brandyn Whitacre has been around for a few years now and is another kid who will be tough to beat come February."
Mitch Mariacher of Iroquois won more than 30 times a year ago, while a pair of returning placers at heavyweight could make some noise - Mason Mastrangelo of Lancaster and Tylor Rivera of Lockport.
"Mason has done a good job at Lancaster," Scapelliti said. "We're excited about Tylor Rivera. He was in the thick of it last year and lost a close match to the eventual state qualifier. We think Tylor's got a really good chance at the end of the year."
With most of the 2015 Section 6 champions having graduated, there's room for some wrestlers to make a move.
"I think there's definitely opportunity," Scapelliti said. "I encouraged some of our middleweights to get in the weight room and wrestle bigger. One of our guys Robert Jones, who was fourth last year at 160, will probably go 182. He's good, a really solid kid and I think there's opportunity. When you're athletic in those upperweights, you can win a lot of matches."
Argentieri, Photo by BV
Lockport returns Mitch Seaver, third placers Dontay Gill and Tylor Rivera as well as fourth placers Steven Kapuscinski and Robert Jones. The squad lost some heavy hitters, including NYS representatives Anthony Orefice and Kirk Feeney as well as top four finishers in the section Vince Eberhart and Marquise Sanders.
"We've got some holes to fill, but we feel really good about the guys we have coming back and we're hoping to make another good run at it," Scapelliti said. "We think we'll see a lot of success from Mitch and Dontay in the lightweights and we're looking for guys like Steven Kapuscinski and Tylor Rivera to step up for us. Stephen put in a really good offseason and I'm interested to see how he transitions to the physical aspects of being a middleweight. I'm excited for what he's hopefully gonna do there. Going in, our focus is always on our team as a whole and getting the 15 toughest guys we can find. I'm excited to see who fills those spots. When it comes down to it, Niagara Wheatfield and Iroquois will be very strong."
Iroquois has multiple NYS qualifiers in the fold (Connor Day and Tristan Almeter) and will rely on the contributions of a number of others capable of making their marks, such as Cory Day, Dylan Vernen, Mitch Mariacher and Cole Sturm.
Also boasting a number of wrestlers who fared well at the state qualifier is Niagara Wheatfield, which saw Warren McDougald win his bracket, while Justin McDougald and Matt Cicco nabbed second and Vinnie Falvo and Colin Goodrich took third. With most of last year's placewinners back, as Scapelliti said, this looks like a team to watch.
Lake Shore brings several 2015 All-Section wrestlers to the table, led by champ Freddy Eckles. His teammates Brandon Joslyn, Frank Gelster, David Killian and Shearod Rodgers, all placed between fourth and sixth at the state qualifier.
Both Niagara Falls and Jamestown return four place winners, while Lancaster has a pair of finalists in Tommy Michel and Mason Mastrangelo.
Also featuring two returning champs is Kenmore West with Anthony Argentieri and Mitch Currey, along with finalist Charlie Milks.
"There will be a lot of pretty solid teams, pushing each other to get better," Scapelliti said. "I think everyone wants to see a little stronger performance in Albany. One of our focus points this year is to make our Section stronger as whole. Working together and pushing each other is the way to get those guys on the podium. We're competitors and we want to win but we share the goal of seeing all our kids wrestle well at the end of the season when we're competing together as a Section."
Hetrick, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: AJ Putt (Maple Grove)
Returning Qualifiers from 2015: Zach Braddell (Tonawanda), Shane Hetrick (Maple Grove), Johnny Fiebelkorn (Akron), Ryan Hetrick (Maple Grove)
AJ Putt of Maple Grove earned a podium spot with a sixth place showing in Albany at 106 pounds. He defeated his teammate and fellow qualifier Shane Hetrick to win the Section title.
"We just want to put them in the best spot to get on the podium in Albany," Maple Grove coach Tim Shrout said of Putt and Hetrick. "Putt lost by one point in the semis. He's been talking all year about it; he's focused on how he was that close to being in the finals. We want to make sure he does it this time. Shane was on his second wildcard trip. The first time, as an eighth grader, he was two and out. Last year was a big improvement for him. Looking back, we thought the match he lost in the first round was a winnable match. If he wrestled with a different mentality, he could've won it. We feel like we were close to having two placers at 106 last year. We think we can get both on the podium this time."
Shane Hetrick has wrestled at the state tournament multiple times, which is also true of Akron’s Johnny Fiebelkorn and Maple Grove’s Ryan Hetrick, who placed in 2013 and 2014.
"Ryan was in a crazy bracket, with the number of previous state champions and placers that were there," Shrout said. "He did end up beating [Lyndonville's] Tony Recco, who had beaten him before. It was a meat grinder afterwards. He'll be back strong. Fiebelkorn was in a tough weight in the Section last year. He's been [to Albany] twice. He has the pedigree to take the Section again."
Zach Braddell of Tonawanda made his debut at the Times Union Center a year ago at 99 and followed up by winning a national title at the NHSCA Middle School championships at Virginia Beach.
"Braddell looked really solid at 99 last year and he has the opportunity at the lower weights to find a lot of success," Shrout said.
Who else may be poised to make some noise this winter? Philip Calandra of Depew, Dave Poff of Gowanda and Matt Evans of Randolph notched top three finishes in the Section, as did Austin Bourgeois of Chautauqua Lake.
"All those guys can take the next step," Shrout said. "Calandra is really tough. Poff was really tough last year when he was down at 113. We saw a lot of Matt Evans. He had a bunch of close matches with our guys at 106 last year. If he's made a step up, he could be a factor with his unique style."
Devlin, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Kellen Devlin (Amherst), Brad Bihler (Maple Grove), Dakota Gardner (Fredonia)
Returning Qualifiers: Zach Bierfeldt (Olean)
Kellen Devlin is one of New York’s top seniors. The North Carolina State-bound grappler will look for state title number three in his last scholastic campaign.
Devlin topped multi-time medalist Brad Bihler for the Section crown a year ago. Bihler, a three-time NYS placer, will once again be in the mix in the postseason.
"Bihler is looking really strong and I have high hopes for him," Shrout said. "He was a little sick last year in Albany and I think on a different weekend he finishes higher. It just wasn't the way it worked out. I would hope he'll be in the mix for the title this year."
Bihler had some tough matches with Mark Ecklund of Chautauqua Lake last season, going 2-1 in those clashes.
"Ecklund is a real tough kid," Shrout said. "He's athletic and could definitely put it together."
Speaking of All-State wrestlers, Dakota Gardner has earned a spot on the medal stand each year since eighth grade and will look to go out on top after taking fourth in 2015.
"Gardner made a big weight jump last year," Shrout said. "He's a real tough kid. He's been consistent, placing every year. He's super strong and that plays to his advantage a lot of the time."
Olean's Zach Bierfeldt made his debut at the Times Union Center last year.
"I think he's in prime position, depending on weight, to be the guy in the Section," Shrout said.
Bierfeldt's teammate Jordan Kayes is another wrestler capable of making a deep run, as are the Falconer duo of Dylan Ingrao and Cameron Page.
"Kayes has crazy funk," Shrout said. "I've seen him pull some moves, you don't think anything is there, and he hits it with no problem. Ingrao was only a ninth grader last year and he made it to the Section finals. He's a really big piece of the puzzle there - they can really rely on him to be a key focal point. He wrestled all over the lineup and wrestled well. Cameron Page is a good wrestler, who has been competing forever. Hetrick had his number last year, but he beat everybody else in the section."
A few other section second and third placers will be candidates, such as SPR’s Jake Smith and Newfane's Paul Dunbar.
Returning Placers: Jake Kubala (Newfane), Nick Jones (Dunkirk)
Returning Qualifiers: Laith Alsous (Lewiston Porter)
It wasn’t a secret that the heavyweight class in Section 6 was extremely tough last year. Dunkirk’s Nick Jones took third in the Section … and then achieved fourth at the state tournament a few weeks later. Along the way, he topped Section champ Laith Alsous of Lewiston-Porter in the ultimate tiebreaker. Alsous had beaten Jones in the Class tournament a few weeks prior. It goes without saying that both Jones and Alsous will be factors at the Times Union Center again this year.
"Jones is really good and he was more of a 220 pounder than a heavyweight, weight-wise," Shrout said. "Laith really came on strong late. He was the JV heavyweight earlier in the year, or at least at the very beginning, and he managed to get that varsity spot and rode that to Albany."
Jones wasn’t the only All-Stater. Jake Kubala of Newfane grabbed sixth place at 182 pounds and was the only non-senior medalist a year ago in that bracket. He's in great position to move up the ladder.
Lyle Grant of Alden and Jake Peru of Falconer both had strong seasons and will be candidates to go to Albany.
"Lyle Grant was someone who was there two years now in the top four," Shrout said. "He seems really motivated - he's been close before. Jake Peru made a jump from 126 all the way up to 170 last year and took third in the section. It's not easy to make a jump like that and really be ready. I think he could put on another good showing for Falconer."
Who else could make an impact? Don’t overlook Zac Spears of Olean, Cyrus Simmons of Newfane and Jacob Hoffman of Pioneer, all top four Section placers.
"[Maple Grove's] Brody Nolan and Trevor Micek are two wrestlers I think could do very well this year," Shrout added. "Trevor placed in the Section his freshman year and Brody wrestled 195 and placed while only weighing about 184. He'll wrestle more of his actual weight this year and I think that will make a difference."
Photo by BV
Maple Grove had a stellar season, finishing in the top seven at the New York State tournament as a team. While significant contributors like Jed Micek, Brian Westerdahl, Howie Nolan and TJ Bihler were seniors, the squad still returns a strong group, including three wrestlers who have placed in Albany - AJ Putt, Ryan Hetrick and Brad Bihler. Meanwhile, Shane Hetrick has NYS tourney experience, while Brody Nolan made the Section 6 podium in the upperweights.
"We have four returning state qualifiers and they're the core of the team," Shrout said. "Through the first day of the state tournament last year, we looked great. We had three semifinalists. But we had a rough opening round on Saturday. If we can bring those four guys back and get a few more there, I'd love to see what we could do on the second day this time. Those four have done summer intensive camps and have been lifting, trying to put it all together to make sure we have four medals. I also think there are some other really tough teams in the Section. Falconer is one example."
Falconer returns section placers Dylan Ingrao, Cameron Page, Jake Peru and Scott Green.
Meanwhile, Olean brings back a large number of section placewinners from a year ago, including top three finishers Jordan Kayes, Zach Bierfeldt and Zac Spears. Gavin Kulp, Jake Bartlett, Shane Pancio and Shawn Williams are all looking to return to the medal stand.
Newfane (Jake Kubala, Paul Dunbar, Cyrus Simmons, Charles Johnstone), Pioneer (Sam Fahy, Jacob Hoffman, Doug Ciszak, Foster Dell) and Chautauqua Lake (Austin Bourgeois, Mark Ecklund, Kale Gilbert, Bryce Rowe) have solid contingents of returning All-Section wrestlers as well.
Thank you to all the contributors to this article. Special thanks to Joe Scapelliti, Tim Shrout and Keith Maute.