Action has gotten underway in Section 5 and around the state. Let's take a look at some of the wrestlers and teams to watch out for in the always-tough Section 5.
Hertel, Courtesy A. Burgos
Returning Placers: Austin Hertel (Hilton)
Returning Qualifiers: Cody Anders (Brockport), Jacob Ruggeri (Fairport)
Austin Hertel of Hilton registered a number of quality wins during the campaign before getting to the semifinals at the state tournament at 113 (where he lost in multiple overtimes to eventual state champ John Arceri). He’ll be back after his sixth place NYS showing, likely up a weight, looking to repeat as a SuperSectionals champ as well as move up the ladder in Albany. Austin Kassel of Rush-Henrietta was the wrestler he beat in the finals to earn his bid.
Cody Anders had a very strong season for Brockport and represented the Section at the state tournament. There were a number of solid wrestlers in that 99-pound class, including Tyler Mitchell of Spencerport, Alex Samson of Victor and Max Kropman of Penfield.
Kropman may be back at the lightest weight this year, where he could see young wrestlers like Hilton's Greg Diakomihalis and Ryan Burgos. And, it's worth noting that another 'Kropman', seventh grader Cooper Kropman, will be someone to watch in the lightweights as well.
Jacob Ruggeri of Fairport is a returning Section runner up who made the trip to the state tournament after winning more than 30 times.
A wrestler who has made an impact on the national scene is Victor’s Mike Venosa, who was an NHSCA All-American in the spring. Venosa didn’t get a chance to go to the Times Union Center a year after losing to Yianni Diakomihalis in the finals of the state qualifier, but is someone who has what it takes to not only go to Albany this time, but make a deep run.
"Venosa is tough as nails," said Brockport coach Mike Ferris. "I love watching him. I believe he would've placed last year if he got a chance at the state tournament. I expect him to place this year - he's a top four guy in the state if he wrestles to his ability."
Some others to keep tabs on are returning top four placers Dillon Callaghan of Greece, Jacob Bell of Fairport and Troy Ferris of Brockport. In addition, Spencerport's Mason Wersinger, Pittsford's Nate Controneo, Webster Thomas' DJ Schmitz and the Irondequoit duo of Mike and Chris Butler made the SuperSectionals podium a year ago.
Returning Placers: Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), Parker Kropman (Penfield), Frankie Gissendanner (Penfield), Tristan Ierlan (Victor)
Returning Qualifiers: Kyle Pittman (Spencerport)
"We're lucky in Section 5," Ferris said. "We have so much talent in the middleweights - dominant guys."
Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton is one of the nation’s top pound-for-pound wrestlers who won a Cadet World Championship this summer. He’s compiled three straight undefeated state title-winning seasons and will be favored to do the same this year. He's currently Intermat's #1 wrestler in the country at 138 pounds.
"I believe Yianni is an Olympic caliber kid," Ferris said. "He will be one of the best wrestlers in Section 5 history."
The Penfield duo of Frankie Gissendanner and Parker Kropman has piled up victories at the NYS championships over the past few seasons. Gissendanner, one of the country’s top sophomores, took fourth as an eighth grader before winning the 138-pound crown as a freshman. Expect another tremendous season from one of New York’s best. His teammate Kropman has taken fourth each of the past two years. The Binghamton recruit looks to get over the hump to the finals in his final scholastic campaign.
"Frankie has dominated all offseason and everyone knows how good he is," Ferris said. "Kropman has what it takes to place high at the state tournament again."
They were joined on the podium by Victor’s Tristan Ierlan, who had a terrific run through the 152-pound class, with four victories, to earn fifth in Albany. He was one of three Section 5 wrestlers in that bracket, along with silver medalist Anthony Bell of Fairport (graduated) and Spencerport’s Kyle Pittman, who picked up a win at the Times Union Center.
"Ierlan has a great motor," Ferris said. "He's a really good lacrosse player. He had a surprising end of the year, and if he continues to wrestle that way, he'll be really tough to beat again. Pittman has been a staple of the Spencerport program forever. He's tough."
Derek St. James of Gates Chili also has NYS tournament experience, after making the Round of 8 a few years back. He nabbed third last season at 132 at the state qualifier and will gear up for one more opportunity. We’re also keeping an eye on Hilton’s Sammy DePrez, who tallied a victory over eventual NYS third placer Anthony Orefice of Lockport last year and will move up a few weights, as well as the wrestler who topped DePrez for third last season, Simeon Horton of Brockport.
"Sammy's gotten pretty big," Ferris said. "He'll be a top two guy in Section 5 wherever he lands. I think Horton will be at 132 for us and I'm looking for him to make a run. He's put together a good career, finishing behind these top guys. I hope it's his year."
Who else in on the radar?
Alex Salvaggio of Webster Schroeder took second to Gissendanner at the state qualifier after a strong season at 138, while Justin Klein of Rush-Henrietta and Chris Barker of Fairport are two wrestlers capable of making a leap forward.
"Salvaggio is a hammer," Ferris said. "He's outtrained a lot of his competition. If he goes to the state tournament, I think he'll place. He gets after people. I'm impressed with his motor and his focus."
Irondequoit's Tyree Peace and Pittsford's Nick Spinelli placed at the Supers last year.
Returning Placers: Louie DePrez (Hilton), Cameron Caldarelli (Brockport), Cameron Rohr (Irondequoit)
Returning Qualifiers: Mike Spallina (Hilton)
Hilton’s Louie DePrez brought home a state title as a sophomore after earning third the previous year. He’ll be looking for a repeat, after taking second place at the prestigious Super 32 Challenge in early November.
He won’t be the only wrestler in the thick of things in Albany. Both Cameron Caldarelli of Brockport (at 195) and Cameron Rohr of Irondequoit (at heavyweight) competed in the bronze medal match at the Times Union Center a year ago and are threats to come back with gold this time around.
"Caldarelli and Rohr work out together," Ferris said. "Rohr wrestled a lot this summer and I think he could be a state champ. Caldarelli came into the state tournament undefeated last year. His goal is to win it. He's a hammer - he'll come out with guns blazing this year."
Meanwhile, Mike Spallina of Hilton was one win shy of the podium last season and is capable of not only picking up his first All-State honors, but also contending for the top spot. Also look out for Spallina’s teammate John Fuino, who had a good year at 220.
The previously mentioned Caldarelli is a member of the very tough upperweight group for Brockport that also features Jake Sweet, who had a win over a state bronze medalist last year, and Mike Mattison. It wouldn’t be surprising to see all of them wearing the Section 5 singlet in the state capital.
"Jake Sweet had a great summer," Ferris said. "He was undefeated at 1000 Islands Duals at 195. He could be in the mix to place at the state tournament. Mattison made the finals [at the state qualifier] as a sophomore. He's athletic enough to win matches at the state tournament."
Fairport’s Jacob Rugaber and Billy Bolia were both third at the state qualifier, while Thaddus Jeffries of Canandaigua was a runner up.
In addition, keep an eye out for some returning fourth placers like Christian Croccitti of Webster Thomas, Tyler Johnson of Brockport, Justin Harter of Greece, Seth Patterson of HFL, Noah Siesto and Gary Bostian of Webster Schroeder and Jason Cunningham of McQuaid. Jesse Trout of Rush Henrietta, who had a win over state qualifier from Section 6, James Baker of Brockport, Ryan Flaitz of Victor and Fred Daniely of Canandaigua are among the other placers back.
Hilton, the two-time defending Division 1 state tournament champions, has a lot of high end firepower with NYS gold medalists Yianni Diakomihalis and Louie DePrez, placer Austin Hertel and qualifier Mike Spallina. In addition, Sammy DePrez is primed for a breakout year, while John Fuino and Don Neuffer will be solid in the upperweights. Of course, young talent is on the way, such as Greg Diakomihalis and Ryan Burgos.
But a number of other teams are loaded as well. Brockport, which tallied the most points at the state qualifier, brings back eight placers, including NYS medalist Cameron Caldarelli and qualifier Cody Anders. Jake Sweet and Mike Mattison were both silver medalists at the SuperSectionals, while the team will count on contributions from Troy Ferris, Simeon Horton, Tyler Johnson and James Baker.
"Hilton has a great team," Ferris said. "We had a great dual with them last year, beating them by a few points with balance. It's like a cross town rivalry because we're not that far away and it brings great excitement. Our teams both return the nucleus so I'm really looking forward to our dual on January 27 - the last dual in Monroe County. We hope to pack the place with a world champ, state champs and state placers competing."
Penfield boasts stars like Frankie Gissendanner and Parker Kropman, along with SuperSectional medalists Max Kropman, Gino Johnson and Jordan Zariczny, while Fairport also offers quite a bit of proven talent as Jacob Ruggeri, Jacob Bell, Chris Barker, Jacob Rugaber and Billy Bolia all took top four at Supers, with Darren O’Leary coming in fifth. Victor also can't be forgotten with wrestlers like All-Stater Tristan Ierlan, Mike Venosa, Alex Samson and Ryan Flaitz. Webster Schroeder is among the other teams that bring back a number of SuperSectionals top five placers like Luke Lupisella, Alex Salvaggio, Noah Siesto and Gary Bostian.
"I'm really excited about the Section 5 team we'll have this year," Ferris said. "I think we're a top three team as a Section. The Long Island teams are great, but I think we could be right there this year with all the talent in our Section."
Schafer, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Drew Schafer (Palmyra Macedon), Dane Heberlein (Alexander)
Returning Qualifiers: Nick Young (Alexander), Sam Wolf (Warsaw), Dylan Walker (Attica), Jeffrey Gress (Lyndonville), Joey Sliwoski (Wayne), Connor Wilkins (Livonia), Jon Lauricella (Leroy)
Dane Heberlein went to his second straight championship bout at the state tournament, finishing second this time around after a title in 2014. He went on to earn silver at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach and will be a contender once again as a junior. In the same 113-pound bracket was Wayne’s Joey Sliwoski, who captured a pair of matches in Albany, coming up just short of the podium.
Also representing Section 5 on the medal stand was Palmyra Macedon’s Drew Schafer, who picked up bronze with his only loss coming in the ultimate tiebreaker against eventual champion AJ Burkhart of Waverly.
"Schafer had a great spring," Ferris said. "He's back and focused. Talk about offseason work - he does it. He's a grinder".
Schafer was one of three representatives from the Section at 99 pounds at the Times Union Center, with Warsaw’s Sam Wolf making the Round of 8 and Alexander’s Nick Young recording a pin. It appears that all three will move up for this season.
"Sam Wolf will be someone to watch, probably at 106," said Warsaw coach Jeff Royce. "He won matches at the state tournament last year and he's a young kid who's really tough."
Former Warsaw competitor Dylan Walker, now at Attica, collected two victories in the state capital, while Connor Wilkins got a win by fall and Jon Lauricella also got his hand raised. Jeffrey Gress will look for a return trip after making his debut at the big event.
"Lauricella had a great year last year," Royce said. "I really expect him to place in the top six in the state. Walker and Gress are back and they're tough." Ferris added that he thinks Wilkins can win more matches at the end of the year.
Who else will be in the mix in the postseason?
Matt Caccamise of Wayne had a strong season at 38-4, with three of his losses by 3-2 scores to state qualifiers and another to placer Drew Schafer.
"I think Caccamise has made some good gains," Ferris said. "He'll surprise some people. Based on what I saw this summer, he'll compete."
Zach Flaitz of Canisteo-Greenwood had over 40 wins and could be a threat, while the wrestler who finished one place behind him at the SuperSectionals, Adam West of Palmyra Macedon is a past state qualifier, who won matches at the NYS championships.
A Warsaw contingent made the trip down to the Super 32 Challenge. Royce believes that some of those wrestlers - Nate Murphy, Noah Royce and Mason Gray are wrestlers to keep tabs on this year. Noah Royce was sixth at the state qualifier last year, while Colton Davis of Keshequa and Sean Paul Whittlesey of Newark were fourth and fifth. Chase Runfloa of Letchworth was also fourth - at 106.
Gaiser, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Emerson Block (Palmyra Macedon), Nick Gaiser (Alexander)
The top five at 126 return, led by Nick Gaiser, who capped off a strong season with a third place performance at the NYS championships. His only loss was to champion Kellen Devlin, while he notched a technical fall, major and two decisions in which he outscored his opponents 11-1.
"If Nick Gaiser had been on the opposite side of the bracket, I think he would've been in the finals," Royce said. "He's that good. He's the one to beat in the Section and should do very well at the state tournament again."
We'll see which of the additional placers in the class take a step forward, with Mike Galton of Warsaw, Troy Ludolph of Newark, Will Raes of Midlakes and Anthony Miraglia of Byron Bergen all capable of doing so.
All six of last year's placers are back at 132, led by state medalist Emerson Block, who had a breakthrough year that ended in a fourth place showing in Albany. He fell in the opening round to eventual champion Nick Casella of Locust Valley, but then won four in a row in the consolations.
"Block is really strong," Ferris said. "Hopefully he can finish even higher this year."
Who else will make a run at a state qualifying bid among wrestlers like Daylon Swearingen of Attica (who may be delayed by an injury), Jeremy Boyle of Batavia, Hammond Raes of Midlakes, Adam Wagner of South Seneca and Victor Peterson of Avoca?
The Section 5 winners from 138 to 160 pounds all graduated, leaving opportunities for new faces to step into the spotlight.
Who are some of those in position to make a run?
Andrew Hollister of Perry had a lot of success, including a win over former state placer Colin Royce in the Class BB tournament, before injury defaulting to sixth at the SuperSectionals. Look for a strong return performance from him as well as some other competitors in that bracket like Campbell-Savona’s John Topf and Hornell’s Kyle O’Connor.
Lyndonville’s Dustin Joy was the runner up at 145 a year ago and is the only returner from that weight. He won over 40 times in 2014-15. His teammate Tom Follman also may be ready to make an impact along with Newark’s Dylan Harmon. Also keep an eye on Warsaw's Noah Grover.
"Noah beat the favorite last year, Christian Hollister from Perry [at the state qualifier]," Royce said. "He placed the year before at the state qualifier but not last year. He's been doing a lot of offseason wrestling. I believe he'll surprise a lot of people."
Returning Placers: Aaron Paddock (Warsaw)
Returning Qualifiers: Jacob Kramell (Perry), Aaron Mann (Warsaw)
Aaron Paddock's amazing story is well-known and the Edinboro recruit is looking for his third All-State performance and first state title as a senior. The Warsaw wrestler bounced back from a loss at last year's NYS tournament by dominating in the wrestlebacks on the way to bronze.
"I would say Aaron [Paddock] has a good shot at a state title this year," Royce said. "And I actually feel the same way about Aaron Mann, who did a lot of summer wrestling."
Mann picked up two victories in the state capital at 220 and will be in the mix to go high on the state podium.
Jacob Kramell of Perry made the trip to Albany a year ago and registered a fall after winning the state qualifier at 182.
Looking to represent Section 5 this season are South Seneca's Luke MacIntosh, who had a solid offseason and the wrestler he beat for third at 195 in 2015, Noah Dobbertin of Batavia. Royce mentioned that Jed Middleton has attended camps and was active in summer wrestling.
Robert Middlebrook of Midlakes is a multi-time SuperSectionals placer, while Andrew Cook of Lyons, Stone Davis of Geneva, Tim Baumer of Avon, Cecil Beardslee of Perry, Kameron Miller of Bolivar-Richburg [also his lightweight teammate Kristian], Nick Galusha of Wayne and Matt Gaiser of Alexander are returning placers who are among the others to keep an eye on throughout the campaign.
"Gaiser is moving up and will definitely be one to reckon with," Royce said. "He does a lot of summer wrestling."
Warsaw, Photo by BV
Warsaw was celebrated as Division 2’s top dual team last year and while the squad saw a number of stars move on, including state placers Colin Royce and Corey Farrell as well as qualifiers Josh Griffith and Dylan Royce, the Tigers still feature a talented group.
"Warsaw could very well be the team again and be Division II state champs," Ferris said.
"I think we'll be pretty solid all the way through the lineup," Royce said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully it works out for us like it did last year."
State bronze medalist Aaron Paddock will be among the top upperweights in New York, while Sam Wolf and Aaron Mann took the mat in Albany a year ago and have what it takes to get on the podium as well. Mike Galton nabbed second at SuperSectionals last year, while Noah Royce was sixth. Meanwhile, others such as Nathan Murphy, Mason Gray, Jake Ziegler and Noah Grover are capable of making some noise as well.
Alexander offers a lot of firepower again, with state placers Dane Heberlein and Nick Gaiser, qualifier Nick Young and SuperSectionals medalist Matt Gaiser.
Palmyra Macedon, which took third a year ago, brings back a pair of All-State grapplers, Drew Schafer and Emerson Block, along with Adam West and others like youth star Ethan Ferro.
Lyndonville, the runner up in the team standings in 2015, has state qualifier Jeffrey Gress as well as Dustin Joy and Tom Follman back in the fold. They'll look for contributions from wrestlers like Dustin Hinkley, who captured over 35 bouts last season.
Wayne will be tough, with Joe Sliwoski and Matt Caccamise leading the charge, while Midlakes returns four of five placers (Will Raes, Hammond Raes, Robert Middlebrook, Ryan Macdonell) and Canisteo-Greenwood features three (John Davis, Zander Sharp and Zach Flaitz).
"Wayne will be tough, I think they're looking good this year," Royce said. "They give our lightweights a lot of fits. Pal Mac will be good, Alexander has a bunch of really good kids and you can't ever underestimate Midlakes. I can't name them all, but there are a lot of teams to watch."
Thank you to all the contributors to this article. Special thanks to Mike Ferris, Adam Burgos and Jeff Royce.