The season has started. But it's not too late to take a look at the very powerful Section 11, which brings back numerous champs and placers and will no doubt make a significant mark in Albany again.
Busiello, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Adam Busiello (Eastport-South Manor), Jake Silverstein (Hauppauge), Tommy Cox (Deer Park), Anthony Sparacio (North Babylon), John Arceri (Huntington), Anthony Cirillo (Rocky Point), Phil Spadafora (Half Hollow Hills East)
Returning Qualifiers: Tony Negron (North Babylon), Kevin Meloni (Shoreham-Wading River)
Suffolk County featured nine placers in the first five weights last year and seven of them are back. With more standouts in the mix, it looks like another banner year is on tap.
"There are a couple of tough seniors in there, and there are so many underclassmen who already placed or already went to the state tournament," said Sachem East coach Isaac Ramaswamy. "Everywhere you look there are tough freshmen, sophomores and juniors. I think you'll see a repeat of last year [at the state tournament] with a lot of success in the lightweights."
Someone who's had tremendous success in his first two years of varsity wrestling is Adam Busiello, the #1 ranked wrestler in the nation at 106 pounds, who is already a two-time state finalist. He won his first NYS title as an eighth grader a year ago and will be the favorite to make it #2 in 2016.
The Eastport-South Manor wrestler defeated Tony Negron for the Suffolk crown last season. Negron made the trip to the state tournament (and will be in the mix there this year, likely at 99 again).
"Negron is very tough and he has that state tournament experience," Ramaswamy said. "Jonathan Spadafora [of Half Hollow Hills East] is a very impressive freshman and [Rocky Point's] Anthony Sciotto has always impressed me too. There's no guarantee that they'll get out of the county - it's a bloodbath to the top of the county podium with so many good kids - but I think they could place in the state."
Half Hollow Hills West's Dylan Ryder majored Spadafora last weekend and should be watched at 99 as well as youth standouts Preston Maucere of Deer Park, Zach Redding of Eastport-South Manor and Stefan Major of Kings Park, among others.
Deer Park's Tommy Cox will be among the favorites in Albany at 113 pounds after taking third place at the NYS championships last season at 106, winning an NHSCA National title in the spring and placing at the Super 32 Challenge the past two years.
"Cox is a veteran," Ramaswamy said. "He's a great wrestler and competitor. The thing about our county is that there are always others in the mix that shouldn't be overlooked."
That includes Rocky Point's Anthony Cirillo, who nabbed fourth at 113 at the Times Union Center a year ago, as well as a pair of wrestlers who won while representing Suffolk at the Section 8 vs. Section 11 All-Star Challenge a few weeks back, returning qualifier Kevin Meloni of Shoreham-Wading River and Chris Gomez from Patchogue-Medford.
"Cirillo wrestled well at the state tournament last year," Ramaswamy said. "And I really like Gomez. I saw him work out all spring and fall and he's a natural wrestler. He's dangerous and can mix it up with anyone."
Placing in Albany along with Cox at 106 a year ago were Hauppauge's Jake Silverstein (second) and North Babylon's Anthony Sparacio (fourth), a two-time medalist. They will both be in the mix for NYS gold.
"Silverstein has always been impresssive and he was close to a state title last year," Ramaswamy said. "Sparacio is very, very good. He just hasn't put that perfect tournament together yet. If he does that, he's a threat for sure."
Huntington’s John Arceri put together a stellar showing in Albany last year at 113, earning the championship. He’ll be up a few weights but showed with his victory over two-time NYS champ Kellen Devlin at the Journeymen Classic and with multiple wins at the Super 32 that he’s ready to go deep into the tournament again.
"Arceri is old school Huntington," Ramaswamy said. "It's very hard to break through his defense. He scores when he needs to. No matter what flash comes at him, he's consistent and tough and methodically wins."
At 126 this year there could be some tough challengers, including the wrestler Arceri edged for the Suffolk crown in 2015, Phil Spadafora of Half Hollow Hills East. He went on to take fifth at the state tournament at 113. Hauppauge's Ben Tepperman lost a heartbreaker in overtime in the Section 11 title bout to eventual state placer Ed Matyka after a season in which he topped some state placers. He'll be in the fray, along with Smithtown East's James Trezza (a returning fourth placer in the Section), among others.
Dane Mendoza of Westhampton Beach, Jesse Telles of Brentwood, Kyle Mock of Huntington (who may be more in the middleweight range) and Jack DelDuca of Shoreham-Wading River all were All-County in 2015. Meanwhile, among the many others to keep an eye on are Nick Pagnotta of Rocky Point, Corey Connolly of Longwood, Sean Wieck of John Glenn and Huntington's Ethan Dwyer (who split matches with Telles and Pagnotta, although he took losses last weekend).
Mauriello, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Jack Taddeo (Shoreham-Wading River), Chris Mauriello (Hauppauge)
Chris Mauriello was a state champion in 2014 at 132 pounds before making a huge jump to 160 for his junior campaign. He took sixth at that weight and then followed with a national championship at 145 pounds at the NHSCA Nationals. He competed at 152 at the Super 32 and is certainly a threat to return to the top of the podium in New York, likely at 152 pounds, before moving on to college at Old Dominion.
"He was outsized, no doubt about it, but you still could never count him out," Ramaswamy said. "He's one of the most technically sound wrestlers I've seen. He's better and stronger now. I think he'll get back on top again."
Another returning placer is Shoreham-Wading River's Jack Taddeo, who earned a podium spot at 145 in the state capital a year ago after taking silver at the Suffolk tournament behind state titlewinner Tommy Dutton.
"He's a very solid kid," Ramaswamy said. "He placed last year in the NHSCA championships too. His motor just doesn't stop. He seems to improve every time he gets on the mat. Now as a senior, I think it is gonna all line up for him."
Like Mauriello, John Busiello represented the Empire State at the New York vs. New Jersey All-Star Dual at Madison Square Garden. Busiello was a NYS medalist in 2013 before picking up All-American status at Prep Nationals for Wyoming Seminary. He’s back at Eastport-South Manor and will look to finish with another All-State showing.
"He spent some years at Wyoming Seminary with high quality workout partners," Ramaswamy said. "That does a world of good and I'm sure it made an impact for him."
A trio of Longwood wrestlers return after making the top six at the Section 11 tournament. Evan Corso defeated former Division II state champ Hunter Dusold at the Section 11 vs. Section 8 All-Star Classic). He'll be joined on the Lions squad by Brett Brice, an NHSCA All-American, and Jordan Richter.
"Those guys, every time they're on the mat, they're a threat," Ramaswamy said. "Longwood will be tough in that weight range with those guys - they're talented, skilled, athletic. The bottom line is that they're all good wrestlers who are capable of getting to the county finals, if not win."
Both Corso and Brice wrestled for Suffolk in the Section 8 vs. Section 11 All-Star Classic. They were joined by Rocky Point's Jackie Gold and John Glenn's Zach Ancewicz, who were both victorious (Ancewicz over NYS qualifier Shawn Mosca).
Ramaswamy added that you can never count out Rocky Point's CJ Archer, who "can cradle and pin anyone."
Some others who made the top six at the state qualifier in 2015 include Connetquot’s Tom Repalone and Andrew Fiore, Miller Place’s Joe Bartolotto, Lindenhurst’s Bill Sims (who lost to Steve Illicete of Copiague over the weekend), Half Hollow Hills East’s Michael Abidin and Ward Melville’s Matt O’Brien.
Some of the many others in the mix include Lindenhurst's Frank Jilling, Sachem East's Dom Micari, Patchogue-Medford's Bobby Pease and Paul North of Connetquot (who defeated both Trezza and Cirillo last year), among others. Ramaswamy mentioned that Frank Galante of Sachem North "had a really tough match with Spadafora last year - he was right there - and has been on the mats all spring and fall. He could have a good senior year."
Araneo, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Christian Araneo (Ward Melville), Edwin Rubio (John Glenn), JP Puca (Huntington)
Returning Qualifiers: Marcus Bisono (Hauppauge), Jonathan Solorzano (Lindenhurst)
Christian Araneo hadn’t placed at the Section 11 tournament going into his junior year. He not only did that as an 11th grader, but he also won Suffolk and state titles in a dominant season and is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Look for another big year for the Princeton recruit.
"I don't see anyone in the section or even in the state beating him," Ramaswamy said.
Edwin Rubio, who will also be wrestling at the Division 1 level, also went to the state finals as a junior and took second at heavyweight in an overtime bout. He’s also in the national polls at 285 and will be a favorite to finish on top at the Times Union Center.
"He's been making his mark since 10th grade," Ramaswamy said.
JP Puca of Huntington was third in Section 11 at 170 pounds, recording a technical fall in the 170 pound bronze match. He carried that momentum with him to Albany, where he won his first two bouts to make the semifinals, before taking sixth.
"He's tough," Ramaswamy said. "He's such a scrambler. He's really fun to watch because he will do anything - and he makes things happen. I think he'll be very hard to beat. He has the confidence of going up to Albany and placing." [Note: He won a tournament last weekend at 160 pounds and could be at that weight].
Those weren’t the only returning Suffolk representatives in the higher weights. Marcus Bisono of Hauppauge took the mat at 182 pounds and came within one win of placing. He’ll look to return (although down a couple of weights, so he may belong in the "middleweights" section of this article), while Lindenhurst’s Jonathan Solorzano, who got his hand raised in his opening match in Albany at 285, is also back.
The wrestler Solorzano topped for third in the county, Terron Robinson of Walt Whitman, will also be in the mix, likely at 220.
"Solorzano is a large heavyweight who has that state experience," Ramaswamy said. "Robinson's tough - he was undersized at heavyweight."
As a freshman, Amityville's Deonte Wilson compiled an impressive 32-4 mark at 220 pounds.
"He's a strong, athletic kid," Ramaswamy said. "If he tightens up a few things here and there, he's a threat. He has the physicality to do it."
Who else could make a splash? Some on our radar screen include returning All-County competitors Joe Eiden of Sachem East, David McCarthy of Sachem North, Griffin Arcuri of Half Hollow Hills East and Axel Alanis of East Hampton.
Among those also in the mix: Connetquot's Jeff Browne, Mt. Sinai's Luke Marino, Eastport-South Manor's Matt DeFrancis, Islip's Greg Hodulick, Rocky Point's Dylan Zabbara, Patchogue-Medford's Nick Saporito and Sachem East's Brian Williams.
"You never know how the team race will go, but I would say on paper Hauppauge and North Babylon are frontrunners with who they're bringing back," Ramaswamy said. "Both are good in duals and tournament-wise."
Hauppauge finished atop the team standings with a more than 40 point margin a year ago. While standouts like Francisco Bisono, John Donohue and Alex Donnarumma graduated, the potential for a lot of points returns. Jake Silverstein, Ben Tepperman, Marcus Bisono and Chris Mauriello are all threats both in the county and at the state level. Rich Dailey is now at Hauppauge and could make contributions in the higher weights, along with John Munro. Dan Mauriello racked up wins last year at 99 as well.
"Hauppauge has star power," Ramaswamy said. "It will be really surprising if their big four don't get to the sectional finals. That makes you really hard to beat, especially if you get a few more guys around them to place."
North Babylon took fourth last year and brings back state representatives Tony Negron and Anthony Sparacio, and while Anthony Sobotker suffered an injury, the team will also look to wrestlers like Justen O'Neil, David Miele-Estrella, Amiri Lake, Sean Horan and Rodney Green.
"North Babylon is a really complete team," Ramaswamy said. "Losing Anthony Sobotker was a big hit for them - he could've been a finalist last year and would have a had a great chance to do it this year. But they're still really good. Amiri Lake is a very good athlete; a very explosive kid. He could make a run to the finals. Estrella-Miele is in the mix too - another athletic kid. They have some strong hammers up top - there's a lot of power there. I would watch out for Rodney Green, a senior who did some great things last year on the mat and also some things that cost him, but if he's tightened those things up, he's a threat. No one should look past him. Justen O'Neill is also a tough senior to watch out for."
Half Hollow Hills East offers four wrestlers who were top six in the Section last season - state placer Phil Spadafora, NHSCA National Middle School champ Jonathan Spadafora, Michael Abidin and Griffin Arcuri. Also look out for Anthony Diasparra on a tough team.
Bringing back three All-Suffolk wrestlers from last year are Rocky Point, Shoreham-Wading River, Huntington and Longwood.
As usual, the Section 11 group that goes up to Albany, will have podium threats at every weight.
"Suffolk might have almost 30 qualifiers again going to the state tournament - it could be more than 30," Ramaswamy said. "There could be wildcards at just about every weight."
DeVincenzo, Photo by BV
Returning Placers: Jack Bokina (Mattituck), Matteo DeVincenzo (Port Jefferson)
Returning Qualifiers: Vin Miceli (Port Jefferson)
Matteo DeVincenzo has finished in the top three at the state tournament each of the past three seasons, with a NYS title in 2014 and a third place showing a year ago. The Princeton-bound wrestler lost just one match last season and will be among the favorites to take gold in his last high school campaign.
"Matteo is an awesome kid," said Mattituck coach Cory Dolson. "It's great to have him around. He's almost like our D2 leader; he's super respected by everybody. In the past, we haven't had a lot of success at the state tournament in D2 and everyone knows our D1 team does extremely well. So when the kids see Matteo beat D1 wrestlers and win the state title, they say, we can do it too. He's great to have around."
DeVincenzo was joined in Albany by his teammate Vin Miceli, who wrestled at 106 pounds after winning the county title there.
"Miceli is tough," Dolson said. "He's been doing a lot of wrestling too. Port Jefferson has a few good lightweights - Joe Evangelista is pretty tough too."
Like DeVincenzo, Jack Bokina of Mattituck made the podium in the state capital, taking fourth at 99 pounds a year after making the Round of 8 in Albany previously. He’ll be someone to watch again, along with his brother Luke Bokina.
"Jack and Luke have been wrestling all offseason," Dolson said. "They were on an Ohio All-Star team from June to August, traveling all over and doing a ton of wrestling. Jack making All-State was huge. We've never had a state champ at Mattituck and he's only the second kid to ever place up there for us. Luke was in a tough spot, not wanting to be in the same weight class as his brother. This year, they'll be at different weights and we expect them to both have great years."
A number of silver medalists return and will look to punch their tickets to the Times Union Center -- the Center Moriches duo of Donald Wood and John O’Neil as well as Mattituck’s TJ Beebe.
"Beebe is a two-time runner up, two years in a row," Dolson said. "He was in a tough spot behind Matteo. He's back and he'll be at 120 or 126. He's a really tough kid. We'll try to find a spot for him to get upstate."
Bill Bockhaus of Southampton and Joey Panetta of Hampton Bays were bronze medalists in the Section last year.
Returning Qualifiers: Brett Frole (Babylon)
Brett Frole of Babylon has made multiple trips to the state tournament and won his opening match there last year.
"He's been up there to the state tournament a couple times," Dolson said. "He has experience. He comes from a wrestling family. He's always wrestling and I expect him to do very well."
Bel McFarlane was second at the state qualifier and the Center Moriches wrestler is someone to keep an eye on this year. Also keep an eye out for his teammate Jonas Marrello, who Dolson said has been doing a lot of work.
Former state qualifier Lucas Webb of Mattituck lost in the Section 11 finals in the tiebreakers in 2015 and will certainly be back in the mix. His teammate Tim Schmidt had a solid regular season and will be a factor again.
"Webb was up there [at the state championships] as an eighth grader and won a match up there," Dolson said. "He's been right in the mix every year but came up short. He lost in overtime last year and we're definitely looking to get him back to Albany as a senior, probably at 138 pounds this year. For Tim Schmidt, he lost to a kid he beat during the year. He was hit with a cement mixer right off the whistle, was locked up pretty tight. Right away, he was down 5-0 and he came back but came up a little short. That was definitely an upset, without a doubt. He'll be back."
Dolson also mentioned Carmine Vergari, who took third in 2015, will be back at the same weight and the team is "looking for him to step up to the upper echelon this year."
Bryan Larsen of Babylon and James Lewis of Center Moriches also earned bronze in Suffolk.
Returning Qualifiers: James Hoeg (Mattituck), Tanner Zagarino (Mattituck), Johnny Nolan (Hampton Bays)
James Hoeg picked up a major decision at the state tournament at 160 pounds in 2015, while his teammate Tanner Zagarino saw his first action at the NYS championships at 170. Look for that duo to be dominant in the Section and go back to the Times Union Center again.
"Both guys had big wins in the Section 8 vs Section 11 All-Star Classic. James has been up there [to the Times Union Center] twice and won a match last year," Dolson said. "We thought he could do better. Tanner got his feet wet there last year. They're both very experienced and now, as 11th graders, are ready to do more. Both went down to Virginia Beach. They're not looking to just win D2 county titles - they're looking to go upstate and do damage. They both wrestle like lightweights, which is a big advantage, especially since they will be moving up in weight."
In addition, Johnny Nolan of Hampton Bays earned a victory at the NYS tournament and will build upon that experience. He could have some of his teammates with him, as a number of Hampton Bays grapplers were silver medalists in Suffolk a year ago in the higher weights - Travis Flynn and Jackson Perez, while the team also saw Ayden Muhs and Andres Martinez take third.
"Hampton Bays has a stable of big guys who always wrestle very tough," Dolson said.
Kyle Kanige of Center Moriches is the returning runner up at heavyweight, while James O'Brien of Southampton was third at 220.
In addition, Dylan Marlborough of Mattituck looks for a breakthrough season.
"He'll be at a lighter weight this year," Dolson said. "He'll probably be at 160 or 170. Last year, he was kind of stuck with Hoeg and Zagarino in the lineup and so he'd drink a few Gatorades, get on the scale and then still bump up. He wasn't close to a 182 pounder. I think he'll be in the mix at a better weight class for him."
Mattituck was the team winner by a commanding margin again in 2015. The squad will be tough to beat this season, with the return of state placer Jack Bokina and Section champs James Hoeg and Tanner Zagarino leading the charge. That’s far from all. Lucas Webb has competed at the NYS tournament before and TJ Beebe, Tim Schmidt, Dylan Marlborough all registered second place finishes in Suffolk last year, along with bronze showings from Thomas Hoeg, Carmine Vergari, Charles Zaloom, Gage Suglia and Chris Schwamborn. In addition, Brian Feeney and Luke Bokina could make an impact.
"It's not a secret that we have a ton of kids," Dolson said. "We lost one or two starters from our lineup. We won it the last three years and we obviously want to win it again. We've been 23-0 in Division 2 dual meets the last three seasons and our goal is to go undefeated in D2 again and win that tournament. But on the larger scale, we are looking to not just send kids to states, but do really well there. We're looking for our first state champ. And we want to compete with the best teams. We're wrestling teams like MacArthur, Pat-Med and Brentwood."
Port Jefferson, last year’s second place team, brings back state title threat Matteo DeVincenzo, qualifier Vin Miceli, third placer Joe Evangelista and a few other All-Section wrestlers. Meanwhile, Hampton Bays and Center Moriches have more than a handful of top four finishers back.
Thanks to all of the contributors to this article! Special thanks to Isaac Ramaswamy and Cory Dolson.