BY ZAKK ROLFE
There were three state place winners at the end of the season in large school Section 4 - Richie Burke of Ithaca at 138, Nikola Cejic of Johnson City at 285 and Benny Baker of Newark Valley at 99. Burke and Cejic were lost to graduation and Baker moved to Wyoming Seminary. So, Section IV doesn't have NYS placers returning, but that won’t stop the Section from being competitive. Seven of the 2015 qualifiers are returning this season along with more than 60% of the top four finishers in each weight.
Aside from Baker, every state qualifier from the "little guys" is back, along with all but one runner up. The second place finisher at 99 pounds, Ben Howe of Elmira, had a great rookie campaign, winning three tournament titles including a STAC championship, with only five losses. He'll be one to watch this coming season, up a few weights.
Rick Chastine of Union-Endicott had perhaps the biggest upset of the 2015 Section championships, knocking off Dan Brunette of Vestal, whose only losses came from up one or sometimes two weight classes. Chastine was pinned by Brunette earlier in the season, but the Tiger came up big in the third period to punch his ticket to Albany.
Noah Carpenter had a Cinderella-type season last year. The Sectional champ out of Elmira came in as the number three seed, having lost to the two seed multiple times in addition to a loss to the first seed as well. He avenged those losses - first against Patrick Borelli of Chenango Forks in the semis, 7-6, in double overtime. In the finals, he continued by beating Darren Rich of Ithaca. After a last second reversal to send it into sudden victory, Carpenter scored another reversal to seal the deal in overtime and win his first sectional title. Carpenter was at it all summer, notching wins over multiple state qualifiers and a pin over a state place winner. I expect the rivalries between Rich, Borelli and Carpenter to continue throughout this coming season as all three should be watched as the season unfolds.
Derek Osman of Vestal is a multiple-time state qualifier. The Golden Bear racked up 42 wins last year, including 21 pins along the way. He looks to take his third trip to Albany and get on the podium.
Josh Post of Newark Valley bumped up from 99 pounds for the Section IV tournament last season. Finishing in third place didn’t satisfy him. He may be back at 99 pounds, although he hasn't competed yet, and seems to be the early season favorite. Post's teammate Gianno Silba seems to have been in the weight room and the wrestling room this summer and will be ready to step up from his runner up finish last season and find his way to Albany.
Erick Rigal and Tim Reed of Johnson City were both solid last year, taking third at 99 and 113, respectively. Meanwhile, Grant Gannon of Union-Endicott was second at 120 with a 30-win season and Hunter Hoffmier of Newark Valley took third. Wesley Woodworth and Jacob Scibek of Horseheads were both fourth as well.
Colgan, Photo by BV
The middleweights include two returning titlewinners from Johnson City. Both Isaiah Colgan and Tyler Brazinski are two-time Section IV champions. Colgan was one match from placing at the state meet in 2014. Then, in 2015, Colgan’s season ended a few matches short of where he wanted to be, going 1-2 at the Times Union Center. However, 35 wins last year and 20 of them coming by way of fall tell me that Colgan can win more matches at the end of the year. I expect to see him at least on the podium -- if not near the top.
Brazinski is known to be a hammer on top. He had 17 pins last season and won the always-tough Teike Bernabi Tournament at Spencerport. The Wildcat was a Sectional champ in 2013 at 99 pounds and last year at 126.
Their teammate Corey McCormick is a two-time section runner up and both times he lost to the guy who placed fourth in the state. Don’t expect to see him lose a lot this year.
Charlie Mahon of Elmira has taken third three straight years. This 'Mahon child' has a bitter taste in his mouth and is looking to finally get that trip to Albany.
Quam Jackson of Corning, Maxim Kilmer of Vestal and Zack Martin of Union-Endicott all nabbed third in the Section last year as well, while Bailey VanVleet of Corning was fourth.
Tommy Mackay of Elmira and David Crow of Newark Valley are the only defending champs this season in the higher weights. Mackay missed significant time during his junior season, but when he came back, he came hard, pinning all but one opponent going into the Sectional championships. He continued his dominance in Binghamton, only needing a little over five minutes combined to finish each opponent and win a title.
Crow had the most dramatic Sectional title match. He was losing 3-2 to Matt Burge and with 30 seconds left, threw the kitchen sink and came up big with a lateral drop to secure the fall. The Cardinal, like all the Newark Valley wrestlers, has been at it all summer and expects to be on the podium come February 2016.
Matt Burge of Elmira had around 30 wins last season and after a heartbreaking loss in the finals last season, will be on a mission for a Sectional championship.
Reese Harriel of Elmira is a pin or be pinned type of wrestler, and that makes him extremely dangerous. Only four of his matches last season lasted a full six minutes. He was a Sectional finalist last season and was a few inches from a title. Watch out New York.
You always have to watch a Union-Endicott heavyweight. The Tigers have dominated Section IV's largest weight class for a while, winning four out of the last five years, and Jacob Broder is the highest returning placer from last season.
Sean Degroat and Zach Kintner of Vestal both recorded pins in the third place match last year at the state qualifier, at 195 and 220, respectively. Chris Eames and LaDarron Tutton of Horseheads and Dalton Cook of Corning were fourth.
The team race in Section IV is always a tight one. The returning champs are the Newark Valley Cardinals, who bring back Sectional champ David Crow and runner up Gianno Silba, along with several other place winners, such as Josh Post, Hunter Hoffmier, Jason Duke, Trentyn Rupert, Justin Post and Lane Carrier. Codi Boda, who took third in Division 2 last year is on the roster as well.
Last year's runner up team was Vestal. No one in the Section can deny the team's bonus points. The Golden Bears are the best pinners in the Section with their deadly cross face cradle. Derek Osman is a two-time Sectional champ and will do anything he can to help his team get back to the top. He'll have plenty of help as a number of other All-Section wrestlers are back from 2015, including third placers Maxim Kilmer, Sean Degroat and Zach Kintner and fourth placers Mark Sola, Justin Hess, Zayne Benedict and Zach Reyes. Eli Socash and Gopal Sudera made the top six also.
Perhaps the preseason favorite this season is the Elmira Express, as they return every wrestler from last year, with five Sectional finalists in the group and a number of other All-Section wrestlers. Tommy Mackay and Noah Carpenter will be leading this team into battle as returning champs, while other placers include Charlie Mahon, Ben Howe, Matt Burge, Reece Harriel, Nate Sherbert, Jacob Cardinale and Max Temple.
Johnson City is going to be sneaky good this year. Tyler Brazinski and Isaiah Colgan lead the Wildcats this season as two-time Sectional champions, along with runner up Corey McCormick. Throw in Erick Rigal, Tim Reed and additional placers like Jarred Guidelli and Daniel Guillaume and these guys have a good shot at winning the title.
Chenango Forks and Union-Endicott are traditional power houses in Section IV. There's no question coach Rick Gumble and coach Josh Ruff will have their guys ready.
Additional returning All-Section wrestlers are: from Union-Endicott Owen Harvey; from Horseheads Devin Woodworth, Jesse Johnson, Dylan Kellar, Dylan Blunt and Nate Fayerweather; from Chenango Forks Kristopher Borelli, Jeremiah Allen, Michael Riggins and Chris Polhamus; from Corning Declan Daudelin, Liam Phelan, Zachary Horning; from Ithaca Marcus Haider and from Binghamton Caelan McMahon.
Burkhart, Photo by BV
AJ Burkhart of Waverly made his first appearance in Albany count, winning a state championship at 99 pounds. The multi-time All-American will be a threat to win it all again, likely up a weight.
He is only one of the lightweights from the Section who have placed at the Times Union Center.
Chris Cirigliano of BGAH has done it twice, including third at 113 last year. Meanwhile Dean Raymond of Deposit was injured at the Section tournament last season and was unable to return to Albany, where he took bronze in 2014. Up a few classes, Brandon Gould was All-State a year ago at 126 and will look for two in a row.
Caleb Wiggins of Chenango Valley went into the NYS championships as the #2 seed at 106 last year. He's hoping to return to the state capital to pick up more victories. He is dangerous, having racked up more than 25 pins last year.
Who else could make a jump forward?
The two finishers behind Burkhart at 99 a year ago, Eli Rodriguez of Norwich and Caleb Robinson of Walton, could be back at the lightest class and are threats.
Also look out for John Worthing of Tioga, who nabbed second at the Matthew Marino Memorial over the weekend. Lansing coach Kris Harrington [Finger Lakes Wrestling Club] said "he's put in a lot of work and looks very, very good."
Look out for third place finishers Bryant Sexton of Spencer Van Etten and Dalen Geislinger of Norwich. Nick Dower of Oneonta, Austin Lamb of Tioga, Garrett Lockwood of Groton and Ty Rifanburg of Norwich all notched fourth in the Section in 2015, while Nick Kennedy of Windsor and Jacob Lehr of Chenango Valley were fifth and could be in the mix. (Lehr topped Lansing's Hunter Oblinski and Daniel Koll at the Sectionals, wrestlers who could break through this year).
There's only one returning champion in the middleweights and it's Walton's Dylan Wood, who was the #3 seed at the state tournament at 132 pounds after a strong performance at the Eastern States Classic. Joining him at that weight at the Times Union Center was Cole Rifanburg of Norwich, a runner up in the Section.
Jesse Manuel of Tioga made it to the semifinals in Albany before taking fifth place. In the same 138-pound bracket, Kobe Garrehy of Maine-Endwell picked up a pin. He got off to a great start, beating Madison Hoover of BGAH, who was the fourth seed in Albany, over the weekend. Garrehy was named MOW at the Clyde Cole Invitational as a result.
Like Manuel, Nathaniel Grubham of Whitney Point got his hand raised multiple times in the state capital and will be a contender in 2016.
"Grubham is so strong," Harrington said. "He wrestled Tristan Rifanburg tougher than anyone in Division 2 last year - he got a takedown and rideout before losing 6-2. He looks really good; I think he'll be very successful this year. Hoover is very well coached and wrestles with a lot of confidence. He won a lot of matches last year and should do it again."
Who else are we tracking? Section runner up Dawson Beers of Walton and third placer Ben Bivar of BGAH could be in contention, while fourth placers like Austin Sullivan and Micah Miller of of Maine-Endwell (defeated by Austin Carr of BGAH this season) and Devin Horton of Owego and fifth placer Colby Hall of Deposit-Hancock are some others on our radar. Grady Alpert of Spencer Van Etten has made big strides.
Garyn Huntley of Oxford Academy and Zach Gifford of Deposit battled each other three times last year, according to trackwrestling (Huntley won two) at 220 pounds and both will be in the race for top honors in the state. Huntley took fifth in New York a year ago, while Gifford made it to the blood round.
Meanwhile, Ian Chedzoy of Watkins Glen has competed in Albany multiple times and hopes that experience will put him over the top and onto the medal stand.
"He's wrestling better than I've ever seen him," Harrington said.
We haven't forgotten about Whitney Point's Jordan Torbitt, who has been out of competition due to injuries, but as a freshman in 2013 was a state placer in the middleweights and an NHSCA National champion.
"He's über talented," Harrington said. "He could have a really big year."
Section silver medalists like Devin Hills of Candor and Kordell Huntley of Oxford will look to punch tickets to Albany. Huntley finished behind eventual state champ Austin Dean of Sidney (graduated) a year ago, with Jacob Morrison of Unatego fourth in that class.
Some others to consider include returning Section placers Braxton Howell of Greene, Hunter Talbot of Moravia, Colton Van Driesen of Owego, Candor's Aaron Laurenson and Susquehanna Valley's Richie Knapp and Matt DePersis.
Norwich won by more than 30 points last year. The team lost two superstars in multi-time state champs Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia, who wrestle for Binghamton. However, the cupboard is far from bare. The squad brings back second placers Eli Rodriguez and Cole Rifanburg, as well as All-Section wrestlers like Dalen Geislinger, Ty Rifanburg, Zach Mills and Nick Murphy. The Purple Tornado will be tough again.
Deposit-Hancock, which took third in 2015, offers state representatives Dean Raymond and Zach Gifford as well as Section placers Colby Hall, Trevor Stiles and Owen Wormuth. Meanwhile, BGAH also has a pair of wrestlers who took the mat in Albany - Chris Cirigliano and Madison Hoover - in addition to All-Section wrestlers Ben Bivar and Kevin Hubbard. Watkins Glen has two NYS qualifiers back as well - Ian Chedzoy and Brandon Gould. Oxford returns a quartet of medalists - Garyn Huntley, Kordell Huntley, Brenden Gager and Garett Sylstra, while Tioga, Walton and Maine-Endwell all return three Section placers from 2015.