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Grappler Gold

Part 2: NYS Tourney Video Interviews With State Champions

By BV, 03/02/17, 11:30AM EST


The following is a quick look at each of the 30 state champions. We wish we had video interviews with every single one, however, we did talk to most of them, which you can see below. 



Who was the first-ever PSAL Division 1 state champion? Brandon Nunez will forever be the answer to that question. The #1 ranked 99 pounder all year long, Nunez delivered in Albany as a senior after earning double All-American honors in Fargo over the summer. For more on Nunez, see this profile from last week (and his video interview below).


Before the tournament, a coach told us his “upset special” was Anthony Noto of Honeoye Falls-Lima over top-seeded John Worthing in the semis. They had wrestled earlier in the season, with Worthing (a 2016 state finalist) coming out on top, but this time was different. Noto got his hand raised against Worthing and then recorded a dramatic pin in overtime in the championship contest against Jordan Titus of Center Moriches.  Noto was one of two freshmen to pick up gold and he won the first state title in his school's history. 


As we said in our rankings, we believed coming into the tournament that the top two wrestlers at this weight were from Section 11 . We were looking forward to the third meeting of the season between Eastport-South Manor's Zach Redding and Half Hollow Hills West's Dylan Ryder after they split the first two. It happened in the semis, with Ryder taking a 3-0 lead and Redding escaping and pushing hard in the final stanza for the tying takedown in a 3-1 final. In the title bout for the second straight year, Ryder broke through for a state title, showing his dominant top wrestling in a 15-0 technical fall.


In our last set of rankings, we said “we believe Jon Charles and Trent Svingala are headed for a showdown for the top spot, with either capable of taking home the crown”. Svingala left little doubt who should be at #1 after Saturday night, taking control right away and earning a 9-2 decision over 2016 NYS champ Charles. That concluded an undefeated campaign for the Maple Hill sophomore after he took fourth in Division 1 at 99 pounds last year.


Greg Diakomihalis is a freshman … who already has two state titles. The Hilton ninth grader moved up two weights from last year but his finish was the same in Albany.  He completed an undefeated season and helped Hilton finish on top of the team standings in Division 1 for the fourth consecutive time. The Diakomihalis family already has six NYS gold medals!


The wrestler who clashed with Diakomihalis in the Eastern States finals this year (a 3-1 bout), Trey Laflamme of South Jefferson/Sandy Creek, prevailed in Division 2 at 113. Laflamme finished the campaign at 46-1, earning the first state title for his school. He had been on the podium twice before in Albany, including fifth a year ago at the same weight and made it to the top as a senior.

An exciting Suffolk County finals match at 120 between Eastport-South Manor’s Adam Busiello and Rocky Point’s Anthony Cirillo ended in a pin for Busiello. The rematch in the state championship bout finished the same way.

Busiello earned bonus points in all four of his matches with three pins and an 11-1 major and picked up his third straight gold after taking second as a seventh grader. The multi-time Super 32 champion has committed to Penn State.


Busiello had just one loss this season - to Jakob Camacho of Danbury (CT). The same was true for Division 2 120 pound titlewinner Orion Anderson of Schuylerville. Anderson navigated a challenging bracket that included a state champion and runner up from last year and took his second state gold in a row. He also was a NYS finalist in 2015. For his efforts, Anderson was named the small school MOW.


Justin Vines of Wantagh wasn’t afraid to let his emotions show. He even did some dancing in video interviews after coming out on top in an overtime bout in the semifinals over returning placer Randy Earl and in the championship contest against Austin Hertel of Hilton. After a fourth place showing as a sophomore, Vines went to the top, where he’ll look to return as a senior. He'll be part of a powerful Wantagh squad.


Jonathan Gomez has been a fixture on the podium at the NYS tournament. As a freshman, he notched second before an overtime win for the title as a sophomore. Last year, he nabbed third, but he returned to the finals in his final high school appearance at the Times Union Center and left with this second state gold.

Gomez won 35 straight matches to end the season, including an Eastern States crown in which he defeated Vines in the finals. He'll be attending Princeton next year.


Jacori Teemer became part of an exclusive club when he notched his fourth state title with a 1-0 victory over Victor’s Mike Venosa at 132 pounds.  That gives him championships at 99, 106, 126 and 132. Teemer and his Long Beach teammates finished atop the dual meet rankings for the second year in a row (with two straight Union-Endicott Duals crowns). The Nassau star, who was also a Fargo champion over the summer,  will be back as a senior to strive for five.


132 was a weight for multiple time champs, as Dane Heberlein added a third title to his resume in his fourth appearance in the finals.  (He also won at 99 and 120). Heberlein, who will attend Binghamton in the fall, picked up bonus points in his first three bouts in Albany before finishing with a solid 7-3 triumph in the finals over Fredonia’s Hector Colom.


Vito Arujau was the second Nassau wrestler to earn championship #4 on Saturday night. The future Cornell wrestler, a five-time finalist, was dominant again with a major and two falls and was rewarded with the MOW award at the end of the event. His outstanding high school career ended with just one loss - as an eighth grader in the state finals in the ultimate tiebreaker. The Cadet World silver medalist will look to add more Freestyle hardware before leaving for Ithaca.


While Arujau was a significant favorite at 138 on the Division 1 side, Hunter Shaut of Central Valley Academy entered as the sixth seed in the small school tournament after earning an at large bid. Shaut got his hand raised four times, including in a back and forth 4-3 decision over Tanner Lapiene of Ogdensburg in the finals, giving the first place team (Central Valley Academy) its first champ of the night (see 145 for the next one).  Shaut, a sophomore, will have a chance for many more honors in Albany.


Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield was the 145 pound champion in Albany in 2016 and he repeated over the weekend for his third title. (He won as a freshman in 2015 as well).  Gissendanner registered a pin, major and technical fall to earn a spot in the finals before controlling the title bout on the way to a 7-2 decision.  The Fargo freestyle national gold medalist could join that four-time NYS champ group in his senior campaign.


One match after Hunter Shaut picked up a title, his Central Valley Academy teammate Tanner Cook followed suit with a championship of his own. Cook was second at the state tournament in 2016 and this time went one step higher on the medal stand. It wasn’t easy, however, as Cook and Adam Wagner of South Seneca traded points in a high scoring 10-8 affair. Cook had just one loss all season - to 152 pound D1 runner up Matt Grippi of Fox Lane at Eastern States.


The third time in the finals was the charm for Peter Pappas of Plainview. The Edinboro commit captured a state title in his final high school match, defeating Matt Grippi of Fox Lane at 152 pounds. Pappas, who kissed the mat during his celebration, went unbeaten as a senior, including an Eastern States title. 


Like Pappas, Hunter Richard made the NYS championship bout for the third time.  Richard responded with this third title, beating the same opponent as he did for gold in 2016 - Ross McFarland of Phoenix. Richard, who posted a perfect record in 2016-17, will compete for Cornell next year following a four-time All-State career.

160 AND 170 POUNDS

We put these weights together because we had an interview with the 160 and 170 Division 2 champs together. 


Division 1 160: Ryan Ferro pinned/teched his way through the state tournament a year ago on his path to his first NYS championship.  The three sport athlete once again finished on top, picking up a pair of falls along the way. Ferro pinned his finals foe, Grant Cuomo of Brewster, earlier in the year and picked up key points by putting Cuomo on his back in a 7-3 victory on Saturday night. The Section 9 wrestler finished his 12th grade campaign undefeated with more than 30 falls.


Division 2 160: Noah Grover was our pick as the top Division 2 160 pounder throughout the year and he left the state capital as a state champion. The Buffalo recruit recorded pins in his first three bouts before topping Noah Curreri of Eldred-Liberty-Sullivan West, 7-3. Grover was third last season but moved up a few notches as a senior.


Division 1 170: Tyler Barnes put an exclamation point on a perfect season with a state title for Ballston Spa. After making the podium a year ago as a sophomore, Barnes was a double Fargo finalist and kept the momentum going throughout the season. The NC State commit could make it two in 2018, as could the Division 2 champion.


Division 2 170: Matt Gaiser of Alexander was among the most dominant wrestlers in Albany on Friday and Saturday. The junior registered three first period pins, including in the finals against four-time placer Jason Hoffman of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George.  His only six minute match at the Times Union Center came in the semis when he had a 10-0 major decision. Gaiser was also All-State in 2016 and will be a favorite again next year.


The #1 182 pounder in the nation, Hilton's Louie DePrez, was in complete control all season long, including four bonus point victories at the state tournament. He finished a stellar career with places of third, first, first and first in Albany and the Super 32 champion will be someone to watch at Binghamton University in the coming years.


Like DePrez, Cliffton Wang will be wrestling in the EIWA conference in the future - at Harvard. The Section 1 senior took the mat in Albany four years in a row, including a third place showing as an 11th grader and a title over the weekend.  Wang defeated Doug Simmons of Canastota in overtime to give Edgemont its second-ever state champ.


Because of an injury, Kendall Elfstrum didn't wrestle his first match of the season until January 18. He had just 12 bouts prior to the Section 9 tournament and about half of them were at 182. However, the future Princeton wrestler moved to 195 pounds for the postseason and it paid off, as he went from fourth in the state as a junior to a champion in his final high school match. There were certainly a few instances of controversy at this weight during the tournament, but in an exciting finals contest, Elfstrum overcame a deficit and got the 9-7 sudden victory win over Cardozo's Simon Chee for gold.


Like Elfstrum, James Hoeg of Mattituck bumped up from 182 for the Sectionals. A fourth placer a year ago in the state capital, Hoeg left no doubt about who the top wrestler in the bracket was this time around.

He posted technical falls in his first three matches before recording a 10-2 major over returning state finalist Joe Benedict of South Jefferson/Sandy Creek to capture the first state crown in Mattituck history.  Mattituck was also named co-Division 2 dual meet champions in New York State.


For the second consecutive year, the 220 pound Division 1 final was action packed. Defending champ Terron Robinson of Walt Whitman was in control for much of the bout, with a 9-4 lead late into the third, but unseeded Zach Knighton-Ward of Uniondale hit a big throw for a five-point move just before the buzzer to knot the score. Unfortunately, during that sequence, Robinson suffered a significant injury and couldn't continue. Knighton-Ward completed a undefeated state championship season after the injury default and was the only unseeded wrestler to leave Albany as a champion.


Just a few minutes after James Hoeg picked up Mattituck's first NYS gold at 195, Tanner Zagarino added a second for the Suffolk school at 220 pounds. (The Tuckers had four finalists).

After taking third at this event in 2016, Zagarino completed a dominant weekend with a 10-5 win over two-time All-State wrestler Hammond Raes of Midlakes. To get to the finals, Zagarino registered three pins, all in less than four minutes.


Billy Bolia of Fairport made the podium at 220 last year, and his transition to heavyweight was seamless. The Section 5 senior compiled a perfect record (including a win over Division 2 champ Laith Alsous), ending his high school action with a 2-1 win over Deonte Wilson of Amityville.  He finished the season with more than 20 pins.


Laith Alsous of Lewiston Porter, who is headed to Campbell University, entered the state tournament as the #1 seed in 2016 and left with a fourth place finish.  He added another medal to his collection on Saturday ... this time a gold one.  His road wasn't easy, as Alsous topped returning state champ Andrew Tanner of Adirondack in overtime in the semis before downing previously undefeated Jacob Morrison of Unatego in the title bout.