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Lion's Den: Who Stood Out and Earned Titles in the Inaugural Event

By BV, 10/09/17, 3:00PM EDT


The inaugural New York Wrestling News Lion's Den Invitational took place on Sunday at Tuttle Gym at Brockport, with the champions coming from Sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in New York as well as a gold medalist from New Jersey.  In addition, representatives from Canada (including Cadet World team members), National Preps and at least three other sections competed.

Nationally-ranked Greg Diakomihalis was among the winners, as were four more NYS placers and four additional state qualifiers. 

Read on for more!


We have many thank yous to share and will do so soon.


Rocco Camillaci, who competed as a seventh grader for Hilton at 99 a year ago, practices at “The Garage” with a number of tough lightweights - including some of the competitors in his bracket at the Lion’s Den on Sunday.

In an exciting bout in pool action, G2's Camillaci took on one of them - eventual third placer Carter Schubert of G2/Williamson-Marion-Sodus, a state qualifier as a seventh grader in 2017. 

Schubert rode Camillaci out in the second period and then escaped early in the third for a 1-0 advantage.  However, with short time remaining in the bout, Camillacci got in deep and converted for a takedown and a 2-1 decision.

“I know from practice what moves Carter likes to do,” Camillaci said. “There wasn’t much time left and I just shot a high crotch and scored.”

After wrestling at SuperSectionals a year ago, Camillaci said he’ll be back at the lightest weight class and he’s “looking to go to states and place this year.”

Canadian Cadet World team member Gregor McNeil notched second.


Mason Bush of Central Valley crushed the competition with two technical falls and a pin in the finals against Mikey Evans of Springville-Griffith, who made the blood round at the state tournament last season. [Corey Okun of Liverpool was third].

Bush has collected plenty of big wins, including earning All-State status at 99 pounds and following with an NHSCA National championship in the Middle School division in Virginia Beach as an eighth grader. 

“Those tournaments prepared me mentally and physically,” he said. “I’ve gotten better at my scrambling and I got stronger since last season. I was a small 99 pounder last year and I’ve put on some weight. I just want to do what I do best.”

Central Valley captured the Division 2 state championship in Albany last year and return two state champs (Hunter Shaut and Jon Charles) as well as state placers Mason and his brother Marek Bush (see 113).  Clearly, the squad will be loaded again.

“Our team is looking forward to the season,” Mason Bush said, with his brother Marek adding, “We think we can win the championship again.”


No one went undefeated in this round robin bracket, with Marek Bush of Central Valley, Micah Roes of AWC/Lowville and Wenchard Pierre-Louis of Brentwood all finishing with 3-1 records. Marek Bush took the Lion trophy home by virtue of a bonus point victory over Roes.

“Everyone was tough and everyone was back and forth in the bracket,” Bush said.

In the first round, Pierre-Louis and Bush battled in an exciting match that the Section 11 wrestler won 5-2.

“He was pretty long, but I wasn’t scared of wrestling him,” Pierre-Louis said. “I don’t care who you are, I’m gonna go out and wrestle hard. I got some good matches today.”

After the opener, Bush, a fourth place finisher at the state tournament in 2017 and an NHSCA Middle School National champion wasn’t fazed.

“I knew I had to just keep wrestling hard,” Bush said. “I didn’t worry about the loss, I just kept wrestling.” 

He plans to keep wrestling deep into the NYS championships again this year.

“I definitely want to be on the podium again,” he said, adding that he would like to certify at 108. “I’m looking to wrestle in the finals this year.”

Roes took second in the bracket after edging Pierre-Louis, 4-3, in addition to victories over a pair of Sectional silver medalists from last season - Jake Harry of Lancaster and Brian Hedding of Comet Wrestling Club/Rush Henrietta.

113 B

Brandon Callaghan (Apex/Greece) swept four matches in the 113B bracket to take first place on Sunday at Brockport. 

He began with a pin and followed with three major decisions in a row, outscoring his opponents 40-9.

Bryce Bolognese of Lancaster Wrestling Club took second, while Joey Brennan of G2 World Wrestling Academy/LeRoy nabbed third.


Greg Diakomihalis of G2 World Wrestling Academy/Hilton, a two-time state champion, dominated the competition on Sunday on the way to the top at 120.  [Canadian Cadet World team member Lachlan McNeil, who trains with Diakomihalis, was second by forfeit]. 

The nationally-ranked Diakomihalis picked up a pin and two majors during the day.  One of those matches was against Brock Delsignore of Journeymen/South Glens Falls, one of the top 50 freshmen in the nation according to Flowrestling. 

Delsignore, a state qualifier last season at 99 pounds, nabbed third with a 7-3 victory over 2017 state third placer Matt Garland of South Jefferson.

“At 120, the guys are definitely a lot stronger and I know that’s how everyone’s gonna be from now on,” Delsignore said. “Wrestling at the state tournament last year made a big difference for me. In seventh grade, I didn’t get to go and last year I got there for the first time. It’s a long journey and I feel like I pretty much just started.”


Right after Max Kropman of G2 World Wrestling Academy/Penfield received his first place Lion trophy and took a few podium pictures, he handed his award over to his six-year old sister.

“I was wrestling with her in our living room yesterday and I told her if she beat me and I won the trophy I would give it to her,” he said.

Kropman started the 2016-17 campaign with a long winning streak but his season concluded at Eastern States after suffering an injury.

“I got hungry to wrestle again,” he said. “I took it slow and once I came back, I tried to gain back everything I lost. I always took everything so seriously; I was always nervous for tournaments and I think I held myself back and it contributed to my injury. I didn’t have the right mindset. Now, I’m trying to have more fun and just enjoy it no matter what the outcome.”

The outcome on Sunday was impressive as he racked up two first period falls before defeating National Preps All-American Sal Jones 5-2 in the finals. [Nick Bierfeldt of Olean was third].

Kropman wound up giving up his trophy to his sister, but will likely get more trophies for Penfield this year.


Speaking of Sal Jones … the VHW/Long Island Lutheran senior stood on the podium at the Lion’s Den wearing all Cornell gear.  That’s because Ithaca, New York is his college destination.

“The first time I went up to Cornell, I was about 10 years old,” Jones said. “Vougar [Oroudjov] brought me up and ever since then it was my main goal to go there. I signed up for every camp and every year I got to know the coaches a little more.”

Jones, a three-time NY Private school champion, earned a spot on the medal stand at National Preps in 2017 and he has big goals for his final year in high school as well.

“I want to win private school states again and go top three at Eastern States and Prep Nationals,” he said, noting that he will likely compete at either 120 or 126. 

He thinks he projects as a 133 pounder in college, but he grew three inches over the summer and has some family history which might suggest a higher weight class.

“My dad shot up a foot between his 11th and 12th grade years in high school, so who knows, the coaches say I might wind up all the way up at 165,” he said.

Jones said Vougar Oroudjov, Justin Accordino and his dad [Joe Jones] have provided so much help to him and he thanks all the coaches and partners that have pushed him over the years.


One female wrestler entered the tournament - Damiana Racciatti of Pin2Win at 126 pounds. While she didn’t get her hand raised, she said it was another valuable experience in a sport she just started two years ago.

“I was in seventh grade and doing jiu jitsu and someone suggested wrestling to help with takedowns,” the freshman said. “I tried it and just fell in love with the sport.”

She competed at 126 on Sunday, but said she expects to be at a lower weight for the season.

“I’m trying to get to 120, maybe even 115,” she said. “It’s fun to be unique in what you enjoy doing. I like that you always have to prove yourself in wrestling."


Victor’s Alex Samson was easy to spot during the tournament as the only wrestler competing in a t-shirt. 

“It’s just more comfortable,” the Superior Wrestling representative said. “I’d wrestle in a t-shirt in high school if I could.” 

It certainly worked for him as he recorded two pins and a major on his way to the title at 132 pounds. Amaan Gulacha was second, with Austin Lints of Journeymen/Schoharie third.

Samson is accustomed to winning after taking fourth at the state tournament a year ago. 

“It was my first time placing and that was one of my goals for a really long time - since I started varsity,” Samson said. “I was happy I accomplished that but I definitely want to do better this year. I’ll probably start at 132 and just see what happens from there.”


There were multiple Lion trophies already going to the Kropman household, with Zane winning his bracket in the Lion’s Den youth tournament on Saturday and Max prevailing at 126 on Sunday.  G2 World Wrestling Academy/Penfield’s Cooper Kropman added to the haul with an impressive performance at 138. [Dealon Harrison grabbed the runner up spot, while Daniel Koll of Finger Lakes Wrestling Club/Lansing took third.

Kropman beat all four of his opponents by fall, with just one match reaching the third period.  He hopes to continue the momentum as he heads into his freshman year, having qualified for the state tournament as an eighth grader at 138. (He got his hand raised once in Albany).

“It was a thrill almost and kind of nerve-wracking to go to the state tournament last year,” he said. “I got to learn what it’s like to be in front of so many people. I knew I needed to lift more this offseason because the guys I’m wrestling are strong and I definitely worked on my technique. Last year, I wasn’t the best on bottom, but I feel like I’ve gotten much better at that.”

On Sunday, Kropman seemed to have his pinning combinations in good shape as well. 


Matt Kline of CHS Hawks/Corning said his experience at the Times Union Center last season had a big impact on him.

“Going to the state tournament humbled me a lot,” he said. “I knew who I was and where I wanted to be.”

He’s had some strong offseason results, including at a Super 32 Qualifier, and added four victories and the Lion’s Den title at 145 on Sunday.  Ian O'Neil of VVS earned silver, with Joey Brillo of Skaneateles taking bronze.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was hoping to wrestle Frankie [Gissendanner, who was injured], but I had a really good time and got some good matches.”

He expects to get more good matches at the Super 32 in North Carolina later this month.  And then, it’s time for him to make the most of his senior campaign.

“My goals are to win the STAC, the Section tournament and do my best at states,” Kline said. “All I want to do is my best - I can’t leave anything on the table. It’s my senior year, so I want to finish knowing I left everything on the mat.” 


Perry Maio, who competed for Kittatinny High School in New Jersey last season, grabbed first place at 152 following a trio of victories, including a fall.

In second place was Rondout Valley’s Ian Houck, a Section 9 champion and state qualifier a year ago.  Robert Billett of Apex/Wayne was third.

“I wrestled a lot better today than I did last week [at Journeymen],” Houck said. “I was less hesitant.  [Against Maio], I got caught in a dump and was down five points in the first. But I came back against a tough kid in a tough match.”

Houck got a taste of the NYS tournament last year, coming within one victory of the medal stand at 132.

“Getting your name in that bracket and being there is something you never forget,” he said. “The competition is great. You know everyone there will be tough. I’ve worked on mental toughness and all the fundamentals of wrestling.”

Houck said he often trains with his coach, Maxx Stratton, who gives him the look and feel of the state tournament. But he won’t go into the season thinking only about the final event of the campaign.

“I don’t want to focus on wins and losses,” he said. “It’s how I perform in those matches. The goal is to be aggressive and not take anyone for granted - just go after it.”


Ethan Cooper has been competing against older opponents for most of his high school career. As a seventh grader for Cobleskill-Richmondville he won more than 20 matches at 132 pounds and as an eighth grader, he took third at the Section 2 tournament at 152.

Last year, as a freshman, he lost in overtime in the Section 2 championship bout at 160 and is coming into his sophomore season ready to make the jump to the state tournament.

“It definitely helped starting out the way I have - my style adjusted to wrestling stronger kids,” he said.

Cooper battled with Lancaster’s Ryan Stencel, a wrestler who was one win from the podium a year ago in Albany, in his opening bout at the Lion’s Den. Cooper’s first period takedown was the difference in a 2-0 victory. 

“[Stencel] was really good, he was tough on top,” Cooper said. “But I knew from freestyle experience, I would be hard to turn. In the finals match, [Jonathan Rogers, who pinned his way to the title bout] was quick and all over the place. I got the points I needed and was able to win [in an 8-7 match].

As for this year, the Journeymen wrestler said his goal is the state finals at 160.


Danny Emblidge of Grand Island was the champion at 170 pounds, while Mark Mullen of Finger Lakes Wrestling Club/SVEC was second.

“They were definitely tough matches with close scores,” Emblidge said.

After taking second at 160 pounds in Section 6 last year, he’s looking to take the next step this season.

“I’ve been wrestling a lot this summer,” he said. “I’m doing cross country right now, but I did a lot of camps and a lot of wrestling, including with partners and coaches like Jay Breeden, Jaquan Johnson, Stephen Liebler, Craig Hoplight and Zach Breeden.

Jaquan Johnson, a third placer in Section 6 a year ago at heavyweight, coached Emblidge at the Lion’s Den. Like Emblidge, he’s looking to get to the state tournament for the first time for a Grand Island team that will include 13 seniors.

“I wrestled 40 plus matches this offseason and took only four losses,” Johnson said. “I beat tough guys like Nick Jones and Shaerod Rodgers and the goal is to win the state this year.”


Sammy DePrez of G2 World Wrestling Academy/Hilton won all of his bouts by bonus points on the way to the title at 182 pounds. 

DePrez was a state qualifier a year ago at 170 pounds, winning his opener and then dropping a pair of one-point contests to the eventual second and fourth placers.

Jack Kumpf of Victor and Robbie Shepard of Chittenango (pictured) were second and third, respectively. 


Connor Fredericks of Chittenango made the podium (fifth) at the NYS tournament last year at 170 pounds. 

“It opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I’ve been working really hard. I really like working on my feet, and I feel like I’ve been training harder and smarter.”

He wrestled at 195 over the weekend at the Lion’s Den, and was dominant with a major and a pair of first period falls.

“Wrestling bigger guys - you have to be more methodical with your movement,” he said.

Fredericks has a state title in his sights this season, potentially at 182, and also has his eye on Division 1 wrestling with Sacred Heart and Franklin & Marshall on his radar.

Grady Alpert of Finger Lakes Wrestling Club/SVEC nabbed silver, with Ben Schwab of Royalton Hartland-Barker taking bronze.



High School - 99
1st Place - Rocco Camillaci of G2 World Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Gregor McNeil of G2 World Wrestling Academy
3rd Place - Carter Schubert of G2 World Wrestling Academy
4th Place - Andy Lucinski of Club Not Listed/New Club
5th Place - Kaleb Schurkus of Lancaster Wrestling Club
6th Place - Elijah Flores of G2 World Wrestling Academy
7th Place - Lucas Randisi of Superior Wrestling Academy

High School - 106
1st Place - Mason Bush of Central Valley Youth Wrestling Club
2nd Place - Mikey Evans of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Corey Okun of Club Not Listed/New Club
4th Place - Lucas Mark of Apex Wrestling
5th Place - Dylan Decker of Club Not Listed/New Club
6th Place - Dip Lad of Club Not Listed/New Club
7th Place - Alexander Constantis of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 113A
1st Place - Marek Bush of Central Valley Youth Wrestling Club
2nd Place - Micah Roes of AWC
3rd Place - Wenchard Pierre-Louis of Unattached
4th Place - Brian Hedding of Comet Wrestling Club
5th Place - Jake Harry of Lancaster Wrestling Club

High School - 113B
1st Place - Brandon Callaghan of Apex Wrestling
2nd Place - Bryce Bolognese of Lancaster Wrestling Club
3rd Place - Joey Brennan of G2 World Wrestling Academy
4th Place - Shane Brown of G2 World Wrestling Academy
5th Place - Zackary Nacco of Brockport Jr. Blue Devils

High School - 120
1st Place - Greg Diakomihalis of G2 World Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Lachlan McNeil of G2 World Wrestling Academy
3rd Place - Brock Delsignore of Journeymen Wrestling Club
4th Place - Matt Garland of South Jefferson Spartans
5th Place - Lennon Black of Penfield Youth Wrestling
6th Place - Paul Manning of Apex Wrestling
7th Place - Drew Witham of Club Not Listed/New Club
8th Place - Trevor Robbins of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 126
1st Place - Max Kropman of G2 World Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Sal Jones of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Nick Bierfeldt of Olean Wrestling Club
4th Place - Scherbyn Jake of Apex Wrestling
5th Place - Josh Walford of Club Not Listed/New Club
6th Place - Damiana Racciatti of Phoenix Combat Kids (Pin2Win)

High School - 132
1st Place - Alex Samson of Superior Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Amaan Gulacha of Unattached
3rd Place - Austin Lints of Journeymen Wrestling Club
4th Place - Dyllan Leibenguth of Club Not Listed/New Club
5th Place - Stephen Pascarella of Phoenix Combat Kids (Pin2Win)
6th Place - Danny Ventress of Spencerport Wrestling

High School - 138
1st Place - Cooper Kropman of G2 World Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Dealon Harrison of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Daniel Koll of Club Not Listed/New Club
4th Place - Tucker Hill of Club Not Listed/New Club
5th Place - Thomas Lindsay 3rd of Club Not Listed/New Club
6th Place - Nick Sanko of Apex Wrestling
7th Place - Benjamin Parish of Club Not Listed/New Club
8th Place - Caleb Delly of Apex Wrestling

High School - 145
1st Place - Matthew Kline of CHS Hawks
2nd Place - Ian Oneil of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Joey Brillo of Club Not Listed/New Club
4th Place - Sam Grey of Cattaraugus Little Valley Youth Wrestling
5th Place - Christopher Werts of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 152
1st Place - Perry Maio of Club Not Listed/New Club
2nd Place - Ian Houck of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Robert Billett of Apex Wrestling
4th Place - Nick Kruger of Superior Wrestling Academy

High School - 160
1st Place - Ethan Cooper of Journeymen Wrestling Club
2nd Place - Jonathan Rogers Ii of Apex Wrestling
3rd Place - Ryan Stencel of Lancaster Wrestling Club
4th Place - Chad Raye of Club Not Listed/New Club
5th Place - Ethen Eldred of Club Not Listed/New Club
6th Place - Justin Lamie of Unattached
7th Place - Dakota Tigue of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 170
1st Place - Danny Emblidge of Hock`s Wrestling Club
2nd Place - Mark Mullen of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 182
1st Place - Sammy DePrez of G2 World Wrestling Academy
2nd Place - Jack Kumpf of Apex Wrestling
3rd Place - Robbie Shepard of Club Not Listed/New Club
4th Place - Ryan Damboise of Club Not Listed/New Club

High School - 195-207
1st Place - Connor Fredericks of Club Not Listed/New Club
2nd Place - Grady Alpert of Club Not Listed/New Club
3rd Place - Ben Schwab of Club Not Listed/New Club
4th Place - Isiah Prado of Club Not Listed/New Club