The following is a look at some of the ninth graders to watch in the Empire State this season. We expect to see strong performances from them – as well as others who will emerge as the season progresses.
1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton) – Diakomihalis has compiled quite a list of achievements before beginning high school. Among them was the state championship he won in 2013 at 99 pounds in Albany. In 2012, he captured the Middle School crown at the Super 32 Challenge and won his brackets at the Journeymen Classic, the NYWAY State Championship and the Ohio Tournament of Champions, among others. His prowess on the mat is well known nationally as both Intermat and Flowrestling have him among the top five wrestlers in the United States in the Class of 2017.
2 Vito Arujau (Syosset) – Arujau and Diakomihalis began this year’s state finals in Division I with a bang, with a battle at 99 pounds that went to the ultimate tiebreaker. Arujau’s silver medal will no doubt be the first of many trips high on the podium at the Times Union Center. The 2012 Journeymen Classic champion also took third at the Super 32 Challenge last season and has been all over the place this offseason preparing for another title run. He went undefeated against tough competition recently at the Waterway Duals in Pennsylvania. Intermat ranks him #11 in the country among freshmen.
3 Evan Barczak (Monroe Woodbury) – A state qualifier in 2013 at 106 pounds, the Section 9 wrestler has a ton of upside after racking up a 34-7 record as an eighth grader. He saw many of New York’s best, with four of his losses coming to the top four finishers in Division I in Albany. At the Times Union Center, he was defeated by silver medalist Alex Tanzman and in sudden victory by bronze winner Jon Haas. One of his other setbacks was at the hands of Fulton’s Mitchell Woodworth, a result that he avenged in his opening bout at the state tournament, 6-2. Barczak also was a double finalist at the Cadet New York State championships in Freestyle (champion) and Greco (second place).
4 Lou DePrez (Hilton) – A SuperSectional champion as an eighth grader at 120, Deprez joined his brothers Vincent and Anthony as representatives of Section 5 in Albany in 2013. DePrez won over 45 matches, including a victory at the state tournament and a win over All-State grappler Ralph Mateo of Midlakes. He also placed at 120 at the 2012 Super 32 Challenge (Middle School).
5 Hunter Dusold (Locust Valley) – Already a two-time state qualifier at 106 pounds, Dusold sported a 2-2 mark in Albany this year, missing All-State status by one win. In fact, he lost his medal round bout by disqualification, while his other setback was 2-0 to eventual champion Luis Weierbach. A NHSCA All-American multiple times in the past (and sixth in 2013), Dusold will join a number of his Locust Valley teammates as returning Section 8 champions looking to make an impact at the Times Union Center in February.
All of the wrestlers above have already shown their abilities at the state tournament.
The same could be said of Tanner Lapiene of Ogdensburg Free Academy, a fourth place finisher at 99 pounds who will look to bring more hardware back to Section 10.
But, there are certainly many wrestlers who haven’t wrestled in the state capital who will make their presence felt as ninth graders in 2013-14. Who might be prepared to make that leap?
How about Dane Heberlein of Alexander? An NHSCA National champion in 2012 (and a bronze medalist in Virginia Beach this spring), Heberlein has won numerous events around the country. As an eighth grader, Heberlein won over 40 matches, taking fourth at SuperSectionals as an undersized 99 pounder. Or how about 2012 Super 32 runner up Peter Pappas of Nassau County? Or any number of young guns from Section 11 such as Hauppauge's Ben Tepperman, Rocky Point's Anthony Cirillo and John Glenn's Zach Ancewicz? The latter two combined for 67 wins and 10 losses as eighth graders in the loaded lightweights in Suffolk County. In addition, all three earned All-America status at the NHSCA Middle School Nationals in Virginia Beach this spring.
Don't forget about Hunter Richard of Holland Patent, who went 41-7 at 113 as an eighth grader. He qualified for the state tournament and won a match in Albany, with both of his losses coming to All-State wrestlers, including eventual champion Dillon Stowell in the first round. Richard also racked up wins for the Schoolboy Nationals squad in Indianapolis earlier in the offseason (11-2 combined in Freestyle and Greco). Or how about another Hilton wrestler, Michael Spallina, who went 43-5 as an eighth grader at 152 pounds? He has picked up medals in several national competitions in the past, such as Super 32 (third in 2012) and NHSCAs (champion in 2010 and 2011; fifth in 2012). Speaking of national events, Garyn Huntley of Oxford Academy collected All-America honors in Fargo this summer at 220 pounds in Greco action. As an eighth grader, he won close to 25 matches. Will he take the next step?
This isn't an exhaustive list - there are many more we’ll be following. After all, there are always freshmen that step up and make names for themselves. Who will do so this year? Feel free to send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with nominees.
Thank you to Mike Carey for all his hard work to make this article possible. Thanks to all of the other contributors (who know who they are), including Kris Harrington and John Passaro.