This article is from 01/09/14
Eight champions from last year's Eastern States are back, looking for more. Of the eight, six are nationally-ranked New Yorkers - Ward Melville's Nick Piccininni, Norwich's Tristan Rifanburg, Mepham's Louis Hernandez, Longwood's Corey Rasheed, Warsaw's Burke Paddock and Johnson City's Reggie Williams.
The remaining 2013 titlewinners are Kevin Jack of Danbury (CT) and Chris Cuccolo of St. Benedict's (NJ) (but formerly from Pine Bush in Section 9).
Winning brackets like the ones at Eastern States two years in a row is no easy feat. We’ll see how many of the eight get it done.
To see the tournament seeds provided to us on Wednesday night by the tournament director, see this link.
Here is a brief overview of the weights.
This is a place where new stars emerge and young wrestlers make a name for themselves. There are heavy favorites at a number of weights, but the early returns on our prediction contest show a wide variety of wrestlers chosen to win at 99.
We had Kelan McKenna of New Hartford, a returning state placer, at #1 in last week’s NYS rankings (he did drop a one-point match over the weekend at 106). He proved himself in Albany a year ago, but he could have his hands full with others we had in our top seven (Deposit’s Dean Raymond, Long Beach’s Jacori Teemer, Deer Park’s Thomas Cox and Arlington’s Alfredo Olmedo) as well as many others considered.
Olmedo placed at Eastern States last year, while Jonathan Loew of Wantagh and Jake Silverstein of Hauppauge are scheduled to be back after getting their hand raised in 2013 at this venue. We’re very excited to watch Anthony Stramiello of Pine Bush and Christian Gramuglia of Burnt Hills as well as talented seventh graders like Zach Lawrence of Duanesburg, Adam Busiello of Eastport South Manor and Bennie Baker of Newark Valley. We have a feeling the next set of rankings could look pretty different after it all shakes out.
One More Thought: Although Baker is unseeded, he is off to a 24-1 start and has at least one win over a seeded wrestler. We're interested to see his first Eastern States appearance. We've heard Clarence's Dylan Arena was added to the field. He's one to watch as well.
We mentioned that Chris Cuccolo earned the top spot at 99 a year ago when he attended Pine Bush. Now at St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, Cuccolo will look to do it again. In the process, he could meet a familiar foe – former Section 9 opponent Vinny Vespa of Monroe Woodbury, as well as state runner up Matteo DeVincenzo of Port Jefferson and a number of additional tough opponents. Parker Kropman of Penfield made the medal stand at Eastern States last year at 99 pounds and is the #6 seed.
One More Thought: In the semifinals of the Union-Endicott Duals, Vespa had a sizable lead over Anthony Cirillo of Rocky Point, but Cirillo made an exciting comeback. Cirillo is the #15 seed, while Vespa is slotted at #2. Could we see an interesting rematch in the Round of 16?
In addition to Cirillo, we haven't forgotten other Suffolk standouts, like Ben Tepperman of Hauppauge and Zach Ancewicz of John Glenn. And we know state qualifiers Adam Gomez of Cardozo and Malik Grant of Curtis are ready to go. Out of staters Chris Marrin and Paulo Freitas could make an impact too.
Early in the season, Syosset’s Vito Arujau and Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn battled, with Arujau coming out on top (as he did at the Journeymen Classic in the fall). Could we see those two, ranked first and second in the state, meet again? Perhaps, but it’s far from a certainty as the wrestler sitting third in the poll, Walt Whitman’s Joe Calderone (who had an offseason win over Arujau) and returning Eastern States fourth placer Johnny Stramiello of Pine Bush are also in the field, along with many other tough competitors. We can't name them all, but we'll list the past Eastern States placers (Golan Cohen of Colonie, Tony Recco of Lyndonville and Gerard Daly of Minisink Valley) and the additional state medalists (Tanner Lapiene of Ogdensburg and Joe Nelson of Oxford).
One More Thought: The depth of field is demonstrated when you see that NHSCA All-American Anthony Argentieri of Kenmore West, who recently topped state bronze medalist Ryan Hetrick, is the #15 seed and Brady Robin of Arlington, a winner over All-Stater Golan Cohen last weekend, is at #20. (Jay Albis, the #7 seed, also defeated Cohen). Argentieri was joined on the national medal stand in Virginia Beach by Hunter Dusold of Locust Valley and Andrew McFarland of Carthage.
Defending champ Nick Piccininni cruised through the tournament last year for the title. In the semis, he met Wayne's Bryan Lantry, who went on to notch third (and had a victory over state placer Dylan Booth of Port Jervis during his run). Those wrestlers will be at 120, along with several others who medaled at this tournament previously – James Szymanski of Shoreham Wading River, Nick Casella of Locust Valley and Joe Dillon of Nanuet. In addition, 2013 state champion Luis Weierbach of Hoosick Falls, NYS placers Jesse Dellavecchia of East Islip and Highland's Austin Ingraham and qualifier Evan Barczak of Monroe Woodbury will join the fray.
One Last Thought: The top-ranked DI Section 8 wrestler (Nick Rondino of Syosset) sits at #21, while the top two large school Section 4 grapplers, Isiah Colgan of Johnson City and Mikey Carr of Union-Endicott, are seeded 20th and 17th, respectively. They could pull off some surprises. Section 1's Jon Errico and Matt Grippi have wrestled well and could be factors as well.
Kevin Jack of Danbury will be looking for his third Eastern States crown after grabbing gold at 106 in 2012 and at 120 in 2013. Now at 126 pounds, he’ll be in a loaded bracket, which includes Clovis West (California) star Michael Knoblauch (#11 in the country per Intermat) as well as the top three New Yorkers in our last rankings: Travis Passaro of Eastport South Manor, Alex Delacruz of Ossining and Kellen Devlin of Amherst. [Passaro is also a former champ at this event, having taken first at 103 in 2011]. That’s not at all, as the talent is deep, including another returning Eastern States placer (Blake Retell of Shaker) as well as NYS medalists Ryan Snow of General Brown and Mike D’Angelo of Commack, among many others.
One More Thought: Da'mani Burns of Newburgh Free Academy and Tom Reina of Garden City have impressed, as have state qualifiers PJ Smoot of Monroe Woodbury, Matt Rauch of Red Hook, Hunter Richard of Holland Patent, Dempsey King of New Hartford and Richie Burke of Ithaca.
The previously mentioned Delacruz was the 120-pound Division I state champ last year, while Passaro nabbed third in that bracket. They didn't meet in Albany, however, they did face off a few weeks later at the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge, in which Passaro earned a major decision. Two of the top contenders for gold at the Times Union Center, they could be on a collision course this weekend as the #3 and #6 seeds.
Several classes have five returning Eastern States medalists, however, 132 pounds boasts six. Pearl River’s John Muldoon was the runner up at 120 in 2013, while Arlington’s Nick Tolli was fifth in the same bracket. Meanwhile, two-time state champ William Koll of Lansing, Penfield’s Frankie Gissendanner and Eastport South Manor’s Nicky Garone were all on the podium last year as well, while Hauppauge’s Chris Mauriello placed in 2012. Joining that group will be additional All-Staters such as New Utrecht’s Saidyokub Kahramonov, Tonawanda’s Cody McGregor and Salem’s Carter Merecki.
One Last Thought: Gissendanner and Tolli were two of the breakout stars of last year's tournament. The former showed that he would be a force as a seventh grader when he made the podium, while Tolli performed well before missing the remainder of the campaign with an injury. We'll see if they can again shine on the Eastern States stage. Lenny Merkin of Poly Prep, a NYS Prep champ who is also a standout in the international styles, could sneak up on people from the #15 seed. Chris Truglio of Minisink Valley, Kyle Greene of Columbia and Jack Reina of Garden City have all had strong starts to the campaign.
On his way to the title last year, Tristan Rifanburg edged Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi 2-0. Both were silver medalists at the state tournament at 132 and they are both threats to get to the highest step on the podium in Albany this year. Could they collide again? Perhaps, but of the seven wrestlers in last week’s NYS rankings, six are registered for this event - Matt Caputo (North Rockland), Mike Raccioppi (Minisink Valley), Sam Ward (Locust Valley) and Jimmy Leach (Eastport South Manor) in addition to Rifanburg and Lapi. And that doesn’t even include returning Eastern states medalist Justin Cooksey of MacArthur and several others who are capable of deep runs.
One Last Thought: State qualifiers are all over the place - Kevin Parker of Shenendehowa, Rocco Russo of Frontier, Zach Ayen of Gouverneur, Danny Graham of West Seneca East, Liam Erickson of Brewster and California's Chris Lane. James Matias of Rocky Point was competitive with some strong opponents at last weekend's U-E Duals.
Rematch, anyone? Joey Butler of Burnt Hills and Thomas Dutton of Rocky Point clashed twice at last year's state tournament and then again last weekend at Union-Endicott. Butler has won all three bouts, and the fourth battle could take place at Eastern States. Neither is the top seed, however, as that spot belongs to California's Chris Garcia, with Fargo All-American Jakob Restrepo in the fourth position.
One More Thought: Former state placer Alex Herringshaw of Holland Patent is in the field, along with qualifiers like Trevor Hoffmier of Newark Valley and Michael Dusold of Locust Valley. Fox Lane's Ben Ettlinger has looked very good thus far, as has Warwick Valley's Thomas Wightman.
Louis Hernandez of Mepham came in as the #7 seed in 2013 at Eastern States, but left as the champion on his way to a state title. Now ranked in the top five nationally at 152 pounds, the senior will be the favorite to repeat. He'll have some accomplished foes, including state finalist Frank Garcia of Norwich, the #2 seed in Albany a year ago (Angelo Kress of Columbia), Fargo All-American Jesse Porter of Shen, as well as some tough out-of-state opposition - future Columbia wrestler Tyler Zimmer of Clovis West and Richard Viruet of Massachusetts.
One More Thought: Multi-time state placer Tyler Silverthorn of General Brown is typically in the mix, while state qualifiers like Dan Woughter of Alfred Almond, Blaise Benderoth of North Rockland and Nigel Williams of Eagle Academy are also in the bracket. Zach Lugo of Deer Park is positioned at #11, but has had an outstanding year with a recent win over East Islip's Dennis Ferro.
Corey Rasheed didn't have any close matches at this tournament last year (three pins and two majors). Will that change this year with several NYS ranked wrestlers in the bracket? They include Port Jervis's Dan DeCarlo, Johnson City's Zach Colgan, Duanesburg's Connor Lawrence, Newark Valley's Derek Holcomb and James Madison's Konstantin Parfiryev. Jordan Bushey of Peru is a Fargo All-American.
One More Thought: Ithaca's Ian Van Valen (#15 seed) is 24-1 according to the NWCA Scorebook with his one setback to the very good Nate Schwab of Clarence. Jonathan Viruet of Springfield Central is a Massachusetts state champion.
You have New York's top-ranked small school, large school and Prep wrestler at this weight (Burke Paddock of Warsaw, Steve Schneider of MacArthur and Adis Radoncic of Poly Prep). All were NYS finalists last year, with Paddock and Radoncic winning it all. It will be fun to see any combination of them face off this weekend. (If Clarence's Jake Weber competes, he too is one of the state's best, although Schneider beat him last weekend).
One More Thought: Section 2 is strong at this weight, with 2013 NYS placer Franky Nassivera of Queensbury (who had a big win over Radoncic at this event last year), Jake Ashcraft of Burnt Hills and Geno Brancati of Hudson Falls. Suffolk's Mike Pistone, Erik Adon and Joe Russo could make some noise. Cornwall's Quinn Zsido picked up a nice tournament title a week ago.
We mentioned earlier that six of the top seven wrestlers in last week's NYS rankings would be on the mat at 138 pounds. That is also the case at 182. Greene's Christian Dietrich, who is nationally ranked, was the runner up at Eastern States last year. To move one spot higher, he'll contend with past placers Brett Perry of John Jay East Fishkill, Schalmont's Nick Gallo, Ward Melville's Christian Araneo and Warsaw's Aaron Paddock as well as highly-ranked Daniel Smith of South Jefferson, Mark Tracy of Sachem East and Trey DuVall of Addison, among others.
One More Thought: This is a very solid group. The 11-13 seeds, Shoreham Wading RIver's Dom Pirraglia, Monroe Woodbury's Nick McShea and Deer Park's David Hamil all have zero or one loss this year, according to the NWCA Scorebook, and could make an impact.
Defending champion Reggie Williams of Johnson City is actually the #2 seed, given his loss to Shenendehowa's Levi Ashley in December. Both are nationally-ranked and we could certainly see them square off another time. Ben Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt and Wayne Burt of Colonie were third and fourth at this event last year, while Andrew Grella was sixth. All are having stellar campaigns once again.
One More Thought: We're interested to see Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy, a tough PSAL wrestler who won two matches at this event last year (eliminated by Grella) and then went on to the Round of 8 at the state tournament. South Jefferson's Logan LaFlamme and Lancaster's James Empfield are two others to track.
Only one medalist is back from 2013 at this weight - Monroe Woodbury's Rob Kelly. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a quality group. In fact, state champion Rich Sisti of Monsignor Farrell is a force and he's joined by All-Stater Sam Eagan of Churchville-Chili and state qualifiers Bryan Tenny of Farmingdale, John Hartnett of Tappan Zee and California's Cortes Morales.
One More Thought: A pair of All-Americans are lodged in the #10 and #13 spots - Vin Feola of Walt Whitman and Rafal Rokosz of Southampton. They'll look to show their stuff and get on the podium as they did at the Super 32/NHSCAs and Fargo, respectively.
Two returning placers will be in the field at heavyweight- #2 seed Austin DiCerbo of Colonie and #4 seed Jake Morris of Canastota. Joining them will be NYS placers Connor Calkins of Alfred Alfred Almond, Mike Manni of Tappan Zee and qualifier Peter Strassfield of Southampton.
One More Thought: John Glenn's Edwin Rubio was an NHSCA All-American a year ago and he's had an excellent year thus far, including a win over Manni last weekend. Johnson City's Nikola Cejic won the Teike-Bernabi crown.
So, who will win the titles?
We're asking you! We have a large number entries already, but you still have time to tell us in our prediction contest (link here).
We're planning to do a live blog on Day 2 of the tournament ... tune in and we'll see you then.