This article is from 01/13/14
Those who were in Loch Sheldrake over the weekend saw some tremendous wrestling at the Eastern States Classic. Six states were represented and there were numerous nationally-ranked grapplers on the mats. The visitors from Clovis West (California) took home the team title, with Springfield Central (Massachusetts) in the runner up spot and Section 11's Hauppauge grabbing third. Locust Valley and Monroe Woodbury nabbed fourth and fifth. The following are some thoughts on the tournament, including a weight-by-weight look at some things that caught our attention.
It Was Good to Be #1: Nine of the 15 top seeds won championships at SUNY Sullivan, including a pair of returning titlewinners - Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville (120) and Burke Paddock of Warsaw (170). Also going from the #1 spot in the bracket to the top of the podium were Kelan McKenna (99), Vito Arujau (113), Will Koll (132), Christian Dietrich (182), Levi Ashley (195), Richard Sisti (220) and Connor Calkins (285).
Being #6 Wasn't Too Bad, Either: A trio of sixth seeds earned crowns - Penfield's Parker Kropman (106), Eastport South Manor's Travis Passaro (126) and Springfield Central's Richard Viruet (152). In addition, three silver medalists were in the #6 position in the brackets - Adam Busiello of Eastport South Manor at 99, Daniel Smith of South Jefferson at 182 and John Hartnett of Tappan Zee at 220.
Now, a look at each class:
The Champion: Kelan McKenna of New Hartford was in control throughout the tournament, with two pins and a combined score of 17-1 in his remaining three contests. We had him at #1 in our last NYS rankings and expect him to stay there when the new rankings are released soon.
And Also: Many wrestling fans were aware of the talent of the previously mentioned Adam Busiello, a seventh grader who has a plethora of national accolades. He racked up some solid wins earlier in the season and demonstrated his competitiveness once again over the weekend, going all the way to the title bout with three of his four wins by bonus. The one regular decision was against the eventual bronze medalist, Jake Silverstein of Hauppauge. In fact, Suffolk had three of the eight placers at 99 with Busiello, Silverstein and Thomas Cox of Deer Park (eighth).
The Champion: Parker Kropman of Penfield had a very strong 34-win season last year at 99 pounds and has had plenty of success in 2013-14. His work sometimes goes unnoticed statewide as fellow Section 5 106-pounder Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton is #1 in the nation. However, Kropman showed how tough he is over the weekend, with wins over 2013 NYS placers Vinny Vespa of Monroe Woodbury and Matteo DeVincenzo of Port Jefferson as well as Chris Marrin of Clovis West.
And Also: Hauppauge's Ben Tepperman wasn't one of the 21 wrestlers listed in the 106-pound seeds prior to the event. However, he is most certainly on the map now after an impressive third place showing at the Eastern States. Tepperman started with a bang, blanking returning champ and #1 seed Chris Cuccolo of St. Benedict's in the opening round, 3-0. He dropped a tough 2-1 overtime bout to DeVincenzo in the semis, but won his next two, including a victory over Vespa for bronze. (Vespa beat Tepperman by decision earlier in the campaign).
The Champion: Vito Arujau of Syosset cruised to the finals with three pins and a pair of 13-4 majors before defeating 2013 state champion Kyle Quinn of Wantagh for the second time this season. In a loaded bracket, Arujau demonstrated why he's #1 in New York and why he's included in the national polls.
We believed Joe Calderone of Walt Whitman and Johnny Stramiello of Pine Bush were among the best in the state prior to the tournament. They looked that way in taking third and fourth. Meanwhile, Gerard Daly of Minisink Valley and Hunter Dusold of Locust Valley nabbed fifth and sixth, respectively, by significantly outwrestling their seeds (13 and 11).
The Champion: Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville cruised to his second consecutive title in Loch Sheldrake. The nationally-ranked wrestler was totally dominant, scoring 12 or more points in four of his five bouts, including a 15-0 technical fall in the finals.
And Also: While Piccininni will be the favorite in the Empire State once again this year, two other Section 11 wrestlers showed that they are formidable at this weight as well. Jesse Dellavecchia, a fourth place finisher in Albany at 99 a year ago, took third after avenging an earlier loss to Wayne's Bryan Lantry. James Szymanski of Shoreham Wading River, who defeated Dellavecchia a few weeks ago, notched fifth with a win over 2013 state champ Luis Weierbach of Hoosick Falls. Locust Valley's Nick Casella made a strong run to the title bout. He'll be looking for his third straight appearance in the finals at the Times Union Center.
The Champion: Two nationally-ranked wrestlers, Michael Knoblauch of Clovis West (California) and Kevin Jack of Danbury (Connecticut) were in this bracket. So was 2013 NYS champion Alex Delacruz of Ossining. None of them won the title. That's because they were all beaten by Eastport South Manor's Travis Passaro, who topped those wrestlers (the 1, 2 and 3 seeds) on his way to the crown. The future Hofstra wrestler most certainly deserved the post-tournament honors he received.
And Also: Richie Burke of Ithaca moved down to 126 pounds and finished fifth in the very tough class. Burke, whose only loss coming into the event was to William Koll at 132, was the ninth seed and lost to Knoblauch in the quarters. However, he rebounded well and put together a solid win over the very impressive Kellen Devlin of Amherst in his last bout. It's also worth mentioning that Delacruz bounced back from a Round of 8 setback against Passaro and made his way back to the third place contest the hard way - with three wins over All-State wrestlers, including two in sudden victory (against Devlin and General Brown's Ryan Snow).
The Champion: Lansing's William Koll has won two state titles, but he had never taken the crown at Eastern States before. He breezed to the championship round with three bonus wins and a six-point decision that was never in doubt before a battle with Hauppauge's Chris Mauriello for first place.
And Also: It's not a huge surprise when a #3 seed makes the finals, but Hauppauge's Mauriello, a sophomore who competed at the Times Union Center for the first time last year, wrestled very well, routing his first three foes before edging returning NYS fourth placer John Muldoon of Pearl River in the semis. Another young wrestler, eighth grader Frankie Gissedanner of Penfield, continued to impress, placing at the Eastern States for the second consecutive time. One more thing - Garden City's Jack Reina was 20th in the original seeds, but took eighth, including a win over 2013 state placer Saidyokub Kahramonov.
The Champion: Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam captured a very competitive class that included many of the top wrestlers in the state. He picked up five decisions along the way. Lapi has placed multiple times at the state tournament and is looking to end his career on the top of the podium in Albany. His performance this weekend showed that he's more than capable of doing so.
And Also: Locust Valley's Sam Ward is an All-American and a state medalist. He looked like a highly accomplished wrestler this weekend with a runner up showing after starting as the eighth seed. In the quarters, he took control of his bout with three-time NYS finalist Tristan Rifanburg early and got his hand raised with a 6-4 triumph. He also beat All-Staters Zach Ayen of Gouverneur and Matt Caputo of North Rockland and will be someone to keep tabs on in the postseason.
The Champion: Jake Restrepo of Sachem East had a tremendous offseason. Some of the achievements were: NHSCA All-American. Fargo All-American. Champion at the Super 32 Qualifier at Shippensburg. Wins over state finalists Lapi, Frank Garcia of Norwich and Vincent DePrez of Hilton.
Given all of that, his fast start this year was expected. He kept things rolling with decisive early victories at SUNY Sullivan, followed by a pair of gritty, one-point decisions in the semis (over top-seeded Chris Garcia of Clovis West) and finals (against Rocky Point's Tommy Dutton).
And Also: Dutton may have lost in the title bout, but he did get a monkey off his back with a win in the semis over Joey Butler of Burnt Hills. The duo met twice in the state tournament in 2013 and at Union-Endicott Duals last weekend with the Section 2 star coming out on top each time. On Saturday, however, Dutton scored early and stayed in control to nab a 7-4 win over Butler.
Duanesburg's Andy Mollevik entered as the #16 seed and after losing his second bout to the previously mentioned Chris Garcia, he got to work in the consolations, with four consecutive wins before dropping another match to Garcia. He was beaten by Newark Valley's Trevor Hoffmier 1-0 in the fifth place contest, but certainly made an impact.
The Champion: Richard Viruet of Springfield Central (Massachusetts) is a two-time state finalist and one-time champ. He looked solid throughout with a pair of pins and three other decisions in which he controlled the action.
And Also: Many expected to see Louis Hernandez of Mepham go for his second straight Eastern States crown, however, an illegal slam put him in the wrestlebacks on Day 1. As one would expect from the #6 wrestler nationally, Hernandez fought all the way back, grabbing third place. Meeting him in the bronze bout was Deer Park's Zach Lugo, who began the tournament in the #11 slot, but collected several quality wins, including over Norwich's Frank Garcia and Columbia's Angelo Kress.
Speaking of solid victories, a week after taking some losses at the Union-Endicott Duals, North Rockland's Blaise Benderoth had a great weekend, besting East Islip's Dennis Ferro and Shenendehowa's Jesse Porter on the way to the silver.
The Champion: One Viruet atop the medal stand wasn't enough. After Richard won it all at 152, his brother Jonathan Viruet followed suit with a title at 160. He was very stingy - giving up just one point in his first four bouts before a 3-2 victory over Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis in the finals.
And Also: Some Section 1 wrestlers had breakout performances over the weekend. One was Dom Celli of Somers, who was 15-0 with 13 pins coming into the Eastern States but was a bit of an unknown (at least to us). Not anymore. From the 10th position in the bracket he took fourth place, with wins over All-Stater Konstantin Parfiryev and qualifiers Jordan Bushey of Peru and Derek Holcomb of Newark Valley. Holcomb, another grappler who had a strong showing in Loch Sheldrake, topped Celli in the rematch for bronze.
Burke Paddock was the most popular champion pick at any weight in our Eastern States Prediction contest. He didn't disappoint, with five wins to take gold at this event for the second time in a row.
And Also: We just talked about Section 1's Celli emerging. The same was true for Gio Gioielli, the 12th seed from Brewster, who notched fourth. Gioielli beat three grapplers who were seeded in the top seven, including All-Stater Franky Nassivera of Queensbury before falling in the bronze match to MacArthur's Steve Schneider.
Christian Dietrich of Greene spent less than four minutes on the mat in his first three wins, including a nine second pin. After the trio of falls, he outscored his opposition a combined 14-2 the rest of the way to take the title a year after nabbing second at this event.
Mark Tracy and Brett Perry wrestled twice during the event, with Tracy taking the first and Perry capturing the second to win bronze. #13 David Hamil of Deer Park didn't come in with much fanfare, but he made an impression with some quality wins, taking sixth place, right behind 2013 state runner up Nick Gallo of Schalmont.
And Daniel Smith of South Jefferson was the runner up after a great run from the sixth slot in the bracket. He beat state placers Trey DuVall of Addison and Gallo before falling in the finals by a 3-0 score to Dietrich, a wrestler who handed him a loss at the Times Union Center last year. They certainly could square off in the postseason again.
Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa took over the top spot in the NYS rankings after beating Johnson City's Reggie Williams in December. He solidified his position with a second triumph over Williams (the defending champion at this event) in the title bout on Saturday night. Ashley had a pair of majors and two five-point wins.
Ben Honis of Jamesville-Dewitt was third for the second consecutive year at this tournament. He handed fourth placer Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy his only two setbacks during the competition. Andrew Grella of Beacon earned his fifth place spot the hard way. He was pinned while leading in the first round but then reeled off four straight wins in the consolations.
Rich Sisti of Monsignor Farrell had a trio of sub-two minute pins and a pair of decisions to take top honors. The 2013 state champion looks ready to defend his crown in Albany a little further down the road.
While he lost in the finals, Tappan Zee's John Hartnett stood out over the weekend. The state qualifier lost a pair of matches this season to Monroe Woodbury's Rob Kelly and Walt Whitman's Vin Feola, but he looked stellar in his first four contests at SUNY Sullivan, including a 5-0 result against NYS placer Sam Eagan and an 11-2 major over California's second-ranked wrestler, Cortes Morales.
The Champion: Connor Calkins of Alfred-Almond seems to keep improving by leaps and bounds. After several high level offseason wins, he cruised through the early portion of the season. This weekend was no different, as he recorded pins in his first four bouts before a 16-1 technical fall in the title match to win it all. The future Binghamton heavyweight will be very difficult to beat this year if he continues to wrestle like he did on Friday and Saturday.
And Also: Mike Manni of Tappan Zee and Edwin Rubio of John Glenn have seen a lot of each other lately. The two met three times in the last two weeks, with Rubio winning the first two. However, in the third place contest at SUNY Sullivan, Manni notched the decision. Taking fifth behind those two was Port Jefferson's Kyle Fiske, the 13th seed, who is certainly someone to watch the rest of the way.
What a great weekend of wrestling! Thanks to everyone who made the Eastern States a success once again.