By Jim & Tony Nordland

     Now in the eighth year with the two-division NYS Tournament format a total of 11 defending champions and four former winners are eligible at the 49th annual NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships. The 2011 state meet is at the Times Union Center in Albany and a total of 480 grapplers will congeregate for the two day competition scheduled for February 25th and 26th.

     Two returning Division I champions
Al Dierna (41-2) of Wayne-5
and senior
Nigel McNeil (36-0, 159-15
career) of Huntington-11, both Dierna
and McNeil will compete at 119 pounds.
Other Division I champions that return
Brian Realbuto (49-0, 226 wins) of
Somers-1 at 135 and four-time state
Bob Dierna (5-1-3-4) of
Wayne-5. Dierna (36-1, 211-16) was a
2008 champion and seeks redemption in
his senior campaign, he is now at 135.

     Nine defending champions head the field in the Division II Tournament including two-time titlist
Arik Robinson (28-2, 176-20) of Peru-7 at 112 and the Scott twins who hail from Palmyra-Macedon-5. Owen (38-1, 231-23) at 160 and Craig (37-0, 230-17) at 171, will take their mat skills to Cornell University in the fall. Other reigning champions are eighth-grader Tristan Rifanburg (Norwich-4) and Abdulgawi Mohamed (Lackawanna-6), both are at 112, along with Quinton Murphy (49-1, 236-12) of Holley-5 at 135, Derek Pfluger (40-0, 26 pins, 214-11) of Sandy Creek-3 at 140. Two unbeatens also return: Chris Nevinger (46-0) at 152 of Letchworth-5 and Nick Gwiazdowski (38-0) of Duanesburg at 215 pounds.

     Former Division II winners are Peru's
Jacob Goddeau (125) the OSW winner in Section Seven and Derak Heyman (37-1, 254-20) of Tioga-4. Heyman has won five Section 4 titles and will compete at 140 pounds.

     In each division there is at least one loaded weight class.
In Division I look at the entries in the 130-pound class: Former NY state finalist Malik Rasheed, bronze medalist Steven Rodrigues, state placers: Tim Schaefer and Vin Fischetti. Others to watch are Nick Kelley, Brant Page, Chris Perez, James DeKrone aand Casey Brice.
     In Division II it's the
112-pound class: Three state champions are here; Arik Robinson, Tristan Rifanberg and Abdulgawi Mohamed. Also here are two state finalists Austin Keough and Drew Longo.

A quick glance at the Long Island teams:

Defending sectional team champion Section Eleven (Suffolk) is loaded with talent, the navy blue-clad contingent
will be led by the aforementioned McNeil
and finalist Kyle Wade (38-0) of Islip at
152, along with OSW winner Sean
McCabe (35-2) of Connetquot at 112.
Team champion Longwood has the
Rasheed brothers, Corey (112) and
Malik (130), both are state runners-up.
Other top Lions are champions Nicky
Hall (32-2) at 145 and Pat Jennings
(32-2) at 160. John Glenn will send a
trio of quality matmen: James DeKrone
(40-1) at 130, Ken Meinsen (41-5)at 135
and Joe Giaramita (34-3, 116-23) at 189
pounds. Other title hopefuls are eighth-
grader Nick Piccininni (37-1) of Ward Melville at 96, CJ Labate (29-1) of Commack at 103, five-time sectional place-winner Alex Gomez (36-2, 188-14) of Brentwood at 125, Champion of Champions- Anthony Abidin (32-1, 137-12) of Hills East at 125 and Hauppauge's Chanse Menendez (39-4) at 171 pounds.

Divison II, Bayport-Blue Point  has six state meet qualifiers including defending champions sophomore Ryan Hake (27-5) at 125, seniors Kyle Underwood (34-1, 111-32) at 130 and OSW winner Jeff Purdy (32-4) at 135 pounds.

Section Eight will be led by state placers Dylan Palacio (35-0) of Long Beach at 145, David Ng (43-0, 116-5) of
Plainedge at 285 and Wantagh's state finalist
Joe Kavanagh (34-0, 156-14) of Wantagh at
189 pounds. Kavanagh's teammate Joe Barbato
(34-6) was a NYS runner-up last year and
received an at-large berth at 119 pounds.
Nassau's OSW winner Will Montgomery (39-1,
128-16) of Seaford is also at 119 and is a
possible finalist.

     Other potential  placers are Robert Person
(39-1) of BJFK at 96, Long Beach lightweights
Krishna Sewkumar and Mark Raghunandan,
both at 103, along with unbeaten John
Pellegrino of Levittown Division who boasts a
55-0 mark at 125 pounds.

     MacArthur's Chris Perez (27-3) returns for
his second state meet and should be in the hunt at 130 pounds. Upperweights Jermaine John (37-1) of Bethpage at 160, Andrew Jones (27-3) of Plainedge at 171 and Massapequa's Conor Wetzel (34-5) at 189 bolster a formidable squad.

CHSAA section looks to break into the top five in the sectional standings and will send a well balanced team. St. Anthony's has nine state meet entries and will be in the mix for the
individual team title. The Friars point to
2009 NYS bronze medalist Jimmy Morris
(33-4, 116-7) at 125 and Jamal Hudson
(33-1) at 135 along with Louisiana state
champion Dariyan Riley (26-5) at 171
pounds. Others to watch are freshman
Freddy Dunau (25-1) at 96 and
experienced state meet qualifier Jon Desir
(24-1) at 285 pounds. Other key matmen
for the sectional team are Pat Skinner
(38-1) of Kellenberg at 103 and Monsignor
Farrell's Vin Fischetti, a state place-winner at 130 pounds.

Mat Notes...
At the 2010 NYS Championships Section Eleven tallied 280.5 points and garnered 20 place-winners en route to their state leading 18th sectional team title. Suffolk County now has 142 NYS champions, followed by Section Four (Binghamton area) with 131 titles and Nassau County with 104 individual winners. Huntington HS is the state leader with 25 individual champions. The Blue Devils hope to add another state star to their mat this season. The Mat Slap's top-ranked team Longwood HS will have five state meet entries, as will rival Shenendehowa-2, look for those squads and St. Anthony's to vie for the individual school title. The 2010 team champion was Rocky Point HS who crowned three champions and tallied 72.5 points.

   Underclassmen in the tournament include Lansing-4 teammates William Koll (103) and Corey Dake (119), along with the Paddock brothers, Aaron (103) and Burke (160), who hail from Warsaw-5. Koll is the son of Cornell coach Rob Koll, Corey's older brother is NCAA champion Kyle (now at Cornell) and the Paddock's older brother Ian, now competes at Ohio State.

   The updated NYS Individual Rankings are based on the wrestlers that are entered in the tournament. Currently there are 509 wrestling programs in the Empire State. Now there are only three states that have single classifications for their state championships, California (over 800 high schools), Indiana and New Jersey. 
To all the competitors here this weekend, enjoy your state championship finals, win or lose...
Nigel McNeil
Brian Realbuto
Kyle Wade
Dylan Palacio
Jimmy Morris