CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
By Jim & Tony Nordland

     Now in the ninth year with the two-division NYS Tournament format a total of ten defending champions and four former winners have qualified at the 50th annual NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships. The 2012 state meet is at the Times Union Center in Albany and a total of 480 grapplers will congregate for the two-day competition scheduled for February 24th & 25th.

     Defending Division I champions include junior
Kyle Kelly (32-0, 19 pins) of Chenango Forks-4 at 99, James Kloc (38-1) of Iroquois-6 at 145 and four-time place-winner Brian Realbuto (4-1-3-1) of Somers-1 at 152. The Cornell-bound Realbuto (43-1, 273-12) is seeking his third state title. The other returning winner is Connor Sutton (37-5) of LaSalle-2 at 160 pounds.

     Six reigning champions head the field in the Division II Tournament including five-time state placer and three-time titlist
Quinton Murphy (6-1-2-1-1) of Holley-5. Murphy (55-0, 298-12) will take his mat skills to Indiana University in the fall and is the winningest wrestler in state history. He could reach his 300th victory this weekend. Two-time champion Chris Nevinger (47-0, 252-24) of Letchworth-5 has won 135 consecutive matches and will seek his third state crown in the 160 -pound class. Other returning champions are Lucas Malmberg (43-2) of Marathon-4 at 106, William Koll (32-1) of Lansing-4 at 113, Nick Tighe (43-2) of Phoenix-3 at 126 and Ben Haas (35-1) of Salamanca-6 at 152.

    Former state kings from 2010 that return and seek redemption are
Alec Dierna (43-5) of Webster-Schroeder-5 and Tristan Rifanburg (36-1) of Norwich-4. Both will compete at 126 pounds, along with undefeated Jacob Goddeau (36-0) of Peru-7 at 132 and Derek Pfluger (39-0, 34 pins) of Sandy Creek-3 at 152 pounds.

    State finalists from 2011 returning to Div. I include Long Beach's
Mark Raghunandan (42-0, 143-26) and Dylan Realbuto (40-3) of Somers-1, both at 113 pounds. Fox Lane-1 teammates Sam Speno (42-1) at 126 and Danny Ventura (42-4) at 132, along with James Dekrone (41-4) of John Glenn-11 at 138 and Matt Lashway (41-3) of Queensbury at 182.

    Division II runners-up are
Ryan Snow (39-2) of General Brown-3 at 106, John Aslanian (36-1) of Edgemont-1 at 113, sophomore Burke Paddock (40-2) of Warsaw-5 at 170, unbeaten Tony Lock (47-0) of Pioneer-6 at 182, Ryan Todd (25-1) of Lansing-4 at 195 and Holley-5 senior Kacee Sauer (34-3) in the 285-pound class.

Mat Notes...
At the 2011 NYS Championships in Div. I, Section XI claimed their state leading 19th sectional team title. Suffolk County now has 147 state champions, followed by Section Four with 136 titles and Section Eight with 105 individual winners. Huntington HS is the state leader with 25 individual state champions. Once again, Section XI is loaded with talent and could claim their 20th sectional mat title.

   Currently there are 509 high school wrestling programs in the Empire State. There are only three states that have a single classification for their state championships: California (over 800 high schools), Indiana and New Jersey.

A look at the top sectional teams:

Section Eleven will be led by unbeaten freshman Nick Piccininni (41-0) of Ward Melville at 106, OSW winner Matt Leshinger (39-5) of Sayville, Connetquot's state bronze medalist Sean McCabe (37-2), both at 120, Maverick Passaro (46-3, 27 tech falls) of Eastport South Manor at 126, Nick Mauriello (39-2) of Hauppauge at 132 and Alexis Blanco (43-2) of Suffolk team champion Brentwood at 138 pounds. Longwood returns a trio of state place-winners: the Rasheed brothers, Malik (30-5) at 138 and Corey (32-2) at 145, along with Nick Hall (32-2) at 152 pounds. The navy blue-clad contingent also has standouts with: Huntington's Corey Jamison (38-1) at 113, Tyler Grimaldi (46-1) of Hills West at 160, Gio Santiago (37-2 ) of Sachem North at 182 pounds, undefeated Zack Connor (29-0) of Islip at 195 and Smithtown West junior Michael Hughes (40-1) at 285 pounds.

Section Eight has enough firepower to finish near the top of the team standings and returns the aforementioned Raghunandan and LB teammate Dylan Palacio (37-0, 203-25). Palacio is a two-time state placer and is one of the favorites to capture a state gold medal, he will be in the 160-pound class.The green-clad group also points to undefeated freshman Jose Rodriguez (41-0) of team winner Wantagh at 99, his teammate Dan McDevitt (40-5) at 138 and the Plainedge tandem of unbeaten Dan Spurgeon (46-0) at 170 and two-time state meet qualifier Andrew Jones (40-3) at 182 pounds. Other top prospects are MacArthur's Justin Cooksey (40-3) at 106, MOW Maurice Irby (28-2) of Freeport and Mepham sophomore Louis Hernandez ( 25-2) at 138, along with the Uniondale duo of Andrew Cole (38-1) at 220 and Dante Salkey (36-2)  at 285 pounds.

CHSAA contingent has St. Anthony's state placers Freddy Dunau (24-2) at 106 and Jamel Hudson (33-1) at 132, along with Kellenberg's Pat Skinner (38-2, 137-27) at 113. Other notables: Farrell teammates Tim McCann (30-6) at 138 and Rrok Ndokaj ( 39-5) at 170, along with the Friars'Andrew Auriemma (21-2) at 285 pounds.

Section One will be paced by the aforemetioned Realbuto brothers and outstanding lightweights, Nick Barbaria (34-4)of New Rochelle at 99, Mike Parise (49-2) of Brewster at 106 and OSW winner Alex Delacruz (35-4) of Ossining at 113. Other stalwarts are Drew Longo (126) of Ardsley, Mike Caputo (145) of North Rockland, Jacob Berkowitz (182) of Scarsdale and Mahopac's Mike Spinelli (42-3) at 195 pounds. 

  Section Two looks to a trio of Shenendehowa state placers; Nick Kelley (41-0) at 132, Tony Fusco (33-0) at 195 and Cole Lampman (38-2) at 285. Returning state placers Brandon Lapi (113) of Amsterdam, Noah Valastro (48-0) of Hudson Falls at 126 and Zach Diekel (195) of Whitehall, along with a pair of Columbia unbeatens, Matt Greene (48-0) at 126 and Evan Wallace (47-0) and Corey Quintana (285) bolster a strong contingent.

Division II, Bayport-Blue Point has three state meet qualifiers: Justin Underwood (120), three-time champion Ryan Hake (30-6) at 132 and highly-regarded Harrison DeSousa (25-4) at 285. Other notables are: Travis Baskerville (160) and Mattituck's two-time winner Tomasz Filipkowski at 170. Nassau's best are Locust Valley's Nick Casella (27-3) at 99, Oyster Bay teammates Jack Leguelaff (28-3) at 113 and Ryan Arnel (32-3) at 126, along with four-time winner Rob Morgan (28-2, 125-13) at 170 pounds.

A quick glance at some of the Division I weight classes:

106 pounds-
Top-seeded Nick Picininni could face the winner of the Freddy Dunau/Mike Parise opening prelim. Anthony Orefice (37-0) of Lockport-6 is the 4th seed and could pose a stong challenge in the quarterfinals. Lodged in the bottom bracket is the second-seed Justin Cooksey, Barton Peters (Brockport-5) and LB's Krishna Sewkumar. Possible all LI final here.

113 pounds- Mark Raghunandan is #1 here and his top tier challengers include Robert Person (BJFK), Pat Skinner and unbeaten Vincent DePrerz (46-0) of Hilton-5. The loaded bottom bracket has possible quarterfinal skirmish with Corey Jamison vs Dylan Realbuto. Other contenders are Alex Delacruz, Jake Green (Chenango Forks-4) and Brandon Lapi.

120 pounds- Matt Leshinger drew the top seed and has tough opening bout with John Lanzilotti (37-1) of Roslyn-8. That LI winner could face Warwick Valley's Justin Corradino (34-5) in the quarterfinals. Two other top bracket favorites are OSW winner Derrick Gray (39-2) of Indian River-3 and Pittsford's-5 Brady Baron (37-1). Potential finalists from the bottom bracket are second-seeded Sean McCabe who is pitted against SWR's TJ Fabian (43-4) in a possible quarter battle and MOW Rocco Russo (39-1) of Frontier-6.

126 pounds- Sam Speno is rated #1 and could meet Isiah Perry (32-3) of Massena-10 in the quarterfinal and then face Alec Dierna (4th seed) in the semifinals. In the talented lower bracket is second-seeded Maverick Passaro, he will meet the winner of the Giovanni Sanchez (CI) vs Matt Greene opening bout in the quarterfinals. Possible semifinals opponent is Dylan Caruana (41-3) of Kenmore West-6 or Mike Lofrese (39-3) of Garden City-8. Possible final here could be Speno vs Passaro.

132 pounds- In the top tier is #1 seed Dan Ventura and Jimmy Porteus (Brockport-5). The bottom bracket is loaded with talent, second-seeded Nick Kelley could meet Nick Mauriello in the marquee match-up of the quarterfinal round. Also in the bottom bracket is #3 Jamel Hudson, he will meet the winner of the Maurice Irby vs Eric Lewandowski (Lancaster-6) opening bout  in the quarterfinals. Look for a great bottom bracket semifinal here.

138 pounds- Dan McDevitt could meet Angelo DeAngelis of Spencerport-5 in the quarterfinal. Another tough quarter bout could be #4 seed James Dekrone vs Dave Almaviva. Possible bottom bracket match-up could have the #2 seed Malik Rasheed against rival, the #3 seed, Alexis Blanco in a premier semifinal.

152 pounds- Two-time champion Brian Realbuto is the top seed and could face Steve Maier (Spencerport-5) in the semifinals. Suffolk's Nick Hall drew the #2 seed and SWR's John Keck (44-2) is the #3 seed and has an opening bout with Dan Tracy (34-9) of Mepham-8. Possible semifinal scenario: Hall vs Keck, with the winner to face Realbuto in the championship finals.

170 pounds- Dan Spurgeon is top-seeded here and his top bracket challenger is Stephen Lumley (34-1) of SGlens Falls-2. In the bottom bracket is Longwood's Dylen Seybolt (31-3), Rrok Ndokaj (#2 seed) and Shayne Brady (35-1), the third-seed from Carthage-3. Plainedge head coach Rob Shaver and able assistants, Peter Marques and Matt Cellan, look to Spurgeon to become their first state champion.

Other top seeds:
99- Kyle Kelly (CF)
145- James Kloc (Iroquois)
160- Dylan Palacio (LB)
182- McZiggy Richards (Wingate)
195- Tony Fusco (Shen)
220- Josh Lackey (Fairport)
285- Ethan Stanley (Saugerties)
"To all the competitors here this weekend, enjoy your State Championship Finals, win or lose..."
Chris Nevinger (Letchworth-5)
William Koll (Lansing-4)
Mark Raghunandan (Long Beach-8)
James Dekrone
(John Glenn-11)
Nick Piccininni
(Ward Melville-11)
Matt Leshinger (Sayville-11) battles TJ Fabian (SWR-11).
Dylan Palacio
(Long Beach-8)
Ryan Hake (Bayport-11)
Justin Cooksey (MacArthur-8)
Sean McCabe (Connetquot-11)
Maverick Passaro (ESM-11)
Jamel Hudson
(St. Anthonys-C)
Brian Realbuto (Somers-1)
Dan Spurgeon (Plainedge-8)
Nick Hall