| 2009 HS NATIONALS PREVIEW
By Jim & Tony Nordland
The 20th annual NHSCA Senior National Championships is scheduled to begin on Friday, April 3rd, and the championship finals are slated for Sunday at 6:00 PM. This year event has over 700 entries, as the nation's elite wrestlers take to the 28 mats at the Virginia Convention Center in Virginia Beach, VA. The Empire State last won the senior event in 2005, and this year's contingent boasts a strong squad. In fact, NYS won the 2008 Junior Nationals over perennial powers, Pennsylvania, California and Ohio, and return three national junior champions; Kyle Dake (218-14) at 140, Christian Boley (189) and Ken Altarac (187-31) at 285 pounds.They also have runners-ups, John Greisheimer (184-14) at 152, and Ryan LeBlanc (220-18) at 160, both are two-time state titlists, and are solid contenders for gold medals.
Other top prospects for national honors include three-time state king Ian Paddock (268-7) at 135, Paul Liguori (217-16) also at 135, along with Jamie Franco (212-30) at 125, Zach Clemente (201-27) at 145, the Empire State's winningest wrestler, Kenny Betts (269-37, 186 pins) at 152, James Brundage (138-28) at 160, and Jesse Villella (127-28) at 171 pounds. All are NYS champions and are seeking national high school titles. That front line, along with a plethora of state place-winners, give the New Yorkers a legitimate shot at the team crown.
Four-time state champions that are entered in the tournament include Tyler Cox (119) of Wyoming, Jarrod Patterson (125) of Oklahoma, Max Ortega (New Mexico), Collin Palmer (Ohio), both at 140, Kyle Meyer (152) of Missouri, Tyler Caldwell (160) of Kansas, Ethan Lofthouse (171) of Utah, and Boaz Beard (189) of Kansas. Cox, Ortega and Lofthouse are defending national junior champions. Also to watch are three-time state winners, Sean Boyle (119) of New Jersey and Eloheim Palma of North Carolina at 285 pounds.
In the 5th annual Junior National Tournament, NYS will also be sending a solid lineup and are led by state champions, Nick Arujau (146-7), Stephen Dutton (186-11) at 135, Andy Rodriguez (158-25) at 140, Tyler Beckwith (179-16) at 171, and Kyle Colling at 215 pounds. Also representing NYS will be 2008 winners, Ken Collado (119) and Cody Ruggirello (130), along with all-state matmen; tough Bucky Hendrickson (135), Anthony Volpe (145), Billy Coggins (160), Angelo Malvestuto (171), Matt Loew (189) and Zeal McGrew at 215 pounds. The Junior Nationals begin on Wednesday, April 1st, and conclude with the championship finals on Friday at 7:00 PM. Many local wrestling experts feel New York State can bring home team titles in both events.