Seven-hundred-and-thirty-five down, 30 to go. The season is over for 96% of the wrestlers in Section 1 (or thereabouts, I’m estimating the numbers a little bit). For the 4% left, now begins the impossible dream of a state championship. It really has been impossible in recent years for Section 1 winners, but I’ll get into that later in the week.
Today it’s about paying tribute to those 30 kids — 15 sectional champions in Division I and 15 in Division II. Matt Ng and I were at Pace University today to watch the big show. Matt took the small schools, so he’ll have some thoughts on that later. I want to talk about the big schools and get your thoughts on it. There had to be 1,500 (2,000? I’m terrible at counting crowds) people there, and I figure most of you were somewhere in the crowd.
Of the 15 weight classes, 13 were won by the No. 1 seed. I’d say 12 were won by the favorite, though. Carmel’s Kevin Davidson (right) may have been seeded ahead of Nyack’s Udit Thakur but you have to concede that most people thought Thakur would take it. Thakur won it last year and beat Davidson at Eastern States this year. Davidson, keeping a conservative style, beat him 8-4.
Teammate Mike Rose went the opposite way. A takedown gave him a 5-3 lead on Bill Watterson with a minute left, yet he kept pushing. When the thought of hanging back came to him, he remembered the 2007 sectional final against Yorktown’s Mike Ahearn.
“I made that mistake my first final,” he said. “I was up with 4-3 with five seconds left and got taken down.”
After losing finals in consecutive years, Rose finally got over the hump with a 5-4 decision.
The other teams with multiple winners were Fox Lane and Ossining. Steve Rodrigues, Luke Speno, and Joe Grippi won for the Foxes. Rick Carpiniello did a column on Rodrigues’s finals match against fellow Fox Peter Grippi. I’ll link to that tomorrow. They nearly had a fourth in Sam Speno. Down 5-4 in his 96-pound match against Asher Kramer, he got to his feet from bottom a couple of times. Kramer didn’t let go though and won the match.
That was one of six finals decided by a single point. Two of those were 3-2 upsets by unseeded Josue Cardenas of Port Chester and Patrice Castor of East Ramapo. I wrote extensively about Cardenas in my story for the newspaper so I won’t get into detail here.
The closest match was Justis Flamio’s surprising struggle with Henry Stauber. Stauber took Flamio, a state finalist, to sudden-victory OT. It was a place Flamio (left) had never been before. In fact he’d never been past the first overtime period, and it showed. When given a choice of top or bottom in double-OT he picked top, mistakenly thinking an old set of rules applied that would have given him bottom in the next period. Instead he got top twice. Remember that all you need is an escape to win in overtime. But the gaffe didn’t kill him and he held Stauber down to win in the last session.
Winning by a hair didn’t hurt his confidence. We were talking about his state nemesis Steven Keith of Shoreham-Wading River. He knocked Keith out in last year’s state semis, just as Keith did to him the year before. I asked him if he expected to meet Keith again.
“I expect to meet him in the state final,” Flamio said.
Two champions stood out as particularly dominant. Brian Realbuto of Somers got the only tech fall of the finals, 16-1 over Somers’s Justin Artrip. Artrip should be proud that he stayed on top of Realbuto for a minute during the second period. I’m not being sarcastic. Realbuto is that good that going a minute without him scoring on you is a victory. He’s now a ridiculous 129-9 in his career and an even more ridiculous 49-1 this year. This is a freshman, folks.
The other powerhouse was James Brundage (left) of Ossining. He pinned his way through the tournament, including, get this, a 17-second pin in the finals. Talk about anticlimactic. And he swears he had Lennie Graham’s shoulders down seven seconds into the match. Brundage caught him with a high crotch before yanking his head into a cradle.
“Coach (Mike) Nardone, he’s in the Hall of Fame from Section 1; he’s the old coach at Ossining,” Brundage said. “He’s been yelling at me for the past few years because I like to let people up and take them down, let them up and take them down. He said some day it’s going to come back and bite me in my butt. He said somebody’s going to catch me because I’m not pinning the person. He told me you better go out there, and if you can pin the kid in 10 seconds you better pin the kid in 10 seconds.”
This is his third trip to states, where he placed third last year. It’s his first time going with a teammate. Clay Neivert also won.
I was sure Brundage was going to get MOW, but it went instead to Joe Hauser. Hauser got an extended ovation after his 6-1 finals win. I think people know his story, which was detailed in a Carpiniello column a couple months ago. Hauser’s father Scott, who he was very close to, was killed in a car accident in 2007. Hauser went to the finals last year but lost to Thakur. It was nice to see him break through this time, especially with dad’s initials pasted in big letters on the side of his singlet.