Before I get into the individuals, the teams, the injuries and the controversies, here’s the first thing you need to know about the 2010 sectional championship. Only six No. 1 seeds were crowned champions today at Pace. That’s a tiny number. Last year there were 13. In 2008 there were nine.
Top guys tend to win in wrestling. Especially when they’ve already beaten the seeds below them. Not today. So many unexpected results.
One that people did see coming was John Jay as team champion. It wasn’t close either. The Indians had 46.5 more points than Fox Lane, last year’s champ. Fox Lane was closely followed by Arlington and North Rockland.
Ten Indians made it to Pace. Five made the finals. Four were champions.
For years now John Jay has been the deepest team in the section. It had a bunch of guys who were very, very good. Just not enough greats. Last year it had no champions. The year before it was two. Coach Bill Swertfager put his program through an enormous test, taking on 10 of the top 15 teams in the state. They took their lumps against John Glenn and the score looked bad. But this was the result. They got better facing those teams, and they got better in the practice room against each other.
Ten years ago John Jay didn’t have a wrestling program. It took five years of hard work by the huge coaching staff to get respectable. They went from 27th in the section to 19th to fifth, then third, second, second, and now first. The rivalry with Fox Lane has become a great one. And now Swertfager, coach of the Section 1 team, gets to bring at least four of his own guys to states. And maybe more after wild cards are announced.
Now to the matches. There were so many highlights I have to break it down by weight class.
96 – The first sign that these finals weren’t going to be so predictable. Mike Parise got the first takedown, got a reversal in the second, another in the third, and shut out phenom Matt Caputo 7-0. The first No. 1 seed goes down.
103 – Upset No. 2. Asher Kramer beat Sam Speno in the finals last year. He beat him again at Eastern States. But Speno made a second-period takedown hold up for a 4-3 win. Speno had a great run at states last season after getting in as a wild card, but now he gets to feel what it’s like to be a champion.
112 – Nick Oliveto struggled a bit in the quarterfinals and semis. You don’t want to be anything but your best against Brian Realbuto. The state champ worked a methodical 7-0 win and has a great shot at a state repeat.
119 – John Jay’s first champion. Billy Watterson, maybe the best Indian of all, wins a slow 3-1 decision.
125 – OK, show of hands — who thought Steve Rodrigues was going to win today? Be honest. And the Rodrigues family doesn’t count. I admit, I didn’t. And it had nothing to do with him or Flamio. It was just about history. And history said Flamio was a few points better. Three times they met this year, and three times Flamio won. Why wouldn’t that happen again? But S-Rod shortened the match to two minutes by starting the third round tied and had bottom, which caused Flamio to let him up. That escape point was the winner as S-Rod held him off.
Chances are Flamio will get a wild card. In fact Rodrigues is sure of it. Which means the two state finalists could wrestle their way into a fifth meeting.
“It’s going to be fun,” Rodrigues said. “I love wrestling him. We know each other since we were little kids. It’s tough wrestling each other but what are you going to do. We’ll see each other in two weeks. I’ll be ready again.”
130 – Was that Henry Stauber winning a title or an undead pharoah? The guy’s shoulder wrappings seemed to be taking over his whole body. Despite it he acted totally healthy and took down Mike Figueroa three times in the first period. Figueroa beat him at Shoreline, by the way, yet another history reversal. John Jay champ No. 2.
135 – A terrible ending to a great match. Not terrible because the call was wrong but because you never ever want a sectional championship to come down to a debatable call. For those who haven’t heard yet, Joe Slane led Mark Swertfager 3-1 in the third period. Swertfager went for a low single; Slane flipped out of it as the crowd gasped its approval. Swertfager shot again and this time caught the takedown to tie with 30 seconds left. At one point Swertfager had one of Slane’s legs and as Slane tried to pull out with his back to Swertfager he appeared to accidentally kick his opponent. I won’t swear to that because Swertfager’s back was between me and the foot. As the clock ticked down, Swertfager was riding him out waiting for overtime. The ref issued a stall warning at the buzzer sounded. Because it was Swertfager’s second warning, it gave Slane a penalty point and the 4-3 win. I ran into James Brundage after the match and he said it wasn’t a stall. Definitely debatable. But it’s too bad a great match had to end on that.
Here’s what Bill Swertfager had to say: “It absolutely was not a stall. Not only was it not a stall, how do you call, in a match like that, with two seconds left in the match, a stall warning. Now, what I was told was the guy had forgotten that he called a stall previously, because he just (gave) a stall warning. I knew he had called a stall, and I knew the other team knew he had called a stall, but he didn’t know, because he didn’t put up a point. When that happened I was just beside myself.”
It should be noted that Coach Swertfager, who will coach Slane at states, went out of his way to praise Slane and called him a great wrestler. It should also be noted that, even if you disagree with the officiating, Slane did nothing wrong. Going to states is a huge thing for the senior and even the biggest John Jay fans should wish him well.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “I’ve been wrestling on the varsity since eighth grade and I’ve always lost in the semifinal match. It’s a great feeling to finally make it to the big show. I cannot wait.”
140 – Kevin Davidson, the big favorite, completes a monster sectional run with one of only three pins in the finals. Here’s how he won his four sectional matches: pin in 1:43, 15-0 tech, 15-0 tech, pin in 3:18. Not too shabby.
145 – Section 1’s winningest wrestler ever, Ryan Tompkins, gets No. 221 with four seconds left.
152 – Marc Diaz is the second of North Rockland’s three champions. He beats Rye’s Graham Zahringer, the lowest seed in the finals, 3-2. Zahringer was a 5-seed.
160 – Scott Genovesi had half the win total (26) of his opponent Greg Wetzel (54). In fact Wetzel was 114-4 for his career. No problem. Genovesi was never in danger in a 6-3 win.
171 – Joe Cummings doesn’t win big but he gets the job done. Nyack’s tall junior beat D.J. Lupo 8-6.
189 – A near disaster as Port Chester’s Joe Rodriguez had to be carted off on a stretcher. He was leading 5-3 when Ron Fermin, while pulling a move on their feet, banged the toe of his shoe into Rodriguez’s temple. The kid was unconscious before he hit the ground. Even from afar you could tell he was out. He just thudded to the ground with his arms spread out. When he came to he told the trainer he had tingling in his fingers and toes. But he could move them all so paralysis wasn’t an issue. Still, he was woozy, so the EMTs immobilized him and took him away on a gurney. Coach Greg Domestico told me a few minutes later that it was just precautionary. You feel great that he’s going to be OK but bad that this had to happen in a sectional championship, when he can’t just come back in a week. The senior’s career is over.
215 – The most improbable of John Jay’s champs. By his own admission, Lucas Myer “sucked” in the beginning of the year. He only took up the sport last year. The first month he was getting really frustrated. So over winter break, Coach Swertfager’s older son John, a former Section 1 champ at 189, worked with him on his moves. Something clicked and Myer has been like a meteor ever since. His finals opponent, Dan Panken, had one loss to his 16. And Panken is stronger than him. And Panken was leading 5-0. No matter. In a flash Myer got ahold of his arm and twirled him to the mat, and seconds later the explosive Myer had him pinned.
“Coach was screaming at me. My coach was screaming at me to throw him over, pancake him to his back.”
It’ll be interesting to see what a guy who’s so athletic but relatively new can do at states. At least he’s got the right mindset, thinks Coach Swertfager. He offered a fantastic description of Myer, which was said with love.
“He’s so, I don’t want to say naive, but so raw, he doesn’t even realize what’s going on. He’s one of those kids, he’s just having fun. He’s not getting nervous as to how it’s a section championship match. He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know to be nervous. He just goes out there and lets it flow.”
285 – Malcolm Allen did the heavy lifting (pun intended) by knocking top seed Daytwain Vereen out in the semis. Andy Scopino took advantage by winning the title 3-2 over Allen.
That’s it for now. The wild cards are supposed to be decided on Tuesday. I’ll have those for you as soon as possible.