With the Section 1 Dual Meet tournament over and teams from around the section having had a solid month to show where they’re at, this seemed like the perfect time to release my first Power Rankings of the season. These rankings are based on how teams have performed in dual meets, which make up the majority of this portion of the season. I feel at this point it’s better to do it this way, which gives recognition to the top teams in the section. That’s why you’ll see certain teams ranked ahead of others who are more well-known for having a couple of studs. As we get closer to sectionals, I’ll revise the rankings as a way of predicting how teams will finish at the end of the year in a tournament setting.
As I did last season, I picked the top 10 teams in Division 1 and the top five in Division 2. Also, don’t forget that these rankings don’t include any Dutchess county schools (Arlington and RC Ketcham would have been in the mix from 7-10). This will probably be my only post of the weekend, seeing as how there isn’t any wrestling scheduled. I’ll also be working on Saturday, covering the Jets-Giants battle for NY. For my thoughts from the press box at MetLife Stadium, follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano.
Here are the rankings:
1. Brewster: The Bears shocking upset win over Fox Lane in the Section 1 Dual Meet final earns them the top spot. The best dual meet team in the section has an incredibly deep lineup, which is extremely difficult to navigate through due to its lack of holes. The ultimate question for Brewster will be whether or not it has enough section title-type wrestlers to compete for a section title in a tournament format. Tyler Gonska, Mike Parise and Liam Erickson are off to especially strong starts.
2. Fox Lane: Many will argue that the Foxes will still be the team to beat come February, and that’s an argument that I’d have a difficult time disagreeing with. With five strong section title contenders (Sam Speno, Danny Ventura, Tom Grippi, Giancarlo Morreale and Matt Pasqualini), no team should have more finalists at sectionals than Fox Lane. I still consider the Foxes to be the favorite for a section title, but at this point I can’t rank them ahead of Brewster after the Bears’ head-to-head win.
3. North Rockland: The Red Raiders are absolutely loaded this season, and also gave Fox Lane a run for its money in the Section 1 Duals in a 40-30 loss. Similar to Brewster, you’d have a difficult time finding a weak spot to attack in North Rockland’s lineup. Blaise Benderoth, Troy Feniger and the Caputo brothers (Matt and Mike) have led the charge, but others such as Jake DiMarsico and Nick Didio are emerging. I’d be curious to see the Red Raiders get a shot at Brewster in a dual, because that would be very close. This is a team that could put four guys into the section finals, which makes them a leading contender to dethrone Fox Lane at sectionals.
4. New Rochelle: The Huguenots have been riddled with injuries early in the season, but still managed to make it to the Section 1 Dual Meet final four and will certainly be a threat at the end of the season. In Aaron Butler, Tyler Lilly and the Barbaria brothers (Nick and A.J.), New Ro has plenty of ammo for sectionals. A.J. Barbaria and Lilly have been especially impressive, with both picking up statement wins at North Rockland in the Section 1 Duals. The Huguenots round out a pretty clear-cut top four.
5. Somers: In a dual meet format, the Tuskers are not quite on the level of the top four, but they’re closer than anyone else. In its second meeting of the season with Fox Lane, Somers gave the defending D1 champs a good run in a 44-31 loss, which tells you that the Tuskers aren’t far off. They’ve handily beaten top 10 contending teams such as Carmel, Hen Hud and Ossining, and also picked up a team title at the Chase Holiday Duals last weekend. Aside from the Realbutos (Dylan and Brian), Somers is proving itself to be very strong in the heavier weights with Jason DiBenedetto, Nick Giancaspro and Dom DeVita. Come sectionals, the Tuskers will be a threat for the top three.
6. Yorktown: The ‘Huskers have been this close to upending Somers twice already this season, losing by just three points on each occasion. Yorktown is a strong dual meet team with depth up and down the line, but probably not many section title-type of wrestlers. Joe Mastro and David Varian are probably the ‘Huskers’ biggest threats, while Steven Sabella and Thomas Murray have also been wrestling well.
7. Mahopac: The Indians were picking up steam after some nice wins heading into the Section 1 Dual Meet quarterfinals, but they were then dismantled by eventual champion Brewster. They were also beaten handily by Fox Lane at their own tournament, but there’s not much shame in losing to those two teams. Mahopac has some younger wrestlers who are still finding their niche in the lineup, while veterans such as Jake Srednicki and Mike Spinelli lead the charge. Convincing wins over John Jay-EF and Carmel prove that the Indians deserve to be in this spot, and there is certainly room for growth to move up.
8. Suffern: The Mounties have certainly taken a step back after placing third in the section last season, but those who thought that they would completely fall from grace were mistaken. There’s a ton of depth on this team thanks to what has become one of the strongest programs in the section, so a complete rebuilding year is probably out of the question for Suffern. Nick Giella and Bryan Burger have yet to lose this season, while Alex Oliveto and James DeSimone are also off to strong starts. Giella in particular is a name to watch after he missed sectionals last season due to injury. A team title at the Garden City Duals has been the highlight of the Mounties’ season thus far.
9. Scarsdale: The Raiders got past the likes of Clarkstown North and Pearl River to make it to the Section 1 Dual Meet quarterfinals, which is a big step for this emerging program. Depth is still a bit of an issue for Scarsdale, but there are some quality wrestlers in this lineup, led by defending section champ Jacob Berkowitz. John Tambunting, Daniel Baruch and Brian Hackel have also wrestled well.
10. Tappan Zee: Here’s a team that not many people would have put in this spot to begin the season. The Dutchmen are off to a rousing start with dual meet wins over Suffern, Clarkstown South and Clarkstown North. The heavier weights have really stepped up for TZ, and the result has been some upsets. Against North, the Dutchmen won every match from 170-285 pounds. There probably aren’t many section-placers in this lineup, but opposing coaches have commented about how tough their lineup is throughout, led by Chris McGann.
On the fringe: Clarkstown South, Ossining, Port Chester.
1. Nanuet: The defending section champs put an early end to any talk of being surpassed by Edgemont this season with a win over the Panthers in the Section 1 Dual Meet final. Neither team was at full strength for that dual, so I can’t make it into too big of a deal, but the win had to be satisfying for Golden Knights. Anthony Calvano has been out with a virus for an extended period of time, but I’m told that he’ll be back next week, which makes Nanuet’s lineup that much stronger. The more pressing question will be the return of Matt Dillon, who is dealing with a foot injury. Joe Dillon and Dan Breit are virtual locks to at least make it to the section finals, while Vinny Skokos leads a very strong freshman class. It’s fair to call the Golden Knights the top dual meet team in D2, and it’s probably fair to also call them the favorite for a section title.
2. Edgemont: I’m sure that the Panthers would love another shot at Nanuet with their full lineup intact. That dual could have played out much differently if they didn’t wrestle without four starters. Edgemont easily handled Irvington and Dobbs Ferry in the Section 1 Duals to get to Nanuet, which shows you just how far the gap is in D2 after the top two. The Panthers are well-balanced, with guys who are capable of big wins from 99-220 pounds (they don’t have anyone at 285).
3. Irvington: While Croton-Harmon has a more impressive overall resume at this point, I couldn’t leave the Tigers one spot in front of the Bulldogs because of Irvington’s head-to-head win in the Section 1 Dual Meet tournament. That’s why I swapped them. Croton is better suited to matchup against many other D2 teams, but the Bulldogs were able to squeak out a 42-39 win. Irvington should also be a solid tournament team, with Tyler Wexler, Brett Pastor, Kevin Degnan and Chris DiNardo leading the charge as wrestlers with section title hopes.
4. Croton-Harmon: As I stated above, the Tigers have been very solid this season other than their loss to Irvington. Croton placed fourth at the Chase Holiday Duals (highest of any D2 team), coming up with an impressive 49-22 win over Putnam Valley along the way. Defending section champ David Occhipinti made a statement with a win over Dobbs Ferry’s Jimmy Kyreakedes, and looks like he should repeat as a section champ. The rest of the Tigers lineup is deep, but the question will be can anyone else make it to states?
5. Putnam Valley: The Tigers came on strong at sectionals last season, which led many to believe that they would challenge for the third spot in D2 this season. So far, they’ve stumbled a bit. This is probably a stronger tournament team than it is a dual meet team, which should be reflected at the end of the year. Kyle Kelvas, Kelmend Muriqi and John Messinger are names to watch.
On the fringe: Dobbs Ferry, Pleasantville, Westlake.
Happy Holidays everyone!