As it has been for as long as I can remember (keep in mind, I’m still pretty young), yesterday’s Shoreline Invitational at New Rochelle served as the kickoff for the second half of the season. With Eastern States just a week away and the postseason quickly approaching, the Shoreline provides many of the top wrestlers in the area with an opportunity to test themselves as they begin the homestretch. A title or a strong showing can provide momentum for the latter portion of the season.
“I kind of told everyone that today was going to be like sectionals,” New Rochelle junior Nick Barbaria (pictured above) said. “The top four kids in the section (in my weight class) are here, so I really think that especially with eastern states next week, it’s a good two weeks to judge where you are in the section and in the state.”
Barbaria was one of several wrestlers who sent a message on Saturday. With so many weight classes stacked with top contenders from Section 1 and beyond, a few guys had to really grind through the day in order to be a champion at the end.
Ossining junior Alex Delacruz was given the Sandy Zuzulo Award (the equivalent of MOW) after putting out one of the more impressive performances of the day to take the title 120 pounds.
“I was trying to go in there and push the pace because I knew this kid is a good kid,” Delacruz said of his finals opponent, Commack’s Mike D’Angelo. “I wanted to show the crowd that I’m better.”
• Going into the day, the match that most Section 1 fans wanted to see was Delacruz against Pearl River junior John Muldoon. Those two met in the section finals last season and once again look like the top two in their weight class. D’Angelo spoiled an opportunity for a rematch when he beat Muldoon in the semis by decision, 7-3, but it set up a helluva final. Both Delacruz and D’Angelo (pictured to the right) are ranked in NYS, but it was clear from the get-go that the Ossining standout was on a mission. He had workmen-like wins all day, and he kept his aggressive mentality against D’Angelo. He came out with a quick takedown, but found the match tied at 6-6 in the second period. As he’s proven to be capable of in the past (see: last season’s section semifinals), Delacruz showed his explosiveness when he caught D’Angelo with a nasty cradle and pinned him swiftly at the 2:37 mark. “I wasn’t even trying to pin the kid,” Delacruz said. “I was actually going to limp arm him out and try to take him down to get two points, but my coach yelled it out and I reached for his head right into a cradle lock, and I finished from there.”
• Arguably the deepest field at the tournament was at 106, where you had the top three finishers from last season at 99 pounds – Barbaria, Port Chester’s Kevin Rodriguez and Byram Hills’ Jon Errico – plus the up-and-coming Matt Grippi from Fox Lane. While Grippi has considerable upside and has had a very strong season up to this point, it seemed like a lot to expect of a 12-year-old to make a serious run in a tournament of this caliber. But as one coach said to me, Grippi steps onto the mat with an attitude that far exceeds his age. He’s aggressive no matter who his opponent is, and has technique that many who are significantly older can’t match. I had a feeling that he could pull off an upset over one of those big names, which is why I made a point of getting his quarterfinals match against Errico on video, and he did not disappoint. He took control as the match wore on and pulled off the upset with a 6-4 decision.
• Beating a guy who took third in the section last year ensured that Grippi was going to have a notable day, but he wasn’t done yet. He went down 4-0 against Rodriguez in the semis, but rallied back with seven straight points to win it with a 7-3 decision. Barbaria, who has placed at the state level, proved to be too much to handle in the final when he knocked off Grippi with a 9-3 decision, but an impression was certainly made. At this point after knocking off Barbaria’s top two contenders, I’d have to consider Grippi to be the No. 2 guy in the 106-pound weight class. “He’s tough,” Barbaria said. “For a seventh-grader, I’ve never seen someone as tough with as good hips. There were positions where I thought I was going to pin him, and two seconds later he would be on his feet. He’s a scrappy little kid.”
• Another one of the more competitive weight classes at the Shoreline was at 152. There were four wrestlers who have placed in Section 1, with Mamaroneck senior Ben Miller and Tappan Zee senior Desmond Djekovic making their way to the final (pictured to the left). Those two met in the sectional tournament last season, with Miller outlasting Djekovic in OT. It didn’t go that far this time, as Miller seemed pleased that he was able to come away with a more convincing 6-3 decision. The win should put Miller near the top of the rankings, although he says he still may end up going 160 for sectionals. “I saw a lot of the kids in my bracket last year and had some close matches with them,” Miller said. “It’s always good when you wrestle someone a second time to solidify the fact that you deserve to get your hand raised at the end of the match. It was a great feeling.”
• One of the most impressive teams at the tournament was Fordham Prep. While the campus is located in the Bronx, there are many local wrestlers on the team. Commack took first with Lindenhurst second, but the Rams finished third overall. They had two champs in Adam Santoro (126) and Sam Melikian (132), with Santoro upsetting top-seeded Ben Ettlinger of Fox Lane in OT. Ettlinger had a 5-3 lead in the final seconds of the match, but Santoro got his two late to tie it, eventually winning 7-5 in OT. Melikian was matched up with Brewster junior Liam Erickson in his final, who he happens to be drill partners with at the Iowa Style Wrestling Club. Melikian is Fordham’s only remaining undefeated wrestler and seems like their most polished, which he showed with a third period pin of Erickson to capture a title. “We really do have some good guys,” said Melikian, a Mohegan Lake resident. “Not many people think of us as a good program because we’re Catholic and in the Bronx, but we really do have an up-and-coming program with a lot of young studs. We really can do damage at tournaments like this.”
• Tappan Zee finished higher than any other Section 1 team in fourth place thanks in large part to its upper weights. While Djekovic came up just short in his final, John Hartnett (220) and Michael Manni (285) got it done up top. Hartnett has really come on strong this season and knocked off pretty much each top contender in his weight class, including East Ramapo’s Jason Dorsainville, Ossining’s Trent Lofaro and Clarkstown South’s Paul Okeke. “We go in there and we’re pretty confident that we’re going to get 12 (points) up top,” Manni said. “He’s a great guy, an outstanding wrestler, and we’re wrestling partners. Every day in practice, we’re drilling and pushing each other to get better. It’s paying off, and we’re winning tournaments.”
• Manni won his title with a 3-2 decision over Horace Greeley’s Brent Lobien. Many thought Manni would eventually see last season’s section runner-up Justin Douglas of New Ro, but Lobien eliminated Douglas with a 3-2 decision in the semis, showing that his name deserves to be mentioned among the top super heavyweights in the section. That weight class has a handful of guys who could make a run, but Manni seems to have emerged as defending champ David Varian of Yorktown’s No. 1 contender. “I’m anxious to see him, but I take one match at a time,” Manni said. “I don’t go in expecting to win. I know I’m going to have to work because all of the guys that I go up against are really tough guys, and I have a lot of respect for them.”
• Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi (145) and Greeley’s Scott Wymbs (195; pictured to the right) made it seven champs from Section 1, but an especially interesting weight class was at 99 pounds. Both Fox Lane’s Brandon Fay and Pearl River’s James Kelly should be in the mix for a section title, but they ran into probably the top guy in that class from Section 9 in Pine Bush’s Chris Cuccolo. He pinned Kelly in the the third period of their semifinal bout, before going onto beat Fay by decision, 8-1, in the final.
OTHER LOCAL TEAMS IN ACTION ON SATURDAY
• Clarkstown South continued its tremendous season with a team title at the Scarsdale tournament. The Vikings finished ahead of last year’s champ Garden City and Section 1 power Yorktown, as senior Brian McLiverty broke the school’s all-time wins record with 117 on his way to a second-place finish at 113 pounds. Scarsdale’s Mike Hodges was named MOW after winning a title at 138. One of the more surprising results came at 220 pounds, where Mount Vernon’s David Watkins proved that he belongs in the conversation for a section title with a pin of Okeke.
• Lakeland/Panas took the team title at the Joe Radomsky tourney at Ardsley. The most notable final there came at 138 pounds, where multiple D2 state-qualifier Drew Longo of Ardsley held off Sleepy Hollow’s Edwin Jimenez with a 5-3 decision. Irvington senior Brett Pastore picked up his 126th career win to break the school record.
• Clarkstown North went out to the Monsignor Farrell tourney to square with some strong teams from Long Island, New Jersey and NYC. Senior Colby Kash (145) was the only Ram to take a title, as he defeated Rocky Point’s Nick Accardi with a 3-2 decision for first-place. Brian Hong (106) took second place, while Justin Hong (113) and Mike Seligson (120) took third.
• Mahopac was the only Section 1 team at the Warde Invitational, where the Indians took third overall. Cody DeNapoli (145) and Aaron Gallagher (170) each took first for Mahopac, while Zack Boker (132) took second and picked up his 100th career win.
• During the Martin Luther tournament in Maspeth, Queens Rye Country Day’s John Almodovar (106), Dylan Bronson (145) and George Matelich (170) each earned first place finishes by pinning their opponents. Marc Schneider finished in second place at 126 and the Wildcats finished in fourth place in the 14-team tournament.
Photos by John Meore/The Journal News