After researching all week and talking to some of the more accomplished wrestlers from around the area, I’ve come up with a pretty neat exercise on the eve of the New York state wrestling championships. While there may not be a hands-down state title favorite from Section 1, there are several guys who many believe could win a championship if they perform up to their capabilities and things fall into place. What I’ve done is take the top 10 guys who, in my opinion, have the best chances to come out on top in Albany. I’ve tried to breakdown their brackets and come up with reasonable odds for each wrestler’s probability of winning a title. I used Eastern States as a major point of reference because so many highly seeded wrestlers from across the state competed there, and I added videos of guys competing against some of the top contenders from their weight class. Below the top 10, I’ve come up with a list others who I believe have a good chance of placing in each division. It seems to me that a whole lot is up in the air – I really wouldn’t be surprised to see four or five local champs, or none – which should make this a very interesting weekend. But I think Section 1 has the potential to have a very successful showing overall.
Here are my top 10 wrestlers with the best odds of winning a state title:
Dylan Realbuto, Somers: As the only defending state champ from Section 1, it’s only right that we start with D-Real. After winning in dramatic fashion last season at 113 pounds, Realbuto will try to repeat at 126. He likely would have come in as the top seed, but a 3-2 loss to TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River in the Eastern States finals dropped him to No. 2. D-Real told me that he got a look at most of the best in the state that weekend, and he was right. He beat third-seeded Chris Arroaz of Wantagh (4-0) and fourth-seeded Mark West of Hauppauge (5-4), so he’s seen everyone seeded in the top four. If he can get out of his side of the bracket, he’ll likely get another shot at Fabian, which is a match that looks like it could go either way. Odds for a state title: 50%
John Muldoon, Pearl River: I list Muldoon here because he has earned the distinction of the best 120-pounder in the section, but he’s really representing all of the state qualifiers from the area in this weight class. I believe that there is a better chance that Section 1 gets a champ from the 120-pound class in D1 than any other class because three of the top four seeds come from this section. Muldoon is No. 2, Ossining’s Alex Delacruz is No. 3 and North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth is No. 4. Oddly enough, while Muldoon took second at Eastern States to place higher than any other New York state wrestler, Benderoth took third and Delacruz reached the semis, top-seeded Steven Michel of Lancaster didn’t even place that weekend. He lost to two Section 1 wrestlers – Arlington’s Nick Tolli and Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano – so I’d have to think it would be a very winnable match if he were to meet Muldoon, Delacruz or Benderoth. “I like to think it’s an advantage for me, because if I won, maybe they’re a little bit hesitant,” Muldoon said of his success against the other wrestlers in the bracket. “I’ve got tape, so we’ll be going over that in the next couple of days and picking apart all of the video.” Odds for a state title: 35% (Although I’d say it’s more like 75% that the champ comes from Section 1)
Nick Barbaria, New Rochelle: A title at Eastern States cemented Barbaria’s place as a legitimate state title contender. He comes in as the No. 2 seed at 106 pounds in D1 with wins over third-seeded Jimmy Overhiser of Corning (4-3 in OT) and sixth-seeded Kyle Quinn of Wantagh (3-1), so he has a history of success against his top competition. The unknown is top-seeded Alex Tanzman of Westhampton Beach, who Barbaria has never wrestled. I’m told that he’s an explosive wrestler who has the ability to hit the “home run,” but I can’t recall ever seeing Barbaria get pinned. He’ll have a tough road with another potential meeting with Overhiser in the semis and then Tanzman looming in the finals, but Barbaria has shown the toughness to get it done. “Everyone is about equal in the bracket, so you just have to go out there and wrestle and see what happens,” he said. Odds for a state title: 35%
Dan Breit, Nanuet: The Golden Knights’ 220-pounder might represent the best chance for local state title in D2. He was one of two Section 1 wrestlers to win a title at Eastern States along with Barbaria, which has put a bit of a target on his back heading into this weekend. Despite winning at Eastern States, the next highest seeded wrestler from D2 who was present for that tourney was No. 4 Michael Silvis of Holley, who Breit beat in the finals. Breit comes in as the No. 2 seed, but I’ve heard very good things about top-seeded Zack Bacon of Hornell. Breit seems like a good bet to reach the finals, so I asked him what he knows about Bacon. “I know that he beat Silvis, the kid who I beat in the Eastern States finals, 1-0, and I beat (Silvis) 3-2,” he said. “If you look at it that way, we should be pretty even.” Odds for a state title: 30%
Trey Aslanian, Edgemont: The Panthers’ 120-pound senior has been to two consecutive state finals, so he’ll be vying for his third appearance this weekend. D-Real is the only other wrestler from the section who can say that. Safe to say, Aslanian is used to the big stage. He’s had an up-and-down season, with the low point being not placing at Eastern States and the high point coming at sectionals when he knocked off five-time state qualifier Anthony Calvano of Nanuet in the D2 section final. It bodes well that Trey seems to be wrestling his best at the end of season, but his potential finals opponent is a familiar foe. While Aslanian comes in as the No. 2 seed, Sean Peacock of Midlakes is No. 1. Some of you may remember that Peacock beat Aslanian in the 113-pound state final last season, 5-0. Of course, Calvano is the No. 4 seed, so he’s lined up to meet Peacock in the semis. I wouldn’t count him out for making a run at a title, either. “It’s the last chance that I get to represent Edgemont,” Aslanian said. “I’ve been wrestling under (coach) Pete (Jacobson) since I was in fifth grade, so it’s important that I bring it home for everyone from Edgemont. There’s so many hours that they’ve put into me, so I feel like I have to give it back this weekend.” Odds for a state title: 25% (I’d call it a 40% chance that the state champ in this class comes from Section 1)
Sam Melikian, Fordham Prep: I was a bit surprised that the Mohegan Lake native wasn’t seeded higher for states. He received the third seed after placing second at Eastern States – higher than any other New York state wrestler. Out of the three locals who will be competing at 132 pounds in Division 1, I consider Melikian to be the best bet for a state title. Section champ Liam Erickson of Brewster is seeded fifth and North Rockland’s Jake DiMarsico is sixth, but Melikian has had more success than either of them against the top contenders in the state (he pinned Erickson in the Shoreline finals). The top seed at 132, Sayville’s Matt Leshinger, placed third behind Melikian at Eastern States (although they didn’t wrestle that weekend), and second-seeded Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam took fifth. Lapi pinned DiMarsico in the fifth place final at Eastern States, and would likely be Melikian’s semifinals opponent is he can get past DiMarsico in the quarters. Odds for a state title: 20%
Tom Grippi, Fox Lane: The Foxes’ 145-pounder comes in as a bit of an underdog after losing to two of the guys seeded ahead of him at Eastern States. The senior lost to No. 3 Eric Lewandowski of Lancaster in OT (9-7) in quarters and then lost to No. 2 David Almaviva of Shenendehowa in third place final (4-1), which is why he comes in as the fourth seed in D1. Grippi has the tendency to come back strong after losses (last season he lost convincingly to Mahopac’s Jake Srednicki at divisionals and then came back to beat him in the section finals), and he spoke to me about reviewing film of those matches and being anxious to get another shot at them. As the four-seed, he would have to get to the finals to see either Almaviva or Lewandowski, which would likely mean getting past Eastern States champ Louis Hernandez of Mepham, who is seeded No. 1. “In the Grippi family, we’ve never had a state championship,” Grippi said. “We came close when Joey took second, so I really want to get that title for the family. Also, if I win three matches, I’ll get my 200th win, so I’m excited to go up there and make a statement.” Odds for a state title: 15%
Steven Sabella, Yorktown: While I believe that the Huskers could have all four of their state qualifiers place, Sabella looks like the best bet to challenge for a state title. His only real loss this season came in the Eastern States semis against Johnson City’s Reggie Williams, who is the top seed at 195 pounds in D1. While I don’t want to put too much into one match, Sabella really showed something in that 7-5 loss. Most of the people that I spoke with before that match expected Williams to run away with it, but Sabella took it to him and grabbed an early lead. It was tied 5-5 with mere seconds remaining, but a late takedown from Williams near the edge ensured he would avoid the upset. That match had to serve as a huge confidence booster for Sabella as he showed himself that he can hang with the best, which makes him a dangerous man. Of course, as the fourth seed, he’ll have to win a couple of tough matches to even get another shot at Williams. Odds for a state title: 15%
Drew Longo, Ardsley: In order to win a state title, the Panthers’ 138-pounder will have an uphill climb. The senior is seeded sixth in D2, and lost to top-seeded Nick Tighe of Phoenix 14-7 in the quarterfinals at Eastern States. He’s on the other side of the bracket, so he wouldn’t have to see Tighe until the finals, but it will take an upset or two to get there. Longo has shown before that he isn’t intimidated by anyone, so he has the mindset to pull it off, but it will surely take an epic performance. Odds for a state title: 10%
Dale White, John Jay-East Fishkill: In the beginning of the season, I probably would have given White better odds. He placed fifth in the state last season and looked like a real contender for 2013, but a bad back injury derailed the 160-pound senior and forced him to miss nearly the entire regular season. He made it back just in time for sectionals and still managed to win a D1 title pretty convincingly, but you could see at times that the back was still bothering him. White comes in unseeded, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him surprise a few people, but with so little mat time and a troublesome back, it will be a long road to a title. Odds for a state title: 10%
Others who I think have good odds of placing in D1: Ossining’s Alex Delacruz (120), North Rockland’s Blaise Benderoth (120), Brewster’s Liam Erickson (132), North Rockland’s Matt Caputo (138), Yorktown’s Joe Mastro (152), John Jay-EF’s Brett Perry (170), Yorktown’s Thomas Murray (182), Tappan Zee’s John Hartnett (220), Tappan Zee’s Mike Manni (285) and Yorktown’s David Varian (285).
Others who I think have good odds of placing in D2: Pleasantville’s James Bathon (99), Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano (120), Irvington’s Brett Pastore (152) and Putnam Valley’s John Messinger (170).