As always, the first day of the New York state wrestling championships was filled with tons of exciting matches and all kinds of drama, setting us up for what should be another great day on Saturday.
As a whole, Section 1 did much better on the Division 1 side. Eight D1 wrestlers from the section are still alive for state titles going into the semifinals, and Fordham Prep’s Sam Melikian makes it nine locals who are still in the hunt. That has Section 1 sitting in fourth place overall in D1. In Division 2, only three locals went unbeaten on Friday.
To view the full brackets, visit nysphsaawrestling.com. And be sure to check out my story on all of the major happenings on Day One.
• Of the 12 total local wrestlers who are still alive for titles between the two divisions, one-third of them come from the same weight class. The 120-pounders from Section 1 continue to impress, with Pearl River junior John Muldoon and Ossining junior Alex Delacruz both making it through in D1, while Edgemont senior Trey Aslanian and Nanuet senior Anthony Calvano each advanced to the semis in D2. It’s incredible how deep that class is this year, as four of the remaining eight wrestlers in the state at 120 come from the same section. “Looking at me, (North Rockland’s Blaise) Benderoth, Muldoon, Calvano, Trey – that’s five good guys in Section 1 that could potentially win a state title,” Delacruz said. “It’s crazy how stacked the weight class is. We came in with three of the top four seeds from Section 1 (in D1), and that kind of makes a statement of how tough Section 1 is at that weight class.”
• Both Aslanian and Calvano won in the first round with major decisions, but while Trey squeaked out a 4-3 decision in the quarters, Calvano completely controlled the action in his second match – an 8-2 decision over Smithtown Christian’s Peter Schneider. He looks very sharp, and should have a great match with top-seeded Sean Peacock of Midlakes in the semis tomorrow morning.
• While Aslanian and Calvano would each have to advance to the finals to get a chance to wrestle each other, Muldoon and Delacruz (pictured to the right) will face off in the semis in a rematch of the past two section finals. They had very different days today, with Muldoon going to OT in the first round and Delacruz winning by major decision. In the quarters, Muldoon cruised to a 7-0 decision, while Delacruz got past Commack’s Mike D’Angelo with a 5-3 decision (You may remember, D’Angelo beat Muldoon at the Shoreline before Delacruz pinned him in the finals). “I like being the underdog,” Delacruz said of seeing Muldoon again. “Hopefully, it will be a good match against him. I’m going to go after it; that’s all I can do. Just go out there and wrestle my best, and forget what happened at sectionals.”
• Benderoth didn’t make the semis, but he gives Section 1 five all-state caliber wrestlers at 120. He lost a highly anticipated match against Eastport’s Travis Passaro with a 4-2 decision in the quarters, whom he had split with at Eastern States. He’s still alive in wrestle backs.
• One of the guys who I highlighted this week as one of the top state title contender from the area was New Rochelle junior Nick Barbaria, and he didn’t disappoint on Friday. The No. 2 seed at 106 pounds advanced to the semis after a 3-1 decision over St. Anthony’s John Twomey. The turning point came at the end of the second period when Barbaria picked up a demoralizing takedown without going out of bounds to extend his lead to 3-0. A reporter next to me turned and said, “That’s why you never stop wrestling near the edge.”
• Of the three locals who were competing at 132 pounds in D1, only Melikian remains in the hunt for a title. He cruised in the first round, but had to survive an OT scare in the quarters against Niagara Wheatfield’s Marcus Popp. He’ll face second-seeded Brandon Lapi of Huntington in the semis tomorrow, who he placed ahead of at Eastern States. “He was very long and I had trouble scoring on him,” Melikian said of Popp. “I could tell he was getting tired and I missed a lot of scoring opportunities, but it eventually went to overtime. I hit an outside single and jumped him right to his side to score.”
• The only matchup of the day featuring two Section 1 wrestlers was a very familiar rivalry. For the 10th time in their varsity careers, North Rockland junior Matt Caputo and Clarkstown North senior Colby Kash squared off (pictured at the top). And for the fourth consecutive meeting, it was Caputo who came out on top with a 3-1 decision. Caputo moves onto the D1 quarters at 138 pounds, while Kash was eliminated in wrestle backs, but I thought what Caputo told me after the match was pretty neat. Little did I know, but the two had never even spoken a word to each other before today. “The first time we talked ever was just right after our match when we were both getting changed,” Caputo said. “It was the first time in 10 years that we ever spoke. It’s over now, so we can definitely talk, and it’s nice to not have the wrestle someone who always gives you tight matches. He gave me a fight, and I respect him for that.”
• Another guy who seems extremely focused is Fox Lane senior Tom Grippi (pictured to the left). He teched his opponent in the first round at 145 pounds, and then won a 4-0 decision over Hilton’s Anthony Deprez thanks to some crucial back points in the third period of his quarterfinals match. Next up, Grippi gets a shot at top-seeded Louis Hernandez of Mepham in the semis. “I feel pretty confident,” he said. “We’re similar type of wrestlers. We have the same style, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve wanted a chance at him since he won at Eastern States. I’m finally getting my chance.”
• It was a very good day for John Jay-East Fishkill, which has a higher team score at the moment than any other Section 1 team in D1. Both Dale White (160) and Brett Perry (170) made it into the semis, which makes the Patriots 2-for-2. White was especially impressive, pinning fourth-seeded Josh Powell of Churchville-Chili with a nasty move in the quarters. He’s unseeded, but don’t be shocked if he wins a title. When healthy, he’s that good.
• The final Section 1 wrestler from D1 to punch his ticket to the semis was Tappan Zee junior Mike Manni at 285 pounds. He moves well for a big guy, which gives him a better offensive arsenal than most supers. He won a 7-2 decision in the first round (which felt like a tech fall compared to most matches in that weight class), and then won a 2-0 decision over Newburgh’s Terrence Cheeks in the quarters. Manni got his two points with a reversal in the second period, and then did an excellent job of riding Cheeks out for the entirety of the third. “I didn’t get the takedown in the first period, but when I was down on bottom (in the second period) I got two,” he said. “I knew I had to ride him out to get the win, and I did. He was a big, strong kid – a good wrestler – but I pulled out the win.”
• The only other D2 wrestler to make it to the semis besides Aslanian and Calvano was Nanuet senior Dan Breit. The 220-pounder won his first round match pretty handily, but was tested a bit more in the quarters, where he edged out Marathon’s Dillon Hurlbert with a 5-3 decision. He’ll face third-seeded Ryan Wolcott of Waverly in the semis.
• The most surprising result of the day came in the 126-pound quarters in D1. To the shock of many (myself included), defending state champ Dylan Realbuto got stuck by Grant Street Campus’ Keanu Thompson. D-Real was up 2-1 going into the second and chose bottom, but Thompson hooked a cradle and put him to his back. Our photographer Matt Brown and his son David must have felt it coming, because they turned on the camera and caught it on video. You couldn’t help but feel for Realbuto in that situation. It’s a tough way to end his senior year, but he’s certainty had a career to be proud of. He’s still alive in wrestle backs.
• If there was another match that made your heart sink besides D-Real’s, it was Yorktown senior Thomas Murray in the 182-pound quarterfinals. Of four Huskers that qualified for states, Murray was the only one to advance to the quarters. He was wrestling very well and had a 6-3 lead on Sachem North’s Gio Santiago going into the third period, but in a move that I disagreed with at the time, he decided to let Santiago up and give him a point rather than try to ride him out. Maybe Santiago would have gotten out anyway, but that made the score 6-4 with a full two minutes to wrestle, which pretty much any coach will tell you is a dangerous situation. Santiago went onto catch Murray with a pin with just 28 seconds remaining in the match.
• The final match that I shot on video was Horace Greeley senior Scott Wymbs’ (pictured to the right) 195-pound quarterfinal in D1. While section champ Steven Sabella of Yorktown was knocked off in OT in the first round, two-time sectional runner-up Wymbs advanced to the quarters. He took Shenendehowa’s Levi Ashley to OT, but ultimately lost a 2-1 decision. Unfortunately, I got booted off the system before that video finished, so I’m going to have to try to upload it again tomorrow.
• The only other D1 wrestlers who are still alive to place in wrestle backs besides Benderoth, Realbuto and Wymbs are Yorktown’s Joe Mastro (152) and David Varian (285).
• Here are the D2 wrestlers who are still alive to place in wrestle backs: Ardsley’s Drew Longo (138), Nanuet’s Matt Dillon (145), Irvington’s Brett Pastore (152) and Putnam Valley’s John Messinger (170).
• I’ll be back at the Times Union Center tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. for the start of the semis, so follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano for live updates. I’m planning to shoot every semi that I can which features a local wrestler, but overlaps will probably make it difficult to get every single one. To see all of the videos from this weekend that we’ve uploaded already, just click here.
Photos by Matthew Brown/The Journal News