It’s hard to believe that wrestling season is over, and it’s going to be even harder for me to make some of these postseason award decisions. I can’t recall a season in which there were so many deserving candidates that you could make an argument for, and there certainly isn’t a clear-cut choice for wrestler of the year on either side of the river.
We’ll start with the award that may very well come down to the two state champs from Section 1 — The Journal News Westchester/Putnam wrestler of the year. For the past two seasons, this award has gone to Somers grad Brian Realbuto (he split it with Fox Lane grad Steven Rodrigues in 2011), but now we have a new group vying for the honor. Since the state titles for both Edgemont’s Trey Aslanian and Ossining’s Alex Delacruz are still fresh in our minds, I have a feeling they’ll receive the most votes, but there are others who I can make legitimate cases for, as well. The best way to determine it might be to get Delacruz and Aslanian on a mat together, since they never wrestled this season. What do you say, guys?
Here are my top five candidates for the award:
• Trey Aslanian, Edgemont (40-2, 20 pins): The Princeton-bound senior capped off an incredible career with his first ever state title on Saturday in Division 2 at 120 pounds. For awhile, it seemed as if he had fallen out of the running for this award; not placing at Eastern States and looking like he might be hindered by injury. But after suffering his only two losses of the season at the ESC, Aslanian did not lose another match. He beat Nanuet’s Anthony Calvano (who went onto take fifth in the state) in an incredibly tough section finals match, and then won a state title when a lot of people were counting him out by defeating the same guy (Midlakes’ Sean Peacock) who beat him in last year’s state final. They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish…
• Nick Barbaria, New Rochelle (43-2, 9 pins): While the junior may not have finished the season the way he had hoped, he was the only Westchester/Putnam wrestler to win a title at Eastern States, which some people will tell you is more difficult than winning a state title. Barbaria made it through a tough weight class to win his second consecutive section title, and entered the state tournament without a loss. He came up short in his quest for a state title, finishing fifth at 106 pounds in Division 1, but did go 2-1 against state champ Kyle Quinn of Wantagh this season. He’s shown that he’s capable of competing with anyone in the state.
• Alex Delacruz, Ossining (38-3, 19 pins): The junior may very well be the most talented wrestler in Westchester/Putnam, which he showed by winning his first state title at 120 pounds in Division 1 on Saturday. The knock on Delacruz will be that he wasn’t even a section champ, but the guy who beat him in the finals, Pearl River’s John Muldoon, isn’t eligible for this award (that poll will come sometime next week). More importantly, Delacruz came back with a vengeance at states and beat Muldoon in the semis before finishing the job by winning a state title with an 11-7 decision over top-seeded Steven Michel of Lancaster. He made crucial adjustments throughout the season and became more of a complete wrestler, which enabled him to finish on top.
• Sam Melikian, Fordham Prep (41-2, 28 pins): While the senior didn’t get to consistently compete against Section 1 competition, he was dominant when he did. The Mohegan Lake resident pinned the eventual section champ in his weight class, Brewster’s Liam Erickson, in the Shoreline finals, proving that he is the cream of the crop when it comes to 132 pounds in the area. He took second at Eastern States — placing higher than any other New York state wrestler — and then took third at states in Division 1 after a heartbreaker OT loss in the semis. Undoubtedly, Melikian was one of the best wrestlers from these parts this season.
• Dylan Realbuto, Somers (41-2, 17 pins): It would be easy to look at the Cornell-bound senior’s third place finish at states as a disappointment, but that simply wouldn’t be fair. Expectations were sky-high after he won a state title last season, and D-Real still came through with a superb season. He could have packed it in after getting pinned in the Division 1 state quarterfinals at 126 pounds, but he displayed tremendous pride by wrestling back to take third. Realbuto gave eventual state champ TJ Fabian of Shoreham a tough match in a one-point loss in the Eastern States finals, which tells you that he’s right there with the best in the state. He’ll go down as one of the best wrestlers to come from Section 1 in the last decade, no doubt.
Now go get your vote on!