In an exercise that I try to do for every sport that I cover at the end of each season, I’ve being scouring through rosters in the last few weeks in order to determine which teams are best positioned for success next year. Barring any major injuries, this should serve as a good indication of which teams have enough notable returning talent to compete for a section title in 2013-14. It worked out well last season, as I correctly predicted the top four teams in D1 — in order — nearly a full year before the sectional tournament. This year, I’ve also taken a crack at labeling the favorites in each weight class for the 2013-14 season.
I’ll list each of the teams that I see in the top 10 next year, plus a few more that are on the fringe. I’ll give you the names of all of the returning wrestlers from each team who qualified for sectionals, and also those who qualified and will be graduating. One star (*) next to wrestler’s name indicates that he placed at sectionals this season, two stars (**) signifies that he qualified for states and three stars (***) means that he placed at states. The year listed next to each wrestler is what they were this season.
We’ll start with D1 this week, and then get to D2 next Monday:
1. North Rockland
Key returners — Anthony Sulla, Fr.*; Alex D’Angelo, Soph.; Marlon Borge, Soph.*; Derek DiMarsico, Soph.*; Blaise Benderoth, Soph.***; Matt Caputo, Jr.***; Nick Didio, Jr.*; Conner Reigottie, Jr.*
Key losses — Jake DiMarsico**; Mike D’Agostino*; Victor Delgado; Colton Charles*
Thoughts — It looks like the first section title in program history was more than just a blip on the radar. This could have been the start of a dynasty. The Red Raiders lose a few key pieces, most notably two-time state qualifier Jake DiMarsico, but they return a whole lot more than they lose. Caputo and Benderoth (pictured to the right) are studs who could be in the mix for state titles, but there are five others coming back who placed at sectionals. I added D’Angelo because he likely would have placed had he not gotten injured at the end of the season. Once again, North Rockland should have more potential placers than any other team in the section. Strength comes in numbers.
2. Fox Lane
Key returners — Brandon Fay, Jr.*; Matt Grippi, 7th*; Scott Rodrigues, Fr.*; Ben Ettlinger, Jr.*; Frank Surace, Soph.*; John Clune, Fr.; Nick Cerutti, Fr.
Key losses — Ari Faust; Tom Grippi***
Thoughts — Some thought I was crazy to keep the Foxes in the top three after all of the talent that they lost from the 2011-12 season, but they showed why this may be the best program in the section. They missed out on a third consecutive section title, but a top three finish provided plenty of reasons for optimism going into next season. The big loss is Tom Grippi, but that’s about it. He’s certainly a big name, but it takes a lot more than one guy to make or break a section title run. The younger generation of Fox Lane wrestlers seem ready to take the program into the future, with five guys who could be in the mix for individual section titles in 2013-14. Most of them are still underclassmen, so don’t expect the Foxes to go anywhere in the next few years.
3. John Jay-East Fishkill
Key returners — Randy Earl, 8th; Jay Albis, Soph.*; Paul Bernasconi, Fr.; Grant Frederick, Soph.; Ron McCabe, Fr.; Brandon White, Soph.; Brett Perry, Jr.***; Eric Wakefield, Fr.; Andrew Anthony, Fr.
Key losses — Luke Minasi*; Dale White, Sr.***
Thoughts — The Patriots are losing the face of the program in Dale White, but just like I said with Fox Lane, one guy — no matter how good — isn’t going to devastate any section title hopes. Of the 11 wrestlers who qualified for sectionals, nine will return, most notably Perry, who will be a guy to keep an eye on state-wise. The rest of the returning qualifiers will all be juniors or younger next season, so there’s still a lot of room for growth and development. JJEF seems to be on the right track for another top five finish — or better.
4. Pearl River
Key returners — James Kelly, Soph.**; Sean McGarvey, 8th; Jake Kurzhals, Fr.; John Muldoon, Jr.***; Nick Simeti, Jr.; Rob Gullo, Jr.*
Key losses — Chris Flynn
Thoughts — The Pirates may not have had as many sectional qualifiers as other teams that finished in the top 10, but they had enough to finish sixth overall. With only one of those qualifiers graduating, they are very well-positioned to improve on that finish in 2013-14. Kelly and Muldoon (pictured to the left) will come in as defending section champs with strong chances to repeat, and Muldoon will have his sights set even higher than that. Coach Grier Yorks has done an excellent job of retooling this program, and Pearl River should continue to reap the benefits next season. Of all of the powerhouse teams in Rockland, the Pirates look like the next strongest after North Rockland.
Key returners — Grant Cuomo, 7th*; Tyler Gonska, Soph.*; Tom Kozal, Soph.; Nick McGill, Soph.; Liam Erickson, Jr.**; Joey Petrogallo, Soph.; Gino Gioielli, Jr.*; Mike Larm, Fr.
Key losses — Ryan Ford
Thoughts — For the past few seasons, the Bears have been generally regarded as a stronger dual meet team than they are in the sectional tourney, but that may all change in 2013-14. They’re bringing pretty much everyone back from a young core that really improved as the season went on. Brewster will be led by a defending section champ in Erickson, who will look to take the next step by placing at states in his senior season. But there are a handful of others who should be in the mix to place — or even make it out of the section. We thought the Bears would take a big hit after losing a tremendous senior class last year, but they continue to make strides.
Key returners — Brady Robin, Fr.*; Alfredo Olmedo, Jr.*; Dillon Sforza, Jr.; Nick Tolli, Jr.; Michael Chirasello, Jr.; Jon Silveri, Jr; Mario Zeppetelli, Soph.; Brandon Badger, Jr.; Michael Peterson, Jr.
Key losses — Robert Hanaburgh*
Thoughts — Despite having as many sectional qualifiers as any team in the section, the Admirals didn’t finish as high as expected due to a key injury and a few upset losses. That should leave them as hungry as ever heading into next season, especially when you consider that only one of their sectional qualifiers is graduating in Hanaburgh. Tolli had put himself on the map statewide after his performance at Eastern States, but a knee injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. He’ll come back as one of the top wrestlers in the section to lead a strong class of seniors that is only going to get better. I expect Arlington to make up for its disappointing finish.
Key returners — Brice Artrip, 8th; Peter Oliveto, 8th; Daiton Powell, Soph.*; Stephen Lauro, Fr.; Peter Pjetri, Soph.*; Jack Farquharson, Jr.
Key losses — Alex Oliveto*; James DeSimone*; Clifford Joseph
Thoughts — In spite of what some may have considered a down regular season for the Mounties, they still managed to finish strong and take seventh in the section. That’s a testament to the development of a very young team, which is something that coach Chris Matteotti warned could take time. We saw a glimpse of that potential at sectionals, but it will need to continue to improvement with the loss of team leaders and Rockland county champs Oliveto and DeSimone. There are a lot of young guys to like in the Suffern wrestling room — particularly Powell and Pjetri (pictured above) — and another year of experience should lead to another top 10 finish.
8. Clarkstown South
Key returners — Michael Alvarado, Soph.; Reid Orlando, Jr.; Hassan Auwarter, Jr.; Jason Fortugno, Jr.; Austin Maurer, Jr.*; Matt St. Onge, Jr.*; Nick Holahan, Jr.
Key losses — Brian McLiverty*; Sean Maloney*; Drew Breyfogle; Paul Okeke*
Thoughts — The Vikings had a tremendous season, finishing second to North Rockland in the Section 1 duals early on, but tailed off a bit at the end of the year. While they entered sectionals with a few title hopefuls, the lack of champs is what led to South finishing outside of the top eight. McLiverty, Maloney and Okeke will each be significant losses, but coach Brenden Rogers has been developing this program for years to get to the point where they have the depth to replace guys like that. Maurer is a guy who made tremendous strides and could compete for a title next season, while others like Auwarter will look to improve upon disappointing finishes. The Vikings might not have many (or any) section finalists, but depth is the strength here.
9. Horace Greeley
Key returners — Mathew Kaufman, Fr; Mitch Klein, Jr.*; Liam Mercer, Soph.; Brock Cvijanovich, Soph.*; Billy Marino, Jr.
Key losses — Kirby Atlas*; Bing Bing Xie; Scott Wymbs**; Brent Lobien*
Thoughts — The losses here are significant, but there is still plenty left in the cupboard for coach Mike DeBellis. You could argue that the Quakers were the most improved team in the section this season, finishing eighth thanks to a handful of guys who were able to place. Three of them will be gone, but two will return in Klein and Cvijanovich. I may have underestimated the depth for Greeley to begin the year, but I won’t make the same mistake twice. I see the Quakers in the top 10 for the second consecutive season in 2013-14.
10. Tappan Zee
Key returners — Noah Hovde, Jr.; John Hartnett, Jr.**; Mike Manni, Jr.***
Key losses — Desmond Djekovic*; Justin Schaller; Kurt Romano; Billy Madigan
Thoughts — It may be hard to justify putting a team in the top 10 that is only bringing back three section qualifiers, but it’s not often that a team brings back two reigning section champs (the only other team that can make that claim is Pearl River). Hartnett and Manni (pictured above) will enter 2013-14 as heavy favorites to repeat at 220 and 285, respectively, which will provide some major points that the Dutchmen can pretty much put in the bank. Couple that with the fact that TZ had a couple of guys who didn’t qualify that I believe could compete at sectionals, and that they have one of the best and most energetic coaches in the section in Peter Dene, and I think there’s enough reason to believe this team can make it into the top 10 for a third consecutive season.
On the fringe — Clarkstown North, Mahopac, New Rochelle, Ossining, Somers
The next part of this exercise comes in two parts. First, I’ve come up with a list of the top 10 returning wrestlers who I believe have the best chance to do damage at states next year. You can look at it as the best pound-for-pound guys who will be back. Secondly, I’ve tried to identify the guys who look like they’ll be the favorites in each weight class in 2013-14. I left out 99 pounds because it’s nearly impossible to know which middle-schoolers are coming up who will do well on this level, but if any of the guys who placed there this year remain at 99, you can pencil them in as the favorites. This is all a guessing game at this point, so I took some liberties in terms of whether a guy will stay put or make a jump. Part of it is based on rumors that I’ve heard from credible sources, but with some wrestlers it’s just based on their body type and which class I think may make the most sense. Plus, it’s kind of fun to do a little speculating.
Top 10 returners
1. Alex Delacruz, Jr., Ossining
2. John Muldoon, Jr., Pearl River
3. Nick Barbaria, Jr., New Rochelle
4. Matt Caputo, Jr., North Rockland
5. Mike Manni, Jr., Tappan Zee
6. Brett Perry, Jr., John Jay-EF
7. Blaise Benderoth, Soph., North Rockland
8. Nick Tolli, Jr., Arlington
9. Brad Marvin, Jr., Ketcham
10. Jon Errico, Soph., Byram Hills
Possible weight class favorites
106 – James Kelly, Soph., Pearl River
113 – Nick Barbaria, Jr., New Rochelle
120 – Derek DiMarsico, Soph., North Rockland
126 – John Muldoon, Jr., Pearl River
132 – Alex Delacruz, Jr., Ossining (pictured to the right)
138 – Liam Erickson, Jr., Brewster
145 – Matt Caputo, Jr., North Rockland
152 – Brad Marvin, Jr., Ketcham
160 – Mitch Klein, Jr., Horace Greeley
170 – Nick Didio, Jr., North Rockland
182 – Brett Perry, Jr., John Jay-EF
195 – Andrew Grella, Jr., Beacon
220 – John Hartnett, Jr., Tappan Zee
285 – Mike Manni, Jr., Tappan Zee