You can read my story and see box scores from the O’Connell tourney at Pearl River by clicking here, but I also have some videos and reaction from other tourneys that I wanted to share.
• I found it very hard to believe that it had been so long since Pearl River last won its own tournament, but I realized it had been quite awhile when I asked coach Grier Yorks and he responded with a puzzled look. Yorks is usually very good with remembering dates and facts. The overall title is a testament to how far the program has come in the last few years. MOW John Muldoon has been the face, but no team had as many individual champs as Pearl River’s five — Sean McGarvey (99), James Kelly (113), Jake Kurzhals (120), Muldoon (132) and Nick Simeti (138).
• As defending section champs, most expected Kelly and Muldoon to claim titles, but the other three weren’t necessarily sure bets. McGarvey got the Pirates off to a good start in the finals with his 5-0 decision over East Ramapo’s Trey Wardlaw. While he’s probably not quite in the section title conversation yet, he’s definitely emerged as one of the top five wrestlers in that 99-pound weight class.
• Out of the five titles for Pearl River, Kurzhals’ may have been the most unexpected. He was matched up against East Ramapo’s Luke Francois in the 120-final, who came into the tourney red-hot. Kurzhals spoke to me about watching closely as Francois wrestled one of his teammates in a dual meet a few weeks ago, and he wrestled the match wisely on his way to a 4-3 decision. A takedown and some back points early in the match provided Kurzhals with some confidence and a critical lead. “It was really big. It gave me more confidence just to go out and give it my all,” he said. “I felt like I had some control.”
• Muldoon went down to 132 for this tournament, which is where he’s expected to wrestle in the postseason. He wasn’t really challenged throughout the day, beating TZ’s Joe Gedeiko with a pin in the finals. Some of the other champs from Pearl River spoke about how much of a positive influence Muldoon and Kelly have been on the rest of the team. “It’s awesome because John and James have both helped us in the room,” Simeti said. “It’s a team thing, so everyone feels just as good.”
• Washingtonville — which claimed the O’Connell title last season — took second this, year followed by North Rockland. In a display of just how much depth the Red Raiders have, they held out nine — that’s right, nine — starters and still managed to place in the top three. The main reason that guys were held out is because they wanted to maintain their eligibility with Eastern States coming up. The result was no individual champs for North Rockland, but it had plenty of lesser known guys show up and wrestle tough.
• The team scores were very closely bunched from fourth through eighth in the standings, with Nyack pulling past county rivals such as Tappan Zee, East Ramapo and Clarkstown North to claim fourth place. The Indians’ cause was helped by having two individual champs in Prakash Thakur (126) and James Giraldez (145). Giraldez (pictured to the right) had one of the more highly anticipated finals against TZ’s Noah Hovde, who has emerged as a contender in that class this season. Giraldez nearly stuck him in the first period, but Hovde eventually escaped, with Giraldez holding on for a tight 6-4 decision. “I haven’t wrestled Noah ever in high school, but I’ve been following him in The Journal News and online,” Giraldez said. “I’ve been seeing that he’s been a tough match for a lot of people. He definitely knows how to push it.”
• East Ramapo — which may be the most improved program in the county this season — took fifth, but fell short in a few finals and had no champs. In a surprisingly low finish, TZ took sixth, but John Hartnett (220) and Mike Manni (285) each claimed titles. Manni wasn’t really tested, as he earned his 100th career win with a quick pin in the finals, but Hartnett ran into a familiar foe in his final. He beat Washingtonville’s Sam Weinger in a close match during last season’s O’Connell tourney, and did so again on Saturday with a 3-0 decision. I caught the final period on video, in which Hartnett showed his strength on top by riding Weinger out for the full two minutes.
• The match that I thought we’d be seeing in the 160-pound final was Sleepy Hollow’s Adam Hofling (pictured to the left) and Pearl River’s Rob Gullo, but Gullo ended up taking third after losing in the quarterfinals. Instead, Hofling was matched up with North Rockland’s Alex Schelmety, who showed a lot of fight and kept it close in a 4-3 loss. I spoke to Hofling afterwards, who told me that he decided to go 160 this season because he didn’t gain any weight in the offseason. He was a bit small for a 170-pounder last year, but still managed to make it to the sectional finals. “He looked pretty tough in his first couple matches, but I was able to hold him down, keep the score low and tire him out to come out with the win,” Hofling said. “He was really tough on bottom. I couldn’t flip him over.”
• In the other big tournament of the weekend, host Arlington won an overall title at the Mid-Hudsons, with the next highest Section 1 team to place being Clarkstown South at ninth. That goes to show you just how many quality teams from outside of the section participate in this deep and difficult tourney. The Admirals had four individual champs — Alfredo Olmedo (99), Nick Tolli (132), Mike Peterson (160) and Jon Silveri (182). No other Section 1 had more than one. CLICK HERE for a look at all of the results from Saturday.
• The senior MOW at the Mid-Hudsons was Beacon’s Andrew Grella, who had the kind of day that should serve as a statement around the state. Currently ranked No. 1 in the section at 195, Grella was expected to get a shot at the No. 2 ranked Austin Maurer of Clarkstown South, but Maurer had a rough go with two losses on the second day of the tourney. Grella, on the other hand, breezed through a deep field with first-period pins in both the semis and the finals. Big, big day for the Bulldogs’ top wrestler.
• Ketcham’s Danny Murphy was named the junior MOW with his title at 145. Murphy’s win proves that he’s a name to watch in that weight class come sectional time.
• Ossining’s Alex Delacruz picked up his first notable title of the season, notching his 150th career win along the way. The defending state champ was definitely tested, winning his semifinal and final matches via decision. He wrestled at 126, where he is expected to be for the postseason.
• The only other champ from Section 1 at the Mid-Hudsons was Clarkstown South’s Matt St. Onge, who established a bit of a pecking order at 285 with his overtime win over teammate Nick Holahan in the semis. Those two have been neck-and-neck all season, and look like two of the better supers in the section after the clear-favorite Manni. St. Onge also won his finals match in OT.
• Wantagh won the Eric D’Agnese tourney at Somers on Saturday, in a tournament that featured almost exclusively out-of-section teams. The Tuskers took fifth, with Dom Celli (160) being their only champ. Anthony DiMauro (126) and Larry Courtien (145) each placed second. CLICK HERE to see full brackets from the tourney.
Photos by Dave Gershgorn/The Journal News