BEACON —How long does it take to build a championship program from scratch?
In Putnam Valley’s case, 10 years was enough to get the job done.
The Tigers didn’t have a full varsity wrestling team until 2004, but on Saturday at Beacon High School, they claimed their first Division 2 sectional title.
“This is incredible,” junior Willie Messinger said. “Nobody thought we’d be coming out this quick for a section title. Willie Carano is an amazing coach. He’s a great guy, and I feel like no one else in the section could have built up our team the way that he did.”
Messinger was one of four champs from Putnam Valley, but he was probably the biggest underdog. He came in as the fourth seed at 170 pounds, but defeated top-seeded Peter Jones of Irvington and second-seeded Alex Slaybaugh of Nanuet on his way to a title.
“I worked out the entire season, and to finally get back at guys that I lost to, it’s great,” Messinger said. “I don’t think it was so much that I got better. I was struggling with some injuries – my neck and rib injuries – and I was just not adjusting to the weight change from 160 to 170. But it’s all about the end of the season.
Mikey Bruno (99 pounds), A.J. Mirabal (132) and Angelo Zegarelli (160) also won championships for the Tigers, with Bruno upsetting defending champ James Bathon of Pleasantville and Zegarelli pinning top-seeded Thomas Marrone of Pleasantville in the finals.
“It just motivated me all offseason to train so much harder,” Zegarelli said of his loss in last season’s 160-pound final. “I remembered everything, fixed everything — all of my mistakes — and I knew I would get it this year.”
Kyle Aslanian (106), Tyler Aslanian (113), Cliffton Wang (138), Colin Hopkins (145) and Chris Kim (182) each won titles for the Panthers, with Tyler Aslanian and Kim claiming their second.
Both Aslanian brothers had lost in the sectional finals last season.
“Last year really hurt, but I think I took that as motivation,” Tyler said. “I’m more happy that Kyle won. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Kyle win.”
Three-time defending team champ Nanuet was finally dethroned, but seniors Joe Dillon (120) and Frank Paratore (152) each won titles to help the Golden Knights finish third.
Dillon was sharp throughout the weekend, pinning Ardsley’s Adam Samolsky in the semifinals and beating Croton-Harmon’s Andrew Barsuch with an 11-0 major decision in the final to navigate his way through what many considered the toughest weight class in the tournament.
“I won it my freshman year and haven’t won since, so this was my last chance,” said Dillon, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. “I really had to win it this year. I’ve been to states sophomore year as a wild card, but it’s not as good as winning sectionals. I’m excited for this year.”
Nanuet junior Eric Boyle shocked the crowd by building a 9-3 lead against Paternostro, but the Panthers’ senior tied the match late with a takedown and three back points to force overtime, eventually winning with an 11-9 decision.
“It was a huge wakeup call,” said Paternostro, who is undefeated this season. “I didn’t think my finals match was going to be that close. I thought I was going to kill him, but he’s a good, tough kid. Going into states, I have to work harder.”
Ardsley junior Evan Shlom (195), Croton-Harmon senior Alek Pavloff (220) and Irvington senior Anthony DiNardo (285) all won their first sectional titles.
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News