Sectionals: Championship thoughts



I’m hosting a live chat at 7:30 tonight to take all of your questions, but here are some of my initial thoughts less than 24 hours after the Division 1 championships…

· What a day of wrestling we were treated to on Sunday. Ten of the 15 finals were won strictly on decisions, which tells you how tight most of the matches were. When it was all said and done, there weren’t many huge surprises, with 13 top seeds claiming titles — but that doesn’t mean that the matches weren’t exciting. The only wrestlers who won championships that weren’t seeded No. 1 were North Rockland’s Alex D’Angelo, No. 2 at 106, and Mamaroneck’s Youssif Hemida, No. 13 at 220. One of those seems to stand out a bit…

· Even though we knew it was coming, it was still hard not to be impressed with what North Rockland did on Sunday. We expected the Red Raiders to repeat, and Matt Caputo (138) and Blaise Benderoth (152) were considered front-runners for titles, but getting D’Angelo and Nick Didio (160) to come through gave the team a school-record four champs. And while Caputo and Didio will graduate this year, D’Angelo and Benderoth will return next season as seniors, plus three of the other four North Rockland wrestlers who placed – Anthony Sulla (third at 99), Derek DiMarsico (sixth at 120) and Marlon Borge (third at 126).The Red Raiders won’t be favored as heavily next season, but you can certainly make the case that they will remain the team to beat. “It was definitely a goal for the team, and four (champs) was also another goal,” Caputo said of repeating. “We’ve never had four champs. We had four finalists my eighth-grade year, and I lost to (Mike) Parise from Brewster.”

· Of all of the champs from North Rockland, D’Angelo’s title was probably the most unexpected. He had lost to his finals opponent, Fox Lane’s Brandon Fay, earlier in the year and dealt with a nagging knee injury for most of the season. His 1-0 decision over Fay wasn’t the most convincing win of the day, but he certainly showed some grit. The most pivotal moment of the match came at the end of the second period, with the score tied 0-0. Fay had started the period on bottom, and D’Angelo effectively rode him out for two full minutes. In the final 10 seconds, Fay nearly slipped out and pulled off a reversal, but D’Angelo held onto a headlock to prevent the call from being made. Eventually, Fay did get to D’Angelo’s back, but the call was made a split second after the period ended. It was the right call based on when you can hear the horn sound in the video, but it sure was close. D’Angelo escaped to take a 1-0 lead early in the third period, and that was it for the scoring.

errico3· Caputo was involved in perhaps the most thrilling match of the finals, where Brewster’s Liam Erickson gave him a closer match than he seemed to be anticipating. With Caputo leading 1-0 in the third period and Erickson on bottom, the Brewster senior hooked Caputo’s leg and appeared to be on his way to a reversal and possible back points, but just before any call was made, Caputo indicated that he needed injury time. These can be touchy situations because there’s a certain code of honor when it comes to asking for injury time, and wrestlers are always given the benefit of the doubt. Erickson was livid at first, but came back to escape and tie the match at 1-1 with time running out in regulation. Then, with just a second or two remaining in the match, Erickson went for a move and almost appeared to slip, with Caputo locking him up for a dramatic takedown to clinch the 3-1 decision. “I was never really nervous,” Caputo said. “I’ve kind of learned to stay poised in those situations through high school. To be honest, I knew he was going to go for the cement mixer (move) – I don’t know why. So, when he went to hit it, I just grabbed his leg.”

· Fox Lane took second overall and matched North Rockland with four finalists, but only Ben Ettlinger (145) won a title. Many were hoping to see Ettlinger wrestle Somers senior Larry Courtien, but with Courtien dropping out due to a knee injury, Ettlinger found himself up against a worthy opponent in Ketcham’s Danny Murphy in the finals. He won with a 5-2 decision, but talked about the respect he had for Murphy after the match. “I was pretty confident because of our common opponents, I did a lot better than he did against them,” Ettlinger said. “I was feeling confident, but out on the mat, he was tougher than I thought he’d be. He’s really strong, really tough, and he kept coming at me. In the first period, that first turn really set the pace for the match. After that, I knew I had it.”

· Byram Hills’ Jon Errico knocked off Ettlinger’s teammate Matt Grippi in the 120-final, beating his rival with a 7-3 decision in their fourth meeting of the season. Errico has really turned it up in the last few weeks, and finished the season 3-1 vs. Grippi. After losing to New Rochelle’s Nick Barbaria in last year’s section finals, Errico became the first section champ in the short history of the Byram Hills program. “Last year killed me,” he said. “I was really looking forward to winning a section title, and it feels really good. I‘ve worked really hard this year, I’ve put in a lot of time, and it finally payed off.”

delacruz6· It’s probably a toss-up between the Caputo-Erickson match and Ossining’s Alex Delacruz’s 4-2 decision over Suffern’s Daiton Powell at 126 for the most exciting final of the day. As a defending state champ, Delacruz is dealing with a lot of pressure every time he steps on the mat, because he’s expected to win in dominant fashion. But Powell is a force to be reckoned with — and, as a junior, he’ll be back next year. Delacruz got off to a good start with an early takedown, but the scoring stalled after that. Powell escaped twice to send it into the third period tied at 2-2, where Delacruz would start on bottom. Powell was able to ride him out until there were 11 seconds remaining in the match, but Delacruz showed his athleticism with a funky reversal to clinch the win. “I wrestled him last season in the quarterfinals,” Delacruz said of Powell. “I think he took me down like twice last year. He always surprises me. He’s unpredictable. He’s a good wrestler. He’s great at taking kids down and staying in the match.”

· Of course, the star of the weekend was Hemida, the tournament’s MOW. He shocked the section by upsetting defending champ John Hartnett of TZ in the 220-semis with a 6-4 decision in OT, and then finished the job by beating second-seeded Ryan Delahanty of Mahopac with a 7-3 decision in the finals. Hemida hasn’t been able to wrestle much at the high school level in the past two years due to injury, but he has been a Fargo All-American, so his title shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. I knew he had some upside, which is why I picked him to reach the semis, but the win over Hartnett was certainly a revelation. Hemida is taller than most 220-pounders with a longer reach, and he moves extremely well for his size. His skill-set gives him substantial upside, and as a junior, he’ll certainly enter next season as a favorite to repeat.

· I’ve written this before, but now that the champs are set in stone, it’s worth repeating. If you look at the team that Section 1 will be sending to states, there is the potential for many of them to place. I think most consider Delacruz and Pearl River’s John Muldoon (132) as the most likely to compete for titles, and I’d also throw Caputo, John Jay-EF’s Brett Perry (182) and TZ’s Mike Manni (285) in the mix to reach the finals after placing at states last season. When you consider that other section champs such as Benderoth, Arlington’s Alfredo Olmedo (99), John Jay-EF’s Jay Albis (113), Brewster’s Gino Gioielli (170) and Beacon’s Andrew Grella (195) also placed at Eastern States, you have to like Section 1’s chances of finishing in the top five in D1.

· I’m sure this question is coming in tonight’s chat, so let me state here and now that the wild cards for states won’t be released until Wednesday (probably later in the day). It’s almost senseless to speculate about who will get bids to Albany, but the most likely candidates are probably Erickson and Hartnett as past section champs. We received eight wild cards in D1 last season, so I’m fairly confident that there will be more than two, and there’s plenty of guys who are deserving. After doing well at Eastern States against others who will likely qualify for states, you could probably say that Somers’ Dom Celli (160) and Greeley’s Brock Cvijanovich (195) also have decent shots. Same goes for Fay as a multiple section finalist, but it really comes down to how things shake out in other sections.

· In terms of the team standings, I correctly picked nine of the top 10 teams, but of course, not in the exact order. The one team that I left out of the top 10 in my rankings was New Rochelle, which placed sixth and really made an impression this weekend. The Huguenots had five guys place — Jake Shore (fourth at 99), Jordan Wallace (fourth at 106), Moises Tera (sixth at 113), Lamont Wallace (third at 120) and Demetrius Rodriguez (second at 170). Of those five, only Lamont Wallace will graduate, so watch out for New Ro next year. Coach Eddie Ortiz has worked hard with a young group, and they made drastic improvements from December to February.

· Two other teams that really impressed me this weekend were Suffern and Mamaroneck. I thought the Mounties would finish in the top 10, but taking third overall exceeded my expectations. (“Old Coach” must be smiling somewhere…) Suffern had five guys place, and all five return next season — Peter Oliveto (third at 106), Daiton Powell (second at 126), Stephen Lauro (sixth at 138), Peter Pjetri (second at 182) and Tyrick Jackson (fourth at 195). As for Mamaroneck, I thought it had a shot at the top 20, but an 11th overall finish — plus Hemida giving the program it’s first ever section champ — put the Tigers on the map in Section 1.

· As for my individual predictions, I went 12 for 15 when it came to picking champions. I whiffed on D’Angelo, Didio and Hemida, so my apologies to those guys. In terms of picking the finalists, I correctly picked 24 of 30. For both predicting finalists and champs, my winning percentage was 80, which isn’t too shabby. How’d you do?

Photo by Ricky Flores/The Journal News


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  1. better than burgandy on

    Vince got 8 of the top 10 right, not bad for a tournament with a bunch of upsets. 80% of the time, vince is right all the time.

  2. Went 24/30 finalists with 11 champs correct.
    99. Olmeyda dec. McGarvey
    106 D’Angelo dec Fay
    113 Albis maj Robin
    120 Errico dec Grippi
    126 Delacruz maj Powell
    132 Muldoon tech Lukaswitz
    138 Caputo maj Erickson
    145 Murphy dec Ettlinger
    152 benderoth maj Hiene
    160 Klein dec Diddio
    170 Karas dec White. Upset special!!
    182 Perry maj Pjetri
    195 Grella dec Brock
    220 Hartnett maj Delahanty
    285 manni pin St. Onge

    February 13th, 2014 at 4:04 PM

  3. Vincent Mercogliano on

    South wrestling,
    You’re right. For some reason, I thought I had South in there, but I just went back and checked and see that I didn’t. I had South listed as on the fringe, so I guess New Ro stuck out because it wasn’t listed at all. The 80 percent standard prevails!

  4. Jax is a loser on

    Jax, you have posted 6x on this forum calling out a child by name. Both kids are going to states, prove your the best in 2 weeks and shut up. Btw Brewster kid never placed at states, never placed at Easterns. N. rockland kid placed multiple times in both.

    What did Brewster have 2 kids that placed in sectionals that’s amazing for a program that talks how great they are with their 24-1 record every year, yet never shows up in February. Happens every year with that team.

  5. Hey Vince you forgot to ask Caputo the question we’ve all been waiting to hear the answer to…Hey Matt…how’s your knee? Remember ice, ice, ice and Motrin for the swelling. Oh wait, it was a fake injury. My bad. Never mind Vince!!!

  6. I would rather come in 2nd then do what Caputo did shame on him Erickson deserved win. I hope Erickson destroys Caputo at states

  7. Vince, it has been said before but don’t give kids hope for wild cards that have no chance. Placing at eastern states has nothing to do with wild cards. Read how qualifiers are selected, if you beat 9 section champs this year and none of them place at states last year it doesnt help you. It’s all about how high and how many times you have placed in sectionals.

    Brock and celli have no chances, Need to look at kids like Fay 2,2. Robin 3,2. Grippi 3,2. Powell 4,2. Erickson. 3,1,2 almost automatic, hartnett 1,3 Those are our best chanes.

  8. I forgot surace 4th, 2nd. Pjerti 4th, 2nd, And delhanty 4th, 2nd although hartnett taking 1 it only leaves 3 left in the state @220

  9. “Jax is a loser” – There’s clearly a difference between being a great dual team and a great tournament team. I don’t think anyone expected Brewster to contend for a title this past weekend but to say they’re not a strong dual team is an understatement.

  10. Joe m, your right but in Vince’s post season rankings he had Brewster with 6 kids in the top 6. That might have been good enough for a 2nd place finish this year as only n. rockland had more than 5 kids place.

  11. IF Erickson gets a wildcard to States, and whether or not he wins or loses, he will do it on his own merit and skill not by cheating and that is what counts – pride, honesty and integrity

  12. No. His nose was actually broken in the semis along with a gash over his eye that would not stop bleeding. Like I said pride, honesty and integrity

  13. Bet theres a few people from east fishkill that would disagree with you. They are just too classy to come on a forum to bad mouth a high school kid.

  14. Yeah I guess that was fake blood and Vince’s tweet about it was also bogus. Enough about this. Signing off. Pride, honesty, integrity

  15. It’s funny on how a lot of people(brewster fans) have the miracle power of knowing when someone(Caputo)is in pain and when they are faking it. Go get a job with Workmans Comp you can make millions telling them who is faking and who isn’t, there is a lot of fraud out there… HE LOST GET OVER IT…. Oh did you feel that nose break, must of hurt….

  16. I hope Erickson Kicks the crap out him in states and shows him what it is be be a real honest champ!!!

  17. if caputo and erickson wrestle again,caputo won’t take him as light as he did that day and I say he man handles him like we all expect.

  18. What's the point? on

    You 2 need to stop creating this animosity between caputo and erickson! They wrestled, there was an outcome and both are going to the states representing the same team (Section 1). They should have and probably do have mutual respect for each other after that exciting match. If they wrestle again, I’m sure it will be a great match but why make them feel uncomfortable about it as if there is something bigger on the line other than placing as high as one can at the state level. I hope they meet but my wish is for it to happen in the finals! Go Section 1!