For our final LoHud Wrestling postseason award poll of the season, I want to know who you think deserves to be The Journal News coach of the year for Westchester/Putnam. Your choice in Rockland was Tappan Zee’s Peter Dene, who received 40.83 percent of the vote.
There are many more teams in Westchester/Putnam, which always makes it difficult to narrow down the candidates, but here are my top four. Apologies to Yonkers’ Pete Vulpone, Mamaroneck’s Andres Corrales and Brewster’s Tom Looby, who were also deserving.
• Daniel Belfi, Lakeland/Panas – No team in the section made as big of a jump from 2013 to 2014 as the Rebels, who placed 14th overall at sectionals this season after tying for 31st the previous year. Lakeland/Panas went from a team that opponents were thrilled to matchup against to one that was capable of beating most in a dual meet setting. Belfi brought a core group of seniors along that gave the Rebels one of the strongest stretches of middleweights in Section 1, reviving a program that had spent several years as a doormat. Arguably the most improved team in the section.
• Will Carano, Putnam Valley – Just 10 years after the Putnam Valley program came into existence, Carano was able to guide them to a Division 2 section title. The Tigers had been knocking on the door, placing third in ’12 and second in ’13, and they were able to get over the hump with a deep team that featured four section champs. Carano has been the head of the program from Day One, and has been a big advocate of healthy lifestyle choices for his wrestlers. This season, all of his hard work and dedication paid dividends.
• Eddie Ortiz, New Rochelle – In his second year after taking over for longtime coach Jim Guccione, Ortiz showed that he is capable of leading this proud program back into contention. The Huguenots caught everyone by surprise at sectionals, finishing sixth overall after a 17th place finish last season. One of the most hands-on coaches in the area, Ortiz helped some lesser known wrestlers earn respect around the section. And with four of New Ro’s five All-Section wrestlers returning next season, the Huguenots could be even better in ’15.
• Anthony Rodrigues, Fox Lane – The coach of the best team in Westchester has barely missed a beat since taking over for the winningest coach in Section 1 history, Joe Amuso, and has kept the Foxes in the mix for a section title in each of his first two seasons as head coach. Fox Lane finished second overall this season in both the sectional tournament and Section 1 duals, proving that the program still has depth and high-end wrestlers. It’s hard to believe that anyone could have replaced Amuso so seamlessly.