Wrestling: Plainsmen taking high expectations into states
The bar is always set high in the Shenendehowa wrestling room. This weekend’s state tournament — which begins today at 9:30 a.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany — is no exception.
With three returning place finishers, all seeded third or better, and a total of eight wrestlers competing, Rob Weeks’ Plainsmen have a good chance of winning their second straight Division I team championship, and fourth in seven years.
He also expects his four seeded wrestlers — Tony Fusco (first, 195 pounds), Nick Kelley (second, 132), Cole Lampman (third, 220) and David Almaviva (fifth, 138) to be at or near the top of the podium when their weight classes finish Saturday night.
“That’s the goal. They’re going there with another year of experience under their belts. The mindset is that they’re going in as state champs,” said Weeks.
Fusco and Kelley both placed fourth a year ago, and Lampman was fifth.
Shenendehowa’s eight wrestlers are joined by 20 other Section II athletes in the DI tourney, including returning state champ Connor Sutton of LaSalle, the fourth seed at 160.
Section II has 22 wrestlers in the Division II event, including five-time Section II champ Zach Diekel of Whitehall (seeded third at 195), and the Hudson Falls senior duo of Noah Valastro (fifth seed at 126) and Aaron Dudley (third seed at 160), both with over 200 varsity wins.
Fusco, who has committed to UAlbany to play football, has one goal for his final wrestling tournament.
“I want to win. I want to end my career with a state championship,” said the 33-0 senior.
Kelley, a four-time Section II champ who will be in his fifth state tourney, is also unbeaten and is the third Shenendehowa wrestler to hit the 200-win mark. He’s in a deep half-bracket with Section XI champ Nick Mauriello of Hauppauge and returning fifth-place finisher Jamel Hudson of St. Anthony’s. Returning state finalist Dan Ventura (42-4) of Section I Fox Lane, is the top seed.
“Every year, I get really nervous. The big upset losses I’ve had were nerve-wracking,” said Kelley. “Last year, I channeled the nervousness into something good. That helped. And this year, I’m at basically the same weight, and I’m bigger and stronger.”
Lampman, the other senior among Shenendehowa’s eight entrants, would like a chance to avenge his loss in the Section II finals to Mohonasen senior Cory Quintana, the second seed. Section II’s other 285-pound qualifier, Columbia 11th-grader El Shaddai Gilmore-VanHoesen, is seeded seventh, putting all three Suburban Council athletes on the same side of the bracket.
Lampman is taking the advice of his future coaches at Princeton. And he’d like to settle a score.
“The coaches at Princeton told me that the only thing I can control is how I wrestle,” said Lampman, who at around 230 pounds, is the lightest 285 in the field. “I would like a rematch with Quintana.”
Almaviva is heading into states after ripping through the Division I Class I and Section II tournaments.
“Everyone that gets there is good. You just have to wrestle the best you can,” said the 11th-grader. “The last two tournaments have gotten me mentally ready.”
Quintana became Mohonasen’s first state tourney rep since 1983 when he beat Lampman in double OT two weeks ago. He’s come a long way from a two-win start as a ninth-grader.
“And one of them was a forfeit,” said Mohonasen coach Sean Daley. “But he’s really dedicated himself.”
Quintana is looking forward to his only state tournament, even if the competition could be very familiar.
“It looks like I’ve got to go through my entire Section II tournament again,” said Quintana, who was a teammate of top-seeded Ethan Stanley of Saugerties as an eighth-grader. “It’s tough to wrestle someone three times, and those matches tend to be unentertaining. It’s easy to get frustrated. You’re so familiar with each other.”
Quintana’s strategy is simple.
“I just have to attack and wrestle like a lightweight. Move, move, move constantly,” said the senior, who shed 10 pounds from the 260 he weighed in the classification tournament.
Amsterdam sophomore Brandon Lapi is shooting for a state title after finishing third a year ago. He’s third-seeded at 113.
“I’ve got a good draw. I’ve seen a lot of the wrestlers in my bracket, from last year or at a tournament this year like the Eastern States,” said Lapi, 47-2 this season.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake junior Joey Butler is a wild-card qualifier at 132.
“As a sophomore, I want to place and get two more chances,” he said. “I didn’t go to Eastern States this year, but I went twice before it, so that should help, as far as a big tournament goes.”
Schalmont freshman Nick Gallo goes into his second straight state DII tourney as the babe in the woods.
“Last year, I was the only eighth-grader in my weight,” said Gallo, 39-5 and the sixth seed at 152. “This year, I’m the only freshman in my weight class. I love it when people overlook me. Besides, I wrestled my brother [two-time top-four state placer Vinnie] every day of my life.”
Duanesburg has two returning to the states in seniors Curt Rowley (seventh seed at 132) and Dallas Mesick.
“The second year, you’re more prepared to go,” said Rowley, who has 190 wins going into his final high school tournament. “Even though I’m from a small school, we have a schedule similar to some of the big schools. That really helps, going to tournaments like the Eastern States. I think if I wrestle to my ability, I can win.”
“Last year, I think the tournament was too big for me. The intensity level is a lot higher,” said Mesick, a 182-pounder. “This time, I’m more prepared to go. It’s a big tournament. Everybody wants to win a state title, and this is my last chance.”
Valastro, a four-time Section II champ, was sixth a year ago. Dudley, 43-1 with 240 career wins, is in his fourth state tournament, while Diekel has placed third, fifth and fourth in the last three years after not placing as a eighth-grader.
Eighth-grader Alexis Bleau (99) of Schoharie is her school’s first state tourney wrestler, while Berne-Knox-Westerlo is also a first-timer, with 220-pound Section II champ Joe Sprung and wild card Matt Casullo (170).
Section II entrants
99 — Kevin Parker (Shenendehowa). 106 — Corey Ali (Shenendehowa), *Dominic Inzana (Saratoga Springs). 113 — Brandon Lapi (Amsterdam), *Jesse Porter (Shenendehowa); 120 — Zach Joseph (Shenendehowa), *Casey Jones (Queensbury). 126 — Matt Greene (Columbia), *Josh St. John (Queensbury), *Drew Oligney (Lansingburgh). 132 — Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa), *Brendan Morgan (Columbia), *Joey Butler (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake). 138 — David Almaviva (Shenendehowa). 145 — Evan Wallace (Columbia). 152 — Angelo Kress (Columbia), *Thomas Carta (South Glens Falls). 160 — Connor Sutton (LaSalle), *Mike Garrison (Amsterdam). 170 — Stephen Lumley (South Glens Falls), *Mike Hewitt (Queensbury). 182 — Matt Lashway (Queensbury). 195 — Tony Fusco (Shenendehowa). 220 — Jon Babson (LaSalle), *Alex Pontiff (Queensbury). 285 — Cory Quintana (Mohonasen), *Cole Lampman (Shenendehowa), *El Shaddai Gilmore-VanHoesen (Columbia).
99 — Luis Weierbach (Hoosick Falls), *Alexis Bleau (Schoharie). 106 — Carter Merecki (Salem), *Jerome Gladney (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk). 113 — Kyler Harrington (Hudson Falls). 120 — Zach Marcel (Corinth), *Al Aubin (Whitehall)., 126 — Noah Valastro (Hudson Falls). 1321 — Curt Rowley (Duanesburg), 138 — John Diekel (Whitehall). 145 — Geno Brancati (Hudson Falls), *Connor Lawrence (Duanesburg). 152 — Nick Gallo (Schalmont). 160 — Aaron Dudley (Hudson Falls), *Brandyn Ainsworth (Johnstown). 170 — Brad Burns (Hoosick Falls), *Matt Casullo (Berne-Knox-Westerlo). 182 — Tyler Morris (Salem), *Dallas Mesick (Duanesburg). 195 — Zach Diekel (Whitehall). 220 — Joe Sprung (Berne-Knox-Westerlo). 285 — Alex Soutiere (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk).
* — wild-card entrants