Wrestling: Plainsmen's depth key to team's success
Shenendehowa may not equal its medal count of four from a year ago at this weekend’s New York state wrestling tournament, but this year’s team did something none of its predecessors accomplished.
All 15 wrestlers placed in the top six in their respective weight classes in the Class A tournament at Niskayuna, a first for the program. which won its eighth straight sectional title at the same meet.
“It was cool,” said senior Corey Ali. “It’s probably the first time its been done.”
“It was pretty impressive,” said senior Dave Almaviva, who will be competing in his third state tournament this weekend at the Times Union Center. “No one gave up. Guys in the wrestlebacks had great days.”
Seniors Zach Joseph and Ali Hashimee, who will also be among the six Plainsmen competing at the state tourney, were two of the big reasons for the record-setting performance.
Joseph, who won a Section II title at 126 pounds last year, moved up four weight classes, a choice he made with state third-place finishers Nick Kelley and Almaviva established in the lineup.
“And, I was growing a lot,” said Joseph, who got to the 152-pound final in both postseason tournaments this year. “It was an individual goal at that point. Everyone wants a chance to wrestle for a Section II title.”
Hashimee moved up from 160 to 182, settling there when 11th-grader Levi Ashley chose to go 195.
“I figured at 192 guys were bigger and slower, and I could use my speed and stamina,” Hashimee said. “That was pretty sweet when we all qualified.”
Ali, Kelley, Almaviva, Hashimee and Ashley all won Class A titles, with Joseph, 2012 champ Kevin Parker (120), Jordan Maynard (126) and Tyler Gougler (170) also getting to the final.
Kevin Guardino (106) and Chris Nacarrato (160) were third, Dietrich Hartman (99) and Anthony Dinallo (132) were fourth, Kevin Leonard was fifth (220) and 285-pounder Jacob Brooks took sixth.
Making this show of depth more impressive was the fact that two-time Class A champ Jesse Porter was lost for the season a month earlier.
“It shows what good coaching we have,” said Hashimee.
Making up for lost time
Several of the 43 Section II athletes competing this weekend never got the chance to qualify in 2012.
Johnstown’s Joe Nellis and Blake Retell of Shaker were sidelined by injury. Duanesburg’s Jeff Senecal was not living in New York.
Nellis was second in the DII tournament in 2011, but lost both his junior football and wrestling seasons and his senior football season to a shoulder injury.
“I hurt it the first game of my junior year,” said Nellis of the shoulder injury that kept him out of competition until last December. “At first, it was diagnosed as a separation. Really, I had a torn labrum.”
Nellis didn’t enjoy his time as a spectator.
“It was very difficult,” he said. “I wanted to be out there, but with rehab and getting the strength back, it took a long time.”
Nellis wasn’t cleared to wrestle until a few days before this season started.
“I couldn’t wait to get back out there.” he said.
Retell was working toward a third straight Section II title last winter when he broke a bone in his hand.
“Very frustrating,” said the 11th-grader, who beat Shen’s Parker in both the Class A and Section II 120 finals this season. “That’s what makes winning this year special.”
Retell takes 212 wins into the state tournament.
Senecal returned to Duanesburg this year after spending his junior year in South Dakota.
“I played football and lifted [weights],” said Senecal, who wants to join the military, with an eye toward special forces, after graduating in June.
“He wasn’t even sure he wanted to wrestle this season after he came back,” said Duanesburg coach Joe Bena. “He’s had a couple of shoulder surgeries, so he wanted to make sure nothing was going to happen to keep him out of special services.
“I was careful to watch him, for his shoulder, early in the season. But by losing that year, he had to relearn some things.”
Section II seeds
Returning state 285-pound finalists El Shaddai VanHoesen of Columbia (Division I) and Alex Soutiere (DII) joined Shenendehowa’s Kelley (138) and three-time qualifer Luis Weierbach (DII, 106 pounds) as Section II’s top seeds for the state tournament.
Almaviva (145), two-time placer Brandon Lapi (132) of Amsterdam and two-time qualifier Angelo Kress (152) got No. 2 seeds in DI.
Joseph (152), Colonie’s Jason Johnson (220) and two-time DII qualifer Geno Brancato (170) of Hudson Falls were made third seeds.
Colonie’s Golan Cohen (106) is fourth in DI, with Sean Romanski of Albany Academy (138), Mike Green of Cobleskill-Richmondville (170) and Senecal (189) slotted fourth in DII.
Whitehall’s Al Aubin (120) and John Diekel (138) got No. 5 seeds in DII. Jack Hatton (170) and Joey Butler (138) of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake got sixth seeds in DII. Carter Merecki (120) of Salem, Schalmont’s Nick Gallo (160) and Brad Burns (182) of Hoosick Falls are seeded sixth in DII.