Nick Lettieri is doing what he was coached to do.
And he hopes he can pass the same philosophy on to his Albany High School team, which hosts the Big 10 tournament today.
“My high school coach always said you have to go out and find the best competition,” said Lettieri, a product of the strong New Jersey high school wrestling tradition. “I’m trying to do that here. I’m trying to get out of section, and expose these kids to as many different styles as possible.
“We went to New Jersey for a tournament, and we got blasted. The wrestlers there are much more aggressive than what we normally see. Right from the whistle, they attack, and our kids weren’t ready for it.
“Sometimes, the kids think I’m out of my mind. They ask if we can host a tournament where they have a chance to win it.”
Albany has a handful of wrestlers who will be looking for top places today. Shawn Berman (96), Stephon Flood (145) and Mike Depercin (215) exemplify the improved Falcons.
“They’ve put in the the time, and done a lot of work,” said Lettieri.
The Falcons likely won’t win the team title in today’s field, which features more Suburban Council teams (five) than Big 10 clubs (four). In addition to Averill Park, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Bethlehem, Guilderland and Niskayuna, Lettieri has again gotten Suffolk County’s Huntington to make a trip north. Another strong Long Island team, Nassau County’s Wantagh, is also in the field, bringing a pair of state champs in Paul Ligouri (140) and John Greisheimer (152).
Wantagh was a late scratch last season, and recently had to postpone some matches after one of its wrestlers was diagnosed with herpes gladiatorum (mat herpes).
“They’ve wrestled since, and everything is OK,” said Lettieri. “They’ve got all their documentation.”
Burnt Hills, Guiderland, Amsterdam and Whitehall are the local teams with the best chance of winning the team title.
“It’s a great tuneup for the end of the season,” said Burnt Hills coach Steve Jones, who gets state placer Brendan McKeown (145) back the lineup. “It’s a real solid tournament and great competition.”
One of Jones’ wrestlers, 215-pounder Zeal McGrew, could end up in one of the best finals, if he and Guilderland’s Devan VanAuken both get through.
McGrew, who was one win shy of placing at last season’s state tourney, beat VanAuken in a dual this season, hitting a last-second takedown.
Warrensburg’s Logan Rock, fourth in the state small-school tourney last winter, is a likely semifinal foe for either McGrew oR VanAuken.
McKeown and McGrew are two of the 13 wrestlers in the field who went to the 2008 state tourney.
Another of those, Guilderland senior 130 Matt Cubillos, is coming off an MOW performance at last weekend’s Essex (Vt.) Classic.
“He’s healthy, strong at 130 and very confident,” said Dutchmen coach Korey Rogotzke. “He turned the corner last year at the states. He’s really having a great season.”
Guilderland has also gotten solid efforts from Matt Hart, Eugene Sellie and Travis Wolanski.
Cubillos, McGrew, Amsterdam’s Giuseppi Lanzi and Dan McNamara, and Huntington’s Damon McQueen are returning champions.
Other returning finalists are Rock, VanAuken, Jeff King of Averill Park, Nigel McNeil of Huntington and Amsterdam’s John Paris and Orlando Pacheco.
Wrestling begins at 9 a.m.
The Wasaren League tournament, renamed the Ken Baker Classic in honor of the former Cambridge and Hoosick Falls coach, will run today at Schuylerville.
Section II champs Dan Ladd of the host team and Jeremy Burns of Hoosick Falls are among the returning champions.
Corinth and Lansingburgh (dual-meet format) also host tourneys today. Ballston Spa and Duanesburg travel to Springfield, Mass., for the Northeast Duals.
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Categories: High School Sports