Plainsmen, Rams eye state wrestling berths

Impressive as teams in the Class AA and A wrestling tournaments last week, Shenendehowa and Amsterda
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Categories: High School Sports

What do they do for an encore?

Shenendehowa and Amsterdam took home team titles in the two large-school classification tourn­aments last weekend: The Plainsmen finishing 83 points ahead of runner-up Guilderland in the Class A event, while the Rams pulled out the Class B crown with five wins in as many championship bouts.

“The goal now is to get as many as we can to the state tournament,” said Amsterdam coach Ken Benton of the plan for the Division I Championships, which begin today at noon at the Glens Falls Civic Center and wrap up Saturday evening.

The Rams have top seeds in Giuseppi Lanzi (140 pounds), John Paris (160) and Dan McNamara (171), and four other athletes with projected top-four finishes in their respective weight classes.

“I think we got some favorable seeds,” said Benton. “This is exciting for them. They’ve worked very hard, and hopefully, the payoff is success this weekend.

“But we also remind them that this is a very unforgiving tourn­ament.”

The 15 indiviudual champ­ions from both the Division I and Division II (small school) tourn­aments earn spots in next weekend’s state tournament at the Times Union Center. Others could receive wild-card berths, based on a points formula, to fill in the 16-man brackets at the states.

Unbeaten Shenendehowa sen­ior Austin Meys (38-0 at 189), the section’s all-time winningest wrestler with 256 varsity victories, can win his fifth consective sectional title as he aims for his third state champ­ionship. Teammate Luke Popolizio is after his third straight sectional title.

The Plainsmen, the defending DI team champion, have other top seeds in Nick Kelly (103) and John Belanger (119), with another four projected top-four finishers.

“The goal now is to get as many as we can to the state tournament,” said Shenendehowa coach Rob Weeks. “If the kids are successful, individually, it will take care of the team success.

“But I’d be happier getting kids to the states than winning the team title.”

The Plainsmen qualified wrestlers in 14 of the 15 weight classes at the Class A tourney.

“That was the best part of last weekend, having that many con­tinue their season. I think we’ve got a few that have a shot [at winning], and more in the mix.”

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Col­onie, Guilderland and LaSalle should have a lot of DI placers.

Burnt Hills 11th-grader Zeal McGrew, second at 185 last year, heads a solid field at 215 pounds that includes Guilderland’s Devan VanAuken and Colonie’s A.J.

Monin. McGrew, the Class B champ, has won both meetings with “A” champ VanAuken this season.

“Zeal works extremely hard, and he keeps looking to find ways to get better,” said Spartans coach Steve Jones. “He’s very active, very athletic.”

Guilderland’s Matt Cubillos, a four-time place-finisher and three-time finalist, is seeded first at 130.

Colonie senior Eliah Golding (197 career wins) is another four-time place finisher. Teammate Jason Chudzinski, a three-time placer, is seeded second to Scotia-Glenville’s three-time finalist Dan Riggi at 125.

Columbia’s Brian Latham joins Meys as the only unbeatens in the DI field.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment that he’s unbeaten, considering our schedule,” said Blue Devils coach Anthony Servidone of the 37-0 senior, who transferred in from Averill Park after his sophomore season. “I even bumped him up a couple of times.

“Brian set his goals extremely high coming into the season. He was [state finalist] Zach Crain’s workout partner last year, and Zach set the bar high.”

LaSalle is led by reigning state champions Zach Clemente (145) and Ken Altarac (285).

Whitehall unseated Duanesburg as Class D champ last weekend, with six champs and a pair of runners-up. Those two teams should battle with Salem, Watervliet and Warrensburg for the DII team title.

The DII finals could have a rematch of the 2008 96 final between Whitehall’s Ty White and Noah Valastro of Hudson Falls.

The brackets at 130 feature two returing champs in Johnstown’s Mark Gillen (the top seed) and Duanesburg’s Randy White, along with ‘08 finalist Aaron Dudley of Hudson Falls and second-seeded Eric Ripley of Whitehall, who beat White twice this season.

State placer Curt Thompson of Whitehall and two-time sectional place finisher Evan Borst of Duanesburg could meet in the 119 finals; once-beaten Schalmont junior Vinny Gallo and returning champ Zach Diekel of Whitehall are seeded 1-2 at 171; and Duanesburg soph Nick Gwiazdowski and state bronze medalist Jeremy Burns of Hoosick Falls are the projected finalists at 189.

“They’re going to have to earn it,” said Duanesburg coach Joe Bena of his top entries, which also include 96-pounder Curt Rowley. “They all have good kids in their weight classes.

“I tell them to wrestle every match like its the final, or they may be sitting in the seats watching the finals.”

Wrestling begins at noon on six mats (three for each tourney), and today’s three rounds will include the quarterfinals. Semifinals are set for Saturday at 10 a.m., with the finals, on two mats, scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.

Admission is $6 for each of the three sessions — today, Saturday through the consolation finals, and Saturday’s finals.

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