NISKAYUNA — Knowing that Shaker heavyweight star Ryan Stein was looming as his team’s final opponent of the night, Niskayuna wrestling coach Shaun Neely needed his grapplers to scratch out every point possible in a desperately close Suburban Council dual meet.
“Knowing we had Stein there at the end wasn’t necessarily a good feeling for us,” Neely said. “But, just getting to experience this kind of action is a breath of fresh air.”
Niskayuna came close, and headed into the night’s final match with a two-point lead, but, 54 seconds later, Stein — who won the Section II Division 1 220-pound championship as a sophomore in 2020 — delivered a pin of Austin Priddle to give Shaker a 34-30 victory.
Ryan Stein, the son of Shaker athletic director Matt Stein who won a state wrestling championship for Shenendehowa in 1993, got in plenty of individual work during the offseason. He missed, though, the thrill of helping deliver his team to a victory.
“There’s nothing like the team feel of a dual meet — especially against a Suburban Council foe,” Ryan Stein said.
The excitement of trying to grind out a team win permeated both sides of Thursday’s meet.
Niskayuna senior Peter Meshkov, a returning Section II champion in his own right, stepped up to the mat at 189 pounds with the team score tied at 24-24 and just three weight classes remaining. With his team in a tight dual for the first time in this abbreviated season — Niskayuna’s previous two outings were a non-scoring dual with Shenendehowa and a 45-21 loss to Saratoga Springs — Meshkov embraced the opportunity to score a crucial pin that put Niskayuna up 30-24.
“It’s nice to be thinking about the team score,” Meshkov said. “In my match, I had to get the pin in the third period. That was nice, because I haven’t had to do that in a while.”
While the end of the meet zeroed in on the tense battle for the team victory, there was also some individual glory at stake.
At 132 pounds, Niskayuna senior Jack Schiavo scored one of the biggest individual victories of his career when he outlasted Shaker’s Mike Santore — a two-time Section II Class A champion and 2020 state qualifier — to win a 4-0 decision.
“For me,” Neely said, “what made this whole match worth it was getting to see Jack Schiavo beat a multiple-time sectional champ.”
Schiavo has embraced his abbreviated senior wrestling season, with seven dual meets in just over three weeks, as a chance to take a few more risks on the mat.
“Without the postseason stuff, I get to experiment a little bit more,” Schiavo said. “You’re not under as much pressure. You feel good about the wins, but you get to experiment and try new stuff. It just feels so good to be out on the mat after all the doubts we had.”
The season got off to a late start after a lengthy wait for “high” risk winter sports competition to be authorized by the state Department of Health and local health authorities. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association is not sponsoring state championship competition in any sport this school year.
The two teams were never separated by more than 12 points, and when Shaker’s Farzad Ahmad won a 14-5 major decision over Jack Hoke at 215 pounds to pull the Blue Bison within 30-28 with one match to go, that set things up for Stein in the finale.
“Having Ryan Stein in that spot,” Shaker coach Brandon Guthrie said, “I’ll pretty much put him up against anybody in the state.”
For Stein, his shortened junior season is an opportunity to build for the future.
He’s preparing for the Journeymen NYS Championships tournament in April, which will kick off a rigorous offseason schedule aimed at setting him up for a big senior year.
“I’m just doing everything I can to prepare for that, get my mindset ready for those tournaments,” he said. “Everything’s in preparation to win the state tournament next year.”
102: Double forfeit. 110: Polsinello (S) by forfeit. 118: Drake (S) pinned Matson, 2:55. 126: Whelan (N) pinned Juman, 1:49. 132: Schiavo (N) dec. Santore, 4-0. 138: Brown (N) pinned Rezik, 3:00. 145: Federici (N) pinned Zink, :38. 152: Bogue (N) dec. Kita, 5-4 (OT). 160: S. Ahmad (S) pinned Zaragoza, 1:12. 172: Garcia (S) pinned Relation, 1:23. 189: Meshkov (N) pinned Moore, 4:26. 215: F. Ahmad (S) major dec. Hoke, 14-5. 285: Stein (S) pinned Priddle, :54.