Nick Kelley and David Almaviva have been banging heads for some seven years.
The rising seniors will be expected to carry Shenendehowa to another successful wrestling season next winter, both coming off third-place finishes at last season’s state championships.
And they are already preparing, part of a Section II contingent that will cap an offseason with a trip to Fargo, N.D., for the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet Nationals, which opens Saturday.
“I started a year after him,” said Kelley of Almaviva, his training partner both during the season and offseason. “Since fifth grade, we’ve been working together. We’re always pushing each other to get better.”
Kelley and Almaviva both went to Fargo two years ago, and a return trip between their junior and senior years will cap a busy offseason for both.
Kelley went 8-3 at the recent Disney Duals in Florida. Almaviva was part of the New York team that competed at the Junior National Duals. Both knew the amount of high-caliber competition crammed into one weekend would ready them for what they hope will be three days of competition on the floor of the FargoDome.
“It’s a huge tournament. You really have to prepare. It’s tough both physically and mentally,” said Kelley, who will compete in the Junior freestyle tournament at 132 pounds. “If you do well, you have a ton of matches.”
“It helped to get ready for Fargo,” Almaviva said of the National Duals. “I got to see some guys I might see at Fargo, and it’s a matter of getting more experience, more mat time.
“You’ve got to be ready to wrestle right from the start, and hopefully, you get a lot of matches. There’s a lot of great wrestlers there.”
Neither has committed to a college, and both are looking to make an impression on the college coaches who will be in attendance.
“You’ve got to think that if you do well, you hope coaches willl see you and take note of it,” said Almaviva, who earned MOW honors at the Fargo state qualifier by beating four-time state high school champ Quinton Murphy, the state record-holder with 302 varsity wins.
“If you do well, there are a lot of [college] coaches there. In the end, hopefully, it will pay off,” said Kelley.
Almaviva and Kelley will be joined by four fellow Plainsmen at Fargo: Levi Ashley, Jesse Porter, Alexis Porter and Jordan Maynard.
This will be the first trip to Fargo for Ashley, who was second in Section II last winter as a sophomore.
“I decided to go before freestyle states,” said Ashley, who will also be in the Junior freestyle tourney, at 195 pounds.
Ashley, who also wrestled at the Junior National Duals, has asked his older teammates about Fargo, which is contested on 17 mats.
“They said it was good to go and experience that atmosphere. It’s so big, it makes everything else not so big of a deal.”
Alexis Porter finished fourth in the Junior and third in the Cadet women’s tourneys a year ago.
Frank Popoloizio, a Shenendehowa assistant coach who trains many of the Plainsmen in the offseason at the Journeyman Wrestling Club, thinks Porter could be a national champion.
“I think she can win it,” he said. “She beat Rosemary Flores [a 2011 double gold medalist at Fargo] at states.”
Former state champion Connor Sutton, a recent graduate of LaSalle Institute, is among the Capital Region athletes entered. Columbia High will be reprented with Angelo Kress (both styles, Cadet), state high school finalist El-Shaddai Gilmore VanHoesen (Junior free, 285 pounds), Kyle Greene (Cadet G-R) and recent grad Matt Greene (Junior Greco, 145).
New York team coach Joe DeMeo expects several of the local athletes to do well.
“Kelley and Almaviva are outstanding,” said DeMeo, whose Adirondack Three-Style Wrestling club had five finalists and three champions at the 2004 Junior Greco tourney.
He also thinks Sutton, who will be competing for Columbia University beginning this winter, will be out to prove a point after having to take a costly forfeit loss due to a mixup in scheduling last year.
“He’s got a real shot to at least be an All-American [top eight],” DeMeo said.