Only one honor has escaped Shenenedehowa teammates and workout partners Nick Kelley and David Almaviva as they begin their senior seasons.
“State championship — that’s the goal, like it always is,” said Kelley, who, like Almaviva, was third at the 2012 state wrestling tournament.
“That’s what you always want,” said Almaviva, who, with Kelley, will captain the 2012-13 Plainsmen.
“I can’t say enough about the leadership of Dave and Nick,” said Shenendehowa coach Rob Weeks. “They’re here every day, setting mats up for the JV kids. Our program is a reflection of the kids we have. You can’t ask for two better than those two.”
Kelley, beginning his sixth varsity season, and Almaviva have been major parts of a run that has seen the Plainsmen finish first in team scoring at the Division I state tournament the past two years. That run has also included five unbeaten Suburban Council seasons, a 94-1-2 dual-meet record and four state DI titles over the last five winters.
Kelley and Almaviva, who have been workout partners since they got into the Shenendehowa program, both were All-Americans last summer at Fargo, N.D., and will continue working together next season at Binghamton University.
Teammate Jesse Porter was also a top-eight finisher at Fargo, and the combination of winter and summer success led Weeks to enter those three — plus Kevin Parker, Corey Ali, Zach Joseph and Levi Ashley — in the Reno Tournament of Champions. That event, the weekend of Dec. 14-15, will feature some of the top teams from the western part of the country.
“They’ve earned it. You look at the kids that are going, they’re all sectional runner-up or above and state place finishers,” Weeks said. “The goal is to give Nick and Dave a chance to win at the highest level before the state tournament.
“It’s not going to be that overwhelming for any of them. They’ve been on the big stage, nationally. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those guys.”
The seasonal goals remain the same for the Plainsmen: a class title, Division I sectional title and getting as many wrestlers as possible to the state tournament.
Kelley dropped an 8-7 decision to eventual champ Jamel Hudson of St. Anthony’s in the 132 state semifinals last winter. Almaviva won five straight in the consolation bracket after losing his first match.
“Nick is a lot better for it,” said Weeks. “Those guys have had a lion’s share of success. They’ve had some hiccups along the way, but they’ve got all the intangibles. They always work hard.
“We have several other kids who I think will be jockeying for spots in the sectionals. A lot of our success is having those kids who get into our lineup, make our lineup longer and and become critical to our winning a match.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have put the time in, and are hungry for success.”
Shenendehowa will host some of the better teams in the state next weekend in a dual-meet tourney. The Plainsmen’s schedule also includes the Eastern States Invitational, the Spencerport tournament and the Union-Enidcott duals.
Columbia, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Amsterdam will be among the other top large schools.
Columbia lost to Shenendehowa during the regular season, finished second to the Plainsmen in the Division I, Class I tournament and was third in the state qualifier.
Coach Anthony Servidone has to replace some exceptional seniors, but returns state finalist El Shaddai Gilmore-VanHoesen (285), sectional champ Angelo Kress and sectional placers John McHugh and Kyle Green.
“We have to replace 313 varsity wins,” said Servidone, referring to graduated sectional champs Evan Wallace and Matt Greene.
Burnt Hills returns seven wrestlers who placed in the top six at the state qualifier, led by finalist Joey Butler, third-place finisher Race Viedt and fourth-place finisher Jake Ashcraft.
“We only graduated two starters,” said Spartans coach Steve Jones, who also returns sectional placers Christian Gramuglia, Nolan Hale, Jack Hatton and Nico Fragale. “They really came on at the end of last season, and we’re hoping for big things this season.”
Junior Brandon Lapi, a two-time state top-four finisher, leads a strong group back at Amsterdam.
Chris Velazquez, Ian Alejandro, Del Orengo, Marcus Torres, James Marquez, Robert Santiago and Ken Garcia should all have good seasons for Rams coach Ken Benton.
Duanesburg is among the better Division II schools, led by returning sectional placers Connor Lawrence, Andrew Mollevik and Mark Caulfield. Jason St. John, Jeff Senecal and Henry Holmes give Joe Bena — the state’s all-time winningest coach — a solid group of big guys.
Schalmont returns two-time state qualifier Nick Gallo, as well as the Lambert brothers, Paul and Alex, who were sectional placers. Anthony Paturso comes over from Mohonasen to help in the middle.
Hudson Falls brings back Section II champs Geno Brancati and Kyler Harrington, but lost finalist Andre Maxan (Glens Falls) and Kody Bruno (Queensbury) to transfer.
Two-time Section II champ Luis Weirbach, 2012 sectional champ Brad Burns and former runner-up Billy Pine head a solid Hoosick Falls lineup. Weirbach was fifth in the state last winter, and Burns placed sixth.
Whitehall’s John Diekel, Salem’s Carter Merecki and Tyler Morris (fourth in the state), state 285 runner-up Alex Soutiere of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and Joe Sprung of Berne-Knox-Westerlo are the other returning 2012 DII sectional winners.