It might not have the usual look and feel, but the end result will be the same for 30 wrestlers tonight.
“I’ve been telling them, especially our younger kids, that this is like other tournaments we’re at all year where we’re in a high school gym,” said Schalmont coach Brian Faulisi, who had 10 wrestlers qualify for today’s Section II Division II championships. “At the end of the day, you want to get your hand raised after the final.”
The state qualifiers were moved from a two-day stay at the Glens Falls Civic Center to a one-day affair at Queensbury High School, due to the inclement weather and expected poor traveling conditions Friday night and Saturday morning.
The 15 weight class winners from the Division I and II tournaments qualify for the state championships in two weeks at the Times Union Center in Albany.
In order to wrestle back to six places, as mandated by the state committee for future seeding processes, the tournament format has also been shrunk. Beaten first-round wrestlers will be done for the day, instead of having the chance to battle back for third place.
Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. with the semifinals set for 2 p.m. The
finals are scheduled for 8 p.m. but may start sooner.
“This makes the first-round matches a little more important,” said Shenendehowa coach Rob Weeks, whose defending Division I (large school) champion Plainsmen have five top seeds and five returning winners.
“This is the way it used to be,” said Duanesburg coach Joe Bena. “It was one division, and run on one day, with one kid getting through to the states.
“Since we found out about the change, we’ve stressed the importance of that first match.”
Shenendehowa seniors Nick Kelley and David Almaviva both finished third in the state a year ago and are top-seeded at 138 and 145 pounds, respectively.
Kelley, looking for his fifth straight Section II title and sixth trip to the state tourney in as many years, is headed for a rematch of last year’s 132 final with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake junior Joey Butler.
“Nick, he’s a throwback,” said Weeks of his senior with 243 carer wins. “He was born in the wrong decade. If he woke up in 1985, when we only had one tournament instead of two, he would have fit right in. He loves to compete.”
Several of the Shenendehowa wrestlers could be facing their Class A finals opponent in tonight’s championship round.
Defending champ Almaviva and Niskayuna senior Eric Steele are seeded 1-2 at 145; top-seeded and returning champ Corey Ali could get two-time runner-up Dominic Inzana of Saratoga Springs again at 113; 2012 champ Kevin Parker lost to two-time winner Blake Retell last weekend at 120; Columbia’s Angelo Kress is seeded first over Zach Joseph (both returning champs) at 152; and top-seeded Levi Ashley beat second-seeded Wayne Burt of Colonie last weekend at 195.
Burt is one of a trio of Colonie upper weights with championship aspirations, along with 220-pounder Jason Johnson and 285-pounder Austin DiCerbo.
“They all placed last year, and they all came into the season wanting to win a Section II championship,” said first-year Colonie head coach Jeremy Eggleston. “They played football together, work with each other every day, and they’ve benefitted from working with [state champ] Matt Tarullo every day in the room.”
Golan Cohen has also stepped up his game. The 106-pounder is 46-3 and the top seed after beating Mike Lainhart of Guilderland in the Class A final.
“It’s all a matter of confidence with him,” said Eggelston. “He would get nervous when he was wrestling the top kids, but he had a great offseason and has been tremendous all year.”
Columbia has two other top seeds in John McHugh (126) and 2012 state finalist El Shaddai VanHoesen (285).
“They’re all battle tested,” said Blue Devils coach Anthony Servidone, who is also looking for strong finishes from Class A champs Kyle Greene (132), Chris Morrissey (160) and Will Martin (170).
Butler and Class B champs Jack Hatton (170), Anthony Papa (182) and Nico Fragale (220) all got
No. 2 seeds in DI for Burnt Hills.
Amsterdam 11th-grader Brandon Lapi, the top seed at 132, is a three-time champion and four-time finalist.
Duanesburg and Schalmont are among the teams looking for DII titles.
Andy Mollevik (145) and freshman Connor Lawrence (152) are top-seeded for Bena’s Eagles.
“I’m expecting and hoping they’ll do well,” said Bena, whose Class D champs qualified 10 for the DII tourney, but lost 160-pound champ Mark Cualfield, who was injured in the finals last weekend.
Schalmont sophomore Nick Gallo, the top seed at 160, is looking for his second straight title. Senior Anthony Paturso is seeded second to Lawrence at 152 for the Sabres, who qualified 10 for today.
“Nick and Anthony we expect to do really well, but both Lamberts [Alex at 103 and Paul at 120] got sixth seeds, and I think they could have good tournaments,” said Faulisi.
Paul Lambert is in what may be the toughest bracket in either tournament.
Three of the top four seeds — Kyler Harrington of Hudson Falls, Salem’s Carter Merecki and Whitehall’s Al Aubin — are all past champions.
Other returning DII champs are two-time winners Luis Weierbach (106) and Brad Burns (180) of Hoosick Falls, Whitehall senior John Diekel (138), Geno Brancato of Hudson Falls (170), Salem’s Tyler Morris (182), Joe Sprung (220) of Berne-Knox-Westerlo and state runner-up Alex Soutiere (285) of Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.