Representing upstate New York as a threat to bust into the top-3 is St. Joseph’s Collegiate. Much like Chaminade, St. Joe’s is one of the top league contenders who do not possess a returning Catholic State Champion. Instead, the Marauders will rely on a sextet of returning Catholic place-winners to guide them to glory. Highlighting the group of returnees are a pair of 2008 runners-up, Mark Emerson (2nd @130) and RJ Harper (2nd @215). Also being counted on to make some noise this season will be: Paul Incorvaia (6th @145), Tyler Beresford (6th @171), TJ Leber (6th @189), and Jack Cambria (6th @285). If SJC is to finish high, one of the aforementioned will need to emulate the standard of excellent demonstrated by Marauder alum and current starter for the University of Buffalo, Tyler Golba, who was a two-time CHSAA finalist (winning the title in 2007).
Joining Monsignor Farrell as the strength of NYC will be the Mountaineers of Mount St. Michael Academy. Having had three wrestlers finish fourth and one finish sixth last season, if there was ever a team that was hungry to show that they can win the placement round matches, it is this team. “The Mount” who’s ninth place finish last year was its best since finishing 5th in 2004 will be on the hunt to continue their climb up the standings. Led by Donovan Melendez (4th @112), Daniel O’Neil (4th @140), Ramsey Johnson (4th @285), and Andrew Melendez (6th@125), expect the Mountaineers to turn some heads. With the assistance of a break or two, this very well might be the season that MTSM claims its first individual title since Jose Vives accomplished the feet in ’04 at 96-pounds.
Two teams that with the potential to sneak up on the perennial contenders are St. John the Bapist(Nassau/Suffolk) and St. Francis(Buffalo). The former will led by highest place-winner, Frank Loiacono (4th @145), as well as Robert Rohena (5th @112), and Dan Murray (5th @135). The latter will be looking for a repeat performance out of their lone champion, CJ Canterbury (1st @103). Assisting Canterbury in his attempt to keep the Red Raiders in the top-10 will be: Bryan Rogers (2nd @140) Mike Holtz (5th @145) and Blaine Aldrich (6th @119). Jim Widger (who placed 4th @96 in 2007) will add depth to the Red Raider cause.
Rounding out the list of top-10 teams returning the most talent are Iona Prep and Canisius. Canisius is coming off of its sixth consecutive top-10 finish and certainly will be focused on maintaining this level of consistency. Championing the cause will be 2008 runner-up Justin Ranall (2nd @103) and teammate, Steven Becht, who emerged with the bronze last season at 152-pounds. Providing the inspiration for the Gaels of Iona Prep will be a pair of seniors who really experienced a breakout season in 2008. After three years in which neither was able to earn All-Catholic honors, DJ Brucciani (3rd @103) and Ross McMahon (4th@135) finally found their place at the table in helping Iona Prep to a 11th place finish, the highest in the short history of the program.
Boasting perhaps the top individual wrestler in all of the CHSAA is Fordham Prep. For a team that has lost the likes of two-time Catholic State Champion, Kadeem Samuels, 2008 CHSAA Champ John Hobart, as well as 2008 Catholic runners-up Yohannes Constable, Steve Massey, and Dan Argast to graduation the past two years, it is nothing if not accurate to say that the Rams are in the midst of a restoration year. However, just because team acclaim may not be on the horizon for the Bronx based school does not mean all of 2008/2009 is lost. For the Rams, success will be measure by the performance of one fine young man, defending New York State Champion, Andrew Lenzi (130). Last season, Lenzi was about as dominant as one can be in winning the CHSAA title by pinning or tech falling ever single opponent he faced. Having already soundly defeated one of his biggest challengers (Hartnett from Monsignor Farrell) to begin the year, it would be shocking to say the least if anyone other than Lenzi ends up representing the CHSAA at the weight class he elects to go at (either 130 or 135). Should the junior from Westchester be able to create for deja vu for himself this season, he will state his claim with authority to be considered the greatest CHSAA wrestler of all-time, a title that many believe belongs to former St. Anthony great Lucas Magnani.
Fellow city school, St. Josephs By the Seawill also head into ’08-’09 with their collective hopes tied into the performance of a single wrestler. Last season, Jesse Cusimano (2nd @125) pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in CHSAA State tournament history, rallying from several points in the final period to defeat odds on favorite, Mike Impellizeri (St. Antony’s) in sudden victory. While Cusimano would eventually be defeated by the Lions’ Ben Villaret, he did succeed in putting the rest of the CHSAA on notice. If you have choice in a close match against the Pride of the Vikings program, you best elect to start from neutral. If you don’t, you just might find yourself on the wrong end of a tilting exhibition.
Hoping to put together solid seasons despite having no or only a single returning All-Catholic wrestler from last year are the following programs: Holy Trinity (return only Bryce Younger, the sixth place finisher at 152), Xavier(Andrew Murano-3rd @130), Nichols ( Matt Franz-6th @140), St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s Boys, Nazareth Regional, The Gow School, Salesian, Xaverian, and Niagara Catholic.
St. Dominic’s, beginning their first full season on the varsity level will look to get acclimated fast. However, with its only experienced wrestler, Erik Warlordy (3rd @189) having transferred back to his home school district, the Bayhawks will more than likely treat 2008/2009 as a time for learning and developing. Under the tutelage of former Chaminade Head Assistant, Steve Beovich, Dom’s will be intent on building a foundation from promising youngsters such as Chris Del Greco (103), Jon Sosteruto (145), Kitan Fasuyi (171), and Jon Curcico (285).
The Catholic State tournament will be held February 15th-16th on the campus of St. Francis.