CHSAA Preview: Friars Poised to Regain Crown For First Time Since 2002

Two other schools that will boost a trio of returning Catholic State placewinners are the Cougars of St. John the Baptist High School on Long Island and Mount Saint Michael Academy in New York City…On paper, the most accomplished of the six wrestlers from these two schools is the Baptist’s Rob Rohena, who like several of the names already cited finds himself in a position to be named a recipient of the Ironman Award. Rohena, whose highest finish at the Catholic State tournament came last season when he placed 4th at 119-pounds, seems to getter better with each passing year. As a freshman, he finished 6th @96-pounds, before improving by one spot to take 5th @112 in 2008. He is expected to wrestle at 125-pounds this season…One wrestler who may protest that Rohena is the top wrestler in this paragraph is the Mount’s Donovan Melendez. In fact, Melendez, who himself is a multiple time CHSAA State placewinner (3rd @112; 4th @112) actually beat his Cougar foe in the bronze medal match last season…Melendez is expected to stay at 112-pounds this season. Joining Melendez at the core of the MSM team is a pair of returning fourth-place finishers, 125-pounder Kevin Jimenez (4th @119) and heavyweight Justin Ramsey-Johnson who finished 4th @285 in 2008…Accompanying Rohena in 2010 will be 96-pounder Jimmy Gill (3rd @96), and 171-pounder Joe May (5th @160).

Not to be outdone are the wrestlers from Xavier. While small in number of returning placewinners, Xavier packs quite the mighty 1-2 punch in the persons of Donovan Fuentes and Andrew Murano…Both are two-time CHSAA State placewinners and are ranked second at their respective weight classes in the Catholic rankings…Fuentes, who finished 4th last season at 119-pounds will move up a few weight classes this season, jumping all the way to 135-pounds. In 2007, he was the bronze medalist at 96-pounds….Murano, who is expected to compete at 140-pounds again this season finished 3rd at the weight class last season, matching his previous finish at 130-pounds in 2008…Anticipate these two gentlemen accumulating large amount of points for their team.

Regarded by far as the cream of the crop in the Catholic League, Fordham Prep’s Andrew Lenzi is back at 135 this season after finishing as the state runner-up in 2009. Already a two-time state finalist, Lenzi won the prize as a sophomore at 130-pounds. Should he succeed in regaining his spot atop the podium this season, he will instantly become the title holder of greatest CHSAA wrestler of All-time, an honor that is currently held by former St. Anthony’s great Lucas Magnani. The resume of Lenzi would require an article all itself. Therefore, for our purposes, I’ll leave it at this, Lenzi is the consummate winner. Before high school, he was a 2006 Schoolboy State Champion. Since entering Fordham Prep, he has gone on to become an NHSCA All-American in addition to the previously mentioned state finals appearances…As much of a champion in the classroom as he is on the wrestling mat, Lenzi committed to the University of Pennsylvania in early November of this year. An individual who has never cut a substantial amount of weight in his high school career, Lenzi placed third in the CHSAA State tournament as a freshman at 125-pounds. That loss in the 2007 Catholic State semifinals would be the last time that the future Quaker student-athlete would be challenged in the CHSAA. The winner of the past two Most Outstanding Wrestler Awards at the CHSAA State Tournament, it has been a while since I last saw a Catholic opponent take him to the full six minutes. By CHSAA standards, he is the definition of the word “dominant”. He currently is ranked as the #10 wrestler in the nation at his weight class by InterMat….Joining Lenzi as a wrestler to watch from Fordham Prep is 160-pounder Eric Benito.

Another wrestler who finds himself in the position of being the lone returning placewinner for his school is St. Francis’s Brian Rogers. Rogers, who to his credit has enjoyed an amazing scholastic career, has been the CHSAA’s version of the professional bridesmaid, finishing as the Catholic runner-up the past two years (@145 last season; @140 in 2008). To go along with his twin silver medals, Rogers is yet another member of the 2010 senior class expected to be honored as a Ironman recipient. As a freshman, he finished 6th @130 pounds. If all goes as planned, CHSAA enthusiasts can expect a rematch for the 145-pound crown, as Rogers is currently ranked as the #2 wrestler at the weight class, just behind Carlo who defeated in the finals of last year’s tournament….160-pounder Charlie Stephens is the only other ranked wrestler for the Raid Raiders.

In staying with the pattern, three additional wrestlers who will bare the burden of being their respective school’s best hopes for individual gold are Iona Prep’s 103-pounder Connor Mullins (6th @96-pounds), St. Joe’s by the Sea’s 125-pounder Anthony Castano (4th @103), and Canisius’s 215-pounder Casey Sheehan (4th @215)…Mullins’s teammate, heavyweight Mike Mobarack, is the only other ranked wrestler from this trio of schools…130- Jon Lobo and 160- Mike Olgiati from Joe’s by the Sea can be counted on to compliment Castano.

Despite not having a returning All-Catholic wrestler, Holy Trinity, St. Peter’s Boys, Salesian, The GOW School, Nichols, Niagara Catholic, St. Mary’s, and Xaverian are also expected to fight hard and represent the league with class and dignity…Holy Trinity’s 140-pounder Nick Giovanellio and 152-pounder Nick Berardi both find themselves ranked to start the season….140- James Miller, 145- Ed Berry, 160- Tom Kenders, 160- Eugene Kancun, 160- John Capone, and 171- Chris DiForte should provide senior leadership for a developing St. Peter’s Boys program.

Scrap in for what has the makings of the best year in CHSAA Wrestling history…With four returning NYS placewinners and a plethora of additional young men on the cusp of making the podium in Albany, 2010 may very well be a banner year for the Catholic League…One thing is for certain, as Lou DeStefano put it “with all of the parity in the league this year, the season should be great.”…I echo DeStefano’s sentiments !!!

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