Last season, Monsignor Farrell did something that no other team had managed to do in the past six years, unseat Chaminade High School atop the Catholic High School latter. With several of the key members of the Lions’ championship team back in 2010, the question of the hour is, will the Staten Island based school be able to pull off a repeat performance of last season’s feat? With either the top or second seeded wrestler at eight of the 15 weight classes that will contested this weekend, if you are a Farrell fan, you have to like your chances…Expected to shine for the perennial NYC powerhouse are returning Champions, Tony Carlo (145) and Ben Villaret (152). Top-seeded Vin Fischetti (125), Joe Francolino (130), along with #2 seeds Chris Amendola (96), Paul DiStefano (103), Marc Pirozzi (119), and Tim McCann (135) should also be big point earners for the returning champs.
Standing in the way of a Lion repeat will be the host School, the Friars of St. Anthony’s. In addition to having the home field advantage, the Friars also feature a murder’s row of returning New York State placewinners at 103-119. With bonus points almost a certainly in every match that senior Chris Brienza (4th in NYS in ’09), and juniors Jimmy Morris (3rd in NYS) and Grant Greene (2009 State Champion), it can be anticipated that the Friars will jump out to a huge lead early on in the tournament…Being asked to sustain that lead will be individuals such as Mike Fodera (152), Brandon Meisner (160), Robert Sweitzer (189), Paul Alessandrini (189), and Jon Decir (285) who all whom find themselves possessing either the #1 or #2 seeds at their respective weight classes…Newcomer, Jamel Hudson really emerged onto the scene too, winning the 130-pound Nassau/Suffolk League title, despite just barely getting enough regular season matches in to qualify. Seeded 4th at his weight class, I would not sleep on him. He possesses the talent to go all the way.
As interesting as the team race is expected to be, 2010 is also a year where individual success is going to be front and center. Standing on the cusp of what insiders are calling the best collection of talent in the league history, the 15 individuals who earn the trip to Albany might very well be setting themselves up for the chance to say that they were apart of the team that propelled the CHSAA back into respectability and earned them the respect of the various other sections…Highlighted by the aforementioned Monsignor Farrell and St. Anthony’s wrestlers, on paper, Team CHSAA has the potential to place upwards of 11 individuals on the medal stand in 2010. Joining Brienza, Morris, Greene, Fischetti, Carlo, Villaret, Meisner, and Decir, 2008 State Champion/2x NYS finalist Andrew Lenzi (Fordham Prep) is a lock to make his third trip to the federation tournament. Other wrestlers who will be asked to step up on behalf of Team CHSAA are Chaminade senior, Brendan Fowler, who came one victory short last season of placing at the NYS tournament, and the winner of the hotly contested 140-pound weight class, Troy Sampson (Chaminade)/Andrew Murano (Xavier)
Lighthouse Wrestling is proud to announce that they will be providing live coverage of both days of the CHSAA State tournament. Starting with the pigtail bouts and continuing through the consolation finals, LHW will be providing a real-time blog of all of the action…For the finals, Lighthouse will be bringing the excitement into your living rooms, offering a video webcast of all title bouts. Stay tuned for details !
96: P. Skinner (KMHS) over C. Amendola (MF)
In a weight class saturated with inexperience, it is the sophomore Skinner who appears prime to improve upon his 5th place last season. He enters this weekend with an overall record of 33-4 and has not lost a match to a Catholic foe all season long. Included among his many conference wins is a pin over #2 seed, Chris Amendola (Monsignor Farrell) who is expected to battle his teammate Blaise Rufo for the right to wrestle Skinner in the finals. When the two young Lions met at the NYC Championship tournament, it was Amendola who reigned victorious, scoring the 11-3 major decision to claim his first City title…In fact, don’t be surprised is both of the semifinal matches pit teammate against teammate. Kellenberg’s Lawrence Vacchio is certainly talented enough to work his way into the final-4 at this weight class.
103: C. Brienza (SA) over P. DiStefano (MF)
While I never like to say anything is a certainty in life, the winner of the 103-pound weight class is about as close to being a sure thing as anything you will find in life. A two-time defending CHSAA State Champion, Brienza has been lights out this season, compiling an overall record of 39-1 (including a TF win over DiStefano). One of three returning NYS placewinners on the Friar roster, Brienza will bring a plethora of experience with him when he attempts to conclude CHSAA career by pulling off the rare three-pete. It remains true that one never wants to overlook an opponent. However, in the name of honesty, the goal this season for Brienza is not the CHSAA title, it is the New York State title.
The bottom half of the bracket should be an interesting one. While DiStefano has to be considered the favorite to make it to the finals, he should receive challenges in both the quarter and semifinal rounds…However, having previously defeated Peter Rooney (Chaminade) and Connor Mullins (Iona Prep), a final appearance is there for the taking for the Lion sophomore who was a CHSAA State runner-up to Brienza last season at 96-pounds….
112: J. Morris (SA) over D. Melendez (MSM)
Heading into this season, it was the opinion of a lot of people that Morris, who finished 3rd last season in NYS, would cruise to his second consecutive CHSAA State Crown. While I do believe that he will win the title, I do not think it will be a push over. The last time these two young men met, it was Morris getting his hand raised. However, Melendez made him earn it, fighting off several bar attempts to keep the score within a 2-0 margin…Possessing a 33-2 record on the season, Morris really announced his presence on the national stage this season, traveling to Florida to win the title at the Zac Jarzynka Memorial tournament. Undefeated for the majority of the season, Morris did struggle a bit down the stretch, dropping back-to-back matches to all-state wrestlers. But alas, if last weekend’s Nassau/Suffolk tournament was any indication, Morris is back to his “A” game and should cruise to the title match.
Melendez’s path to the title should be much more difficult as he will likely run into Paul Schianodicola (MF), the wrestler he defeated in the NYC finals. A winner of two out of three bouts this season, one would have to favor Melendez over Schianodicola. However, it certainly would come as no surprise if the Farrell wrestler evened the score at two apiece this weekend and punched his ticket to his first CHSAA finals appearance. Last season, Schianodicola placed 3rd at this tournament at 103.
119: G. Greene (SA) over G. McKenna (CH)
Much like his teammates, Greene takes the mat this weekend as a sizable favorite to win his weight class…And he should. As the lone returning NYS Champion in the CHSAA, Greene is looked at by some as the person who take over as the face of the Catholic League in 2011 after the aforementioned Lenzi has graduated…Ranked by most websites as the #1 wrestler in the state at this weight class, the question is not whether or not Green will claim the hardware, it is whether or not any of his opponents will be able to last the full six minutes with him? To clarify, this is not a knock on the other 119-pounders in the Catholic League, it is an indication of just how talented Greene is. Compiling a 25-2 overall record in 2010, the Friar junior already owns bonus point wins over the #2 and #3 seeds, Farrell’s Marc Pirozzi (pinned in 0:56) and Glen McKenna (Chaminade; pinned in 0:35)…While the finals match may not be overly competitive, what should be is the fight to determine who will face Greene.
A three-time CHSAA State placewinner, McKenna is expected to be one of several recipients of the Ironman Award, given to wrestlers who place all four years at this tournament…Pirozzi, who like McKenna will be wrestling the final weekend of his scholastic career did not place in 2009, but was a top finisher in 2008. During the CHSAA Duals, Pirozzi showed immense heart, toughing it off with an obvious arm injury to defeat McKenna’s teammate Jon Anderson…Just so I don’t go all chalk on these predictions, I’ll call for the slight upset and say that it will be the Long Island wrestler who gets the “w”.
125: V. Fischetti (MF) over J. Faglione (CH)
Regarded by me as perhaps the best wrestler in the CHSAA who has yet to win the state crown, Fischetti is been a man on a mission in 2010, running over all of his catholic opponents and placing at the Eastern States on his way to an overall record of 40-7. He will bring a 16-match win streak into the tournament and is a heavy favorite to extend that number to 20 by the time the weekend is over. Undefeated in CHSAA play this season, Fischetti has transformed himself from “likely CHSAA Champion” into “possible NYS placewinner”. Much like the previously predicted champions, Fischetti has not just beaten the other wrestlers in his bracket, he has punished them, teching the #2 seed Kevin Jimenez (MSM) in the finals of the City tournament and pinning #3 seed Faglione (Chaminade), not once but twice during this season.
To his credit, Faglione has really turned it of late, beating the top two seeds at the Nassau/Suffolk tournament last weekend to win his first league crown. It is my prediction that the momentum he has built up from his recent success will be enough to carry him into the finals…With several former or returning All-Catholic wrestlers making up this bracket, 125 might be one of, if not the deepest weight class in the tournament.
130: J. Francolino (MF) over D. Fuentes (XR)
Not one who ever diminishing the importance of any final, if I had to pick the one weight class where I was anticipating the semifinal more than the final, it is 130. The reason for this is the fact that the top half of the bracket will feature the champions from the NYC and Long Island regions. In my opinion, the winner of that match will be the one who ends up getting crowned later on in the afternoon. Francolino, a 2x CHSAA State placewinner (3rd @119 in ’09) has been the top ranked wrestler in the league all season long. Already, he owns a pair of wins over #2 seed Fuentes, including a decision victory last weekend in the City finals…If it is Francolino/Fuentes who match-up in the finals, I have to go with history and give the edge to the Farrell junior…Standing in the way of this battle of the top-2 seeds will be Jamel Hudson from St. Anthony’s. A relative unknown to CHSAA fans until last weekend, Hudson really put himself on the map, pinning teammate Tom Scurti in the third period to win the league title. While I have not seen Hudson compete, I am told that he is a very polished athlete whose quickness and technique is hard to counter. Had he been in the line-up when the two teams met at the CHSAA duals in January, it is likely 130 would have instantly become one of the featured matches of the evening. Given my preference, I would have rather that this be the title match.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that Fuentes’s path to the finals is no easier. If he is to make it to the CHSAA State finals, it will be required of him that he first go through the second and third place finishers on Long Island, Scurti and Chaminade’s Mike Jones…Lost for the season in 2009, Jones was an All-Catholic wrestler as a freshman. Therefore, the potential is there for the upset to be pulled.
135: A. Lenzi (FP) over T. McCann (MF)
So notorious are the accomplishments of Fordham Prep senior Andrew Lenzi within the CHSAA, that I can’t remember the last time I saw a Catholic opponent not surrender bonus points against him. The closest thing to Roy Hobbs (The Natural) the CHSAA has, Lenzi was born to wrestle. In fact, before he even stepped foot on a high school campus, it was the prediction of many that he would be the first CHSAA wrestler since Lucas Magnani to win a federation title on behalf of the Catholic schools. A champion at every level, Lenzi fulfilled the prophecy in 2008, winning the 130-pound State title. Last season, Lenzi again wrestled his way into the limelight, finishing as the runner-up to fellow EIWA signee, Stephen Dutton of Rocky Point. Now separated from Dutton, the future University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School of Business student-athlete has already established his supremacy in the 135-pound weight class, defeating Valley Central’s Cody Ruggirello in the finals of the Eastern States Tournament…Ranked in the top-10 nationally by several publications, Lenzi is the cream of the crop in the Catholic League. The winner of the Outsanding Wrestler Award the past two years at this tournament, it would come as a huge surprise if anyone other than him was given the honor this season. If Grant Greene is the future, than Andrew Lenzi is the present…32-0 on the season, Lenzi has locked up bonus points in 30 of his wins this season (including a 21-6 TF over #2 seed, Tim McCann in the NYC finals).
Expected to oppose Lenzi is Farrell’s Tim McCann. A talented Judo player before discovering wrestling, the Lion sophomore has some of the most exciting throws in the league. You can never fall asleep on McCann because if you do, he’s going to give you a great view of the arena lights. A winner by fall over #3 seed, Tom White from St. Anthony’s, it would be a giant surprise if it was not McCann who ends up facing Lenzi for the title…And, if his opponent had been anyone but Lenzi, I would be tempted to predict a title.
140: T. Sampson (CH) over A. Murano (XR)
The CHSAA version of Evans/Campolattano or Schlatter/Metcalf, the 140-pound title match between seniors Andrew Murano and Troy Sampson is a rematch of a CHSAA duals bout won by Murano. Both multiple-time CHSAA State placewinners, it is Sampson who owns the lone title, winning the 125-pound crown last season. For Murano, after back-to-back 3rd place finishes the past two years at the Catholic State tournament, 2010 marks the year that he believes he will finally take his place atop the first step of the podium and punch his ticket to the federation tournament…Earlier in the year, both guys competed at the Eastern States classic, with Sampson advancing a little further. The last time they met, it was rumored that the Flyer captain was still getting over a slight knee issue. Hence, if both come into the match fully healthy, 140-pounds has the makings of the match of the night. For Sampson, winning is a family affair. He is the son of former 4x Catholic Champion, John, and the cousin of 3x Andrew. Earlier this season, Sampson become the school’s all-time wins leader, an honor that his cousin owned for a few years before losing it to Pat Doherty.
For Murano, this season is proof that you do not have to come out of one of the superpower schools to be a serious contender for hardware. A tireless worker, Murano is excellent at pushing the pace and wearing down his opponents over the course of the six minutes. If he is able to dictate the speed at which this match is wrestled at, Sampson could be in trouble.
While I expect Murano to cruise to the finals with relative ease, the same cannot be said for Sampson. It is true that Sampson would be a heavy favorite against with Paul Kelly (SA) or Gunnar Rufo (MF). However, both are talented enough that if Sampson comes out flat, they are capable of pulling the biggest upset of the tournament…One coach even went so far as to say that the Kelly/Rufo match is the best match of day #1.