145: T. Carlo (MF) over A. Alesandro (KMHS)
The first of Farrell’s two returning CHSAA State Champions, Carlo might be the wrestler that I have enjoyed watching develop the most the past four years. Every season of his scholastic career, the Farrell senior has improved by leaps and bounds to the point where he enters this weekend as a semi lock to win his second title. Even more important, he is one of the guys that the CHSAA will be looking for to score big points at the NYS Tournament. Already this season, Carlo owns a win over a 2009 State Champion, beating Vinnie Digravio at the Eastern States Classic. Possessing an overall record of 55-3, to me, Carlo has definite DI potential. He is quick, explosive, and most of all, has a mean streak about him. And, if there was one thing I learned from watching former 2x NCAA All-American Chris Weidman, it is that a wrestler has a mean streak, he is dangerous every time he takes the mat. While I would never want to take away from any of the other wrestlers entered in this weight class, the truth is that it would be a shocker if Carlo did not score bonus points in all of his matches this weekend. This is precisely how dominant he has been this season against Catholic opponents. In fact, Carlo has been so impressive in 2010, that if I was a betting man, I’d say that he could probably win every weight class from 145-171, (he has scored bonus point wins over the #1 and #2 seeds @160 this season), if not for the presence of his teammate, Villaret at 152.
The question of who opposes Carlo is one that remains very much up in the air. While #2 seed, Anthony Alesandro appears to be the most likely choice, I would not underestimate any of the top-8 wrestlers at this weight class. Alesandro is scheduled to have a very tough quarterfinal match against St. John the Baptist’s Nick Loiacono. If the Cougar wrestler is able to pull off the upset, it would not surprise me to see him rally all the way to the title match. While this might be a race for second place, the excitement that will accompany this race should make for good entertainment….Carlo will be in contention for O.W. honors after what I predict to be a one-man crusade through the bracket.
152: B. Villaret (MF) over M. Fodera (SA)
The most decorated wrestler on the defending champions’ roster, Ben Villaret made history two years ago when he become the first student-athlete of the Jewish faith to win a Catholic High School State title…That victory obviously was not good enough as the major DI prospect repeated the accomplishment one year later up several weight classes (2008-125; 2009-152). Bringing an overall record of 55-2 into this weekend, earlier in the year, the Lion senior became the all-time wins leader in both Staten Island and New York City history. Having added to his total (it currently sits at 185), he now sits atop the CHSAA career wins list as well. If this is not enough to convince you of his immense talent, consider the fact that last summer, the 3x All-Catholic wrestler came within one victory of being a Junior National Freestyle All-American in Fargo. He has a sick low single and is just as good when he goes upper-body. Currently, he is ranked in the #4 or #5 spot of most state rankings. His success is a testament to the importance of hard work. There is rarely a weekend during the off-season that Villaret and his mother, Rima (one of the smartest women in the sport I have ever met) are not traveling to NJ or Long Island or wherever to seek competition. The goal in 2010 for Villaret is not to only to win his third CHSAA title, it is to stand on the top step of the podium in Albany. It is no understatement to say that he possess the talent and work ethic to make this dream become a reality.
Much like the previous weight class, the biggest inquiry is not who will walk out with the title, it is who is going to finish as the silver medalist…After a slow start to the season, Mike Fodera has really come into his own of late, winning the Nassau/Suffolk league title last week. If he is able to maintain his hot streak, I do not see anyone depriving him of his shot at the title. A winner of 13 of his last 14 matches, if his opponent was not a juggernaut like Villaret, I would be tempted to predict a title for the emerging Friar junior…Only contenders include Brandon Rust (MSM), Brian Harper (SJC), and Jake Weiss (SM).
160: B. Meisner (SA) over B. Rogers (SF)
In a weight class that already was plenty deep, last weekend it got even deeper when two-time CHSAA runner-up, Brian Rogers made the decision to move up from 145 to 160. By virtue of his resume and his title winning effort, Rogers earned the top seed in this weekend’s tournament. However, seeds don’t mean a hill of beans once wrestling starts on Sunday. To fulfill his dream and make the trip to Albany, Rogers, who might be the Buffalo regions best shot at individual gold, will have to go through experienced opponents in the persons of the Joe Sgro (Kellenberg)/Mike Olgiati (St. Joe’s by the Sea) winner, and St. Peter’s Boy’s Tom Kendris. Based on overall skill level, I do consider Rogers to be most naturally gifted of the quarter. However, anytime you are talking about jumping up two weight classes in a short period of time, you must concern yourself with the size factor. If any one of the trio of opponents are able to capitalize on their strength advantage, they might just send the top seed to the showers early. A winner by fall in seven of his last eight bouts (the 8th bout being a TF victory), Rogers does appear to be handling the jump in weight well. It is for this reason that I predict that technique will ultimately win out, thus putting him in the finals for a third consecutive year.
Opposing the St. Francis wrestler will be one of two young men, St. Anthony’s Brandon Meisner or Fordham Prep’s Eric Benito. Up until a week ago, many expected this match-up to be the one that would be contested in the finals. However, with Rogers moving up, this now becomes the most highly anticipated semifinal in the tournament…Meisner is a 2x All-Catholic wrestler, finishing 4th the past two years. However, as has been a pattern this year among CHSAA wrestlers, the Friar captain entered his senior campaign with a fire in his belly and the difference from one year to the next has certainly showed. A winner in 26 of his last 27 matches (his only loss coming to Carlo at the CHSAA Duals), Meisner has saved his best wrestling for the final half of his scholastic career. Recently, he controlled the entire match in a decision victory over Suffolk County finalist, Lou Puca…When he met Benito at the CHSAA duals, it was Meisner getting the “w”, 4-3. Therefore, he has to considered the favorite in the much hyped semifinal….With a 25-8 overall record, Benito himself is coming off of a strong weekend performance, defeating #6 seed Tom Kendris (St. Peter’s Boys) in the City finals. Since Kendris is his likely quarterfinal opponent, there is a certain confidence that comes with knowing that all you have to do is hold serve in order to move on to the semifinal round…..Note: If the Rogers/Meisner match-up does materialize, it is important to point out that the last time they met (in the 2009 CHSAA State semifinals), it was Rogers who posted a 7-5 victory. With the home field advantage working in his favor, my gut tells me that Meisner evens the score at the perfect time, with the state birth at stake.
171: A. deLannoy (CH) over T. Re (KMHS)
Considered the weakest and perhaps least deep of the weight classes at this year’s tournament, 171 is considered to be a two-man race for the title. A battle of returning All-Catholic performers from last season, the two top seeds, Kellenberg’s Tom Re and Chaminade’s Andrew deLannoy have split a pair of matches this season, with the former winning the key one last weekend in the finals of the Nassau/Suffolk League tournament. In their initial 2010 bout, deLannoy was a winner by fall. However, considering that this was Re’s first real action since returning from injury, a lot people do not place emphasis on the result….A winner of 10 of his last 12 matches, Re will enter the weekend as the hotter wrestler, as the Chaminade wrestler has fallen into a bit of a slump, dropping the majority of his recent matches.
Other seeded wrestlers include Salesian’s Nick Terp, Niagara Catholic’s Jake Herskind, Iona Prep’s Morris Hilton, and St. Francis’s Dan Coughlin.
189: P. Alessandrini (SA) over R. Sweitzer (SA)
To describe 189 in a single word, it would cerebral…The Friar coaching staff demonstrated great strategic planning when they decided to have one of their wrestlers forfeit to the other in the finals of the Nassau/Suffolk League tournament. In doing so, they managed to separate their two big guns, meaning that they have a realistic chance at putting both in the Catholic State finals…Equally as important as the separation is the fact that they managed to get Alessandrini, the better of the two, on the bottom half of the bracket, thus allowing him to take out returning CHSAA State finalist, Tyler Beresford in the semifinals, should the latter advance that far. When Alessandrini faced Beresford at the CHSAA duals, he pinned him in the third period.
In addition, with the chance that #5 seed Danny Fowler of Chaminade might pull the slight upset over #4 Aaron Hunt (MSM), it is important to point out that Sweitzer owns a pair of wins over the talented Flyer freshman. Thus, if this was a game of poker, it would appear that Coach Walters and company just played a perfect hand and might cash in because of it.
One of the best day #1 match-ups might be the quarterfinal bout at this weight between Beresford and #6 seed, Pat Nilsen of Xavier. When these two met, it was Nilsen securing the takedown in the closing seconds to upset then #1 ranked Beresford. If Nilsen is able to pull off the deja vu against Beresford, it would change the dynamic of the semifinal slightly as Alessandrini did not wrestle against Xavier at the CHSAA duals. However, at the end of the day, I think talent wins out; Alessandrini appears to be the most talented person in this six-deep field. A winner in 14 of his past 15 matches, it is the Friar junior who enters the weekend riding the momentum….Expect him to be the fifth champion of the afternoon for the host school.
215: B. Fowler (CH) over C. Sheehan (Can)
This is another weight class that best can be described as decided before the season even began…A two-time All-Catholic wrestler (missed his entire sophomore season due to injury), Chaminade senior, Brendan Fowler, is not only one of the best wrestlers in the Catholic league this season, he is also one of the very best in the state at 215. Coming one round short of being a 2009 NYS placewinner, Fowler has been unbeatable in 2010, posting a 26-0 record in 2010, 22 of which included some form of bonus points. Last weekend, he was so dominant at the league meet, the coaches voted him the most outstanding wrestler recipient despite the fact that his team finished 150+ points behind team champion, St. Anthony’s….With bonus point victories over four seeded wrestlers in the bracket, Fowler will be looking to improve upon his performance last season, a goal that will be nearly impossible when you consider that his closest match at the 2009 tournament was a 14-2 major decision in the semifinals.
Sheehan is himself a returning All-Catholic wrestler, finishing 4th at this same weight last season….Whether the Buffalo champion will advance to the finals or not is still anybody’s guess. While 215 does not possess the overall depth of 125 or 140, what makes it special is that 2-12 is not separated by much…If there was one weight class where I would predict a sleeper to emerge and make the finals, it would be this one….If it is not Sheehan who lines up opposite Fowler in the title bout, look for Nick Ricco (Farrell), Jason Sullivan (St. Anthony’s) or Andrew Auriemma (St. Anthony’s) to be in contention for the spot on center stage….Regardless of opponent, it would take a Herculean effort to avoid surrendering bonus points to the reigning 215-pound champ.
285: J. Decir (SA) over M. Kinder (FP)
Do you believe in phenoms? If you don’t, than I suggest you take a look at Jon Decir…Like his much smaller teammate, Morris, when Decir joined the Friar wrestling team, he did so as a complete rookie. However, some three years later, the Friar junior finds himself sitting atop the CHSAA rankings…He possesses the speed, quickness, and explosiveness not usually seen in a super-heavyweight. In fact, if not for his inexperience last season, he might very well have been a CHSAA finalist last year…Reportedly leading 8-0 in his semifinal bout against St. Joe’s Collegiate’s Jack Cambria, Decir made an error in judgment and paid the ultimate price, getting pinned…The loss obviously took its toll on the young wrestler, as he dropped his next two bouts as well to place sixth at the tournament….2009 may be the last time that this big man ever loses three times in one day ever again…Taking a 30-5 overall record into this weekend, Decir’s only losses in the new year have come to the top-ranked wrestlers in Nassau and Suffolk County. He will enter the CHSAA State tournament full of confidence, aware of the fact that he already owns wins over the #2-#5 seeded wrestlers (including an avenging win by fall over Cambria). To say that the only wrestler that stop Decir is himself is no understatement. He has put himself on a whole different level than any other 285er in the conference. So significant has been his improvement from one year to the next that many regard him as a serious contender to make the medal stand in Albany.
The battle to determine who will face Decir for the title should be fierce. #2 seed Max Kinder is a master of putting people on their backs and keeping them there, scoring pins in 19 of his 26 victories in 2010. Included among these nearly 20 mat slaps is the person who is likely to be his semifinal opponent, Cambria….Both champions of their individual regional leagues, this is a semifinal that is highly anticipated but could be over in a blink of an eye…In other words, don’t look away. In addition to having more big match experience, Cambria himself is no stranger to flattening opponents, tallying 21 falls on the year…May the best big man win….Expect Mount St. Michael’s Academy senior, Justin Ramsey-Johnson to wrestle up to seed and finish 4th….The race for 5th-8th is up for grabs in this bracket of unheralded student-athletes.