STONE RIDGE – Matt Malheiro’s friends mobbed him after he got off the mat.
Jeff Kiluba smiled as he got his hand raised. And Ben Cuppett raced right to the bleachers to catch his breath.
All three were winners at the Section 9 Division II wrestling tournament at SUNY Ulster on Monday. By virtue of their section championships, they were automatically entered into the New York State tournament, which will be held Feb. 24-25 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
For Malheiro, a 138-pound wrestler from Highland High School, his first-ever section title was a dream come true.
“It was awesome,” Malheiro said. “All my friends said ‘Way to go, Matty. Way to go, kid.’ It felt amazing.”
Malheiro defeated New Paltz’s Shane Gulliksen, 2-0. Malheiro has been the state tournament before, but only as a spectator. Now he will get his chance as a competitor.
“I’m going to go to the state practices and work my butt off,” Malheiro added. “I’ll hopefully go up there and win a match.”
Red Hook’s Kiluba pinned Onteora’s Matt Shields to win the 170-pound championship. Like Malheiro, it was his first section title and it will be his first trip to states. The win “felt good,” as he had lost in the finals the past two years.
“I worked so hard this season,” Kiluba said. “So when I won it, it was just amazing.”
As for the state tournament, Kiluba plans to practice and put his best foot forward.
“I’m going to try really hard,” he said. “I know I’m not on that next level yet, but I’m going to try to compete with the kids on the next level.”
New Paltz’s Cuppett beat Red Hook’s Ryan Hobson, 7-5, in the finals. To him, the feeling of winning a section title wasn’t new. Neither was his opponent, as he had experience wrestling Hobson a season ago.
“I wrestled him last year and it was not a close match. This year he got better on his feet,” Cuppett said. “He’s got a lot of muscle and it was a good match.”
This year will be Cuppett’s third trip to the state tournament. Thus, he knows what goes into preparing for the big meet in Albany.
“It should be a good two weeks (before the tournament),” he said. “There’ll be some hard practices to get mentally into it.”
Red Hook won the team championship with 168 points. New Paltz was fourth (117.5 points), Highland was sixth (86 points) and Marlboro 10th (11 points).
Red Hook’s Matt Morris (99), Wade Harris (106), Tristen Schiafo (152), Mike Kenny (160) and Liam Dietrich (285) each took losses in the finals.
New Paltz’s Chris Massaro (126) and Chris Hiesel (132) also were defeated in the finals.
John Jay’s Randy Earl and Tyler Albis, along with Beacon’s Kyle Davis, won Section 1 Division 1 titles on Saturday. Pawling’s Jack Wrobel and Alex Santana will join Earl, Albis, Davis, Malheiro, Kiluba and Cuppett at the state tournament, as both won Section 1 Division II titles on Saturday as well.
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports