For a two-year period, there was little doubt which Section 1 wrestler had the best shot at winning a state title. Somers grad Brian Realbuto — who won a Section 1-record three state championships and is the section’s all-time wins leader with 277 — was the man around here for quite some time, but he’s now on his way to a bright collegiate wrestling career at Cornell University.
His absence begs the question: Who’s next?
“I expect we should have four or five kids in the finals,” said John Jay coach Bill Swertfager, who ran practices for all Section 1 state qualifiers leading up to this weekend’s state championships at the Times Union Center in Albany. “Who that will be will be largely a function of what they bring on Friday and Saturday. Only ‘A’ games will suffice.”
The most obvious candidate is Brian’s younger brother Dylan Realbuto — the only current Section 1 wrestler who has won a state title. Dylan won his first last season with a dramatic takedown in the final seconds of his championship bout, but there are a handful of others who are considered legitimate contenders this time around.
The weight class that seems most likely to produce a champion from Section 1 is at 120 pounds in Division 1. Section champ John Muldoon of Pearl River is the second seed, while Ossining junior Alex Delacruz and North Rockland sophomore Blaise Benderoth are the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.
“I’m trying not to really think about it — just take it one period at a time,” Muldoon said. “Everybody is capable there. Everyone is a section champ, and everyone has proved themselves. There are no slouches, so I’m going to try to act like I’m the 16th seed, not the two.”
New Rochelle junior Nick Barbaria showed that he is capable with his title at the prestigious Eastern States Classic in January. He comes in as the No. 2 seed at 106 pounds in Division 1 and has some familiarity with his potential opponents.
“I beat two of the kids who I could wrestle again, but it’s another weekend and I’m going to have to wrestle them a whole other time, so as much as it is a confidence booster, you still have to take it one match at a time,” Barbaria said. “You can’t ride the highs too high or the lows too low.”
Nanuet senior Dan Breit was the only other Section 1 wrestler to win an Eastern States title this season, and may represent the best bet for a state title in Division 2. Breit, who is seeded second at 220 pounds, just missed placing after a promising start at states last year.
“Going in last year, I won my first match and I was feeling confident and everything,” he said. “The second two matches, I was winning them both, but I ended up losing them. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Edgemont senior Trey Aslanian, who has placed second in the state twice, will be looking to make his third state finals appearance. He’s seeded second at 120 pounds in Division 2, and hopes to finish his career by finally capturing an elusive title.
“It’s the last chance that I get to represent Edgemont,” Aslanian said. “I’ve been wrestling under (coach) Pete (Jacobson) since I was in fifth grade, so it’s important that I bring it home for everyone from Edgemont. There’s so many hours that they’ve put into me, so I feel like I have to give it back this weekend.”
Others will also be in the mix to place high — or even win titles — particularly in Division 1. While none may be as dominant as Brian Realbuto, Swertfager says he expects “16 or more” locals to place in the top six in their respective weight classes. By the end of the weekend, we’ll know who else will be able to call themselves a state champ.