After title-match losses the previous two years at the Section 4 Championships kept him from advancing to the New York State wrestling tournament, Vestal’s Alex Francik figured a similar fate awaited him this year after a 6-4 overtime loss Saturday to Newark Valley’s Derek Holcomb in the final of the Division I 160-pound weight class.
On Friday, Francik discovered that wasn’t the case.
The senior was one of 11 Section 4 wrestlers to receive at-large berths into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships, to be held Feb. 22-23 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
“My dad (Ken) told me I had a pretty good shot at it, but I wasn’t really confident until I just found out (Friday) that I got in,” said Francik, who is 36-2 this season.
“It’s a nice way to end my senior year, going to states and all.”
Also receiving an at-large berth in Division I was Elmira’s Curtis Grant at 138 pounds.
In Division II, Maine-Endwell’s Koby Garrehy (113), Whitney Point’s Sean Ballard (120) and Jordan Torbitt (145), Unatego’s Codie Nichols (145), Kevin Thayer (152) and Leland Slawson (160), Walton’s Mike Beers (182), Marathon’s Dillon Hurlbert (220) and Odessa-Montour’s Joe Rorick (106) were at-large qualifiers.
The 11 at-large qualifiers brings the number of Section 4 wrestlers competing in this year’s state tournament to 41, which includes 15 Section 4 champions each in Division I and II. Last year, Section 4 had 14 at-large qualifiers.
Francik will be making his first state appearance since winning the Section 4 Division I 119 title as a freshman. As a sophomore, Francik lost in the Section 4 Division I 140 final to Chenango Forks’ Travis Barnett, 4-1, before losing last year’s 152 final to Johnson City’s Greg Kleinsmith, 5-4.
Despite needing an at-large berth to get into this year’s tournament, Francik should be in the mix for a high finish this year.
“I’m going in with confidence,” Francik said. “You have to, or you’re not going to win.”