The 52nd annual New York Public High School Athletic Association wrestling championships are in the record books, and for Section 4, it was a decidedly better experience than a year earlier.
Six Section 4 wrestlers won state titles, twice the number of last year and the most since Section 4 had seven champions in 2009. Three of this year’s champions, Johnson City’s Reggie Williams (Division I 195), Waverly’s Ryan Wolcott (Division II 220) and Lansing’s William Koll (Division II 132) saw their scholastic careers end in spectacular fashion, while Norwich’s Tristan Rifanburg (Division II 138) and Frank Garcia (Division II 152), and Greene’s Christian Dietrich (Division II 182) will most certainly go into next season as significant threats to add to their title haul.
Some random thoughts on this weekend’s happenings, and what lies ahead for Section 4 in the near future:
Bittersweet victory for Williams
Williams’ fourth trip to the state tournament finally netted him that elusive title, which came via a 5-1 decision over Beacon’s Andrew Grella in the finals.
Though he had a considerable number of supporters in attendance at the Times Union Center, absent among them were Williams’ parents. According to Williams, his mother Sharon was hospitalized over the weekend with blockages near her heart.
“The only thing I could think about were my parents,” said Williams, who said a prayer for his mother at the edge of the mat prior to each of his four matches this past weekend. “I did it for her.”
Along with his parents’ inability to attend the championships in Albany, the fact that Williams had to defeat Grella added a little discomfort heading into the final. The pair are headed to Binghamton University next fall and have developed a friendship.
“It was unfortunate,” said Williams, who put his arm around Grella following the podium ceremony for the place-winners in their weight class. “I told him, this is the last time we’ll talk about this match.”
Norwich looking good
If the last month is any indication, Norwich could be poised for some big things next season.
The Purple Tornado won the Section 4 Class B and Division II team titles in February, and next season will have virtually its entire starting lineup back.
Considering both Johnson City and Union-Endicott will endure significant graduation losses, Norwich could find itself in the hunt for its first Southern Tier Athletic Conference title.
At the forefront of course, will be the duo of Rifanburg and Garcia, who barring injuries should give Norwich the rare distinction of having teammates with 200 or more career victories.
The sky may be the limit now for the Greene sophomore, who was already nationally-ranked by various publications prior to capturing his first state title in Albany.
After a close loss in last year’s Division II 170 final, Dietrich was largely untested in this year’s state tournament, finishing his title run with a 3-0 decision over South Jefferson’s Daniel Smith in the 182 final. Dietrich went 43-0 this season and did not give up a takedown all year, allowing only four points total.
Great things were expected from Dietrich after an impressive sixth-place showing in the 2011 New York State tournament as a seventh-grader in the Division II 152-pound weight class, a class that otherwise featured all juniors and seniors.
However, his eighth-grade season was wiped out due to injuries to both his knees. Dietrich returned to good form last year, and took things up to an even higher level this season.
Greene coach Tim Jenks believes Dietrich can get even better.
“I think he can be even more diverse with his upper body, and get into single-legs a little bit more,” Jenks said. “He has to realize, once you become really good, your opponents just want to keep (the score) close. He’s going to have to deal with those conditions the rest of his career.”
Jenks has had his share of state champions, most recently Nick Wilcox, Tyler Beckwith and Sherwood Fendryk. He said like those three, Dietrich is great on his feet and a good pinner.
“He’s right up there with them,” Jenks said. “It’s tough to compare them, they each had their little niches, but Christian’s a little better at a younger age than they were.”
Rifanburg, Garcia and Dietrich are obvious names, but some other Section 4 wrestlers gave notice this past weekend that they could find themselves at the top of the podium at next year’s state tournament.
Unatego junior Ryan Marszal was runner-up at Division II 170, and should be a title contender next year. Likewise for Deposit/Hancock sophomore Dean Raymond, third-place finisher at Division II 99, and Newark Valley seventh-grader Bennie Baker, who placed sixth at Division I 99. Ithaca’s Richie Burke placed fourth at Division I 126 and will be Section 4’s top returning state place-finisher next season.