Since the inception of the Section 4 Dual Meet Tournament in 2002, only two teams — Newark Valley and Tioga — have competed in every one.
Tioga captured the 2006 title en route to the state small-school title. NV, however, is still in search of its first Section 4 Dual Meet Tournament title, though the Cardinals may have their best chance this weekend.
NV is 14-0 and the top seed in the 12-team tournament that kicks off Friday with four first-round matches and concludes Saturday at Chenango Forks High School.
“You always want to get to that next level,” said NV coach Eric D’Arcy. “We have some goals for later in the year (at sectionals), but it’d be nice to win, we’re going to have to wrestle three good matches.”
NV is led by a trio of reigning Section 4 champions in Trevor Hoffmier, Derek Holcomb and Cole Ford, with Vinnie Darpino and Bennie Baker also enjoying strong seasons.
The Cardinals will meet either Elmira or Waverly in the quarterfinals, and if they win a possible rematch with Tioga — which lost to NV 44-29 last Wednesday — could take place in the semifinals.
“The kids are excited. They’ve always been proud of the fact that we’ve been to the Duals every year,” D’Arcy said. “That’s the goal every single season, and that carries some weight with the kids.”
Johnson City, the defending champion, is the third seed. Last year, the Wildcats defeated Union-Endicott, 40-36, in the championship match. The two could possibly meet in the semifinals, as U-E is the second seed.
Last year marked only the second time in Josh Roe’s 16-year coaching career at Tioga that the Tigers failed to send a wrestler to the state tournament.
Chances are that won’t happen again this year. Sophomore Jesse Manuel figures to at least garner an at-large berth into the Division II state tournament at 132 pounds after narrowly missing out on an at-large berth last year. Caleb Stone (120), Dan Hosking (126) and Zach Kelsey (285), all two-time Section 4 place-winners, are all capable of getting on a run and winning a Section 4 title.
“Last year was a bad year for us,” Roe said. “Last year and 2002 (the only other time Roe failed to qualify a wrestler for the state tournament), they leave a bad taste in your mouth, especially when you have kids that listen to what you are saying. You start to wonder if you did the right things to getting them to states.”
Tioga was a .500 team a year ago, but this season the Tigers are 12-4 and ranked 18th in the state small-school rankings by the New York State Sports Writers Association. Roe feels his team is peaking after a rough start with a number of his wrestlers getting a late jump following Tioga’s run to the state Class D football semifinals.
“It’s a different type of conditioning for wrestling compared to football,” Roe said. “We lost a lot of matches earlier in the season that I don’t think we would at this point.”
Almost every single season, there are wrestlers who take that big leap forward, emerging to become a Section 4 title contender.
One example this season is Ithaca senior Ian VanValen. After reasonable success the previous few seasons, including a pair of place-finishes at the Section 4 Division I tournament, VanValen has compiled a 33-4 record largely competing at 160 pounds.
“I think with Ian, his big thing was this past offseason,” Ithaca coach Eric Parker said. “He had that combination of lifting and wrestling during the whole year.
“It finally clicked for him, the confidence level is there.”
VanValen has won individual titles at the Windsor Christmas Tournament and Port Byron Invitational, and narrowly missed placing at the prestigious Eastern States Classic two weeks ago.
If he stays at 160 for the Section 4 Division I Tournament, he’ll face a tough bracket that could feature a a pair of reigning champions in Holcomb and Johnson City’s Zach Colgan. But Parker feels VanValen is more than capable of winning a Section 4 title, citing his improvement in wrestling on top.
“He’s pinned a lot of kids and turned most of the guys he’s wrestled,” Parker said. “Ian has seen some really top competition, hopefully that pays off when we get to sectionals and hopefully states.”
Wolcott nearing record
Ryan Wolcott, state Division II runner-up at 220 last season, can break Waverly’s all-time victory record when the Wolverines host Elmira in a Section 4 Dual Meet Tournament first-round match Friday.
Wolcott has 195 career victories, tied with two-time state champion Colin McDonald. Waverly earned entry into the Section 4 Dual Meet Tournament after Watkins Glen withdrew earlier this week.
Dietrich, Koll earn No. 1 rankings
Greene’s Christian Dietrich and Lansing’s William Koll, both individual champions at the Eastern States Classic two weekends ago, man the top spots in their respective weight classes in NewYorkWrestlingNews.com’s state individual rankings.
Dietrich is ranked No. 1 at 182 pounds while Koll is top-ranked at 132. They are among several Section 4 wrestlers in the rankings, which is an overall assessment of New York state wrestling instead of separating by Division I and II classes.
Also ranked are Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville’s Chris Cirigliano (eighth at 106), Ithaca’s Richie Burke (third at 126), Norwich’s Tristan Rifanburg (third at 138) and Frank Garcia (sixth at 152), NV’s Holcomb (fourth at 160) and Hoffmier (sixth at 145), JC’s Colgan (seventh at 160) and Reggie Williams (second at 195), Unatego’s Ryan Marszal (fourth at 170), Waverly’s Wolcott (second at 220) and Deposit-Hancock’s Dan Babcock (eighth at 285).