Jay Albis raised his hand in victory with a smile on his face.
It had been a long road to a second consecutive Section 1 Division I title for the 113-pound John Jay High School wrestler, who heard a pop in his left knee during a match in the Eastern States Classic on Jan. 10, forcing him to miss the remainder of the regular season.
Battling back from the knee injury, he became one of 15 area wrestlers to earn a trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament this weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany. Thirteen wrestlers qualified for the tournament by winning section titles, while two qualified as wild cards.
“I feel really good — my knee is 100 percent,” said Albis, who won his title on Feb. 15. “I’m well prepared and ready to go. The state tournament is a different atmosphere; it’s more challenging. But I’ve been wrestling in big tournaments all through high school, so it’s nothing new.”
Albis, who placed fourth in the tournament last year, will face Curtis High School senior Malik Grant in the first round. He’s on the same side of the bracket with Wantagh senior Kyle Quinn, who beat Albis in the Eastern States semifinals, the match in which Albis was injured.
Fellow Patriots Randy Earl (106 pounds) and Grant Frederick (145) join Albis at states as wild cards, with Earl opening against LaSalle’s Trent Nadeau, and Frederick facing Fayetteville-Manlius’ Tristan Broddus.
“It’s great,” Albis said of his teammates earning wild card spots. “We all feed off each other. I’m glad to have those two guys come with me.”
Three other Section 1 wrestlers are making their first trip to Albany.
Roy C. Ketcham’s Danny Murphy, who beat Frederick for the 145-pound Division I title, is on the same side of the bracket with Frederick and will face Cardozo’s Steven Kim. Arlington’s Brady Robin (138) will take on Iroquois’ Tristan Almeter in Division I, with a potential matchup with top seed Frankie Gissendanner of Penfield looming in the second round.
Pawling’s Chris Santana (145) captured a Division II championship on Feb. 14 with a 7-3 decision over Lou Quintanilla of Pleasantville, and will face Olean’s Zach Bierfeldt in the first round.
“I can’t wait to step on that mat; I’m ecstatic about going — fired up,” Santana said. “It’s going to be one of the most exciting moments of my life, but I can handle it. I’ve worked my entire high school career for this moment and a state title would mean everything to me.”
Section 9 will be well represented at the state meet, with nine local wrestlers competing in Division II.
Red Hook’s Taylor Benson (126) will be making his third appearance in the state tournament, opening against Babylon’s Brett Frole.
“My goal is to get on the podium, get to the top six,” Benson said. “Our coach (Nick Fredericks) makes sure he brings us to difficult tournaments so we see harder competition. It’s gotten me prepared for it.”
Fellow Raiders Wade Harris (99) and Stefan Chichkov (220) will be attending the state meet as well, facing Pearl River’s Sean McGarvey and Eagle Academy’s Miguel Perez, respectfully.
“It’s their first time, so I don’t know what they’re expecting,” Benson said of Harris and Chichkov. “But I’m sure they have a chance of doing well.”
Highland will boast four wrestlers in the state tournament: Mike Feliciano (113), Andrew Suleiman (132), Teddy Mapes (170) and John Beal (285).
Suleiman and Mapes, who wrestled at the state tournament in the same weight classes last year, will begin against Port Jefferson’s Tristin DeVincenzo and Maple Grove’s Howie Nolan, respectfully. Feliciano, who made states at 106 a year ago, will face Alexander’s Dane Heberlein. In Beal’s state-tournament debut, he’ll grapple with Randolph’s Jeff Andrews.
Additionally, Marlboro’s Isaac Matthews (138), who wrestles with Highland, will be competing, with Maine-Endwell’s Kobe Garrehy his first-round foe.
Completing the list of local competitors at the state meet is Ben Cuppett (152) of New Paltz, who will face Warsaw’s Josh Griffith.
A.J. Martelli: 845-437-4836, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
State wrestling championships
When: Friday 10 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m.
Where: Times Union Center, Albany