THORNWOOD – For weeks leading up to the Division 2 sectional championships, it was largely assumed that two of the most accomplished small school wrestlers in the area — Pearl River’s James Kelly and Edgemont’s Kyle Aslanian — would be in different weight classes.
But, when the official seeds came out on Wednesday, word quickly spread that Aslanian had decided to compete at 120 pounds, the same weight class where Kelly had been penciled in as the favorite all season.
“I thought he was going 113, personally, but I found out a couple of days before (that he wasn’t). I was like, ‘You have to wrestle whoever’s there,’ ” Kelly said. “It was definitely a little more nerve-racking, but I felt comfortable going out there on the mat.”
Kelly notched an early takedown to take command in the championship final, holding on for a 6-4 decision over the only returning All-State wrestler in the tournament. The win on Saturday at Westlake earned him Most Outstanding Wrestler honors just two weeks after earning the same honor at the Rockland County Championships.
“Everything is coming together right now,” Kelly said. “It’s my senior year, so I’m going to leave it all out there on the mat.”
In its first season as a Division 2 team, Pearl River matched defending champ Putnam Valley with four individual champs. Sean McGarvey (99 pounds), Jake Kurzhals (126) and Jack Chesman (132) also claimed titles for the Pirates, but they finished in second place by nine points.
The Tigers repeated despite missing two of their top wrestlers due to injury in Noah Kelvas and Jared Eliopolous.
“There was definitely a lot, not so much pressure, but responsibility for us to go out there and get bonus points,” Putnam Valley sophomore Satoshi Abe said. “Our coaches are great, and we’ve just stayed motivated throughout the season. Everyone did their part.”
Abe won a title at 113 pounds, with Kyle Sams (106), Willie Messinger (170) and Constantine George (220) also earning trips to the state tournament in two weeks. It was the second title in a row for Messinger, while Sams earned his first in his debut season as a varsity wrestler.
“As a freshman, it’s amazing,” Sams said. “It was definitely in my grasp. I definitely felt it was possible, and my coaches were telling me it was possible.”
While the race for first place came down to the wire between Putnam Valley and Pearl River, Edgemont won a three-way battle with Nanuet and Pleasantville to take third place.
Sophomore Cliffton Wang was the lone Panther to win a title. He claimed his second at 152 pounds by pinning Pleasantville’s Thomas Marrone in the finals, who was a returning section finalist.
“Nothing really bothered me,” Wang said of Marrone’s decision to compete at 152. “Whoever I’m facing, I’m just going to try and power through them.”
Nanuet placed fourth in coach Carmine Serra’s final season, with Eric Boyle (138) and Connor Breit (195) each winning championships after losing in the finals last season. Breit won a convincing 9-0 major decision over Ardsley’s Evan Shlom, who defeated him in overtime in last year’s finals.
“That’s all that I thought about was sweet revenge, because I really wanted this title last year,” the sophomore said. “I’m stronger, I’m faster, I’m quicker, so it was definitely a different match for me.”
Irvington also had multiple champs in Peter Jones (182) and Adam Krieger (285), while Pawling’s Chris Santana (145) and North Salem’s Teddy Fleming (160) each won their first titles.