A contingent of 13 sectional wrestling champions from the mid-Hudson Valley will travel to Albany later this month to compete for state titles.
Nine area grapplers from Section 9 qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Wrestling Championships late Sunday, joining four from Section 1.
The meet will be held at the Times Union Center on Feb. 27-28. For five of the 13, it will be a return trip to the scholastic sports’ spotlight.
Red Hook’s Taylor Benson, who earned the Section 9 Division II title at 126 pounds Saturday at SUNY Ulster to help the Raiders win the team championship, is preparing for his third appearance at states.
The previous experience, Red Hook coach Nick Fredericks said, is invaluable.
“He’s been up there. He knows,” Fredericks said. Benson lost in the first round a year ago at 113 pounds and won a consolation match “Usually, when the guys get up there, they’re in 11th or 12th grade. They haven’t experienced it. They get in those lights with the big crowd … he’s focused.
“He’s got two more years, but he wants to take advantage that he’s up there now, and not take it for granted.”
Highland’s Mike Feliciano, who won the 113-pound title at the Section 9 Division II meet, overcame a dislocated elbow in the preseason to return to Albany.
“He got healthy enough to come back and win his third sectional title,” Highland coach John McFarland said. At 106 pounds last year, Feliciano lost his opening match and won a consolation round. McFarland cautioned, “113 is a very tough weight class across the board, Division I or II.”
Highland teammates Andrew Suleiman (132 pounds) and Teddy Mapes (170) repeated as champions of their weight classes. A year ago neither won a match in the state meet.
“We’re hoping the second time they go, we can win some matches, hopefully place in the top eight,” said McFarland, whose team also received a sectional title from 285-pounder John Beal and 138-pounder Isaac Mathews, who attends Marlboro but competes alongside the Huskies.
John Jay’s Jay Albis, who repeated as Section 1 Division I 113-pound champion Sunday, likewise has high expectations for his second trip to states, after reaching the semifinals and placing fourth last year.
“His goal is to be state champ,” John Jay coach Jamie Weaver said.
Arlington’s Brady Robin (138) and Roy C. Ketcham’s Danny Murphy (145) also won Section 1 Division I titles Sunday, while Pawling’s Chris Santana (145) captured a Section 1 Division II crown Saturday.
Red Hook’s Wade Harris earned the title and his first trip to states at 99 pounds Sunday by defeating Tuxedo’s Nick Conetta, 6-5, in four overtimes. It was awarded the most exciting match of the meet.
“It was really a gut-wrenching match,” Fredericks said. “In the third overtime, he had to hold the guy down 30 seconds to win it.”
The Raiders’ Stefan Chichkov won at 220 pounds, while Jeffrey Kiluba (145), A.J. Coolbaugh (182), Darren Coon (195), Kyle Torre (138) and Tristen Schiafo (132) all placed second.
The depth of finishers helped Red Hook win its third team title in three years, after Highland won it a year ago.
“What we strive for is the team title,” Fredericks said. “This was big. It’s all about team effort. We’re sending three to states, but overall we placed 12 in the top four.”
New Paltz’s Ben Cuppett rounded out the list of the area’s Section 9 Division II qualifiers with a 152-pound title. Teammates A.J. Fazio (126) and Mike Hull (285) took second.
Highland’s Dom Bellacicco (220) and Lester Sokolowski (160) finished second.
Mike Benischek: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4722, Twitter: @BenischekPJ