ALBANY – The start of his first New York State wrestling tournament didn’t go quite to his liking, but Johnson City senior Niko Cejic will certainly take how it finished.
The 285-pounder shook off a disappointing overtime loss in his first-round match to place sixth in the Division I Tournament on Saturday at the Times Union Center.
Cejic, who earned his trip to Albany by edging Newark Valley’s Kyle Williams in overtime, 3-1, two weeks ago at the Section 4 championships, was poised to upset second-seeded Erik Jessell of Carthage when he grabbed a 4-1 lead following a takedown with around 30 seconds remaining in their first-round match Friday.
However, Jessell got an escape with 11 seconds remaining and then a takedown just before time expired to knot the score at 4 and force overtime, where Jessell got a quick takedown just 13 seconds in to pull out a 6-4 victory.
“It was very disappointing, but I managed to pull it together,” Cejic said. “I have great coaches that helped me a lot, they put me back together the rest of the tournament.”
Cejic won a pair of consolation matches on Friday, then assured himself a top-six placing on Saturday when defeated Liverpool’s Dave Carnie, 4-2, in overtime.
“JC has as reputation and I had to help keep it going,” Cejic said. “There was a little pressure (against Carnie).”
Cejic was one of just three Section 4 wrestlers to place in the Division I tournament, the other two Newark Valley’s Benny Baker, finalist at 99 and Ithaca’s Richie Burke, who placed fourth at 138.
Marzsal denied return trip to finals
While Baker, Waverly’s A.J. Burkhart, Norwich’s Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia, Sidney’s Austin Dean and Lansing’s Jimmy Overhiser all advanced to Saturday’s championship finals, four other Section 4 wrestlers came up short in Saturday morning’s semifinals.
Burke, Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton/Harpursville’s Chris Cirigliano, Tioga’s Jesse Manuel and Unatego’s Ryan Marszal all lost their semifinal matches.
Marszal’s loss, an 11-5 defeat at the hands of Mexico’s Jacob Woolson in the Division II 182 semifinals, may have stung the most. A state Division II finalist at 170 last year and a semifinalist a year earlier, the Unatego senior carried serious state-title aspirations heading into this weekend.
Marszal trailed 6-5 late in the third period when he nearly got a takedown, only to get caught for a five-point move by Woolson that sealed his fate.
“Ryan wrestled a great match, he was in deep on a shot late, he just got elevatored.” Unatego coach Mike Hamilton said. “It just happens.”
Cirigliano lost a 5-3 decision to Mexico’s Theo Powers in the Division II 113 semifinals. Powers, the top seed who had handed Cirigliano his lone regular-season loss back in January, got an early first-period takedown and later reversed Cirigliano in the second period to build a 4-1 lead before holding on.
Manuel lost 10-4 to top-seeded Hunter Richards of Holland Patent in the Division II 138 semifinals. Manuel, who had pulled out a pair of late comebacks to reach the semifinals, only trailed by a point before Richards got a takedown and three-point near fall midway through the third period to build an 8-2 lead.
Burke lost in the semifinals for the second straight year, dropping a 7-1 decision to top-seeded Frankie Gissendanner at Division I 138.
Ten wrestlers place in Division II
Section 4 had a much better go of things in the Division II Tournament, with five finalists and five other place-winners.
That included a pair of third-place finishers in Marszal and Cirigliano. Also placing were Watkins Glen’s Brandon Gould (fourth at 126), Tioga’s Manuel (fifth at 138) and Oxford’s Garyn Huntley (fifth at 220).