ALBANY — Julio Gonzalez wanted validation — validation that the Middletown senior belonged with the state's best 152-pounders this weekend.

ALBANY — Julio Gonzalez wanted validation — validation that the Middletown senior belonged with the state's best 152-pounders this weekend.

Gonzalez wasn't so sure after falling to Newburgh Free Academy's Aaron Moore in the Section 9 Division I final two weeks ago.

A wild-card berth gave Gonzalez a second chance and a shot at redemption, and with that chance, Gonzalez may have put Middletown wrestling back on the Section 9 map.

Gonzalez finished fourth, becoming the first Middletown wrestler to place at state since Alva Conklin in 2000.

"I'm really astonished I made it this far," said Gonzalez, who knocked Moore out of the tournament with a 9-3 win in a consolation quarterfinal.

Middletown juniors Kyle Nelson, Jordan Jackson and Blaize Smith cheered on Gonzalez all weekend. Coach Jason Lichtenstein received texts from wrestlers back home, checking in on Gonzalez's run.

"We have three juniors up in the stands watching; a couple of them have a solid shot to be here next year," Lichtenstein said. "To watch him (Gonzalez) excel here, it's going to pay off in the future for those kids.

"It gives them the confidence that Middletown belongs in this tournament and we belong at this level. We can do it. We are going to do it in the future. We are moving in the right direction."

Warwick senior Sean Prell could have packed it in after his first-round loss. Prell, the second seed at 171 pounds, was pinned by Tappan Zee's Tim Coyne Friday. He had defeated Coyne three times in the regular season.

Instead, the loss motivated Prell, who reeled off five straight victories including a 5-2 win over Pittsford's Ian Solcz in the third-place match.

"I got a lot more aggressive and a lot more mean," said Prell, who finished the season 40-4. "I didn't give a crap who stepped on the mat. I broke every opponent.

"They say the first-place wrestler is the best wrestler. But I'm the best wrestler in the weight. I knew I was the best wrestler in the weight. The third-place wrestler is the toughest wrestler because I had to wrestle five matches back."

Minisink Valley senior Andrew Natalizio finished his career with a sixth-place finish at 130 pounds.

Onteora senior 135-pounder C.J. Goldizen was the lone Division II wrestler in Section 9 to medal, defeating Royalton-Hartland's Drew Hull, 5-1, for fifth place.

Section 9 was in the spotlight in ceremonies prior to the state finals, when Newburgh Free Academy coach Jeff Cuilty and Cornwall coach Don Blaine were inducted into the state Hall of Fame. They are believed to be the third and fourth inductees from the schools that currently make up Section 9. Olympic champions Ed and Lou Banach of Port Jervis were in the Class of 1989.

Dave Blaine, a 2002 Cornwall graduate and 100-win wrestler, presented his father as "my dad, my coach and my best friend." Don Blaine has a Section 9-record 380 victories in 28 straight winning seasons.

"Thanks for this true honor. And you've given me and my family a night we'll never forget," Blaine said.

Cuilty, Section 9's chairman the last 13 years who has 331 victories, was short in his acceptance speech. He wished the wrestlers luck in the finals and ended by saying, "Clear the mats."

Section 9's Wayne Carroll received the New York State Wrestling Officials Association Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication. Carroll, a former Goshen wrestler, completed his 32rd year as a referee in the section.