Experience is on the side of Section 9’s Division I wrestling team heading into the state championship weekend.
Ten of the area’s 18 qualifiers are two-time section champions. Nine wrestled at the Times Union Center in Albany last year with four - Minisink Valley’s Adam Fenner and Zack Ryder, Monroe-Woodbury’s Joey McGinty and Pine Bush’s Tommy Askey - taking state medals (top five) one year ago.
The first-time qualifiers include Monroe-Woodbury freshman 99-pounder Jordan Brown, a section champion in just his second year of wrestling.
Nine section wrestlers are seeded in the top eight, beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at Times Union Center.
Here are some storylines to follow:
Rematch for Askey?
Askey’s laser focus has led the Pine Bush senior 152-pounder to a perfect regular-season record (37-0). The Eastern States Classic champion isn’t one to look ahead, but if seeds hold true Askey, No. 2, could face nationally-ranked and 2019 145-pound state champion A.J. Kovacs of Iona Prep in the final. The two met in last year’s quarterfinal, with Kovacs prevailing 8-5. Askey, who placed fourth last season, seems primed to become Pine Bush’s third state finalist and first since Troy Bouzakis, the school’s only champion (three times) in 1990.
McGinty looks to rekindle state magic
McGinty was one win away from the state 152-pound final last year. The Monroe-Woodbury senior was defeated in overtime in the semifinals and finished fourth. Have to believe McGinty, the second seed who will wrestle at Division I Hofstra, will settle for nothing less than a berth in this weekend’s 160-pound championship. He owns a win over third-seeded Camrin Galvin of Fulton at 160 pounds. Penfield’s Cooper Kropman, who placed second at 160 last season, could be waiting for McGinty in the final.
Ryder ready for another run
Ryder made history last year as the first Section 9 seventh-grade state finalist. Can Ryder (43-3), the fourth seed at 126 pounds, advance to a second state final before he reaches high school? Ryder, the fourth seed, may have to go through two returning medalists in Hilton’s Rocco Camillaci (No. 5 seed) and Port Chester’s Ivan Garcia (No. 1 seed) to win a state championship. Only one section wrestler has won a state title as an eighth-grader – Troy Bouzakis of Pine Bush in 1986.
It’s been 23 years since Middletown sent three wrestlers to the state tournament. Seniors Justin Morales (106), Joe Velazquez (170) and Brian Giacchi are all capable of medaling. Morales, who is making his third state trip, looks to add to his school-record wins total of 155. Velazquez , who placed sixth at the Eastern States Classic, has recorded 25 of his 42 wins by pin. Giacchi has developed a knack for pulling out close matches, winning five of seven matches decided by two points or less.
A first for Palanca?
Ethan Palanca, the 12th seed at 145 pounds, looks to become the first New Paltz wrestler to medal in the Division I (large school) tournament since the state split into two divisions in 2004. Palanca’s three losses have come by a total of eight points, including a one-point setback to Harrison’s Tyler Joseph, the sixth seed. The junior went 1-2 in the state Division II tournament as a freshman.