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4th Annual Linda Knuutila Memorial Wrestling Tournament Roundup

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Cover photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky

The 4th Annual Linda Knuutila Memorial at Niagara County Community College started on Friday, Dec. 15th with the boys' brackets and went through Saturday, Dec. 16th. The 3rd annual girls’ tournament started Saturday and was ran in parallel with day two of the boys’ tournament.


Once again, the boys’ tournament featured a deep field of returning NYS tournament place winners and qualifiers and dozens of sectional champions and place winners.


St. Francis captured the team title with eight top-7 place winners and four finalists including champions Cullen Edwards (108), Griffin LaPlante (152), and Gage LaPlante (170). On Saturday alone, the Red Raiders scored 123 of their 207 team points in a major effort toward the title title.


Gage was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler with a 6-0 record to include three pins, two tech falls (one over another NYS tournament qualifier), and a finals 3-2 decision over Palmyra-Macedon’s (V) stand out Braidon Woodward in a battle of defending Eastern States champions. Gage’s finals victory helped the Red Raiders to outpace P-M 207 to 200.5 points in the final team standings.


Williamsville North/East beat out Niagara Wheatfield for 3rd place in the team scoring with 175.5 points to NW’s 171. North/East crowned two champions in Tanner (101) and Cam (160) Catrabone and landed only three more top-8 place winners including a runner-up at 116. Despite a very rare Falcon-less finals, seven Wheatfield wrestlers placing 3rd-7th helped the team to remain competitive in the final team scoring by the end of the tournament and to just slightly beat out WNY #1 small school Chautauqua Lake (168 points) for 4th place.




A week after an OT heartbreaker in the STWOA final, Williamsville North/East 8th grader Tanner Catrabone defended his top seed at Niagara CCC with a solid performance to win the 101-pound bracket. Tanner earned two pins in the championship rounds and an impressive tech fall in the semifinal to advance to the title match. In the final against 7-seed Tioga (IV) freshman Declan McKee, Catrabone fell behind in the first period taking a 2-1 deficit into the second. A big reversal and near fall points gave Tanner a 6-3 lead going into the final period. With the match score a 7-7 tie, Catrabone got an escape and a critical takedown to secure the lead for good, winning by decision 10-7 for the Knuutila Tournament title.


Impressive Niagara Falls 8th grader 2-seed Cam Crumpler was a 3-1 decision winner over Southwestern sophomore 3-seed Adrian Torres for 3rd place in the bracket. Niagara Wheatfield’s returning sectional place winner Gabriella Barone was unseeded but defeated the 5-seed Zach Didas from Clarence for 5th place with a late pin. Eden’s impressive freshman Mason DellaPenta earned 7th place with an 8-0 major over Lancaster’s unseeded Isaiah Harry.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky



Both Section VI 102-pound champions from last season were on a collision course in the bracket and met in the Saturday final. Top seeded 2023 Section VI Div. II champion and 4th place NYS winner senior JJ Lucinski from Newfane earned two pins and a major decision on the way to the final to meet 2-seeded 2023 Section VI Div. I champion sophomore Cullen Edwards from St. Francis. Edwards went 4-0 in the championship bracket on the way to the final defeating three straight returning sectional place winners up to the title match. In the final between returning state tournament qualifiers, Edwards was an impressive 6-0 winner over Lucinski earning critical team points to capture the 108-pound title. Edwards allowed one single point in the two day tournament and improved to 18-0 on the season.


Returning Section VI Div. II placer 3-seed Gavin Burchanowski from Chautauqua Lake defeated two fellow small school placers to capture 3rd place. The CL sophomore defeated Falconer senior 7-seed Evan Newman, 3-0, before another close win over in-league rival 5-seed Miles Torres from Southwestern, 5-3. In the 3rd place bout, Burchanowksi was a third period winner by pin over 6-seeded returning sectional place winner Reece Senske from Medina. Unseeded Starpoint sophomore Sean McDonald was 5th in the bracket while Newman landed in 7th place. Six of the eight place winners in this bracket represent Section VI Div. II squads.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Top seeded Lewiston-Porter junior Jaron Barrientos earned the Knuutila Memorial 116-pound title with a 5-0 tournament record, three of those wins being hard fought decision victories. Jaron drew a tough first round opponent in Chautauqua Lake’s Thandon Bensink, an unseeded returning Section VI 3rd place winner, but was victorious 12-5 to move on. After a pin in the next round, Barrientos was a winner by tech fall over another returning sectional placer to advance to the semifinal. Tioga’s unseeded sophomore Kadin Cole was 6th in Section IV Div. II last season, but defeated Falconer’s 4-seeded Dylan Newman and Niagara Falls’ 5-seeded Eian Peterson to get wins over two returning state tournament qualifiers to reach the semifinal. In the semi, Barrientos was a 9-5 winner over Cole to advance to the title match.


Williamsville North/East freshman 3-seed Brayden Kellison-Neglia won the Knuutila title a year ago but as a Newfane Panther. New to the Williamsville district this season, Kellison-Neglia made his season debut this weekend and impressed with two strong wins before defeating returning Div. II state tournament finalist Logan Bellis, 11-4, in the semifinal. In the Saturday title match, a rematch of the 2022 Knuutila Tournament final, Barrientos built up a 4-0 lead in the second period after a scoreless first period and would go on to win 5-1 to get revenge for the 2022 102-pound final.


In the wrestle backs, Newman would win five straight matches including a 6-3 decision over Cole to land in the 3rd place match, but fell to Bellis 7-2 in a state tournament level bout. Cole would win 9-4 over Bensink for 5th place for an all-unseeded consolation match, while Grand Island’s 7-seed Zak Massaro, who lost in the very first round, wrestled all the way back to a 7th place finish at 116-pounds.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky



Lewiston senior Caden Barrientos stormed to the Knuutila Tournament title as the 2-seed in the 124-pound bracket. The three time Section VI Div. II place winner earned a pin and two techs and two major decisions in the championship rounds to advance to the title match. Caden was a 13-3 major decision winner over returning sectional 3rd place winner in Niagara Wheatfield’s Muntathar Abbas just in the third round. In the semifinal, Barrientos was an impressive 20-7 major winner over returning Section VI Div. II champion 3-seed Kenji Walters from Southwestern to advance to the final. On the top side of the bracket, 1-seeded NYS 7th place winner sophomore Trevor DellaPenta from Eden cruised past his first four opponents including a 13-2 major decision over Hamburg 4-seed senior and returning sectional 3rd place winner Sam Berti in the semifinal. Berti was a close 4-3 decision winner over fellow returning Div. I 3rd place winner 5-seed Dylan Castiglia from Grand Island in the semifinal for a noteworthy result.


In the 124-pound title bout, Barrientos posted his most impressive result of the tournament with a 10-0 major decision over DellaPenta, taking him down three times in the match and earning two big near fall points in the first period. In the consolation bracket, Walters would earn a 13-1 major decision over Castiglia before holding on for a tight 1-0 victory over Berti to capture 3rd place in the bracket. Amherst 6-seed Joe Magnano would wind up taking 5th in the bracket while Abbas would finish in 7th place over unseeded Frontier 8th grader Balin Ramella with a 7-2 decision in that match.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




The 131-pound Knuutila Tournament final was one of three championship bouts between all-NYS top-8 place winners on Saturday. 3-seeded two-time NYS place winner in Southwestern sophomore Carmine Calimeri cruised past his first two opponents before gutting out three straight decision victories to capture the title. Calimeri defeated fellow 10th grader Brody Heckman from Alexander (V), 11-5, before meeting Wilson’s returning state qualifier 2-seed Victor Cusatis in the semifinal. Cusatis was a 13-7 winner in their first meeting this season in week one, but Carmine was able to get revenge on Saturday with an 8-3 decision to advance to the final. On the top side of the bracket, Tioga’s returning NYS 4th place winner and 1-seed Jayden Duncanson landed in the championship bout with an impressive performance thus far, including a 3-1 victory over teammate Levi Bellis in the semifinal.


In the final, Calimeri would overcome a 1-0 deficit to earn a reversal for a 2-1 lead early in the third period before earning two crucial near fall points to escape with a 4-1 victory over Duncanson for the title and a huge win for his season resume that could have big implications later this season. After falling in the semi, Cusatis would land in the consolation bracket, earning a quality win over Jamestown’s 8-seed Tyler Zwald but falling to Bellis in the 3rd place match. Zwald landed in 5th place in the bracket while Lewiston’s 4-seeded Israel Walker placed 7th in the bracket.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




A bracket heavy with returning state qualifiers and place winners was headlined by two returning NYS Div. II finalists in 1-seed and defending state champion Jordan Joslyn from Chautauqua Lake and 2-seed and returning state runner-up Aidan Gillings from Newfane. Two of the four quarterfinalists on the top side of the bracket were returning state qualifiers while all four wrestlers in the quarters on the bottom side went to states last February, three of them in the Div. I tournament.


In those matches Saturday, Gillings was a winner by pin over Ithaca’s 7-seeded state qualifier Quentin Getzin while Clarence’s 3-seeded AJ Didas earned a huge pin over Eden’s 6-seeded Bryce DellaPenta in a battle of wrestlers with big school state tournament experience. In the semifinal, Gillings would earn a high quality 9-3 decision over Didas to advance to the championship. Meanwhile, on the top side, Joslyn was impressive with a 15-0 tech fall over NW’s 4-seeded returning state qualifier Garrett Chase in the semifinal.


In the final, Joslyn took a 4-3 lead into the second period after getting the match’s only takedown early in the first period. An escape by Joslyn halfway through the second period was the only other point scored in the bout, as the CL senior was able keep Gillings down the entire third period to give up no points and hang on for the 5-3 victory. In the 3rd place match, Didas earned a crucial victory over Chase with a 5-3 sudden OT victory after picking up a quality 3-2 win over 5-seed and returning Pal-Mac Section V place winner Zach Rooks. DellaPenta wrestled back to 7th place defeating unseeded Domanik Clark from Randolph in the placement bout.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Unlike some of the other brackets, the 145-pound bracket was somewhat short on returning wrestlers with state tournament experience with three such athletes, two of whom are returning place winners. 3-seeded Newfane junior and returning NYS 6th place winner Ayden Buttery dominated in the championship bracket earning five straight pins to reach the final. 2-seeded St. Francis sophomore Rory White was upended by Pal-Mac’s returning sectional placer 7-seed Steve Schulz in the quarterfinals, who then fell to Buttery in the semi. Top seeded returning state 6th place winner Deakon Bailey from Tioga met 5-seeded and unbeaten Clarence senior Joey Keller in the semifinal, where Keller was an impressive winner by pin early in the second period to advance to the final. Keller earned a crucial victory over Wheatfield’s 4-seeded returning state qualifier Chase Richards, 3-1, in the quarters which could be very impactful later on this season. Going into the final, Keller was 19-0 with seventeen pins thus far on the season.


In the title bout, Keller would lead Buttery 3-2 with less than thirty seconds remaining in the 1st period, however a reversal to retake the lead by Ayden would be the final lead change of the match as he would go on to win by decision 7-3 for the 145-pound title. Over in the consolation side of the bracket, White would get revenge for the quarterfinal loss with an 8-2 decision victory over Schulz for 3rd place. White also got a huge victory for himself and the team with a 3rd period pin over Bailey in the consolation semifinal. Niagara Falls’ 8-seed senior Vincenzo Falsetti finished 6th in the bracket, while Kenmore’s 6-seed sophomore Sawyer Dickinson landed 7th overall at 145-pounds.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Top seeded Griffin LaPlante accounted for 31 team points for St. Francis on the way to winning the 152-pound bracket. Griffin earned three straight pins before taking down 2022 NYS tournament place winner Tyler Roe from Tioga, 13-6, in the semifinal. LaPlante earned another crucial victory in the final defeating another Section IV NYS tournament qualifier (3x) in Ithaca’s Daniel Parker by major decision, 14-3, in the title match. The 3-seed Parker defeated the 2-seed in Niagara Wheatfield’s state placer Te’Shaun Mathews by a narrow 6-5 decision in the semifinal in a matchup of two returning large school NYS tournament qualifiers that could have implications later on this season. Mathews went on to earn two more pins to claim 3rd in the bracket, earning a huge win by pin over Roe in the consolation final that could be a valuable win for him for postseason considerations.


Iroquois’s 8-seeded junior Brady Wilkinson defeated 5-seeded teammate and returning state tournament qualifier Alex Schiffhauer, 7-4, in the consolation quarterfinal and eventually landed in 6th place in the bracket. Unseeded Falconer junior Charlie Reichenbach earned 7th place in the bracket with 10-4 decision win over Schiffhauer.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Top seeded defending NYS champion Cam Catrabone dominated the field at NCCC over the course of the tournament earning three pins in the championship rounds and a semifinal tech fall over defending Section VI Div. II champion Jacob Stephenson from Wilson to advance to the final. The 5-seed Lakemen junior did however get revenge for an opening week loss in the quarterfinal, defeating North Tonawanda senior 4-seed Dylan Gagnon with a first period pin in a match up of two returning Section VI champions.


On the bottom side of the bracket, 2-seeded Randolph junior Caden Inkley pinned all four of his first opponents to set up a semifinal showdown with McQuaid’s (V) 3-seed Casey Liess. Liess placed 3rd in Section V Div. I a season ago while Inkley was 3rd in Section VI Div. II. Caden was an 8-3 decision winner over Liess on Saturday to set up a finals rematch with Catrabone for the second week in a row; the two met in the STWOA final on Saturday, Dec. 9th. This time however, the Williamsville senior was a winner by pin in the first period for the 160-pound title.


In the consolation bracket, Stephenson had an impressive showing in taking 3rd overall and earning quality wins over Section V opponents. Jacob was a 7-0 decision winner over fellow returning state qualifier in Pal-Mac’s 6-seeded Cody Quick in the consolation semifinal before edging out Liess 5-4 in the bronze match. Gagnon fell to Liess in the other consolation semifinal, 10-5, before dropping a narrow decision to Quick, 4-2, for 5th place. St. Francis’s Brandon Drummond finished 7th in the bracket and Barker/Royalton-Hartland’s Ronan Klug 8th.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky



St. Francis star senior Gage LaPlante cruised into the 170-pound final as the 2-seed in the weight class. LaPlante pinned all three of his first round opponents before an impressive 15-0 tech fall over two time state tournament qualifier Michael Schaefer from Lancaster in the semifinal. 3-seed Schaefer did add a quality win to his resume with a 9-3 victory over fellow returning NYS Div. I tournament qualifier Dikota Hamilton from Ithaca in the quarterfinal round. On the top side of the bracket, 5-seed Southwestern senior Neves Hoose continued to impress this season with a late 3rd period pin over returning state tournament qualifier Joe Cicco from Niagara Wheatfield to advance to the semifinal. Ultimately, Hoose would fall to top seeded Pal-Mac senior Braidon Woodward, a two time state place winner and defending Eastern States champion.


The title match between LaPlante and Woodward would put two of New York’s best against one another; both own state place finishes, are defending Eastern States champions, are the current ‘favorites’ to win NYS titles this season, and are both committed to Division I collegiate programs. Woodward won their meeting this summer at the Nickel City Duals in June. However, this time LaPlante would get the crucial first takedown in the opening period to take a 2-1 lead into the second period. An escape by Gage in the second made it a 3-1 match, and an escape by Woodward would make it 3-2 in the 3rd period but LaPlante would hold on for the win, helping the Raiders to the team title while winning MOW honors. Gage, as well as Lancaster's Schaefer, each picked up their 100th career pins at NCCC.


On the consolation side, round two of Hoose v. Cicco in the 3rd place match would result in a narrow 7-6 win for the Trojan, who also earned another crucial win for his resume in the consolation semifinal, taking down Hamilton 6-5. Hamilton landed 5th place overall, Schaefer 6th. Unseeded Amherst senior Killian Simonson claimed 7th place with a 5-2 decision over fellow unseeded Evan Braunscheidel from Hamburg.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Defending NYS Div. II champion Tavio Hoose from Southwestern captured his second straight Knuutila Tournament title on Saturday behind an impressive showing in the first three rounds and close decision wins in the semi and final. On the bottom side of the bracket, St. Francis sophomore standout 2-seed Zach Caldwell met senior teammate 3-seed Connor Miller in the semifinal, out dueling his Red Raider counterpart 3-1 in overtime. Hoose edged out 5-seed returning Section V place winner Luke Van Gorden from Pal-Mac, 7-6, in the semifinal which could have previewed a possible rematch later on this season in Albany should both wrestlers make it to the state tournament.


The Hoose/Caldwell final was a rematch of the recent STWOA final where Tavio was an 8-1 winner at Jamestown CC. Caldwell was able to make things a little closer on Saturday at NCCC, but Hoose held on to win 3-0 for the 190-pound title between two of the top 10th graders in NYS.


In the consolation bracket, Van Gorden would defeat 4-seeded fellow state tournament hopeful Jayden Malecki from Chautauqua Lake, 3-0, in the 3rd place match. Malecki did earn a quality win over Miller, 4-3, to advance to the consolation final. Miller went on to claim 5th place in the bracket while Lockport’s Liam Whalen was 6th. Niagara Wheatfield’s 8-seed Iain O’Donnell landed 7th place in the bracket.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




Unseeded McQuaid senior Harrison Aquirre defeated the 2, 3, and 4 seeds on the way to the 215-pound Knuutila title on Saturday. Harrison was 3rd at this tournament a season ago before taking 3rd in Section V Div. I in the postseason. Aquirre took down 2-seeded returning state qualifier Jared Haers from Pal-Mac, 7-2, in the quarterfinal before defeating returning Chautauqua Lake state qualifier 3-seed Mason Maring, 5-2, in the semifinal. Lafayettte/Buffalo Public School’s Kahmari Cook earned the 4-seed in the bracket and earned two quick pins before taking down NW returning sectional 6th place winner 5-seed John Fike with a first period pin the quarterfinal. Cook then met top seeded returning NYS 3rd place winner Trevor Barry from Iroquois in a matchup of highly regarded local gridiron stars, winning by pin at the very end of the second period. Barry did however bow out of the competition due to injury following the match.


In the title bout, a 3-3 tie match in which both Aquirre and Cook earned one takedown and escape each, went into overtime. Aquirre earned a takedown with around only twenty seconds remaining in the first OT period for the 5-3 sudden victory.


On the consolation side, Maring earned a crucial victory over Haers, 6-3, to claim 3rd place in the bracket and add that important victory to his season resume. Maring was also a 6-3 consolation semifinal winner over Fike, gathering up another quality head to head win. Fike would land 5th place in the bracket overall. Unseeded St. Francis senior Jack Coughlin was a winner by pin over Amherst senior Josh Knobloch for 7th place at 215-pounds.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky




The heavyweight Knuutila Memorial final featured two wrestlers with state tournament experience with a head to head result fresh from last February. Top seeded NYS 8th place finisher Wilson junior Hamza Merrick reached the final with three championship round wins including a crucial pin over fellow returning state tournament qualifier 5-seed Bryce Hawes from Clarence in the semifinal. In the lower part of the bracket returning state qualifier 2-seed Luke Herendeen from Pal-Mac reached the final with an opening round pin and then three straight close decisions including a 3-0 victory over 6-seed returning Section VI 3rd place winner Max Smith from Williamsville North/East in the semifinal. Smith did earn a high quality win over Chautauqua Lake’s returning state qualifier 3-seed Ison Shirley, 4-3, in the quarterfinal on Saturday.


In the final, Herendeen would capture the 285-pound title with a 7-3 decision over Merrick, avenging an 8-2 loss to Hamza from the 2023 state tournament blood round and possibly setting up another big rematch late this season should both wrestlers make it back to Albany.


Unseeded Pioneer junior Chris Howatt landed 3rd place in the deep heavyweight bracket with Shirley coming in 4th, Smith 5th, Hawes 6th, and unseeded CL freshman Walter Lukasiak was 7th, defeating 7-seed Kenmore senior Hezekiah Mercado, 5-1, in the finale.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky

4th Annual Linda Knuutila Memorial Wrestling Tournament top-15 team scores (out of 43 teams):


1. St. Francis 207

2. Palmyra-Macedon (V) 200.5

3. Williamsville North/East 175.5

4. Niagara Wheatfield 171

5. Chautauqua Lake 168

6. Tioga (IV) 159

7. Southwestern 142

8. Clarence 109

9. Falconer 105.5

9. Newfane 105.5

11. Amherst 103.5

12. Lewiston-Porter 86.5

13. Niagara Falls 82

14. Ithaca (IV) 77.6

15. Eden 75.5

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