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CCAA Div. I Wrestling Preview

Will anybody in the league be able to stop Falconer in 2018-2019? The Golden Falcons have been the class of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association (CCAA) Div. I for seven straight seasons, posting a 41-1 league record since the 2011-2012 season and only sharing the Div. I title once in 2014-2015.

As a league, the CCAA Div. I was strong in 2017-2018 as dual meet teams and in individual performances. Olean and Falconer represented the division at the Duals, with Falconer coming away with the Section VI Dual Meet championship. The top three teams in the league landed in the final NYSSWA team ranking. Five CCAA Div. I wrestlers placed at the state tournament including a champion.

Falconer will need to find a way to make up points after losing three state tournament reps. The Olean Huskies return a handful of talent and may be best suited to upend the Golden Falcons this season. Don’t forget about the talent returning in Chautauqua Lake and Fredonia. The league championship could come down to Wednesday night January 23rd when the Huskies visit the Golden Falcons for a CCAA Div. I dual. Perhaps more than two CCAA Div. I teams could represent the league at the Section VI Duals. All four of the league’s top teams competed in the first Duals two seasons ago. No matter what, the CCAA is always a grind and home to some of the proudest wrestling traditions in NYS.

Falconer Golden Falcons – Class C/D

2017-2018 resume: 1st place CCAA I (6-0 in league), Section VI Class C champion, Section VI Div. II Dual Meet champion, NYSSWA #11 ranked small school

No matter what year it is and how many they’ve graduated or how little they bring back you cannot take the Falconer Golden Falcons lightly. This program has proven time and time again that it is a premier wrestling program in New York State. Falconer is combined with Cassadaga Valley again in 2018-2019.

Three Golden Falcons with multiple sectional titles and state place finishes graduated last spring. Defending Section VI champion Robbie Penhollow will be the ‘hammer’ in the upper half of head coach Drew Wilcox’s lineup. Twelve wrestlers with class tournament experience return, ten of whom are place winners. Only three qualifier place winners are back. Class C finalist and Section VI place winner Jimmy Kramer is back for this senior season as well after missing most of last year recovering from injury.

Falconer should be an early season favorite to defend their league, class, and Section VI Duals titles. With the reorganization of the classes in the off season, Falconer will now compete against the likes of defending Class D champion Chautauqua Lake and three-time defending CCAA Div. II champion Randolph in Class C. Class C now has sixteen teams, a mix of formerly ‘Class D’ and C schools.

Olean/Allegany Limestone Huskies – Class A

2017-2018 resume: 2nd place CCAA I (5-1 league), 3rd place Class B tournament, Section VI Div. II Duals participant, NYSSWA Honorable Mention

Big change came to the Huskies this off season as the new BEDS formula rule for combined teams moved Olean, who has athletes from Allegany-Limestone, firmly into Division 1, Class A for the 2018-2019 season. The Huskies are the only non-ECIC or Niagara-Frontier League team in large schools.

Olean returns seven state qualifier place winners including 3rd placers Nick Bierfeldt and Patrick Walsh. Both went to Albany on at-large berths. Walsh took 6th in the state in Division 2 at 182-pounds. The Huskies head coach is Mike O’Connor.

Here’s a scary statistic: 14 of the 15 Class B tournament entries from last season return in 2018-2019. Five are seniors. Nine are Class B place winners, including defending champions Bierfeldt and Walsh. Seven of them placed in the state qualifier. With this kind of experienced firepower back, Olean may very well start the season 20-0 for the second year in a row. It will be interesting to see if Olean, a traditionally Division 2 school, can do some damage in the large school ranks at the Duals (should they of course qualify for it). A Class A tournament showdown with NFL powers Grand Island and Niagara-Wheatfield will be interesting as well.

Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds – Class C/D

2017-2018 resume: 3rd place CCAA I (5-2 league), Section VI Class D champions, NYSSWA Honorable Mention

The Thunderbirds enjoyed late season success as they won the Class D title, crowned four champions, placed six at the qualifier, crowned a Section VI champion, sent three to the state tournament, and watched as Bryce Rowe became the programs’ first state champion.

Five state qualifier place winners return for new head coach Ken Rowe including Section VI champion Brendon Ramsey and sectional finalist and state wildcard Ben Szymanowski. Nine total Class D entries return. Technically, Chautauqua Lake is combined with Westfield and Panama.

Chautauqua Lake didn’t compete at the Duals last season, but will look to get back as they did compete in 2016-2017. Since Class D was reorganized as ‘Class C/D,’ the Thunderbirds will have to compete with the likes of defending Class C Champion Falconer in order to defend their class championship.

Fredonia Hillbillies – Class B

2017-2018 resume: 4th place CCAA I (3-3 league), 3rd place Class C tournament

The 2018-2019 Hillbillies team consists of wrestlers from Fredonia, Silver Creek, Brocton, Forestville, and Pine Valley and will compete in Class B this season. Twelve wrestlers return from a team that finished 3rd in Class C a year ago and features seven place winners including two champions in Giovanni Russo and Brandon Wallace. Three placed at the state qualifier led by Russo who was a finalist at 138-pounds and earned a wildcard to the state tournament. Two more Hillbillies placed at the qualifier.

Out of the twelve returning Class C competitors, ten are underclassmen still. Head coach Joe Santillli returns an underclassman at every weight from 160 to 285-pounds. And, two-time Section VI champion Dalton Gardner should be ready to return from injury that kept him out all of the second half of last season. Gardner and Russo will be a tough duo in the middle of that lineup. Keep an eye on Fredonia to make some noise in the league and class and to make a run at an invite back to the Duals.

Southwestern Trojans – Class C/D

2017-2018 resume: 5th place CCAA Div. I (2-4 league), 3rd place Class D tournament

Only one Trojan entered in the Class D tournament graduated and that was NYS 3rd place finisher Giuseppe Hoose. Ten returning Trojans placed in that tournament including class champions Garrett Swan and Michael Carnes who both placed 3rd at 106 and 113-pounds, respectively, at the state qualifier.

Southwestern is another example of a CCAA team that returns a plethora of talent that may cause problems for the favorites in the league and class in 2018-2019. Nine out of ten returning class place winners are still underclassmen. A run a Duals invitation might be on the agenda for head coach Mark Arnold’s Trojans.

Gowanda Panthers – Class C/D

2017-2018 resume: 6th place CCAA I (1-5 league), 5th place Class D tournament

The Panthers placed nine wrestlers at the Class D tournament. Five of them placed third. Sophomore David Ball was the runner up at 99-pounds and placed 4th in Section VI. Four of the nine placers graduated in the spring. The good news is that the remaining five place winners including Ball have at least another two years to build a team around themselves since all five are underclassmen. The new head coach of the Panthers is Ray Logan.

Dunkirk Marauders – Class B

2017-2018 resume: 7th place CCAA I (0-6 league), 12th place Class B tournament

Things can only go up for the young Marauders squad. Eleven underclassmen competed in last year’s Class B tournament. Only one senior returns to a lineup that placed five wrestlers, the highest being junior Angel Carabello who placed 4th at 170-pounds. There is potential for this young team not only this season but in 2019-2020 as well. New head coach Isaiah Rashad takes over the Marauders this season.

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