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Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division I Wrestling Preview

The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association (CCAA) Division I wrestling league experienced another banner year in 2018-2019 crowning six Section VI champions, sending two teams to the NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championships, qualifying three teams for the Section VI Duals, and seeing its top four teams end up in the final New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) final state rankings. Falconer asserted themselves as the class of the league once again as no team got closer than a seventeen-point team score difference, ultimately pushing their league title streak to eight and now approaching 50 league wins in under a decade. However, challengers will always arise and this year is no different. Could Falconer be on top again come January, or could the Section’s longest league title streak come to an end? All signs point to another highly competitive year in CCAA Div. I.

Falconer Golden Falcons

Head coach: Drew Wilcox

2018-2019 results: 6-0 league, 28-2 overall, CCAA Div. I champion, Class C/D tournament champion, #1 WNY Athletics final small school ranking, #3 NYSSWA final small school ranking, NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championship small school final four team

Key losses: Robbie Penhollow, Jimmy Kramer, Nick Saeger, Grant Cheney, Tony Fiasco

Key returners: Brayden Newman, Austin Chase, Joey Pillittieri, Hunter Teboe, Mack Mikula, Bryce Baglia, Brock Johnson, Hudson Johnson, Collin Mower, Collin Beichner

New year, same expectations for one of Upstate New York’s most consistent wrestling programs. Ten of their 15 Class C/D place winners should be back this winter, seven of whom placed at the Division II state qualifier. One of their four sectional finalists return this season in junior Brayden Newman who won the 99-pound class title. Three more wrestlers with divisional 3rd places return in Bryce Baglia, Hudson Johnson, and Collin Beichner. What Falconer lost at graduation however will be difficult to replicate immediately. Most notably, state champion Robbie Penhollow, NYS 6th place finisher Jimmy Kramer, and state tournament wildcard Nick Saeger accounted for over 150 combined wins last winter and were relied on and expected to earn pins in dual meets. Without a doubt, Coach Wilcox will be looking for someone to step into that leadership void should the Golden Falcons plan on returning to the NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championships for the third consecutive year. A word of warning to Falconer though: low graduation losses and returning talent among their league, class, and dual meet rivals could make things uncomfortable for Falconer where last year they found overwhelming success…

Olean Huskies

Head coach: Mike O’Connor

2018-2019 results: 5-1 league, 21-3 overall, CCAA Div. I 2nd place, #7 WNY Athletics final large school ranking, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final large school ranking, NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championship large school participant

Key losses: Nick Bierfeldt, Kyle Ligouri, Icar Simon, Devan Moore, Pat Walsh, Tanner Hulse

Key returners: Nate Gabler, Connor Boser, Gavin Kulp, Jeremiah Crivelli, Connor Walsh, Anthony Addotta

The Huskies were hit hard, possibly the hardest, at graduation losing six seniors who between them accounted for six Class A places last season, five state qualifier places, and a two-time state tournament place winner in Pat Walsh. The senior class was strong enough to help earn Olean the #1 seed at the Section VI Duals for the second straight year (despite a lineup with a few forfeits) and make it to Syracuse to represent the Section at the Dual Meet Championships. And, Olean had a chance to square off with area large schools for the first time in a while since the merger and BEDS formula with Allegany-Limestone placed them in Division I. The well coached and traditionally strong Huskies should never be taken lightly, and this season they should return six Class A placers with two wrestlers having placed at the divisional tournament. Junior Connor Walsh won the Class A title but had to settle for 3rd in the section last season at 195-pounds while senior Gavin Kulp fell in the class final and wrestled back to 3rd at the qualifier as well. Don’t expect this year’s squad to hang their hats on the losses at graduation; the expectations for Huskies Wrestling remain the same.

Fredonia Hillbillies

Head coach: Joe Santilli

2018-2019 results: 4-2 league, 14-6 overall, CCAA Div. I 3rd place, #4 WNY Athletics final small school ranking, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final small school ranking

Key losses: Giovani Russo, Brandon Wallace, Jamison Horch

Key returners: Dalton Gardner, Ceric Kristan, Jake Skinner, Hunter Larson, Cole Golembieski, Alex Christy, Lucas Hoffman

The Hillbillies made a nice jump forward last season as they try to climb back to the top of the small school food chain in WNY wrestling. Fredonia had finished essentially smack dab in the middle of the league standings in each of the past years going back to the 2012-2013 season. Even though a 3rd place standing doesn’t seem like a huge increase, a narrow two-point loss to Olean, a close six-point loss to Pioneer (sans-Russo), a few solid dual wins, and three state tournament representatives later and Fredonia ended up with a really nice season. Fredonia landed back in Class B and placed ten wrestlers there with eight placing at the state qualifier, crowning two champions. Junior Ceric Kristan punched his ticket to Albany with this first sectional title while Dalton Gardner fell in the divisional final but earned a wildcard to states, placing 4th at 138-pounds. Gardner has to be in the state champion conversation in whatever weight he wrestles this season. Sectional finalist and gridiron star Jake Skinner will be eyeing his shot to make it Albany this winter as well. And, as if there wasn’t enough returning firepower already, defending Section VI champion David Ball made the jump over from Gowanda in the off-season. The addition of Ball immediately helps bolster the lower part of this lineup which only placed three wrestlers between 99 and 132-pounds at Class B, two of whom graduated. Consider Fredonia to be a threat for league, class, and duals honors.

Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds

Head coach: Eric Rowe

2018-2019 results: 2-3 league, 8-9 overall, CCAA Div. I 4th place, #6 WNY Athletics final small school ranking, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final small school ranking

Key losses: Austin Bourgeois, Ben Szymanowski, Derek Ecklund

Key returners: Martin Ohlsson, Jayden Malecki, Trent Burchanowski, Jack Bourgeois, Wyatt Meeder, Hunter Harris, Brendon Rowe, Brendon Ramsey, Zach Wolcott, Collin Genthner

Despite all of the talent on this roster, the Thunderbirds still suffered a little bit last season with having to concede a few forfeits which proved to be the difference maker in a handful of very close losses. In spite of the sub .500 record, this team landed at #6 in the final WNY Athletics final ranking and an HM in the NYSSWA final ranking given a handful of nice wins, strength of schedule, and a lineup full of quality wrestlers. Thirteen T-birds placed at Class C/D with seven placing in Division II. Losing two-time state tournament wildcard Szymanowski will certainly take a toll on the already thin upper weights. A packed house of lightweights will have hopefully grown in the off-season to help fill all of the weights at least in the lower part of the lineup. In the four weights between 99 and 120-pounds, ‘Lake placed six wrestlers in Class C/D, two of whom in Martin Ohlsson and Trent Burchanowski placed at sectionals. In spite of somewhat of an up and down 2018-2019 season, 2017-2018 Section VI champion Brendon Ramsey finished a strong 3rd place at the state qualifier but just slightly missed an at-large. With a few more years of experience, Ramsey, now only a junior, could be the rock in the middle of the lineup that this team needs.

Southwestern Trojans

Head coach: Mark Arnold

2018-2019 results: 2-3 league, 3-4 overall, CCAA Div. I 5th place

Key returners: Garrett Swan, Michael Carnes, Dagon Bryant, Tatyn Bryant, Dontae Hoose

A handful of quality wrestlers had great individual performances for the Trojans last winter, however a lineup with a lot of forfeits took a toll on their dual meet record. All five of their Class C/D placers return this season, four of whom placed at the state qualifier. Class champions Garrett Swan and Dagon Bryant should be standouts for a small group of wrestlers looking to have strong individual performances. Keep an eye on sophomore Dontae Hoose, who as a freshman at 195-pounds finished 3rd in Section VI behind only two seniors, one of whom was a state champion.

Gowanda Panthers

Head coach: Ray Logan

2018-2019 results: 1-5 league, 6-14 overall, CCAA Div. I 6th place

Key losses: David Ball

Key returners: Maddox Browning, Ethan Fort, Dominick Rodriguez

Four Panthers placed in Class C/D and without Ball who moved over to Fredonia, the three remainders all return with each placing 4th or higher in the class, at the very least a positive place to start. Ethan Fort was a class runner-up and returns as the highest postseason placer. Throughout the roster as whole only one senior was listed last year while the Panthers did feature a small group of underclassmen who saw meaningful time on the mat. In early dual tournaments like the Queen City Southtowns Duals and Springville Duals, Coach Logan’s squad showed signs of progress and steps toward improvement in wrestling some very quality teams tough. Despite the loss of their best wrestler, Gowanda could use last year’s early season slate as a stepping stone into this season.

Dunkirk Marauders

Head coach: Sal Flores

2018-2019 results: 0-6 league, 0-6 overall, CCAA Div. I 7th place

A very small group of mostly 8th, 9th, and 10th graders with little experience and two seniors made up the roster for the 2018-2019 Marauders. In spite of the youth and far less than full lineup, Dunkirk met the obligations to their league in wrestling all six of their CCAA I duals even though highly over matched against the top teams in the division. Hopefully, the underclassmen of last year’s team with the support of the Dunkirk wrestling community will rally this program back to relevancy in the near future. Sal Flores takes over as head coach after having been a part of the program for a number of years.

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