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ECIC I Wrestling Preview

The growing strength of this league has certainly not gone unnoticed over the last three years. The top five teams in ECIC I all won twelve or more duals and were all Section VI Duals-worthy teams as four of them (Lancaster, Clarence, Frontier, and Orchard Park) received invitations. The league returns three Section VI champions and eight more sectional runners-up compared to five returning sectional champions and one runner-up for the Niagara County large schools. The competitive standard appears to have risen in ECIC I wrestling, and the 2019-2020 season should prove that even more.

Clarence Red Devils

Head coach: Jason Chase

2018-2019 results: 7-0 league record, 18-2 overall, ECIC Division I champion, ECIC tournament team champion, Section VI Class AA tournament champion, #2 WNY Athletics final large school ranking, #22 New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) final large school ranking

Key losses: Garrett Jason, Quinten Burke, Jonathan White, Nate Prelewicz, Mackenzie Rider

Key returners: Aiden Rabideau, Jack Feltz, Marquise Carnes, Caleb Krantz, Ian Howell, Nate Matteson, Jon Pallozzi, Jake Slowinski, Juan Santiago

The expectation for Clarence Red Devils wrestling in any given season is to win the league title, beat Lancaster, win the Duals, etc, and this season will be no different. Coach Chase loses five of his fourteen Class AA place winners to graduation, mostly from the upper weights part of the lineup. However, five wrestlers return with Section VI Division I placements on their resumes. The key Red Devils returners could very well fill the lineup from the lower weights right up to 170-pounds with few, if any, gaps in between. Keep in mind this team was the #1 seed for the Section VI Duals that unfortunately had to be cancelled last winter too. Aiden Rabideau, now a senior, has already claimed a handful of program records and has two Section VI titles and three trips to the state tournament under his belt. As the top wrestler in this lineup, Rabideau will of course be expected to lead the Devils this winter as he seeks to take back a sectional title and place in Albany.

Lancaster Legends

Head coach: Ron Lorenz

2018-2019 results: 6-1 league, 11-3 overall, ECIC I runner-up, Section VI Class AA 3rd place team, #3 WNY Athletics final large school, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final large school ranking

Key losses: Nick Barberio, Brandon Goodwin

Key returners: Ryan Stencel, Myles Gronowski, Codie Scotland, Mike Schaefer, Josh Jelonek, Camden Smith, Thomas Carlsen, Will Sundell, Cody Phillips, Dan Empfield

Much like their neighbors to the north, the Legends carry league, class, and sectional championship expectations every year. After graduating three Section VI champions at the end of the previous season, the 2018-2019 Legends finished very strong and had all the momentum leading up to the Duals. It’s no secret that Lancaster wrestlers are well coached and supported under Coach Lorenz and their success against a difficult schedule each season is evidence of that. Only two class place winners graduated from this squad in the spring, and six state qualifier placers will anchor this team led by Mike Schaefer (8th grade, 3rd in 2018), Myles Gronowski (10, section finalist), Codie Scotland (12, section finalist), and Ryan Stencel who is in his final season with two Section VI titles, three trips to Albany, and a 5th place NYS place finish last February on his resume. The Legends will also benefit from the return of sophomore Trevor Sheehan, who as an 8th grader earned fifteen varsity wins for Lancaster and then placed 3rd at the CHSAA state tournament representing St. Mary’s last season. The late January clash with Clarence in Lancaster is already gaining a lot of hype and has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. Keep in mind the home team has won in each of the last four editions of the Border War.

Hamburg Bulldogs

Head coach: Ken Schmitz

2018-2019 results: 4-2 league, 14-5 overall, ECIC I 3rd place, #8 WNY Athletics final large school ranking

Key losses: Joe Schaffer, Gabe Mastrangelo

Key returners: Ryan Forrest, Devin Collins, Dylan Collins, John Haberman, Luke Smeader, Jon Bennett

First year head coach Ken Schmitz takes over the Bulldogs this season as Ken Meyer stepped down after the 2018-2019 campaign. The ‘Dawgs placed 3rd in ECIC I last season for the fourth straight year. To replace their two graduated primary contributors and bring others up to speed to fill weight classes, it will be interesting to see whether Hamburg can take a step forward this season or at least keep their spot in the top three of the league. Where the Bulldogs lack experience they will make up in firepower with three returning sectional finalists in Devin Collins, John Haberman, and Ryan Forrest who earned an at-large qualification to Albany last winter. 9th grader Luke Smeader and junior Jon Bennett also return with sectional place finishes from a season ago as well. Had the Bulldogs applied for entry last season they would’ve been included in the eight-team Division I field, so here’s to hoping seeing Hamburg back at the Duals in January. Perhaps don’t blink, much less sleep, on the Bulldogs…

Frontier Falcons

Head coach: Jon Chowske

2018-2019 results: 3-3 league, 14-10 overall, ECIC I 4th place, Honorable Mention WNY Athletics final large school ranking

Key losses: Max Flemming

Key returners: Dylan Wojciechowski, Travis Browning, Owen Weller, Luke Vantresca, Adam Kowalski, Alex Kowalski, Jacob Petricca, Timothy Cordwell, Brandon Heary, Konrad Kryszton

If there has been a year so far for the Frontier Falcons under Jon Chowske to upset the established powers in the league and Section, this could be it. Ten of eleven Class AA place winners return this winter, including five Section VI place winners. Returning sectional finalist Travis Browning had a strong finish last season and will anchor the lineup in the lower weights. Senior Dylan Wojciechowski was a sectional title hopeful last season but had to settle for third at 170-pounds. He should bookend a middle weight lineup that placed seven wrestlers at Class AA between 120 and 170-pounds, four of which placed at the qualifier. The most important part of the equation: they’re all seniors. Keep a close eye on what could be Chowske’s best team to date.

Orchard Park Quakers

Head coach: Jared Teal

2018-2019 results: 2-4 league, 12-8 overall, ECIC I 5th place, Honorable Mention WNY Athletics final large school ranking

Key losses: Blake Harlock

Key returners: Mike Pataky, Matt Wagner, Simon Cuvelle, Brody Banks, Matt Keane, Lucas Schaffer, Brett Santarelli, Trevor Logada, Matthew Baksa

The Quakers continued to climb the ladder in 2018-2019 and, after taking only one big loss at graduation, should continue to do so this winter. Head coach Jared Teal has completely turned this program around over the last two years. The Quakers are primed to beat someone they shouldn’t…perhaps that will be sooner rather than later. Teal boasts returning sectional champion Mike Pataky, who, back in February, became the first Quaker to win a Section VI title in fourteen years. Joining Pataky in the upper weights will be returning Class AA champion Matt Wagner. While Pataky and Wagner anchor the top of the lineup, six wrestlers who placed either 5th or 6th between 99 and 170-pounds in the class should support throughout the rest of the lineup. The Quakers wrestled their league schedule tough last season, and a full lineup was a huge reason why OP earned the success they did. Another full lineup and year of experience for both the wrestlers and staff make Orchard Park a dangerous team in 2019-2020.

West Seneca West/East Indians

Head coach: Dave Recor

2018-2019 results: 1-5 league, 8-14 overall, 6th place ECIC I

Key losses: Paul Cantafio, Nick Campanella, Jonathan Gillis, Jacob Mancuso, Kyle Bauer, Kyle Farr, Corey Snyder, Dan Cantafio

Key returners: Marco Fuoco

Unfortunately for Coach Recor and the combined West/East team, 2019 graduation was not kind. Eight of the nine Class AA place winners have moved on since spring, five of which were state qualifier place winners. Marco Fuoco is the lone returning place winner after having been an AA runner-up and 6th in the section at 132-pounds a year ago. However, the District should know that their program will always be in good hands as long as Dave Recor is the head coach.

Williamsville North/East Spartans

Head coach: Mickey Moran

2018-2019 results: 2-4 league, 3-10 overall, ECIC I 7th place

Key returners: Cam Catrabone, Mike Catanzaro, Ryan Venohr, Zach Dellinger, Brenden Dellinger, Mitch Kelly

The good news for Williamsville heading into the new season is that they didn’t lose any seniors who were major contributors to graduation in the spring. However, they only return six Class AA place winners and only three state qualifier placers. In Mickey Moran’s first season as head coach, the Spartans were competitive in nearly all of their duals, conceding very few – if any – forfeits, suggesting what was a very young team, but one that can be coached. Moran and his team of assistants have been very busy with the offseason program this summer and will expect this squad to take a big forward step in the winter. Defending Section VI 99-pound champion Cam Catrabone (8th grade) and defending 126-pound champion Mike Catanzaro (junior) are the stars of this lineup and two of the top wrestlers in the area. Class AA 285-pound champion Ryan Venohr adds much needed experience in the upper weights. This trio will be expected to shoulder the load for the Spartans in all three areas of the fifteen-man lineup.

Jamestown Red Raiders

Head coach: Jamie Bloomquist

2018-2019 results: 0-6 league, 2-9 overall, ECIC I 8th place

Key losses: Jomar Medero-Montanez

Key returners: Dwayne Hannold, Ben Schrader

After an uncharacteristically bad year for the Red Raiders, Coach Bloomquist will look to get this team back on track. Given the rich tradition of Jamestown Wrestling, there should be no doubts that a return to greatness is never out of the question. Senior Dwayne Hannold placed 4th in both AA and the state qualifier in February. Senior Ben Schrader also returns with a class place finish on his resume.

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