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ECIC III Wrestling Preview

There was a new league champion of the ECIC III division last season for the first time in four years. Tonawanda, who shared the league title with Eden in 2014-2015, outright won the league title with a perfect 7-0 division record in 2018-2019. Now, head coach Dan Bishop and his Warriors lose a main rival in East Aurora to ECIC II but will have to defend their title against the likes of Eden, who returns a lot of talent, as well as the Iroquois Chiefs who fall into the division following the new Depew and Alden merger. Overall, 2018-2019 was good to this league as a handful of programs undergoing needed rehabilitations got numbers up and with it the level of competition. Also, for the first time in the three years of the Section VI Duals, two ECIC III teams earned invitations to the event (Tonawanda and East Aurora).

Tonawanda Warriors

Head coach: Dan Bishop

2018-2019 results: 7-0 league, 8-7 overall, ECIC III champion, #8 WNY Athletics final small school ranking

Key losses: Zach Braddell

Key returners: Jason Frazer, Nick Szortyka, Caden Herman, Joshua Fischer, Colin Zientara

Zach Braddell was on the last team to capture a league title four years ago, and as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Tonawanda Warrior history, he helped bring one more back before graduating in the spring. The shoes that Braddell leaves to be filled are huge, to the tune of over 200 wins, four Section VI titles, and three NYS place finishes. However, the void that a wrestler like him leaves is always an opportunity for someone else to step up. Defending Section VI Division II 182-pound champion and gridiron star Jason Frazer and sectional third place winner Nick Szortyka will be the key pieces in the lineup this season that returns four Class B placers three state qualifier placers. Junior Colin Zientara also returns having placed 6th in Class B but having a very strong day at the state qualifier placing 4th at 160-pounds last February. The Warriors will be tested immediately to start the season when they host their own dual meet tournament; last year’s event set a tone early that had a ripple effect right through January.

Iroquois Chiefs

Head coach: Jimmy Kloc

2018-2019 results: 6-1 league, 14-2 overall, ECIC II 2nd place, Section VI Class B tournament champion, #3 WNY Athletics final small school ranking, #24 New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) final small school ranking

Key losses: Cory Day, Jake Vergien, Tyler Almeter

Key returners: Donovan Bukaczeski, Michael Schiffhauer, Peter Gaglio, Ryan Sweeney, Jake Jozwiak, Tristan DeGrace, Tyler Barry, Ryan Current, Gage Schoewe

The 2018-2019 Chiefs lost two matches all season (to the first and second ranked small school teams) and earned the third seed at the Duals. First year head coach Jimmy Kloc inherits one of the best returning rosters in the entire Section this season, despite not having state champion Cory Day back. Nine Class B place winners return in this lineup, all of whom placed 5th or better. Seven state qualifier place winners return as well, including finalist and state tournament wildcard Donovan Bukaczeski. Ryan Sweeney was also a sectional finalist last season but barely missed an at-large berth to states. With as good as this lineup is with all of the returning stars, Jake Jozwiak is the only senior of the group. The expectations are always high for Iroquois Chiefs wrestling, and this season should be no different, especially given that one of the Chiefs’ all-time greats is now head coach. The firepower returning at Iroquois should make them an early favorite for the league title and to make a potential run at a Section VI Dual Meet championship.

Eden Raiders

Head coach: Tom Page

2018-2019 results: 4-2 league, 12-8 overall, ECIC III 3rd place, Honorable Mention WNY Athletics final small school ranking

Key returners: Giovanni Schifano, Colby Mann, Blake Colantino, Connor Gleason, Austin Sroda, Alex Millspaugh, Jake Bainski, Charlie Paszk, Shane Walczyk

An Eden team that gave up as many as four forfeits in dual meets last year still managed twelve wins, a third-place finish in the league, and an Honorable Mention designation in the final small school ranking last winter. Not bad considering those forfeits. Everyone knows that if anyone at all can do it, Coach Page always seems to maximize his wrestlers’ abilities and it shows every season with technically sound Eden Raiders on the mat. Make sure to keep an eye on this team that lost no seniors from a squad that placed eight wrestlers in the Class C/D tournament and three at the state qualifier, including sectional finalist and state tournament wildcard Giovanni Schifano. The expectations on Schifano individually will be just as high for him as the leader of this team this winter.

Maryvale Flyers

Head coach: Dale Striker

2018-2019 results: 3-4 league, 6-15 overall, ECIC III 4th place

Key losses: Kyle Myers, Darius Fritts, Austin Majewski

Key returners: Nick Freyburger, Paul Donohue, Jaedon Bice

After fielding a full lineup in 2017-2018, the 18-19 Flyers had to juggle a handful of forfeits in the lineup and now depart with three seniors who placed in the Class B tournament. With the movement of Pioneer to ECIC II, Maryvale was one of those ECIC III squads hopeful to make a real run at the league title. Though not without effort, they fell short of the league’s second and third place teams by only twelve and thirteen points, respectively. Senior Nick Freyburger is the top returning place winner from last season. Another top four finish in the league isn’t out of the question for Maryvale, and they will surely have a home date with Union Road rival Cheektowaga circled on the calendar after the Warriors surprised them 39-33 last January.

Cheektowaga Warriors

Head coach: Matt Haberl

2018-2019 results: 3-3 league, 3-8 overall, ECIC III 5th place

Key losses: Tyler Le, Austin Silwinski

The Warriors struggled with forfeits in 2018-2019 but had solid individual performances from Tyler Le and Austin Silwinski, both of whom have graduated. With the loss of Le and Silwinski, the team losses their only Class B and state qualifier placers from last season. Although they didn’t have a great dual season, an early January win over in-town rival Maryvale took the Flyers by surprise and gave Cheektowaga some bragging rights over a local rival. Hopefully this winter, a young athlete will take to heart the veteran leadership and guidance of Coach Haberl who will do nothing but coach them to their absolute potential.

Lackawanna Steelers

Head coach: Abdulgawi Mohamed

2018-2019 results: 2-5 league, 6-12 overall, ECIC III 6th place

Key losses: Ilyas Galeb

Key returners: Mohamed Alshawi, Nagi Fadel, Ibrahim Alberri, Christian Miller

The Steelers return four of their five Class B place winners from last season including 2017-2018 Section VI champion Mohamed Alshawi. Alshawi fell in the sectional final last season but was able to make his second trip to states but as an at-large in February. Last year’s Steelers kept things very close in both wins and losses in all but one league dual. With a core group of experienced wrestlers returning and Alshawi in the middle of the lineup, Lackawanna could move up a few spots in the final ECIC III standings this winter.

Springville-Griffith Institute Griffins

Head coach: Mark Vogel

2018-2019 results: 1-6 league, 1-6 overall, ECIC III 7th place

Key returners: Nick Brown, Quenten Leicht

The loss of two-time Section VI champion Mikey Evans to injury last year certainly didn’t help the Griffins in either scoring or leadership. However, Coach Vogel and his squad carried on, winning a league dual and placing a handful of wrestlers at the Class B tournament. Both Nick Brown and Quenten Leicht placed top five in Class B and thus qualified for the divisional tournament. Hopefully with a few experienced wrestlers to build on the Griffins can continue to rehabilitate their team and get back into the win column this year.

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