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NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships Roundup

The 2018-2019 wrestling season came to a close on Saturday night in downtown Albany. The annual two-day tournament provided nearly 500 high school wrestlers across the state an opportunity to become a NYS champion. There were hundreds of exciting matches between the top wrestlers, but only thirty athletes could claim the title of New York State champion on Saturday evening.

Section VI crowned three champions of its own out of seven total finalists. Iroquois’s Cory Day, Falconer’s Robbie Penhollow, and Pioneer’s Mike Rigerman, all seniors, earned state titles in the final match of their scholastic careers. Seven total Section VI Division I wrestlers placed in the tournament to help the team to a 6th place finish in the team scoring among the other sections. The Division II team placed eight wrestlers to land in 5th in the small school team scoring. Also, the Thomas brothers from St. Francis helped the CHSAA squad to a 5th place finish in the large school standings.

The champions

Cory Day, Iroquois HS – 2019 NYS Div. II 160-pound champion

Cory entered the tournament as the 6-seed in the weight class and had to upset the 3, 2, and 1-seeds in winning the NYS title. Day started the tournament with a preliminary round win by decision 8-5 to advance to the quarterfinal. He pinned the 3-seed Jack Chesman from Pearl River (I) in the quarters then was a semifinal winner in the ultimate tiebreaker period over the 2-seed Charlie Grygas from Section II’s Duanesburg. In the Saturday night final, Day meet the top seed in Dolgeville’s (III) Jacob Null. Null was a winner over Day at Eastern States, 5-1, in January. However, the Iroquois senior would get revenge when it mattered most in the state final as he cruised to an 8-3 decision win.

In the final, Cory got the first takedown and went to work on top. He anchored himself and controlled Null at the hip using his leg and began to look for an opportunity to turn Null for some back points to build the lead. After an escape in the second period Day led 3-1 but earned a takedown to add to the lead, now up 5-1. In the third period, Null elected to start neutral but Cory again earned a takedown to create a six-point buffer. Null was able to earn a reversal but let Day go with short time remaining looking for a homerun move from his feet. Day was able to defend himself and hung on for the 8-3 finals win.

“I knew I had to upset the 3, 2, and 1 seed to win it,” said Day after the match. “I was so excited to actually win it…it’s phenomenal. It’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamed of this moment my whole life. It’s cool to bring another championship to Iroquois again.”

Day is the fourth Chief in program history to win a NYS title. Other Iroquois state champions are Ethan Bosch (1988), Matt Mariacher (2007), and Jimmy Kloc (2011, 2012). Cory’s head coach is Troy Almeter.

Robbie Penhollow, Falconer HS – 2019 NYS Div. II 195-pound champion

Penhollow earned the top seed in the bracket and dominated the field on the way to his state championship. With a 49-1 record, Penhollow has been by all accounts a ‘hammer’ week in and week out for the Golden Falcons this season.

Robbie earned pins in each of his first two matches to make it into the Saturday morning semifinal. He was a 9-7 decision winner over the 4-seed Devon Shader from Section II’s Coxsackie HS to advance to the final. After advancing by injury default over the 3-seed in the quarters and beating the 2-seed in the semis, Northern Adirondack’s (VII) Jace Filion earned a spot in the final and a chance to knock off the top seed. However, a hungry Penhollow awaited and wasn’t about to let the NYS title slip away.

Almost instantly after the starting whistle Robbie was in on a shot and finishing a takedown for the bouts’ first points. He immediately went to work slipping in a leg and trying to open Filion up to throw in his nearly unstoppable power half. It was clear from the start of the match that Penhollow wasn’t just looking for the win: he was going after a pin too.

Throughout the first period Penhollow was working for near fall points but Filion wouldn’t give him a chance. Filion started on top in the second period, keeping in mind that he might not have another chance the rest of the match. He couldn’t hold Penhollow down as the Golden Falcon senior escaped almost immediately. Another takedown became two points for a 5-0 lead. Robbie used his force on top to turn Filion to his back as the clock was winding down in the period but ran out of time looking for the pin. Head coach Drew Wilcox sent Robbie top to start the third period. He remained in control to nearly the end of the period until Filion escaped but way too late to get anything going. The final score: 8-1.

“I changed my mental game. I wrestled a lot over the summer, I got physically better, but the biggest improvements came on the mental side of it,” said Penhollow after the title match. Robbie was the 2-seed in the 2018 state tournament but missed placing. “I started viewing this as just another match, just one at a time, instead of viewing it as the state tournament or finals…I just relaxed and got it done.”

Robbie is the third NYS champion behind Jacob Schaus (1994) and Jake Peru (2014) from the history-rich Falconer program.

Mike Rigerman, Pioneer HS – 2019 NYS Div. II 220-pound champion

Rigerman added another huge accomplishment to his long list of athletic achievements becoming the sixth state champion from the Pioneer program and finishing his senior season undefeated at a perfect 43-0. Rigerman’s head coach is Chris Edwards.

As the top seed in the weight class, Mike earned pins in the first two rounds to advance to the semis. He met the 4-seed from Cobleskill-Richmondville (II) Jeff Crooks and battled to a 5-2 decision win to advance to the final. In the final, Mike would meet another returning state place winner in the 2-seed Keagan Carmenatty from South Seneca HS (V).

In the first minute of the championship match, Rigerman had a takedown and the 2-0 lead. However, Carmenatty would slice the lead in half with an escape before the period expired. Carmenetty elected to go down to start the second period. When he came to his feet, Rigerman dropped to a leg and they went out of bounds for no change in control. However, after the restart, Carmenatty was able to get to his feet and escape to tie the match 2-2. Rigerman spent the remainder of the period looking for a collar tie from neutral to set up a shot but wasn’t able to get anything going. Mike had choice in the third period and elected to go down. It took only a few seconds for him to get out and regain the lead, 3-2. With a 1:15 left in the match Rigerman was in on a shot again and this time finished it for the 5-2 lead approaching a minute left. Mike remained in control until only thirty seconds left when Carmenatty escaped to make it a two-point match. Rigerman defended himself from neutral and hung on to win 5-3.

“Hard work pays off. If you work harder and harder every day, results will show as it did today,” said Rigerman after the state title victory. He also recognized the strong support of the Pioneer wrestling program saying “Having a community, a young program, everybody looking up to you on the team, it shows that anything can happen.”

Rigerman joins Ron Tojdowski (1969), Keith Stearns (1975), Kyle Grunwald (1976, 1977), Kyle Colling (2009, 2010), and Tony Lock (2012) as the sixth Pioneer Panther NYS champion.

State tournament finalists

Four area wrestlers made it to the state tournament finals in their respective weight classes but fell just short of championships.

Andy Lucinski, Newfane – 2019 NYS Div. II 99-pound runner-up

The Panther sophomore was 6th in 2018, and the first Newfane finalist since 2004.

Zach Braddell, Tonawanda – 2019 NYS Div. II 138-pound runner-up

Zach finishes his career as a 3x NYS place winner and one of the most accomplished wrestlers ever in the Warrior program.

Willie McDougald, Niagara Falls – 2019 NYS Div. I 138-pound runner-up

The 2018 NYS champion fell to a now 5x NYS champion in the final. Willie will have another chance at a state championship in 2020.

Warren McDougald, Niagara Wheatfield – 2019 NYS Div. I 152-pound runner-up

Warren fell in an ultimate rideout heartbreaker in the final, but finishes his career as a 3x state place winner and one of the most decorated wrestlers in Niagara Wheatfield Falcon history.

State tournament place winners

Johnny Putney, East Aurora – 3rd place, Div. II 152-pounds

Dominik Thomas, St. Francis – 3rd place, Div. I 182-pounds

Dalton Gardner, Fredonia – 4th place, Div. II 138-pounds

Adam Daghestani, Grand Island – 4th place, Div. I 160-pounds

Tyler Bartolomei, North Tonawanda – 5th place, Div. I 113-pounds

Justin McDougald, Niagara Wheatfield – 5th place, Div. I 132-pounds

Ryan Stencel, Lancaster – 5th place, Div. I 152-pounds

Pat Walsh, Olean/Allegany-Limestone – 5th place, Div. I 182-pounds

Jimmy Kramer, Falconer – 6th place, Div. II 145-pounds

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