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NYSPHSAA Wrestling Individual Championships Roundup

The 2019-2020 high school wrestling season in New York State came to a close on Saturday evening at Times Union Center in downtown Albany.

Three Section VI athletes captured individual NYS titles while twenty-nine local wrestlers overall placed in their respective weight classes. Section VI Division II placed twenty of those athletes led by Newfane’s 285-pound champion Jaden Heers. WNY small schools got back into the top five of the sectional team score standings with a 5th place finish and only 2.5 points behind 4th place Section II. Section III small schools captured the team title in the thirteen-region field. Newfane tied Section IV’s Norwich for 4th place in the individual team score race with 63 points as four Panthers earned NYS place finishes. Fifteen of Division II’s twenty state placers are underclassmen, which suggest a potentially very strong WNY showing at the state tournament next February.

Section VI Division I was led by individual champions in Niagara Wheatfield’s Justin McDougald and Niagara Falls’ Willie McDougald. Overall, nine local athletes placed in the large school tournament to land at seventh place in the sectional team scoring out of eleven regions. Only three of the nine placers are underclassmen, however ten of the Section’s twenty one Division I state qualifiers will return in 2020-2021. Section VIII (Nassau County) captured the large school team title. Falls and Wheatfield tied one another as well as three other teams with 24 points to finish 18th overall in the team scoring.

McDougald’s, Heers Capture Individual State Wrestling Titles

Niagara Wheatfield’s Justin McDougald captured the NYS Division I 138-pound title in his 5th and final trip to the state tournament. Justin became the first NW state champion since Angelo Malvestuto in 2010 and the fifth state champion in program history.

Justin earned a first round major decision and a quarterfinals 3-2 decision before meeting Section XI’s Logan Sciotto from Rocky Point in the semifinal. Justin was a 6-3 winner in that match to advance to the finals against a familiar foe in defending state champion and #14 nationally ranked Ryan Burgos from Section V’s Hilton. Burgos and McDougald had previously met this season, a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker win for the Hilton star.

In Saturday’s final, with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period, McDougald earned a takedown nearing the last thirty seconds of the bout for a 3-1 advantage. Justin was able to control Burgos on the mat to get through the last half minute of the match to hold onto the 3-1 victory for the NYS Division I 138-pound title.

“The only thing I was worried about in the match was securing my victory,” said McDougald after the win. “I wasn’t trying to get too selfish. I was just focused on bringing home that title while thinking about everything I have put in to [earn] this achievement…it was all worth it.”

The Falcon senior ends the season with a 49-1 record and will leave the program as its all-time wins leader, a state champion, a five time Section VI champion, and a four time state tournament place winner.

Niagara Falls senior Willie McDougald earned his second career NYS title with a dominating performance in Albany. Willie earned the top seed in the 145-pound bracket and cruised to an 8-2 victory in the championship match. The #19 nationally ranked Wolverines senior claimed his first state title in 2018 and joined Mel Cunningham (1967) as the only state champions in program history. Willie is now the first and only multiple time NYS champion for Niagara Falls.

On the way to the final Willie earned a preliminary round pin followed by an 8-1 quarterfinal victory. McDougald met Spencerport’s (V) Mason Wersinger, a returning state tournament qualifier, in the semifinal and was a 7-4 winner in that match to advance to his third straight state finals bout.

In the championship McDougald would meet Section VIII’s Lee Mauras from Hempstead. Leading up to the final the 11-seeded Mauras upset three straight higher seeded wrestlers including pins over the 3 and 2-seeds. However, Willie would cruise to an 8-2 victory to claim the NYS 145-pound Division I title and the second title of his career.

“Everything I’ve done since I started wrestling has led up to this point,” said McDougald after the final. “I really took that in before I wrestled [and thought] this is what it’s all about. I had to show’em that I’m the best. I worked too hard to fall short this time. I knew if I wrestled in my positions that I would come out on top. I just want to thank my coaches, my teammates, my parents, and most of all God.”

McDougald finishes the season with a 48-1 record and will leave as the program’s all-time wins leader, a five time Section VI champion, a two-time state champion, and a four time place winner which is the most individual state tournament placements in program history.

Niagara Falls head coach DJ Giancola added “This is a perfect book end to Willie’s decorated career. Last year he fell short to an all-time great. However, we believe in taking on challenges to make ourselves better. He jumped levels from last year to this year. I know for the past 365 days all he thought about was getting back on top of the podium and we are all so proud to see him accomplish his goal and get back to where he wanted to be.”

Newfane senior Jaden Heers entered the 2020 state tournament as the 4-seed in the Division II 285-pound bracket but came out on top as the NYS champion on Saturday night. Jaden was a 5-4 winner by decision in the championship match to capture the NYS small school title. Heers became the Panthers’ second ever state champion and the program’s first since three-time state champion Ryan Needle in 2003.

Jaden started the tournament off with a fast pin in the preliminary round followed by a 4-0 win over a familiar foe in Albion’s Cody Wilson in their fifth meeting of the season. Heers edged top seeded Ardsley (I) senior George Lebberes in the semifinal with a wild 8-6 victory.

In the title bout Jaden would meet returning state tournament place winner Mike Leibl from Section III’s Canastota. Leibl was a winner by pin over Heers in the 2019 state championships and had pinned all three of his opponents leading up to the 2020 Saturday night finale.

In the title match, Heers clung to a 3-2 lead late in the third period but earned a critical takedown to create a huge three point buffer, now 5-2. An escape for Leibl and a stalling call eventually made the score 5-4, however Jaden was able to run the clock out from neutral to secure the victory and earn the 2020 NYS Division II 285-pound wrestling title.

“In the final I was just thinking ‘that kid pinned me last year and I’ve got to get it back,'” said Heers after the state championship win. “I knew I had nothing to lose. It’s my senior year; just give it my all. It was really fun…it was a fun ride.”

Heers finishes the season with a 50-2 overall record and completes his wrestling career at Newfane as a two-time Section VI champion and a NYS champion while becoming the program’s nineteenth state tournament place winner.

Section VI NYS state wrestling tournament place winners

Division I

Frontier sophomore Travis Browning became the Falcons’ eighth state tournament place winner taking 7th place at 99-pounds in his first appearance in Albany.

Williamsville North 8th grader Cam Catrabone earned a podium finish in his second trip to the state tournament earning a valuable 6th place finish in Division I 120-pounds. Cam was the 13-seed in a very strong 120-pound bracket.

Williamsville North junior Mike Catanzaro finished in 8th place in Division I 126-pounds in his second appearance in Albany. The 126-pound large school bracket was another extremely strong weight class making any podium finish in it that much more valuable. The two Spartans place winners are the third and fourth (respectively) state tournament placers in program history and the first since 1989 for North.

Clarence’s Aiden Rabideau finished in 6th place at 145-pounds in his fifth and final appearance in Albany. The Red Devils senior is the program’s all-time wins and pins leader, a two-time Section VI champion, and earned the first individual state tournament placement for Clarence since 2015.

Lancaster’s Ryan Stencel captured his second straight NYS 5th place finish this time at 182-pounds to end his high school wrestling career. Stencel finishes as a four time state qualifier, a three time sectional champion, the program’s all-time wins leader, and the first Legends wrestler to achieve 200 career wins.

Lancaster senior Codie Scotland capped off an outstanding season with an 8th place finish at 195-pounds. Codie finishes his career as a Section VI champion with a state tournament placement over one hundred varsity wins.

Amherst senior Ryan Bitka captured 8th place at 285-pounds, becoming the Tigers’ seventh individual state place winner. Ryan finishes his career as a Section VI champion, a two-time state tournament qualifier, and a state tournament placer.

Division II

Newfane 7th grader Aidan Gillings claimed 4th place at 99-pounds in an impressive first season on the varsity mat in which he captured the Section VI title as well.

Westfield/Chautauqua Lake freshman Martin Ohlsson finished 5th in NYS at 99-pounds in the very strong Division II bracket taking a valuable placement into 2020-2021.

Newfane junior Andy Lucinski made it back into the NYS championship finals but fell by a close 4-1 decision at 106-pounds to now two-time champion Jace Schafer from Section V’s Palmyra-Macedon. Lucinski is now a three time state place winner going into his senior year.

Iroquois sophomore Michael Schiffhauer was the first of three Section VI 113-pound wrestlers to earn placement in the weight class on Saturday. Schiffhauer claimed 7th in NYS in his first appearance in Albany.

Fredonia junior Dave Ball captured a highly valuable 5th place finish at 113-pounds in his second trip to states capping off another outstanding season.

Pioneer sophomore Dan Kirsch finished the 2020 state tournament with a 4th place finish at 113-pounds in his first time competing in Albany. Kirsch also won two matches by pin at states which is in all regards a very tough feat to accomplish.

Depew/Alden sophomore Carson Alberti made the podium at 120-pounds taking 5th place in the bracket and capping off the weekend with a pin in the consolation final. Alberti is a two-time sectional champion and became the Wildcats’ fourth state placer in program history.

Iroquois junior Donovan Bukaczeski finished in 7th place at 120-pounds for his first state placement in two appearances in Albany. The Iroquois place winners are the 24th and 25th (respectively) state tournament placements in program history.

Lake Shore junior Julian Martin made it to the podium on Saturday afternoon taking 8th in NYS at 132-pounds. Martin was one of three Section VI wrestlers in the weight class and takes a valuable placement into next season.

Pioneer junior Kameron Riordan had an outstanding tournament capturing 5th place at 145-pounds as the 15-seed in the weight class. It was Riordan’s first appearance at states while earning a critical place finish for the team for dual meet considerations next season.

Newfane junior Ryan Nugent made it past the consolation blood round to guarantee placement at 145-pounds. Nugent claimed 8th in NYS in the weight class to help Newfane to four place winners and a top four place finish in the individual team scoring. Newfane will return three state tournament place winners next season.

Portville sophomore Dakota Mascho captured 5th in NYS at 152-pounds in his first appearance in Albany. The Panthers star became the eighth different wrestler to place at the NYS championships in program history and the first since Gunnar Van Curen in 2013.

Eden senior Giovanni Schifano wrestled to a runner-up finish in NYS at 160-pounds. The Raiders star caps off an outstanding senior year with a 48-3 overall record while becoming the program’s first state finalist since Rob Broda in 2008. Schifano finishes as a two-time state tournament qualifier and a Section VI champion.

Olean senior Gavin Kulp claimed 5th in NYS at 160-pounds as the 12-seed in the weight class. After losing in the first round, Kulp won three straight matches and only lost to the same opponent but twice on the weekend. Kulp earned the program’s 26th individual state tournament place finish in his first time qualifying for it and also finishes his career as the Huskies’ all-time wins leader.

Brocton/Fredonia’s Ceric Kristan captured 8th place at 182-pounds in his second time competing in Albany. The Brocton junior will bring a valuable state placement back for the team in 2020-2021.

Southwestern sophomore Dontae Hoose captured 6th in NYS despite entering the tournament as the 13-seed in the weight class. Dontae took down the 5, 6, and 9-seeded wrestlers on the way to the podium while earning the program’s 23rd state tournament placement.

Allegany-Limestone/Olean junior Connor Walsh wrestled to a 6th place at 220-pounds in his first time wrestling at states and will take a valuable state placement into his senior season.

Albion senior Cody Wilson wrestled to a 6th place finish in NYS at 285-pounds capping off an impressive final season. With the podium finish Wilson became the Purple Eagles’ first state tournament place winner since Tim Uderitz in 1997 and the program’s third ever to place at states.

Fredonia’s Jake Skinner added another athletic milestone to his impressive senior year with an 8th place finish at 285-pounds. Skinner ends his career as a sectional finalist and in impressive company among a long line of Hillbillies state place winners. Jake will take valuable wrestling skills to the gridiron next year when he plays football for Division I-AA Central Connecticut State University.

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