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Southern Tier League Wrestling Preview 2021

Much like their counterparts to the far north in Section VI, the Southern Tier schools in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are finding a way to get back on the mats this year after receiving clearance from county departments of health to restart wrestling activities.

Chautauqua and Cattaraugus county schools will get their first wrestling action of the 2020-2021 season on Saturday, May 15th, at four locations which will serve as ‘quad meet,’ round robin style events that will pair wrestlers from four different teams up by weight in an ‘everybody wrestles everybody’ type of format. Unlike the Niagara/Orleans combined county league this spring, teams in the ‘Southern Tier’ league will wrestle some dual meets on weekdays (for most teams, their regular Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association division I or II schedule) with some quad meets on Saturdays. True CCAA I and II team champions will be crowned.

Naturally, the Southern Tier league will feature a couple of its own twists as well. Small school power Pioneer, which competes in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference, is left without six of its seven ECIC II division rivals (with the exception of Starpoint in Niagara County) due to the ongoing postponement of high school wrestling in Erie County.

CCAA II teams Gowanda and Cattaraugus-Little Valley are combining forces this season and will go up to CCAA I while Franklinville drops back into II. Also, Section V Allegany County school Wellsville will be competing with Section VI Southern Tier teams in Saturday round robin events for the four week duration of them. Finally, in a similar situation with Starpoint and Pioneer, Jamestown High School is left without all of its ECIC I rivals who all reside in Erie County so will instead wrestle a CCAA I schedule with league title implications.

The CCAA league slate should provide another season of quality dual meets amongst some of WNY’s top small school squads. Six of the top ten Division II teams in the final 2019-2020 WNY Athletics power ranking reside in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties with four out of the CCAA I division, including defending NYS Division II Dual Meet state champion Falconer/Cassadaga Valley. The two counties were responsible for ten of Section VI’s 29 state tournament place winners in February 2020 as well, of which eight return this season.

One thing to keep in mind as the season kicks off: HAVE PATIENCE. Many schools must share dual sport athletes this spring as well as coaches who may have multiple coaching responsibilities. Some wrestlers may have chosen to participate in a different sport this spring altogether. In any case, please accept a return to wrestling in WNY in any form it may take.

Team Previews

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley Golden Falcons Head coach: Drew Wilcox 2019-2020 accolades: 6-0 league, 31-1 overall, CCAA I league champion, Class C/D tournament champion, Section VI Division II Dual Meet champion, NYS Division II Dual Meet state champion, WNY Athletics #1 WNY small school ranking, NYSSWA #1 NYS small school ranking

The perennial powerhouse Falconer Golden Falcons made history in 2019-2020 capturing the program’s and Section VI’s first dual meet state title. Not only did Falconer have an incredible team performance from start to finish, they also placed a section leading eleven wrestlers at the Division II championships and qualified three wrestlers for the state individual tournament. The Golden Falcons are also riding WNY’s longest league championship streak now at nine CCAA I titles in a row.

Despite big graduating classes, Wilcox and his award-winning staff keep the expectations high year over year and are beneficiaries of supportive school administration and parents in the community. Without a doubt, the expectation will be to achieve another league title and undefeated season.

The departed 2020 graduating class will leave some shoes to fill as all six senior Class C-D placers also placed in the top six of their weights in the sectional tournament including Section VI champion Hudson Johnson. Where Falconer took the biggest hit last June was in the four weights between 152 and 182 where four sectional placers and two state tournament qualifiers moved on.

Wilcox does return eight out of fourteen class place winners and five of its eleven Section VI placers from a year ago led by sectional finalist and state tournament qualifier senior Brayden Newman. Newman has been a regular in the lowerweights throughout his career, which is a favorable spot for an upperclassman in weight classes normally populated by underclassmen. Look for sectional 4th place winner Joey Pillittieri to anchor the middleweights while classmate Brock Johnson, also a returning 4th place winner, holds down the upperweights. These seniors all played major parts in the state title match last February.

Sophomore Austin Chase returns with a sectional 6th place finish in the lowerweights while senior Collin Beichner returns with a 5th place finish in the section at 220-pounds. Look for Beichner to make some noise as he has spent his entire Falconer Wrestling career in the upperweights and may be ready to collect on years of loyal service. Keep an eye out for any number of Golden Falcons to step up this spring but perhaps especially sophomore Dalton Caldwell in the middleweights.

Falconer is back in action on Saturday, May 15th at the Chautauqua Lake quad meet before a CCAA I road dual at Dunkirk on Wednesday the 19th.

Pioneer Panthers Head coach: Chris Edwards 2019-2020 accolades: 7-0 league, 17-6 overall, ECIC II league champion, tied for 2nd place Class B tournament, 4th place Section VI Division II Dual Meet Championships, WNY Athletics #4 WNY small school ranking, NYSSWA Honorable Mention NYS small school ranking

Pioneer’s rule in the ECIC continued in 2019-2020 as the Panthers captured their seventh straight league title while extending the team’s league win streak to 51 consecutive ECIC victories.

Now, the Panthers are stranded from the rest of their rivals due to the postponement of the season in Erie County, however they will pay a visit to perennial ECIC II challenger Starpoint on Wednesday, June 2nd.

Being that Pioneer is cut off from its regular league AND they aren’t a CCAA member school, head coach Chris Edwards has pieced together a challenging schedule that will put the Panthers up against competitive squads from five other WNY counties including some of the top talent in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus. Pioneer is known to commit to a challenging schedule, and even this tumultuous season couldn’t stop that from happening again.

The Panthers could be primed for a very successful season given the amount of returning talent. Pioneer should return ten of its eleven class place winners (including three champions), all four of its sectional place winners, and both of its NYS tournament place winners.

Junior Dan Kirsch returns as a Section VI champion and 4th place finisher in the NYS Division II championships in the stacked 120-pound bracket. Senior Kameron Riordan was a sectional finalist a year ago and earned a wildcard entry to the state tournament where he placed 5th at 145-pounds. Senior Alex Miley had an excellent junior campaign in which he captured the Class B 138-pound title and a 3rd place finish in the division. Also, keep an eye on sophomore class finalist Xander Kirsch who claimed a top six finish in perhaps the best weight class of the entire sectional championships weekend. Beware of senior Zach Russell to make an impact in the upperweights.

The Panthers may have one of the best units in WNY in their lower-middle through middleweights. Consider they had eight Class B place winners in the first eight weight classes from 99 to 145-pounds including two placers at both 113 and 132-pounds. And, all of them with the exception of Miley and Riordan aren’t even seniors this year.

Pioneer’s first action of the new season will be at the Jamestown quad meet on Saturday the 15th followed by a home dual against the Wellsville Lions on the 20th. The night after a long trip to Niagara County, the Panthers will host CCAA II champion Portville and then meet Falconer, Chautauqua Lake, and Fredonia in a row from June 5th – 16th.

Fredonia Hillbillies Head coach: Joe Santilli 2019-2020 accolades: 5-1 league, 22-6 overall, 2nd place CCAA I, tied for 2nd place Class B tournament, Section VI Dual Meet Championships competitor, WNY Athletics #5 WNY small school ranking, NYSSWA Honorable Mention NYS small school ranking

The Hillbillies climbed a spot in the final CCAA I standings in 2019-2020 and competed in their first Section VI Dual Meet Championships since the inaugural tournament in 2016. They added eight wins to their final tally over the previous season and sent four athletes to the state individual tournament where three of them placed. Last year’s squad in many ways showed characteristics of powerful Fredonia teams of the past.

The 2020-2021 Hillbillies will remain combined with Silver Creek, Forrestville, and Brocton for the spring campaign. Five of their twelve Class B placers graduated last June including state place winner Jake Skinner. Fredonia was well balanced throughout the lineup with a solid group of lightweights led by two time state tournament rep and last year’s NYS 5th place winner senior David Ball.

Where the Hillbillies did lose some firepower is in the middleweights and heavyweights, however a small group of returners in each area should be able to help overcome those losses. Look for Brocton senior and returning state place winner Ceric Kristan as well as sectional placer Matt Lotter to anchor the upperweights while Silver Creek junior Hunter Larson, a returning sectional 3rd place winner, leads the middleweights. Kristan led the team with 42 wins last season. Ball will be the go-to man in the lowerweights with sophomore Lucas Hoffman and freshman Mike Ball being expected to carry even heavier loads this season. While it appears the Hillbillies will have some spaces to fill in the lineup, the new thirteen weight class structure may work out nicely given the amount of returning talent they have strategically placed from top to bottom.

Fredonia will travel to Portville on Saturday the 15th for a quad meet before hosting CCAA I rival Southwestern on May 19th.

Portville Panthers Head coach: Matt Milne 2019-2020 accolades: 6-0 league, 20-2 overall, 1st place CCAA II, WNY Athletics #6 WNY small school ranking, NYSSWA Honorable Mention NYS small school ranking

For the second straight year the Panthers claimed the CCAA II crown and undefeated season while fielding a full fifteen man lineup. The Portville wrestling community seems to be ‘all in’ on the ongoing program renaissance.

Junior Dakota Mascho has been a huge part of the turnaround in Portville and returns with a sectional title and NYS 5th place finish at 152-pounds in his first trip to the federation tournament. Also, spring football star Jayden Lassiter returns coming off of a runner-up finish in the section that earned him a wildcard entry to states. Graduated senior Roland Thompson bookended the Mascho-Lassiter-Thompson trio from 152-182 that was very tough to beat.

Overall the Panthers placed seven athletes in the Class C-D tournament while placing three in the section. Three of those seven wrestlers graduated last June and ALL seven of those placers were in the second half of the lineup between 138 and 285-pounds. While the well coached Panthers should return plenty of talent, they may need some answers in the lowerweights to maintain their same competitive position in the Southern Tier league this spring.

Portville hosts a quad meet on May 15th before hosting last year’s CCAA II runner-up Maple Grove on the 19th.

Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds Head coach: Ken Rowe 2019-2020 accolades: 4-2 league, 8-10 overall, 3rd place CCAA I, 3rd place Class C-D tournament, WNY Athletics #7 WNY small school ranking

Coach Rowe and the ‘Birds ascended a spot in the final CCAA I standings last year while having a rollercoaster of dual schedule that was very individually matchup dictated. While CL features one of the best lowerweight groups in all of WNY, many of those wrestlers were extremely bunched up within just a few weights. They placed five wrestlers in the lowest four weights at the class and three of them at the Section VI Division II championships alone. Also, the upperweight unit was thin with numbers which unfortunately resulted in some forfeits. Despite some lineup challenges, CL proved to be a formidable squad and potential rising power going into the 2021 spring wrestling season.

The good news for C-Lake is that all but one class placer will return this season including defending sectional finalist and NYS 5th place winner sophomore Martin Ohlsson (Westfield) as well as two time Section VI champion senior Brendon Ramsey (Panama). Returning class placers Jordyn Joslyn, Jack Bourgeois, Trent Burchanowski, and Hunter Harris should be back to be one of the strongest collective units in all of WNY. With Ramsey in the middle and senior Zachary Wolcott in the upperweights, if the T-Birds are able to fill a few more roster spots, they may be in good shape to do battle again in CCAA I given the weight class reduction from fifteen to thirteen weights.

Chautauqua Lake will host league rivals Falconer and Olean and CCAA II’s Salamanca on May 15th before hosting Gowanda/C-LV on the 19th.

Southwestern Trojans Head coach: John Vogan 2019-2020 accolades: 3-3 league, 9-12 overall, 4th place CCAA I, WNY Athletics #8 WNY small school ranking

The Trojans held their own in one of the best divisions in WNY last season and continued their climb back into the competitive ranks of Section VI. They rose a spot in the CCAA I standings while landing at #8 in the final WNY Athletics small school ranking. This season, SW will be under the leadership of new head coach John Vogan.

Southwestern should return four of its eight Class C-D place winners and three of its five Section VI place winners including defending sectional champion and NYS 6th place finisher junior Dontae Hoose. Hoose (40 wins in 2019-2020) has rare athletic talent for someone in the upperweights and as young as he is. Also returning with a 3rd place sectional finish is senior Garrett Swan. Swan (35 wins) had an outstanding season a year ago and could be someone to watch out for this spring. Senior Tyler Williams returns with a sectional 5th place finish while wrestling at 182-pounds right up against Hoose at 195. If they stay together in weight another Williams-Hoose combo will be hard to beat.

The Trojans are at the Randolph quad meet on May 15th before visting CCAA I foe Fredonia on the 19th.

Maple Grove Red Dragons Head coach: Terry Norris 2019-2020 accolades: 5-1 league, 14-8 overall, 2nd place CCAA II

For the second year in a row Maple Grove was the top challenger to CCAA II champion Portville and still improved. The Dragons gave up as few as two, maybe three forfeits on some occasions last year – not bad for the section’s second smallest school by BEDS that isn’t a combined school squad in the midst of a program recovery. The team will be under the guidance of new head coach Terry Norris this spring.

Maple Grove placed six wrestlers in the Class C-D tournament, four of which should return this season including class champ, sectional finalist, and NYS tournament wildcard junior Luke Tomlinson. Tomlinson has been quickly ascending the program record boards in a number of statistical categories and really had a breakout season in 2019-2020. Returning with a 3rd place finish in the section is senior Zachariah Padd in the heavyweights.

While the Dragons return a small handful of postseason placers, only two seniors graduated from last year’s squad that was very heavy with young underclassmen. The thirteen weight class change may very well help a team like Maple Grove this spring.

The Dragons will be in Jamestown on Saturday for the quad meet before visiting defending league champion Portville on Wednesday.

Franklinville Panthers Head coach: Scott Palmatier 2019-2020 accolades: 2-4 league, 10-9 overall, 5th place CCAA I

The Panthers made the jump from CCAA II to I last season due to the combination with Section V school Cuba-Rushford. While Franklinville wrestled in one of the strongest divisions in the region, they battled weekly with some of the top teams in WNY and captured important victories that earned the squad a double digit dual meet win season. The Panthers are back in CCAA II for this spring season without Cuba-Rushford.

Seven F/C-R athletes placed in the Class C-D tournament led by a core group of seniors that accounted for three of the team’s five Section VI Division II place finishes. Returning this season with a sectional 6th place finish is senior Everett Leonard who had a 32 win campaign a year ago.

The Panthers kick off wrestling action on Saturday at the Portville quad meet and host CCAA II rival Frewsburg in both teams’ first dual meet on the 19th.

Olean/Allegany-Limestone Huskies Head coach: Mike O’Connor 2019-2020 accolades: 1-5 league, 7-10 overall, 6th place CCAA I

No one in WNY may have been hit harder than the Huskies at graduation 2019 as Olean. Coach O’Connor lost six stars from the team that earned the number one seed for the Section VI Division I Dual Meet Championships and qualified for the NYS dual meet championships. However, tradition, a returning state place winner, and the experience gained via a challenging schedule may get Olean back pointed in the right direction this season.

The Huskies’ core group of six Class B place winners from a year ago accounted for five sectional place finishes including defending Section VI Division II champion senior Conner Walsh (Allegany-Limestone) at 220-pounds. Walsh captured 6th place in NYS last season while graduated teammate and program wins leader Gavin Kulp claimed 5th at 160-pounds.

Also returning with sectional placements are seniors Nate Gabler (36 wins in 2019-2020) and heavyweight AJ Addotta (29 wins). Gabler and Addotta were Section VI 6th and 5th place winners, respectively. Keep an eye out for sophomore upperweight Chris Bargy who claimed 3rd in Class B while totaling 24 victories as a freshman at 182/195-pounds.

Olean heads to the Chautauqua Lake quad meet on Saturday before hosting Jamestown on Wednesday the 19th.

Randolph Cardinals Head coach: Todd Conley 2019-2020 accolades: 4-2 league, 4-5 overall, 3rd place CCAA II

Despite a ton of youth and very few upperclassmen, Randolph was able to climb a position in the league standings while placing a handful of wrestlers at the Class C-D tournament.

Sophomore Xander Hind led the team with 28 victories in 2019-2020 while wrestling to a 4th place finish in the class. Classmates Ryan Carpenter and Joseph Nottingham both placed in the class while notching double digit individual wins, while junior Luke Pagett returns with a 5th place class finish and 24 wins on the season.

Coach Conley had thirteen wrestlers between 8th and 10th grades on the roster a season ago (including eight freshmen) while graduating one (1) senior. Should this youthful group of Cardinals stick together for the future, this may be a team that could become a real threat in perhaps even more than just the CCAA II league. Keep in mind, Randolph did make the Section VI Duals in 2018 and claimed the league title, so the program pedigree is there for these young athletes to follow.

Randolph hosts a quad meet on Saturday (streaming live on NFHS Network) before hosting CCAA II rival Salamanca next Wednesday.

Frewsburg Bears Head coach: Steve Raymond 2019-2020 accolades: 3-3 league, 3-4 overall, 4th place CCAA II

Frewsburg was another squad to climb a spot in the league standings and notch one more win than the previous season. The Bears’ numbers improved and out of the sixteen wrestlers on the roster, only one graduated in 28 match winner Jaiden Slagle.

Slagle was the Bears’ only class place winner in 2019-2020 meaning the new crop of wrestlers can only improve on the postseason performance. The two highest returning match winners are sophomore upperweight Jon Alianell (17 wins) and senior middleweight Brayden Coleson (15).

Frewsburg is at the Portville quad meet on Saturday before a road dual at Franklinville next Wednesday.

Gowanda/Cattaraugus-Little Valley Panthers Head coach: Christian Francis 2019-2020 accolades: 2-4 league, 4-16 overall, 5th place CCAA II

The Panthers and Timberwolves will combine forces for the spring 2021 season under new head coach Christian Francis.

Gowanda featured a trio of talented seniors who accounted for nearly 100 wins and all placed in the section a year ago. However, they are now gone and leave behind an otherwise inexperienced group of wrestlers. Sophomore Benjamin Krajewski is the returner with the most wins from a year ago after collecting fifteen victories in the upper-middleweights. Classmate Dominic Suraf also returns after posting a fourteen win season. Junior Christian Hines returns from the Timberwolves after posting a 23-win season while senior Lizzie Hines returns as one of the most talented female wrestlers in the area posting a 15-win junior campaign.

Gowanda/C-LV is at Randolph on Saturday before traveling to Mayville for a meeting with the Thunderbirds.

Jamestown Red Raiders Head coach: Jamie Bloomquist 2019-2020 accolades: 1-6 league, 1-6 overall, 7th place ECIC I

The Raiders moved back into the league win column in the very tough ECIC I division last season but departed six seniors off of the roster. With a very young group of wrestlers returning led by six seniors, Jamestown was looking up at another very strong contingent of division rivals until the Erie County Department of Health did not recommend wrestling to proceed and thus taking away all seven of the Raiders’ league foes. For this spring season, Jamestown was permitted to and will wrestle a CCAA I schedule against the likes of Falconer, Fredonia, Chautauqua Lake, etc AND count in the league standings.

With eleven 7th – 10th graders on the roster last year (including eight sophomores) Coach Bloomquist certainly had a young squad but also returns two Class AA place winners in seniors Taylor Crofoot and Dan O’Brien to lead them.

Jamestown hosts this coming Saturday but then will pay a visit to Olean on May 19th.

Salamanca Warriors Head coach: Keith Jones 2019-2020 accolades: 1-5 league, 3-13 overall, 6th place CCAA II

At times last year the Warriors conceded very few forfeits and at other times many. Roster numbers can be a real battle in wrestling, especially for a small school, but improved numbers in 2019-2020 was a good sign for Coach Jones’s squad especially when he only lost one senior at graduation; this spring’s team should have nine. Also, Salamanca has one of the female-participated teams last season with four female student athletes on the roster.

Senior Trevor Ellis will return this spring as the Warriors’ wins leader from last season with 34 victories and a 4th place finish in Class C-D. Senior Devin Bialaszewski also returns with a C-D placement. Sophomore Konner Spring was second on the team a year ago with 22 wins. The Warriors may have a chance to find some success should they return big junior and senior classes.

The Warriors will compete in the Chautauqua Lake quad meet on Saturday. Then, they visit league rival Randolph next Wednesday.

Dunkirk Marauders Head coach: Sal Flores 2019-2020 accolades: 0-6 league, 0-7 overall, 7th place CCAA I

While the Marauders didn’t crack the win columns in 2019-2020, Coach Flores’s squad did see much improved participation from the previous season hopefully indicating good things to come. While maintaining a fairly light schedule outside of the league, Dunkirk was able to practice and compete at a pace conducive to helping rebuild the program.

The Marauders did place four athletes in the very tough Class B tournament with two sectional place winners at the end of the season, both of whom graduated amongst a senior group of nine. Seniors Alex Navarro and Ashton Freitas should return with class placements in what should be a group of seven seniors supported by a healthy group of underclassmen.

The Marauders are in Jamestown on Saturday before hosting the defending state champions on the 19th.

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