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St. Joe’s Stars Shine, St. Francis Wins Division II Team Title; CHSAA Championships Roundup

Four Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association (MMHSAA) member wrestling squads represented the Association at Sunday’s NYS Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) Championships at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington.

St. Joe’s juniors **Austin Zimmerman** and **Nik Massaro** each captured their bracket’s individual title to earn automatic entries to the NYS federation championships, Feb. 24-25, in Albany.

Zimmerman and Massaro were two of the Marauders’ three finalists and four total place winners to help lead St. Joe’s to a sixth place finish in the seventeen team field.

Zimmerman added a third straight CHSAA title to his resume with a 3-0 tournament performance capped off by an 11-1 major decision in the 110-pound final.

Austin was a quick winner by pin in his first match. In the semifinal, Zimmerman was challenged by fellow returning CHSAA place winner Logan Alexander from Stepinac HS, but prevailed, 1-0, to reach the final. Alexander was 6th at CHSAA a year ago at 118-pounds and, like Zimmerman, competed at Eastern States going 3-2 there.

In the title match, Zimmerman cruised to the 11-1 major over St. John’s Niason DaCosta to secure his 3rd straight ‘Catholic states’ title.

The Marauders’ Nik Massaro, who enrolled this year as a junior from Grand Island, earned a trip to the NYS tournament in winning the CHSAA 126-pound individual title.

Massaro earned the top seed in the weight class and cruised through both his quarter and semifinal opponents building big leads while finishing each bout with a pin.

In the title match, Massaro would meet 2-seed Brendon Katimbang from the CHSAA Dual Meet champion Chaminade Flyers.

Massaro earned the first takedown in the title match and Katimbang was able to escape before the end of the first period, but not without a being hit for a crucial stall warning first.

An escape by Katimbang tied the match 2-2 in the second period. Massaro earned the next takedown but Katimbang reversed to keep the match score even at 4-4.

An escape and technical violation committed by Katimbang gave Massaro a 6-4 advantage at the end of the second period.

One final escape in the third made the score 7-4 Massaro, but a penalty for an illegal move gave a point to Katimbang making it a 7-5 score where a takedown would tie the match.

Ultimately, Massaro would hold on to win, 7-5, to capture the CHSAA 126-pound title and ensure two Marauders would advance to the state tournament.

St. Joe’s most recently sent multiple wrestlers to the state tournament ten years ago with CHSAA champions Garrett Baugher (99) and Travis Berube (138) in 2013.

Also reaching the finals for St. Joe’s was four-year starter **Luke Ventresca** at 160-pounds. Ventresca was the 2-seed in the bracket and earned two pins on the way to the final. Ultimately, Ventresca would fall to the defending champion from Iona Prep in the title match.

Luke received the Association’s Ironman Award which recognizes wrestlers who place all four CHSAA tournament’s throughout their high school careers.

Rounding out the place winners for the Marauders was junior **Jayson Kline** at 132-pounds. Kline went 4-1 on Saturday to capture 3rd place in the weight highlighted by gutsy performances in the consolation semifinal and 3rd place bouts.

After falling behind 9-1 to Kellenberg’s returning CHSAA finalist and past champion Brendan Martin going into the third period, Kline got a takedown and went to work on top racking up eight near fall points in only 42-seconds, ultimately holding on to win 11-10 to advance to the third place match.

In the 3rd place match, a second period escape by Kline was the difference maker in a 2-1 victory over Iona’s Jude Bellentoni where each wrestler traded a penalty point for the only points of the bout.

St. Francis placed five wrestlers – the most of any of the Msgr. Martin teams at the CHSAA championships – which helped the team to a 7th place finish overall, but first place in the team scoring amongst the Association’s nine ‘Division II’ teams.

Starting in 2000, the CHSAA began to differentiate the teams at the championships by enrollment and tracked the team scores in order to award an overall tournament team champion as well as large and small school team champions.

Freshman **Sean Gordon** was the highest placing Red Raider taking 2nd at 118-pounds as the 2-seed in the weight class.

Gordon went 2-1 on the day falling only to returning finalist and past two-time CHSAA champion Shane Meenaghan from Chaminade in the 118-pound final. Gordon was an impressive 3-0 winner over returning 3rd place winner James Perrotta from Kellenberg in the semifinal round.

Junior **Connor Miller** was 3rd for the Raiders at 189-pounds.

After missing some time this season due to injury, Miller returned in time for the Msgr. Martin All-Catholics and earned the 3-seed at the CHSAA tournament. Miller won each of his first two matches by pin before meeting returning (and eventual) champion Claudio Pinto from Chaminade in the semifinal.

Going into the third period the match was tied 2-2, but an escape and takedown gave Pinto the 5-2 victory only after being pushed by Miller late into the 3rd period.

Two more pins in the wrestle backs landed Miller an impressive 4-1 record on the day for his second straight 3rd place finish at Catholic states.

Also placing for St. Francis were juniors **Brandon Drummond** (4th, 172) and **Jack Coughlin** (5th, 215) and senior **James Gordon** (6th, 132).

Drummond wrestled to a 3-2 tournament record falling only to eventual champion Nick Matos from St. Anthony’s and Chaminade’s Coin Worm in the bracket.

Coughlin battled to a 5th place finish as the 9-seed in the weight class and going 4-2 on the day.

Canisius finished 10th in the team standings led by two 3rd place winners in junior **Kaleb McKenzie** and sophomore **Reese Spiro**.

As the 5-seed in the 152-pound weight class, Spiro reached the semifinal with a mid-second period pin over the 4-seed Nick Gebbia from Msgr. Farrell in the quarterfinal. In the semi, Spiro fell to the eventual champion and returning finalist Eric Grant from Iona to fall to the wrestle backs.

In the consolation, Spiro earned a lightning fast pin in only fifteen seconds to advance to the bronze match.

Spiro secured his fourth pin of the day not even forty seconds into the 3rd place bout over Chaminade’s Sam Griffin to collect a huge top-3 finish in his first appearance at the CHSAA tournament, going 4-1 on the day.

Just like his teammate at 152, Crusaders junior Kaleb McKenzie started Sunday as the 5-seed but at 285-pounds.

McKenzie earned an opening round pin before defeating 4-seeded Nathaniel Lopez from St. Joe’s, 4-3, in the ultimate overtime period to advance to the semifinal.

In the semifinal, McKenzie would meeting returning 3rd place winner and eventual champion Gabe Garibaldi from Iona Prep, falling 7-2, for his only loss of the tournament.

McKenzie would earn pins in both the consolation semifinal and 3rd place final match to secure a 4-1 tournament record and top-3 place finish in his first appearance at Catholic states.

St. Mary’s rounded out the team scoring for Msgr. Martin teams with a 13th place team finish and two place winners.

Junior **Sheldon Cunningham** showed true resolve in wrestling to a 4th place finish at 285-pounds.

Cunningham started the tournament unseeded and fell in the opening round to the 3-seed in the weight class.

From there, Cunningham would go on to win four straight wrestle back matches including wins over the 6, 4, and 3-seeds to land in the 3rd place match where his hot streak was ended by Canisius’s McKenzie. Cunningham’s 4th place performance was his first CHSAA place finish.

Finally, freshman **Quinn Brown** wrestled to a 6th place finish for the Lancers at 110-pounds going 3-3 for a hard won place finish.

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