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WNY Athletics 2020-2021 Wrestling Season Preview

Who would’ve thought back in May or June 2020 that we would be in the exact same situation in November that we were in when students were told to go home and stay home in March? If you were to tell me that Bills Stadium would be empty on Sundays, that schools wouldn’t be open as normal, that high school football wouldn’t be played in New York State, and that the wrestling season (and some other sports) would be put on an indefinite hold as of December 11th, 2020, I would’ve said you were crazy.

But here we are.

When the virus broke out in March and this country had to get serious about it, anyone who knows anything at all about sports immediately thought of wrestling as the absolute most extreme scenario of close contact between competitors in athletics. To cite some of the most popular buzzwords thrown around daily by NYS public servants and administrators, the ‘highest’ of the ‘high risk sports.’

I listened to and spoke with my network across this state and laughed off doubts about the season. I was certain we would have something figured out by now, just like our neighbors directly to our south who refused to let their state capital dictate whether or not they could return to play.

Unfortunately, we are in a different situation.

Monday, November 16th should’ve been the first day of official high school wrestling practices across NYS. On Thursday, July 16th, NYSPHSAA publicly announced the delaying of the scholastic fall sports season in NYS and, since football, among others, was designated a ‘high risk’ sport, re-assigned the potential start date as part of the ‘Fall II’ season to March 2021.

Next, on Monday, August 31st, the NYSPHSAA covid task force met again with the major result of the meeting being the announcement that the winter sports start date would be moved to Monday, November 30th. Then, on Tuesday, November 17th, another announcement, this time targeting ‘high risk winter sports’ was released, stating that the ‘new’ start date for sports like wrestling and basketball would now be Monday, January 4th, 2021. Finally, a Friday, December 11th afternoon release by the Executive Committee declared all ‘high risk’ sports would be postponed indefinitely.

One can’t help but look to the future to acknowledge some serious questions as to the state of our season to be asked. For example, at some point before any matches can be wrestled there needs to be certifications. Do you know what event went on last season on Saturday, January 4th, 2020? The 4th Section VI Dual Meet Championships. Unfortunately, the state dual meet and individual tournaments have been cancelled altogether for this season. The powerful wrestling state of New Jersey had already cancelled its postseason championships and moved its season to March 1st – April 24th. Then, on Wednesday, December 30th, NJSIAA went BACK on its decision and moved to ALLOW indoor winter sports to resume on Saturday, January 2nd!

The NYS Wrestling Committee met on October 1st but unfortunately was unable to cover some virus related questions and concerns on that day. NYSWC held a previously unscheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 2nd while the date of the next scheduled NYSWC meeting was Tuesday, January 12th, 2021.

I am sorry to bore with the facts about the state we are in and especially sorry for using the pronoun ‘I’ thus far. However, I must admit that I did not plan to write a season preview for the 2020-2021 wrestling season, even if we were wrestling as in any normal year. I plan (planned…?) to get back into coaching starting this winter, specifically on the staff of the Starpoint Spartans with head coach Steve Hart. Coaching, teaching, and training young adults through the regimen of wrestling is truly where I belong. I do now and will always sincerely appreciate everyone who has ever spent time following the work I put into this. I intend to continue to utilize my skills as a journalist when/if necessary to help promote the sport as a whole after my duties as a coach are satisfied first.

More importantly than my personal plans, I believe that the Class of 2021 and athletes who are still uncertain as to whether or not we will wrestle in NYS at any point this school year deserve their due, just as in previous seasons.

As a heads up, while you browse the 2020-2021 Wrestling Season Preview, you can expect notes and analysis from the perspective of business as usual. The virus and the ensuing shutdowns, closures, and delays cannot erase history, effort, and hope for the future; there are still teams on league title winning streaks, seniors looking to make a final push to the state tournament, programs undergoing renaissances, new coaching moves, and a slew of impactful rule and procedure changes that, if are not able to be implemented this season, then the next, to be discussed. You will not find speculation as to who won’t wrestle or any other negative news because it is all just that: speculation.

Alas, onto the important stuff. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy…MO’R.

WNY Athletics 2020-2021 Wrestling Season Preview

Despite the uncontrollable challenges of 2020, sports and athletics yet again have proven to be an unstoppable force in our society. The NBA and NHL were able to complete their seasons and crown championship teams. The MLB had a strong performance and championship series, and the NFL and college football, quite frankly, rule them all. Wrestling has resumed in other states and the best competitors in America have been going toe to toe for weeks now. Hopefully, we will get to wrestle in NYS sometime this school year.

In NYS, new policies and procedures for high school wrestling, specifically the new weight classes and state tournament automatic qualifier format, guarantee yet again how this preview starts every year – with change. It has certainly been a busy couple of years for the NYSWC who were able to accomplish some big topics in each of the last two offseasons. With the weight class consolidation and auto qualifier process approved (both of which have appeared on meeting minutes for many months), it will be interesting to see what the committee has next on its schedule in regard to wrestling administration.

While the experienced men who make up the NYSWC discuss the future and how to handle coronavirus challenges, the high school wrestling season in WNY would have started, quite frankly, without much operational change. No highly impactful teams were slated to move up or down a division, the Section VI Duals weekend would remain the same, the state tournaments haven’t been moved to new dates, and the Section VI Wrestling Committee will see only one change as Williamsville North/East coach Mickey Moran will take over as the ECIC I representative. One major change in the landscape in the area is that the title of Section VI Executive Director moved on from Mr. Timm Slade to Mr. Mark DiFilippo in mid-November.

The Falconer/Cassadaga Valley Golden Falcons start this season as the defending NYS Division II championship team, coming off of a dramatic, walk-off 40-39 win over the previously two-time defending champion Mt. Sinai Mustangs (XI) in February. Head coach Drew Wilcox and crew lost six seniors who wrestled in the championship match to graduation. However, doubting Falconer has proven to be a fatal mistake; do not judge WNY’s top team and program based on graduation attrition. Wilcox’s staff was even recognized at the NWCA Section 1 Scholastic Boys Assistant Coaching Staff of the Year for their work in the 2019-2020 season; a regional award that only eight such staffs in the entire country receive. While Falconer sits atop the sectional throne now, a host of small school rivals are never far behind and will take any chance they can get to knock Falconer down. The Golden Falcons were one of only five Section VI state champion teams in 2019-2020.

The McDougald ‘reign of terror’ brought on by Willie, Justin, and Warren (Class of 2019) is finally over as Willie and Justin both graduated from Niagara Falls and Wheatfield, respectively, in the spring. It was ‘mission accomplished’ for the cousins in Albany in February when Justin captured the Falcons’ first individual title in a decade while Willie won his second title in three years.

Both the Falcons and Lancaster lost some talented wrestlers at graduation time. However, as history shows, both of the blue blooded programs maintain strong traditions and expectations; both teams are the only ones to have won sectional duals titles in the three competed tournaments thus far. Both squads represented Section VI at the state duals in February as well. A slew of programs who have been gaining momentum over the past few seasons will be priming to take a run at Lancaster and NW for a Duals title, perhaps under the perception that these heavy hitters might be ‘down’ this year…

The bottom line is the blue blood favorites have to still be the favorites until proven otherwise. Falconer and NW/Lancaster have succeeded at the Duals when it matters most over the three competed tournaments so there is no reason to look past them right now.

Even more so than going into the 2019-2020 season, graduations rocked WNY teams in spring 2020. A nearly 24% increase from 96 last year to 119 class tournament placing seniors are now gone out of the total 358 placements from the Class AA through Class C/D tournaments. C/D was hit the hardest as 39 of the 91 placing wrestlers from last season have graduated – almost 43%.

Taking into consideration the fact that there will only be thirteen weight classes now, 239 returning class placing wrestlers will have to compete for 312 placements (1st – 6th) among the four class tournaments, down from 358 total.

Well over half of the total Division I and II sectional placing wrestlers graduated in the spring – 52 of 90 in Div. I and 51 of 90 in Div. II for a 57% attrition rate. Even with the weight class reduction, the departure of a very strong senior class in both big and small schools in Section VI leaves the opportunity to be had for dozens of potential first time sectional placing wrestlers. In Division I, 38 wrestlers with sectional placements will return with a possible 78 sectional tournament podium spots to be filled. In Division II, 39 return with 78 placements are up for grabs.

Section VI Division I will have significant ground to be made up at the state tournament. The big school team took 5th overall three years ago and has landed in 6th place in each of the past two seasons in Albany. The talented trio that includes the McDougald cousins and Lancaster’s Ryan Stencel accounted for ten state tournament placements, three state titles, and 682 combined wins for the now departed local stars.

Only three wrestlers with state tournament placements return this year in all of Section VI Division I: Williamsville North/East’s Mike Catanzaro and Cam Catrabone and Frontier’s Travis Browning. Division II will enjoy the return of fifteen NYS tournament placers after having lost only five to graduation. The area’s top returning star is Newfane senior and recent UB commit Andy Lucinski, who already owns three placements in Albany, including two finals appearances.

New York State moving to thirteen weight classes, eliminates sub 100-pound weight(s)

The ongoing weight class reduction and consolidation discussion came to an end (at least for now) when the NYSPHSAA Central Committee voted to approve the new weight class structure in NYS starting with the 2020-2021 season on July 29th by a margin of 28-19. State wrestling coordinator Marty Sherman and the committee (NYSWC) packaged the revised request as an initial two-year pilot program to utilize the thirteen weight classes, down from fifteen that have been in place since the 2012 season. The primary reason for the weight class change, according to Mr. Sherman, was to address the “increasing amount of forfeitures in dual meets.” The new weight classes will mirror Pennsylvania’s: 102, 110, 118, 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 160, 172, 189, 215, and 285. The most noticeable difference is of course the loss of a sub 100-pound weight class which will have the biggest impact on talented 7th and 8th graders who may not be able to make the minimum 94-pound weight requirement for 102-pounds at the varsity and junior varsity level.

State individual tournament auto-qualifier format approved

After a great deal of discussion within the NYSWC, Mr. Sherman introduced the proposition of an automatic qualifier system to the NYSPHSAA Central Committee in July. The auto-qualifier would replace the currently used at large system and be utilized as a two-year pilot program beginning with the 2020-2021 season. The auto-qualifier program was ultimately approved at the October 2020 Executive Committee meeting by a margin of 22-0.

According to Mr. Sherman “The current system creates an atmosphere where wrestlers tend to ‘chase’ points and avoid matches that may hurt them at the end of the season. The Automatic Qualifier would eliminate the point system and award invitation in the State Championship based on the outcome of the Sectional Championship.”

Just like the at-large system, only 1st, 2nd, and 3rd placing wrestlers in each bracket at each sectional championship are eligible to make it into the state tournament. However, all eleven NYSPHSAA sections are assigned ‘power points’ and allocated a certain number of automatic qualifier spots per weight class. Sections are ranked by power points which is based on the results of an average of their last three state tournament placements. The top two most powerful sections in big schools and small schools will take their top three place winners in each of their thirteen weight classes from their sectional championships to states. The next five in each division will qualify their top two, and the bottom three in Div. I and four in Div. II will only advance their sectional champions. Both Section VI Div. I and II will advance their sectional champions and runners-up to Albany this season. Only the sectional champion will score points for their section at the NYS individual tournament.

The sectional championship ‘true second place’ to be decided by sections

Going right along with the proposal for the auto qualifier system was a request from the NYSWC to consider a true second place match to be allowed in sectional championship state qualifying tournaments.

As it would apply to Section VI athletes, under this proposal, for example, if the 2nd place wrestler at 145-pounds did not face and defeat the wrestler who took 3rd at 145-pounds on that day of the sectional tournament, those wrestlers might be required to wrestle a winner-take-all bout at the conclusion of the finals. IF the wrestler who placed 3rd defeats the wrestler who lost in the 145-pound final, then that 3rd place wrestler assumes 2nd place at 145 and with it automatically qualifies for the NYS championships in Albany. This proposal was approved to go into effect starting with the 2020-2021 season. The state wrestling committee approved the proposal with six sections voting in favor, four against it, with one section abstaining from the vote.

If the true second was contested in the 2020 Section VI championship tournaments, the 99, 126, 160, 170, 182, and 285-pound 2nd and 3rd placers would have had to wrestle in Division I while the 113, 120, 126, 182, and 220-pound initial 2nd and 3rd placers would have had to face off in Division II.

Section VI small schools expect strong state tournament performance

Section VI Division II teams placed twenty of its 51 entrants in the small school tournament in Albany last February led by Newfane’s NYS champion Jaden Heers. Out of those twenty, a whopping fifteen placers return from a squad that finished in 5th place among the other sections and only 2.5 points behind 4th place Section II (Capital region). The powerful Class B representative teams return nine of the place winners while the remaining six represent Class C/D squads. Newfane’s Lucinski is the most experienced returner coming off of his second straight state finals appearance and another massive season for the Panthers. With a strong group of experienced wrestlers led by eight seniors (should they all make it back to Albany) the Section’s small school team should be able to climb into the top four and possibly the top three in the team score at ‘states.

Big school stars graduated

The previously mentioned McDougald cousins, Stencel, and Clarence’s Aiden Rabideau, a state place winner, 5x state tournament representative, and 211-match winner, were all varsity athletes since 7th grade. For six seasons, these highly accomplished wrestlers unquestionably led their teams and carried high expectations as the best that Section VI Division I had to offer.

For some context, all four of these wrestlers competed at the state tournament four or more times. All won at least three sectional titles. All are their program’s all-time wins leader and, collectively, won 893 individual bouts. All four helped lead their teams to league dual meet titles while Justin McDougald and Stencel each helped their respective teams to Section VI Dual Meet titles (two for Wheatfield, one for Lancaster).

Without a doubt, the area’s big schools will look for need the fresh crop of talented underclassmen to step up starting this season in order to remain competitive in the state tournament team score race; only eleven large school wrestlers with state tournament experience are returning in 2020-2021.

CHSAA Tournament

WNY’s member Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) wrestling teams that form the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association (MMHSAA) were represented well in the 2019-2020 CHSAA championship finals at Holy Trinity HS on Long Island. Eight Msgr. Martin athletes competed in their respective ‘Catholic states’ finals with one winner in St. Joe’s Caleb Lesswing. Canisius star athlete Joe Dixon was a recipient of a rare ‘wildcard’ entry to the federation state tournament for his runner-up finish at Catholic states as well.

Of the eight 2019-2020 finalists only three return this season: Dixon and teammate Braydon Vandenberg and St. Joe’s’ Ronnie Jones. Jones is looking to become the Marauders’ first federation place winner since brother Richie accomplished a 5th place finish in 2015. Should Dixon make it back to the federation tournament, he and/or Vandenberg will look to become the Crusaders’ first place winner in Albany since Vincent Amoia in 1981.

Wrestling officials most expensive in NYS again

NYS HS wrestling officials again topped the list of the most expensive referees in NYS high school athletics in the 2019-2020 season. The combined dual meet and individual championship fees last winter totaled $18,540, up $340 from the year prior, mostly due to the additional 30 bouts at the state individual tournament with the 7th place matches. Official’s meals and travel both saw an increase this winter, however the lodging expense is listed as $794 under budget with no actual expense listed in the May 2020 NYSPHSAA Executive Committee meeting minutes. Compare $794 ‘under budget’ with $7,131 in lodging expenses for the referees last season! Either way, without even considering lodging expenses, NYS tallied a $24,755 bill for referees last season, good for a 4.7% increase. By comparison, football referees tallied a $17,873 bill for the 2019 championships which is the second most costly group in the state. (Page 25 of the May 2020 Executive Committee meeting packet).

Future of programs

Contained within the NYSWC meeting minutes from December 2nd is a note credited to Section I’s wrestling chairman offering concern for merged teams/schools based on both financial and logistical complications the state could expect as a result of the pandemic. Without any more elaboration within the minutes, one could assume that schools that don’t or are unable to field their own teams may move to completely eliminate any of the members of that school’s student body from ‘merging’ with another district’s team.

Consider the impact of no more merged teams in Section VI. In the 2019-2020 season, there were 32 combined teams! Thirteen host teams and nineteen add-ons. If those nineteen add-on teams were not allowed to merge going forward, then we are looking at nearly 5,000 students (according to the 2020-2021 BEDS) who would lose access to a varsity wrestling program unless their own district either fielded its own team or that child & family moved into a district that does wrestle. The most impacted schools would be the small schools on this list with a BEDS number of less than 300, however there are currently three add-on schools with BEDS numbers of 591 (W. Seneca E.), 704 (Kenmore E.), and 714 (Williamsville E.) that do not field their own varsity/JV squads.

Likewise, the loss of merged teams would unquestionably hurt the host teams’ programs as well in losing needed team members and in some cases financial backing from the add-on schools. Hopefully, it does not come to this.

Big school/small school classification cutoff number possibly recalculated 

Section I’s chairman is also credited in the 12/2 minutes with proposing a re-examination of the 599/600 BEDS enrollment number that currently separates teams into either Division I large schools or Division II small schools. The motion was made to decrease the cutoff number to 505 and above for large school and 504 and below for smalls. Section IX’s chairman and resident numbers & calculations expert Jeff Cuilty will surely be producing an analysis on how this would impact wrestling statewide.

However, this would immediately affect a handful of teams in Section VI as Pioneer (534), Iroquois (534), Cheektowaga (510), CSAT (509), and Lewiston-Porter (507) would all land in Division I based on the 2020-2021 BEDS numbers. Also, given last season’s BEDS numbers and subsequent merger equations for combined teams, the merged teams hosted by Health Sciences (+ Maritime and Tapestry), Fredonia (+ Silver Creek, Pine Valley, Forrestville, and Brocton), Alden (+ Depew), Olean (+ Allegany-Limestone), and East Aurora (+ Holland) would all find themselves competing in Division I instead of Division II.

Defending league champion teams

ECIC I Lancaster reclaimed the league dual meet championship after battling through a loaded league slate in which six of the division’s eight teams were ranked in the top nine of the final 2019-2020 WNY Athletics large school wrestling rankings. The Legends posted an impressive 18-3 overall record with a 7-0 league mark and made the program’s second appearance in four seasons at the NYS Dual Meet Championships to close out the ten year reign of Ron Lorenz who stepped down as head coach at the end of the season.

ECIC II – The Pioneer Panthers made it seven straight league titles and improved to an impressive 51-0 mark in league duals over that stretch with another first place finish in 2019-2020. Head coach Chris Edwards‘ squad fought through another strong field in ECIC II that featured five teams in the final WNY Athletics team rankings. The Panthers held off league rival Starpoint in a dramatic home dual in the last two weeks of the season in what would prove to be the league title showdown. The Panthers posted 7-0 league and 17-6 overall marks while finishing in the final NYS rankings in both polls.

ECIC III – The powerful Iroquois Chiefs steamrolled through the league slate on the way to capturing the division title under first year head coach and program legend Jim Kloc. The #11 state ranked squad out of Elma dropped back into ECIC III after competing in ECIC II in 2018-2019. Iroquois cruised to the Class B tournament title in a very strong field of teams, posted a perfect 6-0 league mark, and an impressive 27-4 overall last season while earning a runner-up finish at the Section VI Duals and receiving a last second invitation to compete at the NYS Duals for the program’s first appearance there.

NFL – Recently stepped-down Niagara Falls head coach DJ Giancola finished his nine year term as the head man with a Niagara Frontier League dual meet championship. The Wolverines went a perfect 7-0 in league matches including a nail-biting 39-30 home victory over Niagara Cup archrival Niagara Wheatfield. Eventually, ‘Falls completed its march to the league title with a road victory over a strong Grand Island team in the NFL season finale. The Wolverines captured the Class AA tournament title, finished 15-7 overall in 2019-2020 coming off of a very strong performance in 2018-2019 as well, and #5 overall in the final WNY Athletics large school rankings.

CCAA I – The NYS Champion Falconer/Cassadaga Valley Golden Falcons captured the team’s ninth consecutive Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association title in what proved to be a very quality league in 2019-2020 where four of its seven teams landed in the top eight of the final area rankings. Head coach Drew Wilcox‘s team battled through a perfectly organized non-league slate while taking care of business against CCAA I rivals, including a home victory over a resurgent Fredonia team with the league title on the line. Falconer claimed its third consecutive Duals title on the way to capturing the NYS Division II team title, going 6-0 in CCAA I while posting a 31-1 overall record and winning the Class C/D tournament team title.

CCAA II Portville continued its program renaissance with a second straight division title under head coach Matt Milne in 2019-2020. Coach Milne’s Panthers finished 6-0 in the league and 20-2 overall and landing at #6 in the final area team rankings while defending the league crown from the likes of a quality Maple Grove squad. The hard work and dedication of the Portville wrestling community that continues to be put forth will not go unrecognized or under appreciated.

Niagara-Orleans – A powerful Newfane squad made it seven in a row while improving to 35-0 in that same time in N-O conflicts. Third year head coach Matt Lingle‘s squad cruised to the division title with a loaded roster of which four Panthers advanced to the NYS individual championship AND placed at it. Newfane finished the season with a perfect 5-0 division record while posting a 22-4 overall mark and earning the #3 final ranking for WNY small schools.

MMHSAA St. Joe’s held off a well strategized game plan by the two-time defending Msgr. Martin champion St. Francis Red Raiders to reclaim the league dual meet title in a late January, Friday night showdown in Athol Springs. ‘Joe’s escaped with a 45-39 win courtesy of a walk-off pin by heavyweight and CHSAA champion Caleb Lesswing. St. Joe’s finished the season with a 4-0 league mark and an Honorable Mention squad among the area’s very competitive large school teams in the final ranking under first year head coach Brad Devlin while also claiming the Msgr. Martin All-Catholic Tournament team title.

Teams to keep an eye on

Of teams that finished outside of the top three in the final 2019-2020 WNY Athletics team ranking and didn’t win their respective league title, here are some teams to keep an eye out for this season.

Williamsville North/East – Head coach Mickey Moran‘s squad battled through every ECIC I dual last season in the league’s most competitive year in some time. The Spartans return a trio of sectional champions and two of the area’s three returning large school NYS tournament place winners in senior Mike Catanzaro (8th at 126-pounds) and freshman Cam Catrabone (6th at 120). Also, defending Section VI Div. I 106-pound champion Brendan Dellinger as well as returning sectional finalist Evan Brophy are back in Moran’s lineup that only lost three seniors, two of which were starters, to graduation. Already with a roster primed to make a run at a league title, the Spartans also added to the depth of its coaching staff as the most individually experienced group in WNY as Amherst alumnus and four year member of the North Carolina State Wolfpack Kellen Devlin was hired as an assistant coach.

Hamburg – Is this the year the Bulldogs finally take down Clarence AND Lancaster, finish in the top two of ECIC I, or win it outright? Hamburg, one of the most consistent teams in WNY, finished 3rd in ECIC I for the fifth straight season in 2019-2020 and had an impressive day at the Section VI Duals taking 3rd in the Division I bracket. Head coach Ken Schmitz returns a strong group of athletes led by defending Section VI champion Dylan Collins and 3rd placer Devin Collins. The brothers will lead a Bulldog group that placed eight wrestlers in Class A but only three of which placed at sectionals (also including junior Jon Bennett).

Starpoint – The Spartans placed fourteen wrestlers in the Class A tournament, ten of which will return in 2020-2021 led by returning Section VI Division I champion Gage LaPlante and supported by three other returning place winners in Dylan Lyness, Chris Uptegrove, and Thomas Browne. Starpoint had a solid 2019-2020 campaign capturing a runner-up finish in the strong ECIC II division and a top ten ranking in the tough area large school landscape. Also, the addition of a future star in 7th grader Griffin LaPlante will immediately benefit coach Steve Hart‘s squad as they try to dethrone Pioneer in the league.

Fredonia – The Hillbillies featured a very talented roster in 2019-2020 and will so again in 2020-2021. Returning state place winners Dave Ball (5th at 113) and Ceric Kristan (8th at 182) lead a group of seven returning Class B place winners and four sectional placers. Last year’s squad placed twelve in the class, eight in the section, and three in NYS. Head coach Joe Santilli‘s squad lost three stars in the two heaviest weights, however a strong group of underclassmen should emerge who bided their time behind three talented seniors a year ago. Where the Hillbillies may need to cover the most ground is in the middle of the lineup where a very quality group of seniors departed in the spring. Returning sectional 3rd place winner Hunter Larson will be expected to anchor that group.

Chautauqua Lake – Only one normally-starting senior departed from a Thunderbirds squad that returns over thirteen wrestlers (i.e., the new number of weight classes in a dual), not bad for one of the Section’s smallest teams, BEDS-wise (albeit combined with Panama, Westfield, and Clymer). The Thunderbirds return seven Class C/D place winners and four sectional placers led by two-time Section VI champion Brendon Ramsey and state tournament 5th place finisher Martin Ohlsson. The pair bookended a loaded roster of young, talented wrestlers from 99 to 138/145-pounds last season that carried the weight of coach Ken Rowe‘s squad. Unfortunately, the lack of bodies in the upper weights was a challenge for the 2019-2020 T-Birds, but the wrestlers they did have were young last year and did, as we say in wrestling, ‘take their lumps’ with the goal of turning those experiences into improvement. IF the lightweight stars grew in size this offseason and separated in weight from one another, ‘Lake could be a total force through the first 9-10 weights in its lineup.

Returning Section VI state tournament place winners, qualifiers, and sectional champions

Class AA returning state place winners (and 2020-2021 class)

Travis Browning – Frontier – junior

2019-2020 7th place, NYS Division I – 99-pounds. Season record 48-7

Cameron Catrabone – Williamsville North/East – freshman

6th place, NYS Division I – 120-pounds. Season record 42-6

Mike Catanzaro – Williamsville North/East – senior

8th place, NYS Division I – 126-pounds. Season record 44-6

Class B returning state place winners

Dan Kirsch – Pioneer – junior

4th place, NYS Division II – 113-pounds. Season record 54-4

David Ball – Fredonia – senior

5th place, NYS Division II – 113-pounds. Season record 41-8

Michael Schiffhauer – Iroquois – junior

7th place, NYS Division II – 113-pounds. Season record 50-11

Carson Alberti – Alden (Depew) – junior

5th place, NYS Division II – 120-pounds. Season record 50-6

Donovan Bukaczeski – Iroquois – senior

7th place, NYS Division II – 120-pounds. Season record 49-9

Julian Martin – Lake Shore – senior

8th place, NYS Division II – 132-pounds. Season record 42-12

Kameron Riordan – Pioneer – senior

5th place, NYS Division II – 145-pounds. Season record 50-7

Ceric Kristan – Fredonia (Brocton) – senior

8th place, NYS Division II – 182-pounds. Season record 44-9

Conner Walsh – Olean (Allegany-Limestone) – senior

6th place, NYS Division II – 220-pounds. Season record 40-10

Class C/D returning state place winners

Aiden Gillings – Newfane – 8th grade

4th place, NYS Division II – 99-pounds. Season record 48-10

Martin Ohlsson – Chautauqua Lake (Westfield) – sophomore

5th place, NYS Division II – 99-pounds. Season record 38-10

Andy Lucinski – Newfane – senior

2nd place, NYS Division II – 106-pounds. Season record 51-4

Ryan Nugent – Newfane – senior

8th place, NYS Division II – 145-pounds. Season record 42-11

Dakota Mascho – Portville – junior

5th place, NYS Division II – 152-pounds. Season record 47-6

Dontae Hoose – Southwestern – junior

6th place, NYS Division II – 195-pounds. Season record 43-10

Returning Section VI champions (and 2020-2021 class)

Division I

Gage LaPlante – Starpoint – freshman

Brendan Dellinger – Williamsville North/East – senior

Michael Schaefer – Lancaster – freshman

Cam Catrabone – Williamsville North/East – freshman

Mike Catanzaro – Williamsville North/East – senior

Dylan Collins – Hamburg – junior

Brian Bielec – Grand Island – junior

Division II

Aiden Gillings – Newfane – 8th grade

Andy Lucinski – Newfane – senior

Dan Kirsch – Pioneer – junior

Carson Alberti – Alden/Depew – junior

Ryan Sweeney – Iroquois – junior

Brenden Ramsey – Chautauqua Lake (Panama) – senior

Ryan Nugent – Newfane – senior

Dakota Mascho – Portville – junior

Conner Walsh – Olean/Allegany-Limestone – senior

Returning state tournament qualifiers (and 2020-2021 class)

Division I

Amarfio Reynolds, Jr – Niagara Falls – sophomore

Collin Coughenour – Niagara Wheatfield – sophomore

Division II

Gavin Ciarfella – Barker/Royalton-Hartland – sophomore

Brayden Newman – Falconer – senior

Luke Tomlinson – Maple Grove – junior

Jayden Lassiter – Portville – senior

Returning CHSAA state tournament place winners (and 2020-2021 class)

Luke Vantresca – St. Joe’s – sophomore

2019-2020 3rd place – 99-pounds

Luke Brydges – Canisius – junior

3rd place – 120-pounds

Liam Edwards – St. Francis – junior

5th place – 126-pounds

Joe Dixon – Canisius – senior

2nd place – 170-pounds

*Received wildcard entry into the NYS federation tournament

Ronnie Jones – St. Joe’s – senior

2nd place – 182-pounds

Braydon Vandenberg – Canisius – junior

2nd place – 195-pounds

Returning MMHSAA All-Catholic champions

Luke Vantresca – St. Joe’s – sophomore

Nicholas Siler – St. Francis – sophomore

Luke Brydges – Canisius – junior

Cody Franklin – Canisius – junior

Joe Dixon – Canisius – senior

Ronnie Jones – St. Joes – senior

Brayden Vandenberg – Canisius – junior

2019-2020 final league standings and rankings

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