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52 WNY High School Wrestlers to Watch This Season

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Cover photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


The 2023-2024 high school wrestling season in western New York and the state at large is off and running following the first week of action. In WNY, large and small school public teams are already nearing in on only a month away from the Section VI Dual Meet Championships. The next three weeks of action will really start to show where teams and individuals with big postseason aspirations stand, as well as what the next wave of up and coming athletes and programs on the rise are shaping up to become.


With hundreds of high school male and female wrestlers competing among Section VI and Msgr. Martin teams this winter and dozens upon dozens of athletes deserving of a mention, here are 52 area boys to especially keep an eye on through this season and into postseason championships.


Defending NYS champions


Cam Catrabone – senior – Williamsville North/East


The returning NYS Div. I champion and University of Michigan commit is currently ranked 6th in the country by FloWrestling at 145-pounds. The 2022-2023 Eastern States champ went 52-2 overall last season and starts the campaign as the favorite to repeat as NYS champion. Along with leading the North/East team that is hopeful for big league and postseason accomplishments, Catrabone will compete at the prestigious Powerade Invitational again this year where he was a runner-up in 2022. With another sectional title this winter, Catrabone could become the first in section history to win six individual Section VI wrestling titles.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Jordan Joslyn – senior – Chautauqua Lake


Joslyn captured the NYS Div. II 126-pound title and tournament MOW last season coming all the way as the 7th seed in the bracket to defeat the defending 2x NYS champion, 6-4, in the state final. Joslyn ended his season at 49-2 overall and helped the (then) Thunderbirds to league, class, and sectional dual meet championships honors. At 138-pounds, the United States Military Academy commit should be the favorite state wide to repeat as champion, assuming he reaches the federation tournament for a third straight time.

Photo courtesy of Bob Koshinski


Tavio Hoose – sophomore – Southwestern


The Trojans’ 4th different NYS champion in program history has a shot to become its second 2x champion this season. As a 6-seeded freshman in the ‘man’s weight’ 172-pound bracket last February, Tavio defeated the 3, 2, and 4 seeds on the way to the NYS title. Tavio has already stormed out to a 9-0 record this season with a win over a returning big school all-state wrestler on his resume.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


With a NYS title this season, Catrabone, Joslyn, and/or Hoose would join Amherst’s Kellen Devlin (2014, 2015, 2016) and Niagara Falls’ Willie McDougald (2018, 2020) as the third Section VI wrestler in the last ten years to win at least two NYS individual titles.


Returning NYS place winners


Aidan Gillings – junior – Newfane


The first of three Panthers on this list, ‘Gilly’ went 50-6 a season ago, placing 3rd at Eastern States on the way to a runner-up finish in NYS at 132-pounds. The junior is already a 3x NYS place winner and could become the 3rd wrestler in program history to win a NYS individual title this season.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Trevor Barry – senior – Iroquois


The University of New Hampshire football commit enters his senior wrestling campaign as a two-time sectional champion and NYS tournament place winner at 215-pounds; 3rd in 2023 and 5th in 2022. If Trevor captures a NYS title this season he would be the fifth to do so in Chiefs program history.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


JJ Lucinski – senior – Newfane


Lucinski had a true breakout season in 2022-2023 winning the Section VI Div. II 102-pound title and reaching the NYS tournament semifinals before settling for 4th in the state. JJ should be right in the mix as one of the favorites for an individual state title this season.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Te’Shaun Mathews – senior – Niagara Wheatfield


The two-time state tournament qualifier and defending Section VI champion, state semifinalist & 5th place winner at 138-pounds will carry big expectations this winter not only individually but as the leader of the WNY #1 large school Falcons team loaded with talent and primed for a big dual meet season.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Austin Zimmerman – senior – St. Joe’s


The 3x defending CHSAA champion reached the NYS Div. I tournament quarterfinal last winter on the way to placing 5th in the federation at 110-pounds and going 52-9 on the season. Austin was also a top-8 place finisher at the brutal 2023 Eastern States. Zimmerman helped get the WNY #4 large school team off to a solid start in week one and along with the next athlete, will help to anchor a rugged lower weight stretch in the St. Joe’s lineup.


Nik Massaro – senior – St. Joe’s


In his first season in maroon & white, Massaro captured the CHSAA 126-pound title before landing 5th in the NYS Div. I federation tournament in Albany, and alongside Zimmerman became the first Marauder(s) to place at the state tournament since 2015. Nik reached the 50 win mark exactly in 2022-2023. St. Joe's is yet to have a federation finalist and champion...perhaps either of these two stars could be the school's first.


John Watson – senior – Chautauqua Lake


Watson captured the Section VI Div. II 152-pound title last season and finished 6th in NYS after helping to lead the Thunderbirds to the Section VI Dual Meet title. The (now) Eagles will rely on Watson to anchor the lower heavyweight part of their lineup as they seek to repeat as sectional duals champion before the individual postseason begins.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Ayden Buttery – junior – Newfane


The returning sectional runner-up at 132-pounds was an auto-qualifier to the state tournament and wrestled back to 6th place in his first appearance in Albany. The Buttery-Gillings combo in middle of the Panthers lineup is one of the best duos in the state.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Carmine Calimeri – sophomore – Southwestern


The Southwestern 10th grader is already a two-time sectional champion and NYS place winner (5th in 2022, 7th in 2023). The WNY #2 small school Trojans will need to rely on Carmine to help achieve their team goals as he seeks a third straight sectional title and state podium finish.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Jack MacDonald – senior – Orchard Park


MacDonald placed 6th at the prestigious Eastern States before capturing the Section VI Div. I 189-pound title and placing 7th at the NYS tournament, the first Quaker to do so since 2004. MacDonald committed to wrestle at UB in the offseason but will take one more shot at sectional and state honors in his final high school season. It's been 40 years since Orchard Park has claimed a wrestler with two state tournament place finishes.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Trevor DellaPenta – sophomore – Eden


Trevor wrestled to a 2nd place finish in the Section VI Div. I championships last winter earning himself a spot in the NYS tournament. In his first appearance in Albany, he won three straight consolation matches and landed in 8th place in the 102-pound bracket. Now that Eden is back in Division II, Trevor and rest of the Raiders will deepen the sectional small school field.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Matt Trim – senior – Maple Grove


Trim captured the Section VI Div. II 189-pound title in 2023 on the way to an 8th place finish in NYS. Matt had a dominating performance in his first action of the season at the Matthew Marino Invitational over the weekend but fell by a slim 2-1 decision to Iroquois’ Barry at 215-pounds in a battle of returning sectional champions and state place winners.

Photo courtesy of Bob Blair


Hamza Merrick – junior – Wilson


Hamza posted a 47-8 record a season ago on the way to a runner-up finish in the section, ultimately taking 8th in NYS at 285-pounds to become Wilson’s 3rd ever state place winner, the first Lakemen wrestler to do so since 2008. Merrick is already one of the top returning heavyweights in the state this season, and all four of the top-4 placing wrestlers in the 2023 state tournament graduated leaving the opportunity wide open to advance on the podium in Albany should he make it back.

Photo courtesy of Bob Blair


The Rest


Gage LaPlante – senior – St. Francis


The West Point commit won the Eastern States title and placed at Powerade last season. In 2022, Gage was 7th in NYS at 145-pounds following his second trip to Albany. This season, he’ll have to win the CHSAA title to return to the state federation championships. Currently, he is considered the favorite at 170-pounds in NYS Div. I to win the state title. The Red Raiders program is still seeking its first ever federation champion. With Gage as the leader of an ark full of talent, perhaps that milestone is more within sight than ever before.


Griffin LaPlante – sophomore – St. Francis


Griff won the Section VI title on the way to 5th in NYS at 132-pounds in 2022. He was 5th at Eastern States last year and just barely missed the podium at the grueling Powerade tournament. As is the way for CHSAA wrestlers, LaPlante will have to win the ‘Catholic states’ title to get back to Albany.


Cullen Edwards – sophomore – St. Francis


Edwards has reached the state tournament in each of the past two seasons; as a sectional runner-up in 2022 and as the Section VI Div. I 102-pound champion in 2023 at Frontier. Edwards was also a 5th place finisher at Eastern States a season ago. Now at St. Francis, he’ll have to win the CHSAA title in order take another shot at a podium finish in Albany.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Dylan Newman – freshman – Falconer/Cassadaga Valley


Went to the state tournament as the Section VI Div. II 102-pound sectional finalist and defended his placement in the true second match.


Kenji Walters – senior – Southwestern


Walters got revenge for a loss in the 2023 Class C/D final in the sectional championships 110-pound final to claim the small school title and earn his second trip to the state tournament. Kenji is off to a 9-0 start this season and hasn’t taken a forfeit.


Evan Azbell – freshman – Niagara Wheatfield


Earned a trip to states last season by defeating the sectional final runner-up at 110-pounds in the ‘true second place’ match.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Victor Cusatis – sophomore – Wilson


Cusatis was one of three Lakemen at the 2022-2023 Section VI Div. II championships to earn a trip to the NYS tournament, a program record. And, he took down the 118-pound section finalist runner-up to do so. So far this season, he’s already got a head to head win over the returning champion.


Bryce DellaPenta – sophomore – Eden


The 2022 Section VI Div. II 110-pound champion made the most of his opportunity in the Div. I sectional championships last season, reaching the 118-pound final but falling to his senior teammate. Nonetheless, he made it back to the state tournament for a second year in a row.


AJ Didas – junior – Clarence


AJ earned his first trip to the state tournament by way of defeating the finalist runner-up in the ‘true second place’ match at the Section VI Div. I championships at 132-pounds. Clarence is looking for its first state placer since 2020.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Eian Peterson – sophomore – Niagara Wheatfield


Two-time defending Section VI Div. I 102-pound champion.


Chase Richards – sophomore – Niagara Wheatfield


Reached the Section VI Div. I 138-pound final in 2023 and defended his runner-up finish in the true second place match to qualify for the state tournament.


Garrett Chase – junior – Niagara Wheatfield


Defeated the sectional finalist runner-up at 145-pounds in Div. I to earn an auto-qualification to the 2023 state tournament.


Dylan Gagnon – senior – North Tonawanda


2022-2023 Section VI Div. I 152-pound champion is 7-0 so far this season.


Alex Schiffhauer – sophomore – Iroquois


Alex lost in the 2023 152-pound Div. II sectional quarterfinal but won three straight consolation matches to claim 3rd place. Since he didn’t wrestle the finals runner-up he had a shot at ‘true second’ and made the most of the opportunity to earn an auto-qualification to the state tournament.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Jacob Stephenson – junior – Wilson


Captured the 2023 Section VI Div. II 160-pound title to reach the state tournament. Stephenson uses his length to his advantage as he wrestles a funky style that when he is on, is capable of pinning state champions (he's done it).


Joe Cicco – senior – Niagara Wheatfield


Reached the sectional championships 160-pound final last season and defended his placement in the true second bout.


Michael Schaefer – senior – Lancaster


Schaefer reached the NYS tournament for the second time in his career a season ago but unfortunately had to bow out due to injury in the opening round. Michael will look for that second Section VI title this winter and to join a long list of Lancaster NYS place winners.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Mason Maring – junior – Chautauqua Lake


Earned auto-qualification to the state federation Div. II tournament with a runner-up finish at 189-pounds in the section last season.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Gilbert


Ison Shirley – senior – Chautauqua Lake


The last of six CL wrestlers to reach the state tournament in 2023, Shirley reached the 215-pound final, fell, and then had to defend that spot in the true second place match which he did successfully.


Bryce Hawes – senior – Clarence


The senior athletic heavyweight earned entry to the 2023 large school state tournament as an auto-qualifier following his runner-up finish at 285-pounds in the section. Bryce is already off to a great start to his senior year as he was a big part of the Class A champion Red Devils football team.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pataky


Tanner Catrabone – 8th grade – Williamsville North/East


Tanner took 3rd in Section VI Div. I 102-pounds last winter as a 7th grader at the varsity level.


Jaron Barrientos – junior – Lewiston-Porter


Won the Class A 102-pound title a season ago and took 3rd at Eastern States.


Dylan Castiglia – junior – Grand Island


Reached the Section VI Div. I 110-pound final but missed states, falling in the true second place match. Dylan is 7-1 so far this season with a three point loss to a sectional champion.


Sean Gordon – sophomore – St. Joe's


2023 CHSAA finalist at 118-pounds has won five of his first six matches so far and has split with the two returning federation tournament qualifiers he’s faced so far.


Caden Barrientos – senior – Lewiston-Porter


Three-time Section VI Div. II place winner who could seriously shake things up this season.


Jayson Kline – senior – St. Joe’s


The Week One WNYA WoW went a perfect 6-0 to start the season including two wins over returning state federation qualifiers. Kline was 3rd at the CHSAA Championships last season.


Ethan Coleman – senior – Portville


Was a Section V finalist and 5th place NYS finisher at Bolivar-Richburg HS in 2021-2022, now back in Section VI.


Caden Inkley – junior – Randolph


Inkley took 3rd in both the 2023 Class C/D and sectional championships at 132-pound behind only two top-6 NYS place winners…


Wyatt Opferbeck – junior – Pioneer


Opferbeck has battled through some very difficult sectional brackets in each of the past two seasons and back to back 4th place finishes to show for it. He could be the go to guy for the Panthers in 2023-2024.


Sawyer Dickinson – sophomore – Kenmore


Dickinson has been a star in the making for Coach Wilcox and nearly punched through to the state tournament a season ago at a tough weight class. Sawyer challenged the sectional finalist runner-up but wasn’t able to unseat that wrestler.


Neves Hoose – senior – Southwestern


Neves has back to back 3rd place finishes at the sectional tournament, falling in the semifinals but wrestling to bronze in both 2022 and 2023. As the only one of the five Hoose brothers left to place at the state wrestling championships, you might make sure to keep an eye on Neves this season as he tries to not only get to Albany but make the podium as well.


Evan Leonard – senior – Franklinville


Leonard won the 160-pound 2023 Class C/D title and has placed 4th in Section VI Div. II in each of the past two seasons. The Panthers haven’t had a state qualifier since 2007…could Evan be the one to break that streak?


Jayden Malecki – senior – Chautauqua Lake


Malecki was one spot away from reaching the state tournament with a 3rd place finish at 172-pounds in Section VI. The two ahead of him were a state champion and a two-time qualifier.


Connor Miller – senior – St. Francis


Started the 2022-2023 season strong, but missed some time in the middle of the season. Eventually came back to a 3rd place finish in the CHSAA tournament.


Zach Caldwell – sophomore – St. Francis


Zach really broke out in 2022-2023 following a 5th place finish in Section VI Div. I at 132-pounds as an 8th grader. Last season at 152-pounds, he was an 8th place finisher at Eastern States as a freshman. Now at St. Francis, he’s in the upper weights and in the thick of one of the top (if not the top) units in the same practice room in the state.


Zaid El Nasser – senior – Williamsville North/East


Zaid was 3rd in Section VI in a loaded pack of big school heavyweights. He has history with Clarence’s Hawes and will co-op the weight class in house with junior Max Smith this season.




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