T-minus one day until a number of area wrestlers find themselves on the mat, staring down opponents, on the way to capturing the pinnacle of high school wrestling in the state: A New York State Public High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Title.
Twelve from the area will be making the trip to the Times Union Center in Albany on Friday and Saturday where the top wrestlers from the state's 11 sections, as well as qualifiers from the New York City Public High School Athletic League and the Catholic High School Athletic Association will meet to do battle.
Northern Chautauqua County will be represented by six wrestlers as Fredonia will be sending Pat McCarthy, Zach Buckley, Jude Gardner and Dakota Gardner. Ripley will send Emory Rowe and Cassadaga Valley will be represented by Derek Wise.
Also headlining the locals is Ben Haas of Salamanca, who is a returning state champion.
Others include Nick Mitchell and Kevin Strong of Frewsburg and Jon Nickerson of Maple Grove, each one a senior looking to end their high school careers as the best.
Haas is competing this season at 152 pounds, where he has racked up a record of 44-1 to improve his school-record total to 239 wins and just 39 losses. The senior's place at the 2012 state tournament looked in doubt during the Section 6 Division 2 State Qualifier at East Aurora High School as he trailed 11-5 heading into the championship-bout's final period. But Haas responded with nine points to clinch the 14-11 win and earn the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler award.
Mitchell heads into the state tournament as the top seed in the very competitive 170-pound weight class. This season the senior went a perfect 41-0, and also broke the school record for wins (then at 207) and sits in second place behind teammate and friend Kevin Strong with 226.
According to Southwestern coach Mark Hetrick, Mitchell's tremendous season should translate over the weekend.
"Mitchell stands out above the rest," he said. "He has just been a step ahead of everybody all season."
Mitchell is set to do battle with Mike Rauch, a junior from Red Hook of Section 9, in his opening-round match.
Rounding out the top contenders is Kevin Strong, who despite suffering a tough loss in triple overtime in the 132-pound final at the state qualifier, enters the tournament with an impressive 41-3 record and is making his fifth trip to Albany. He will compete with Robert Heney of Section 8's Locust Valley on Friday.
See WRESTLING, Page?B3
Full brackets are available online at: www.nysphsaawrestling.com on the "brackets/results" page.
Tickets for the 50th edition of the wrestling state championship tournament can be purchased at the Times Union Center Box Office, select WalMart locations, charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000, or online at www.timesunion.com. Tickets are $12 per session or $33 for a three-session package.
Following is a rundown of all 12 area wrestlers headed to states:
Derek Wise, Cassadaga Valley, 285: This senior went 29-4 this season with 22 pins. The four-year varsity starter has 94 career wins. He advanced to the state finals as a Wild Card after a second-place finish at the Division 2 state qualifier. He took first place at the Maple Grove Tournament and first place at the Cassadaga Valley Duals. He placed second at the Holiday Invitational, the Patrick J. Morales Tournament and the Ripley Tournament. His loss in the finals of the state qualifier was his only loss of the season to a Section 6 wrestler. He finished the season ranked second in the Wrestling Review of Western New York.
Emory Rowe, Ripley, 126: Rowe advanced to this weekend's finals via wild card, after taking second place at the state qualifier. He took first place at the Class D Tournament. ... He currently boasts a 35-4 mark and has 177 career victories. ... He took the Cassadaga Valley Duals championship and took first place at the Sweet Home Tournament, Ripley Tournament and Patrick J. Morales Tournament. This will be his second trip to states as he was a participant in 2010.
Pat McCarthy, Fredonia, 113: Pat McCarthy advanced to states with a Wild Card selection. He sports a 43-7 record. ... He placed second at the Holiday Classic, third at Webster, was undefeated at the St. Francis duals and went 8-1 at the Dunkirk Duals. He also placed second at Lockport and second at the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Tournament. ... He placed first at the Class B?Tournament and second at the state qualifier.
Dakota Gardner, Fredonia, 120: Dakota Gardner punched his ticket into states after taking first place at the Class B?Tournament and first place at the state qualifier. The eighth grader is 46-2 this season. ... He placed first at the Webster Tournament and went undefeated at the St. Francis Duals and the Dunkirk Duals. He finished second at the Holiday Invitational and first at the Lockport Tournament and the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Tournament.
Jude Gardner, Fredonia 138: Jude Gardner took second place at the Class B?Tournament, but bounced back with a first-place finish at the state qualifier to advance to this weekend's festivities. ... He holds a 43-6 record and captured his 100th career victory earlier this season. ... At the St. Francis Duals, he earned a 7-1 mark. He took second place at the Holiday Invitational and went 7-2 at the Dunkirk Duals. He earned a first-place finish at Lockport and another top spot at the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Tournament.
Zach Buckley, Fredonia, 160: Buckley, a junior, is making the trip to Albany today thanks to a first-place finish at the state qualifier to compliment his first-place finish at the Class B?Tournament. ... He sports a 45-5 record this season. ... Highlights for Buckley this season include a first-place finish at the Lockport Tournament and a perfect record at the Dunkirk Duals. He placed fifth at Webster and at the Holiday Invitational and had a 7-1 mark at the Webster Tournament.
Dylan Lundmark, Southwestern, 99: A freshman in his third year of competition at the varsity level. ... Picked up a pair of victories by decision and then topped Falconer's Kyle Blake in the 99-pound Section 6 Division 2 State Qualifier, 3-1, to earn his first-ever trip to the state tournament. ... Is 37-6 on the year and 67-22 in his career. ... In addition to winning the qualifier, was the champion of the Ripley and Patrick J. Morales Tournaments. ... Took second at the Class C and Sweet Home Tournaments and third at Attica. ... Was undefeated this season in duel meets.
Nick Mitchell, Frewsburg, 170: This senior has posted an unbeaten record this season of 41-0. ... Snapped the school-record of 207 wins set by Billy Prince in 2000 in January and now sits in second-place all-time (behind current teammate Kevin Strong) with a career record of 226-35. ... Reached the state tournament for the third time when he flattened his first two opponents and then edged Olean's Marcus Dwailebee in the Section 6 Division 2 state qualifier championship bout, 6-4. ... Was named the Most Outstanding wrestler at the Patrick J. Morales and the Pine Valley Tournaments, and also was victorious in the Class D, the Webster, the Niagara Falls Officials, the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Tournament and the Holiday Invitational. ... Mitchell is the top-ranked wrester in the deep and competitive 170-pound class of the state tournament and his making his third trip to Albany. ... Finished third last season at state tournament. ... Has been a member of the varsity wrestling squad for six years.
Kevin Strong, Frewsburg, 132: A senior who racked up 41 victories this season against just three losses. ... Is the all-time winningest wrestler in Frewsburg history with a record of 227-38 - just one more than good friend Nick Mitchell. ... Earned the top-wild card position and his fourth trip to the state tournament after suffering a hard-fought, 5-3 loss in triple overtime to Eden's Tom Page in the Division 2 state qualifier. ... Was the Most Outstanding Wrestler at Holiday Classic, first at Pine Valley, first at Patrick J. Morales, first at Cattaraugus-Little Valley and won the Class D Tournament as well. ... Finished third at states last season and fifth during the 2008-2009 season. ... Has wrestled at the varsity level for six years.
Jacob Gullo, Jamestown, 170: For the second year in a row, this senior was the lone Division 1 state qualifier from the area. ... Went 35-4 this season and has 148 victories in his five-year varsity career. ... After injurying his knee in the ECIC Division 1 championships (he was forced to withdraw in the final), Gullo still earned a birth in the Division 1 state qualifier and placed second in his weight class. ... Was first at Eisenhower, first at Ripley, second at the Holiday Classic and third at the Patrick J. Morales Memorial Tournament. ... On Jan. 5, Gullo set the all-time Jamestown High School record for career wins 135, which bested Jon Bernard's record set five years ago. ... Making his second trip to the state tournament.
Ben Haas, Salamanca, 152: This senior has gone 44-1 this season and during a Section 6 Class D tournament championship he set the all-time win mark for Salamanca when he picked up victory No. 236. ... After a stunning, come-from-behind win the Division 2 state qualifier, Haas' career mark is now 239-39. ... Haas trailed by as many as six points, 9-3 and then 11-5 as the second period came to an end at the qualifier, but tallied nine unanswered points in the final period to clinch yet another birth in the state tournament. ... For his efforts he was awarded the Most Outstanding Wrestler award for the qualifier. ... This season he was also named MOW at the Salamanca Tournament, and he took first in the Holiday Classic and the Patrick J. Morales tournaments while placing second in the NFOWT. ... Went undefeated at the Letchworth Duels. ... Has been a member of the varsity since seventh grade, and has been to the state tournament five times, including a trip last year that resulted in Haas winning the only state title (at 145 pounds) in the area.
John Nickerson, (Maple Grove, 195: A senior who went 34-1 this season with 23 pins. ... Nickerson, who has been on the varsity wrestling team since seventh grade, made easy work of the Section 6 Division 2 State Qualifier as he picked up a victory by fall, a major decision in the semifinal and then rolled to a 5-1 decision over Alden's Jeff Lake in the championship to clinch a spot in the upcoming state wrestling tournament. ... Was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Maple Grove Kickoff Classic. ... Took first in the STWOA Invitational, the Ripley, the Patrick J. Morales and the Class D Tournaments. ... This will be Nickerson's first trip to Albany.