The offseason nearly brought turmoil to the Msgr. Martin High School Athletic Association (MMHSAA) and the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) wrestling community as a whole. It was reported that in the spring state wrestling committee meeting that NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas discussed the possibility of removing the CHSAA and Public School Athletic League (PSAL-NYC) athletes from the annual state tournament. Dr. Zayas Tweeted: “…Concern = NYSPHSAA should have the opportunity to crown own champ.” This would have effectively turned the state championships as we know it into a true NYS federation-only tournament. The reality of having to hold a costly second ‘state’ tournament after the federation tournament in February was enough for the powers that be to drop the idea.
Nonetheless, St. Francis enters the season as the defending league and CHSAA Dual Meet champion and CHSAA Div. II tournament champion. St. Joe’s was the 2017-2018 MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament champion.
The Red Raiders are led by last season’s only CHSAA champion from Msgr. Martin, Dominik Thomas. He’ll look to lead a lineup that returns six league tournament champions. St. Joe’s returns four defending league champions.
In all likelihood the league title could again be decided on Friday, January 18th when St. Francis visits St. Joe’s for the Marauders annual ‘Snakepit’ match. However, a team to keep an eye on is the Canisius Crusaders, led by a new head coach with roots in one of Section VI’s blue blood program. St. Mary’s of Lancaster may creep up on some unsuspecting league opponents.
St. Francis Red Raiders
2017-2018 resume: 1st place MMHSAA (4-0 league), 2nd place MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament, CHSAA Dual Meet Champion, CHSAA Div. II Tournament champion
Nearly the entire 2017-2018 Red Raider squad returns for head coach Mike Messore. Two key starters who combined for nearly 70 wins last season graduated in the spring. Dominik Thomas, the only CHSAA champion from the MMHSAA last season, returns for his final campaign as does twin brother Nolan. Dominik was the 170-pound CHSAA champion while Nolan was runner-up at 195-pounds.
Six starters who combined for nearly 200 wins in 2017-2018 return. Nine Raiders placed at the CHSAA tournament in February. Three of those placers have graduated. Beside the Thomas brothers, Logan Lauck, Mark Lanning, Slade Merk, and Dan Browning all return this season after medaling. All six are defending MMHSAA tournament champions, and five more tournament finalists return as well. Among the thirteen returning starters, eight are seniors and four are freshmen. Not only will the Raiders bring a ton of experience into this season, they’ll have seniority as well.
It will be interesting to see where the 2018-2019 Red Raiders stand in the WNY wrestling community in week two when they dual Clarence at the Jon Vesper Memorial Duals at Clarence H.S. Going into the first week of the season, St. Francis has to be the favorite to repeat in the MMHSAA.
St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Marauders
2017-2018 resume: 2nd place MMHSAA (3-1 league), 1st place MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament, CHSAA Dual Meet tournament participant
Much like St. Francis, St. Joe’s lost a low number of senior graduates. Head coach Pete Kennedy lost four starters to graduation including CHSAA finalist Ty Slaughenhoupt.
Seven Marauders placed at the CHSAA tournament and five of them return this season. Seniors Ben Parish (3rd, 132-pounds) and Sullivan Walsh (3rd, 170-pounds) are the highest placing returners. Charles Morrison and Matt Werts return for their senior seasons after both placed 5th at ‘Catholic States’ and junior Dalas Jackson returns holding a 6th place finish. Walsh returns with the most wins on his record on the team from a season ago.
Coach Kennedy returns a balanced group of MMHSAA place winners including four defending champions, four runners-up, and four bronze medalists. Werts, Ronnie Jones, Garrett Grenauer, and Caleb Lesswing are the defending league champions.
Even though St. Francis would appear to return more experienced wrestlers than ‘Joe’s, expect the Marauders to show up against their arch rival on January 18th. The Marauders will have to get through a tough first week of wrestling in which they’ll host the powerful Section V Spencerport Rangers, compete at the Palmyra-Macedon Duals, and then visit Lancaster for a non-league match.
2017-2018 resume: 3rd place MMHSAA (2-2 league), 3rd place MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament, CHSAA Dual Meet tournament participant
New head coach Dave Wilcox takes over the Crusaders in 2018-20219. Wilcox is a former Lockport assistant.
Plenty of experienced wrestlers will return this season led by two-time defending CHSAA 3rd place finisher Matt Baldwin. Baldwin, now in his senior year, leads a group of nine returning league tournament place winners and three returning CHSAA place winners. Two Crusaders in graduated Justin Gill and senior Josh Kracker won league titles last season. Both placed at ‘Catholic States’ with Kracker placing 6th at 113-pounds. Senior Thomas Blackwell returns to the Crusaders lineup after placing 4th at the CHSAA tournament at 170-pounds.
Given the wrestling education in a program like Lockport’s under former head coach Joe Scapelliti, Coach Wilcox will have the Crusaders prepared to take on the league’s elite. Canisius will wrestle a tough tournament schedule and venture into Section V three times in December alone. Keep an eye on the new look Crusader squad.
St. Mary’s of Lancaster Lancers
2017-2018 resume: 4th place MMHSAA (1-3 league), 4th place MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament
St. Mary’s returns seven league place winners. Only three seniors graduated from a team of nineteen for head coach Zach Weiss. Junior Liam Regan is the highest returning league place winner with a 99-pound runner-up finish in the MMHSAA tournament. Behind him are three returning 3rd place winners and three 4th place finishers from last season.
The Lancers should be heavy with juniors and seniors in 2018-2019. While there were only three seniors on last year’s squad, there were seven juniors and seven sophomores. Now all a year older and more experienced, St. Mary’s could surprise some teams especially on its non-league dual schedule. Perhaps the Lancers can start the season off with a win over league rival Canisius at the Holley/Kendall Team Tournament on December 1st.
The Gow School Ravens
2017-2018 resume: 5th place MMHSAA (0-4 league), 5th place MMHSAA All-Catholic tournament
Junior Max Carrier had a solid season for head coach Matt Mariacher in 2017-2018. The junior was a MMHSAA tournament finalist at 120-pounds and placed 6th in the CHSAA tournament. No other league place winners return on what should be a very limited roster in 2018-2019.
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