WNY Athletics

Niagara Frontier League Wrestling Preview

Another outstanding year in the Niagara Frontier League saw Niagara Wheatfield represent the league and Section at the NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championships. The Falcons also reclaimed the league title for the first time since 2015-2016 and accounted for a third of the Section VI Division I individual champions. The league as a whole generated ten of the 15 large school individual sectional champions and qualified three teams (Wheatfield, Niagara Falls, and Grand Island) for the Section VI Dual Meet Championships.

Overall, the competition between the league’s top three teams was intense and proved a significant gap exists between them and the rest of the league, at least last season. The last time a team that finished in the bottom five of last year’s NFL standings (except Lockport) placed top three in the league was the 2013-2014 season (Lewiston-Porter). However, a ton of youth mixed with very little losses at graduation in some of the bottom five finishing teams gives an early warning sign that perhaps things will be closer in the NFL this winter than expected…


Niagara Wheatfield Falcons

Head coach: Rick Sweney

2018-2019 results: 7-0 league, 12-2 overall, Niagara Frontier League champion, Class A tournament champion, #1 WNY Athletics final large school ranking, #14 New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) final large school ranking, NYSPHSAA Dual Meet Championship large school final four team

Key losses: Warren McDougald, Josh Thibeault, Jake DeWolf, Kyle Jungier, Kevin Halford

Key returners: Justin McDougald, Colin Coughenour, Te’Shaun Mathews, Elijah Greenough, Mark Kuhn, Anthony Kuhn, Zach Lloyd, Ali Assaf, Jake Thibeault

The Falcons placed fourteen wrestlers in Class A, twelve of whom placed in at the Division I state qualifier as well. Last year’s team returned four sectional champions and by season’s end crowned five total…an impressive number even for the storied Falcon program. Safe to say, replacing three Section VI champions with two more sectional placers is a difficult task for sure. However, the traditional depth of the Niagara Wheatfield program and the off-season work their athletes put in year after year suggests the departure of five key seniors will only result in an opportunity for up and coming Falcons. The most notable graduation was Wheatfield’s second 200 match winner Warren McDougald, who also claimed four Section VI titles and three state place finishes with a runner-up placement last year. Josh Thibeault and Jake DeWolf accounted for two and one career sectional titles, respectively. Justin McDougald is nearing the 200 victory milestone and expects to make another run at a state title now in his senior year. Freshman Colin Coughenour already has two Section VI titles and will surely be expected to take on a bigger role given the loss of the strong senior class. Out of Wheatfield’s nine returning Class A placers, five are seniors. Also, the Falcons will benefit from the addition of junior Louis Perreault who was in the St. Joe’s lineup the previous two years. A huge early test for the Falcons will come in the form of a possible showdown with Section V blue blood Spencerport at the Cheektowaga Warrior Duals.


Grand Island Vikings

Head coach: Craig Hoplight

2018-2019 results: 6-1 league, 19-7 overall, NFL 2nd place, #4 WNY Athletics final large school ranking, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final large school ranking

Key losses: Connor Kenney

Key returners: Adam Daghestani, Blake Bielec, Jack Randle, Brian Bielec, Jake Miller, Caleb Messing, Matt Newbould, Gavin Larsen, Jeremy Fridman

The 2018-2019 Vikings placed nine athletes in Class A and six at the state qualifier including three Section VI champions, a Viking program record. Eight of those postseason placers return including sectional champions Adam Daghestani and Blake Bielec. Daghestani brought home 4th place honors in New York State last season and could be a big-time dark horse for championship honors this winter. Don’t be surprised if senior Jack Randle and freshmen Brian Bielec join Daghestani and Blake as sectional champions at the end of this season. Two-time sectional champion Connor Kenney was the most notable graduation for the Vikings and the only senior out of the group who claimed postseason honors. Grand Island followed up their league championship and Duals runner-up 2017-18 season with nineteen dual wins last year and a league runner-up finish. With the impressive amount of off-season work the Vikings have put in, don’t count out this team from league, class, and sectional title races.


Niagara Falls Wolverines

Head coach: DJ Giancola

2018-2019 results: 5-2 league, 17-2 overall, NFL 3rd place, #5 WNY Athletics final large school ranking, Honorable Mention NYSSWA final large school ranking

Key losses: Michael Snowden, Deandre Prum, Maurice Seawright, Joe Dixon, Anthony Sullivan, Censere Humphrey, Maurice Jackson, Jourdan Scott

Key returners: Willie McDougald, Amarfio Reynolds, Darren Christian, Josh McCoy, Leviticus Cox

Graduation took a big toll on the Wolverines after last season. Thirteen athletes placed in Class AA, six of whom graduated. Also, the team lost Joe Dixon who enrolled at Canisius this year. Four of those departed athletes placed at the state qualifier as well. Only five postseason placers return this year led by state champion Willie McDougald. McDougald of course had to settle for a runner-up finish in NYS last winter but is nearing the 200 win mark and looks to be a preseason favorite for another title. The 2018-2019 Wolverines started the season 16-0 and two league losses proved to be the only two of the season for the senior heavy squad. It will take a lot of work for the returning stars on this team to recreate the success of last season, however, this team is well coached, has a superstar athlete in the middle of the lineup, and a plethora of athletes in the hallways of Niagara Falls High School to recruit and fill out the roster.


Kenmore West/East Blue Devils

Head coach: Bill Hineman

2018-2019 results: 4-3 league, 7-14 overall, NFL 4th place

Key losses: Zachary Fedeson, Nolan Sander

Key returners: Dylan Mirabella, Cole Kreiger, Millard Ellis, Connor Grohman, Shain Constantin, Noah Michael

The 2018-2019 Blue Devils fielded a full lineup in most of their duals last season but experienced the learning curve with a ton of youth on the roster, heavy with freshmen and sophomores. As a result, this year’s squad only losses two Class AA place winners from a year ago, one of whom placed at the state qualifier. Sophomore Noah Michael was a class finalist last season and 5th in the division making him the highest placing returning wrestler for Coach Hineman. Out of six returning Class AA placers, none other than Michael finished higher than 5th place suggesting that while this team is still very youthful there is a ton of room for improvement. Don’t be surprised if Kenmore can wrestle their way into the top three in the league this season or knock of some unsuspecting opponents.


North Tonawanda Lumberjacks

Head coach: Wally Maziarz

2018-2019 results: 3-4 league, 10-12 overall, NFL 5th place

Key losses: Tyler Bartolomei

Key returners: Anthony Swan, Camerin Holmes, Christopher Kinney

In his first season as head coach, NT alumnus Maziarz notched ten dual victories and neared an even .500 record, a very promising and encouraging result for a first year head coach without a full lineup. Last year’s ‘Jacks took a few lumps at the hands of some league rivals and also at the Sweet Home Duals early in the season but found ways to win close matches. With only a few weeks to go in the season NT earned their statement win with a 43-33 victory in the T-NT rivalry match. Going into this season NT losses their top wrestler in 5th place NYS finisher Tyler Bartolomei and only return three Class A placers led by senior Camerin Holmes. Like last year’s NFL 4th place team, North Tonawanda has a lot of work ahead of them but the youthfulness of the roster plus a seemingly growing off-season presence suggests Lumberjacks Wrestling is on the verge of a full program revival.


Lewiston-Porter Lancers

Head coach: Jon Hoover

2018-2019 results: 2-5 league, 4-16 overall, NFL 6th place

Key returners: Caden Barrientos, Ciaran Edwards, Trevor Thompson

Not only did Lewiston not lose any experienced seniors, they didn’t lose any seniors, period. Last year’s Lancers roster featured five middle schoolers, three freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors, and no seniors. Despite the overwhelming amount of youth of last year’s team, Coach Hoover still put together a strong dual slate to challenge his wrestlers as they competed in both the Grand Island Duals and Queen City Southtowns Duals at St. Francis and added a non-league dual with Starpoint. Three athletes return this winter having placed in the strong Class B tournament. Sophomore Trevor Thompson placed third at 195-pounds as only a freshmen while Caden Barrientos and Ciaran Edwards both finished fourth in their respective weight classes. Edwards also placed top six in his weight at the divisional tournament. If the Lancers can restock their lineup with more wrestlers with another years’ worth of experience, look for them to improve a spot (maybe even a few) in the NFL standings this season.


Charter School for Applied Technologies Eagles

Head coach: Nate Sutch

2018-2019 results: 1-6 league, 1-6 overall, NFL 7th place

Key losses: Christ Kahuka

Key returners: Carson Kulaw, Shawn Meiller

The biggest takeaway from the 2018-2019 season for the Eagles: the program’s first league win. Also a nice takeaway was improving a few spots in the class tournament scoring. Whereas the Eagles finished last in Class C with 17 team points two years ago, they more than doubled that score, jumped two more spots, and outscored the next team behind them by only a half point at a tough Class B tournament. In only three years as an organized team CSAT continues to prove that they want to take wrestling seriously. The 2018-2019 squad was very heavy with juniors and sophomores suggesting the possibility of an even better record this season given another year of experience and age. Carson Kulaw and Shawn Meiller are two of only three Class B placers from last season and lead the group of seniors back for their final year. With both of these wrestlers in the second half of the lineup, it is to be seen who will step up to anchor the lightweights. Another league win, possibly more, and an even better class finish this season would be more huge steps in the right direction for the CSAT Eagles.


Lockport Lions

Head coach: Bill Morello

2018-2019 results: 0-7 league, 0-7 overall, NFL 8th place

Key losses: Brandon Larkin, Javan Marable

Key returners: Ethan Perkins, Stefan Fearon

As is the case with all teams who finish last in the league, the only place to go is up. And it is only a matter of time before the proud tradition of Lockport Lions Wrestling is back on its feet again. The Lions lose two of their top wrestlers to graduation but return two of their Class AA placers in Ethan Perkins and Stefan Fearon. The number one goal before anything else however would be to fill out this lineup as Coach Morello was forced to forfeit most weights in their duals last season. Hopefully the strong wrestling network in Lockport will influence a program-wide genesis and get the Lions back into the league picture if not this year, then the years to come.


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