The 2017-2018 season brought unseen before change to the Niagara-Frontier League; the Grand Island Vikings won the league championship for the first time, and in convincing fashion. They started by taking down their rivals on the eastern bank of the Niagara River by nearly twenty points in the second week of the season. The league accounted for eight of the fifteen Section VI large school champions, led by Niagara-Wheatfield’s four. Niagara Falls’ Willie McDougald won the 132-pound large school state championship, the first for Section VI Div. 1 in six seasons. Three teams represented the league at the second Section VI Dual Meet Championship.
Grand Island will do everything they can to defend their league title. However, Niagara-Wheatfield will be hungry to take it back. Don’t be surprised if Niagara Falls ruins the whole thing. While the league powerhouses battle for supremacy, another group of teams will be developing talent for the future. Oh, and the top spot on the podium at the state tournament in Albany could turn into a reunion for the McDougald family.
Grand Island Vikings – Class A
2017-2018 resume: 1st place Niagara-Frontier League (6-0 league), Section VI Class A champion, Section VI Dual Meet Tournament runner-up, NYSSWA #20 ranked large school
Head coach Craig Hoplight leads the Vikings into the 2018-2019 campaign coming off of the most successful season in program history. The Vikings won the NFL title for the first time, crowned two Section VI champions, and sent four wrestlers to the state tournament.
Fourteen Vikings placed at the Class A tournament including eight champions to help the team secure the class title. Five of those place winners including sectional champion Dan Emblidge and state tournament wildcard Jaquan Johnson have graduated. Senior Connor Kenney returns as the defending Section VI 182-pound large school champion and will be Coach Hoplight’s upper weight anchor to a group that lost three class place winners to graduation. Fellow class champions and sectional place winners Adam Daghestani, Blake Bielic, and Jeremy Fridmen will fill in one of the toughest upper weight groups in the section. Daghestani went to the state tournament as an at-large. Class A champions ninth grader Brian Bielic and senior Seth Jackson should be the Viking’s leaders in the bottom half of the lineup. Only two of the nine returning class place winners are seniors this season.
The Vikings will be a force again in Section VI. Don’t be surprised if they repeat as NFL and Class A champions and make another run at the Section VI Dual Meet title.
Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons – Class A
2017-2018 resume: 2nd place NFL (5-1 league), 2nd place Class A tournament, 3rd place Section VI Duals, NYSSWA Honorable Mention
Although it was previously reported that Wheatfield would move back to Class AA this season, the Falcons will remain in Class A due to the last second West Seneca East & West merger.
The Falcons return four defending Section VI champions and a state tournament wildcard. Three-time sectional champion and two-time state finalist Justin McDougald, now in his junior year, leads head coach Rick Sweney’s talented roster. Three-time Section VI champion and two-time state place winner Warren McDougald will have one last shot at a state title now in his senior season.
Then 8th grader Collin Coughenour avenged a loss from the Class A tournament final to win his first Section VI title at 99-pounds a week later. Senior Josh Thibeault is back to defend his championship from a year ago and will anchor the upper-middle weights of the Falcon lineup. Senior Jake DeWolf, coming off of a strong football season, looks to finally take home a sectional title of his own after falling in the 2018 qualifier final that did result in an at-large bid to Albany.
The Falcons placed fourteen underclassmen in last season’s Class A tournament; five are now seniors. Out of those fourteen eight of them placed at the qualifier. The Falcons will be looking to take back the Duals, Niagara-Frontier League, and Class A titles this winter.
Niagara Falls Wolverines – Class AA
2017-2018 resume: 3rd place NFL (4-2 league), 5th place Class AA tournament
Possibly the brightest spot in the last 51 years of Niagara Falls H.S. wrestling was Willie McDougald‘s state championship in February. The electricity of that moment just may have been the spark that head coach DJ Giancola was hoping for.
Seven Wolverine juniors (now seniors) placed in the Class AA tournament including four finalists and one champion in Josh McCoy. A total of nine underclassmen placed, and two more were entered but did not place. It’s safe to assume that number would have been ten had McDougald participated (he earned a medical hardship and the top seed at 132-pounds for the qualifier). Four returners placed in the state qualifier. With the rock solid duo of McDougald and McCoy anchoring a tough stretch of middleweights in Coach Giancola’s lineup, in addition to seven experienced seniors, the Wolverines could be crashing the NFL, Class AA, and Duals parties this winter.
Lockport Lions – Class AA
2017-2018 resume: 4th place NFL (3-3 league), 7th place Class AA tournament, Section VI Duals participant
The Lions’ state qualifier day only resulted in two individual place finishes, one being the graduated Steve Daskavitz who earned a wildcard to the state tournament. Senior Josh Rolon placed 6th at 126-pounds for head coach Bill Morello. Rolon should lead a Lions team that has seven returning place winners from the Class AA tournament. Among them are three seniors, three juniors, and one sophomore. Lockport may be primed to take a big step forward in 2018-2019. The Lions qualified for the first two Section VI Duals (2nd place in 2016-2017) and will look to extend that streak.
Ken-Ton Blue Devils – Class AA
2017-2018 resume: 5th place NFL (2-4 record), 9th place Class AA tournament
This will be the third season of a combined Kenmore East and West wrestling team.
The 2017-2018 Blue Devils were maybe the most balanced upper-to-lower classmen team in the league. Head coach Bill Hineman had four upper weight seniors place 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in the AA tournament while four ninth graders and a tenth grader all between 120 and 138-pounds managed only one 6th place finish. That placement, thanks to Teddy Hengel, is as good of a starting point as any for a young and inexperienced team under the experienced guidance of Coach Hineman. Whether it be this season or the next, keep an eye on the up and coming Blue Devils.
Lewiston-Porter Lancers – Class B
2017-2018 resume: 6th place NFL (1-5 league), 11th place Class B tournament
Three seniors graduated from a group of only eight wrestlers who competed at the class tournament. Only two place winners return in 2018-2019. However, out of the twenty-two certified wrestlers on last year’s roster, only five were seniors. The Lancers were heavy with 8th graders and freshmen which may be a sign that a more robust roster is on the horizon for head coach Jon Hoover.
North Tonawanda Lumberjacks – Class A
2017-2018 resume: 7th place NFL (0-7 league), 7th place Class A tournament
New head coach and NT alumni Wally Maziarz takes over this season looking to rebuild the ‘Jacks program. Maziarz will have defending Section VI champion Tyler Bartolomei to structure a team around with Bartolomei now in his senior year. Seven wrestlers with postseason experience return in 2018 with only three having placed in Class A. However, a handful of experienced wrestlers paced by a defending Section VI champion may be all Coach Maziarz needs to jumpstart the ‘Jacks turn around for good.
Charter School for Applied Technologies Eagles – Class C
2017-2018 resume: 0-0 NFL (competed as junior varsity in league duals), 11th place Class C tournament
2017-2018 was the inaugural season for the CSAT Eagles. They competed as part of the NFL but wrestled league matches as junior varsity events. Head coach Nate Sutch entered the squad into a handful of varsity and junior varsity tournaments and scheduled non-league varsity dual meets. Two Eagles in graduated Martin Del Moro (3rd place) and returning senior Christ Kahuka (6th place) placed at the 2018 Section VI Class C tournament. Twenty-six athletes certified last season with seven seniors having graduated. Hopefully with these kind of numbers the Eagles will be ready to take the next step toward a long term plan for sustaining a wrestling program.
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