Cover image courtesy of Ciaran Edwards/CE Design
The 70th Section VI championships and 56th annual state qualifiers kick off on Saturday at Starpoint for the area’s large school teams and Southwestern for the small schools.
Section VI Division I teams return eight defending sectional champions, ten overall sectional champions, and four NYS place winners. Nearly half of the 2018-2019 Section VI Division I champions are gone as six graduated last spring while one’s school moved down to Division II. Last season’s state team finished 6th against the other federation teams in Albany, one spot behind the 2017-2018 squad. Given the number of weight classes which are guaranteed to have new sectional champions by Saturday night (seven total), this year’s team should fare well with a handful of what will be state tournament first timers led by the four returning placers and could perhaps enjoy multiple state champions for the first time since 2010. The Section also sent eight wildcards to the state tournament last year topping 2017-2018’s seven for a new record in the wildcard era. Four of those entries graduated in the spring.
Saturday’s sectional finals should be an exciting mix of quality matches between experienced wrestlers and local athletes looking to etch their names into their respective program’s record books. There are eight entries per weight class since the Class AA and A tournaments qualify only the top four place winners in each weight.
- Travis Browning – Frontier – 10th grade
- Jaden Crumpler – Niagara Falls – 9th
- Gage LaPlante – Starpoint – 8th
- Nick Massaro – Grand Island – 8th
Browning is one of the oldest and most experienced wrestlers in the bracket. The Frontier sophomore is a returning Section VI finalist and the odds-on favorite to capture his first sectional title as he is back on weight from a year ago. As it turns out, in this season alone, Browning has wrestled twelve of the seventeen other sectional qualifiers in both large and small schools and has defeated all twelve. At the beginning of the season it may have looked like the sectional title might’ve come down to two wrestlers. Insert Niagara Falls freshman Jaden Crumpler. Crumpler didn’t place in Class AA last season, but has been solid for the Wolverines this season and really mixed things up on January 25th with a 3-2 decision win over LaPlante. Crumpler does have two head to head losses to Browning; an 8-0 major followed up with a closer 3-0 deficit in the Class AA final. LaPlante, a returning sectional place winner, fell by a narrow deficit of 6-4 to Browning in the ECIC final.
Semifinal predictions: Browning p. Massaro; LaPlante dec. Crumpler, 5-3
Championship prediction: Travis Browning dec. Gage LaPlante, 6-1
- Amarfio Reynolds, Jr – Niagara Falls – 9th
- Carter Tadusz – Lancaster – 9th
- Brendan Dellinger – Williamsville North – 11th
- Chris Uptegrove -Starpoint – 9th
A wide open weight class in which one area wrestler will be a first time Section VI champion. Reynolds earned the top seed as he captured the Class AA title and is a returning Section VI 4th place finisher. Amarfio owns six head to head wins over the two and three seeds but hasn’t yet wrestled Uptegrove. He’s had Tadusz’s number with four decision wins over the Legends wrestler this season. Tadusz has a head to head pin over Dellinger while Dellinger owns two pins over Uptegrove that pushed him down to the 4-seed. As the only returning sectional place winner with a perfect record against his major competition this weekend, Reynolds looks like the favorite to capture an individual title and trip to the state tournament.
Semifinal predictions: Reynolds dec. Uptegrove, 7-1; Tadusz dec. Dellinger, 9-2
Championship prediction: Amarfio Reynolds, Jr dec. Carter Tadusz, 8-6
- Myles Gronowski – Lancaster – 10th
- Michael Schaefer – Lancaster – 8th
- Tremell Mathews – Niagara Wheatfield – 9th
- Dylan Lyness – Starpoint – 11th
- Ian Howell – Clarence – 11th
- Ja’Shad Bumpers – Niagara Falls – 10th
Returning sectional finalist Myles Gronowski captured his third straight Class AA title on Saturday and the top seed in the weight class for the state qualifier. After missing out on a wildcard in 2018-2019, Gronowski will be looking to guarantee his first trip to states this weekend. Teammate Michael Schaefer was a medical wildcard into the qualifier. Without a head to head over Tremell, Schaefer’s current record, quality wins, and 3rd place finish in sectionals in 2018-2019 helped him with his points total to the 2-seed. Mathews captured the Class A title defeating Lyness in a tight 4-3 decision. Howell is the only other returning sectional place winner in the bracket, as he took 6th in 2019. Howell fell by a 4-0 score in the AA final to Gronowski in their third meeting of the season. The familiarity among the top six wrestlers in the bracket suggests chaos may ensue on Saturday, especially in the quarterfinal round with Bumpers vs. Mathews and Howell vs. Lyness. Mathews does have a narrow 2-1 win over Bumpers this season all the way back on December 11th.
Semifinal predictions: Gronowski dec. Howell, 6-1; Mathews dec. Schaefer, 6-4
Championship prediction: Myles Gronowski dec. Tremell Mathews, 7-4
- Cam Catrabone – Williamsville North – 8th
- Adam Kowalski – Frontier – 12th
- Jaden Friel – Williamsville South – 11th
- Kaleb Schurkus – Lancaster – 10th
- Jefferson Long – Clarence – 7th
- Elijah Greenough – Niagara Wheatfield – 11th
- Gavin Lyness – Starpoint – 12th
The young but extremely talented Spartans 8th grader is the defending Section VI champion however up three weight classes after winning the 99-pound title last season. Catrabone has seen Kowalski twice this season, first at the ECIC Championships where he was a 9-6 winner and then again in the Class AA final where he earned a second period pin after falling behind 4-0 to start the match. Friel has been strong for the Billies this season, capturing the Class A title last weekend but fell to Kowalski, 7-6 at ECIC’s. Kowalski does have losses to Schurkus, Long, and Greenough, but did return the favor against everyone but the latter this season. Besides Catrabone, both Kowalski and Greenough are the only returning state qualifier place winners. There is definitely a possibility for chaos in this bracket, but it stops at Catrabone if it does happen. Lyness vs. Kowalski may be a first round match to keep an eye on.
Semifinal predictions: Catrabone p. Schurkus; Friel dec. Kowalski, 5-3 OT
Championship prediction: Cam Catrabone p. Jaden Friel
- Michael Catanzaro – Williamsville North – 11th
- Jack Randle – Grand Island – 12th
- Jacob Eckler – Starpoint – 12th
- Brody Banks – Orchard Park – 12th
- Anthony Kuhn – Niagara Wheatfield – 12th
- Christian Lasher – Starpoint – 12th
A senior heavy field of wrestlers fighting to make sure each match isn’t their final high school bout could be grounds for serious entertainment value on Saturday. However, the top seeded wrestler is the odd one out, as Catanzaro the only junior in the entire field as well as the defending Section VI champion. While Catanzaro is the favorite, GI’s Randle, a returning sectional finalist, has been excellent this season as he tries to make a final push to Albany. Kuhn is the only other returning sectional place winner in the bracket and received a medical wildcard to the state qualifier. The fact that the two haven’t crossed paths this season makes a potential Catanzaro/Randle final an interesting prospect. Whomever does not happen to win on Saturday should the two meet in the title match should be a lock to receive a wildcard to Albany.
Semifinal predictions: Catanzaro md. Kuhn, 14-4; Randle md. Eckler, 9-1
Championship prediction: Mike Catanzaro dec. Jack Randle, 6-3
- Ryan Forrest – Hamburg – 12th
- Luqman Ahmad – Williamsville South – 11th
- Collin Coughenour – Niagara Wheatfield – 9th
- Jon Palozzi – Clarence – 11th
- Marco Fuoco – West Seneca – 11th
- Wilfredo Borges – Niagara Falls – 11th
Forrest is a returning sectional finalist and NYS tournament wildcard looking to finally earn a Section VI individual title after having placed 4th twice and a runner-up in 2018-2019. The top three seeds competed in Class A last weekend, with one of the big matches having been Ahmad’s pin over two-time defending Section VI champion Collin Coughenour in the semifinal. Coughenour did opt to move up for the postseason push, so the freshman is giving up some weight. Forrest has defeated all five of the wrestlers seeded right behind him, including pins over Ahmad and Palozzi and a major over Coughenour. This is another weight class where the quarterfinal round could become quite interesting with a lot of familiarity among the athletes. A wrestler to keep an eye on is Falls’ Wilfredo Borges, who is 1-2 with Fuoco, has beaten Ahmad, and has held Forrest and Palozzi to decision matches this season.
Semifinal predictions: Forrest dec. Palozzi, 7-2; Coughenour dec. Ahmad, 7-6
Championship prediction: Ryan Forrest dec. Collin Coughenour, 10-5
- Justin McDougald – Niagara Wheatfield – 12th
- Hasan Dobbins – Amherst – 12th
- Trevor Sheehan – Lancaster – 10th
- Mark Kuhn – Niagara Wheatfield – 11th
- Jesiere Carter – Niagara Falls – 10th
The Wheatfield senior has won just about all there is to win in NYS high school wrestling. Justin is a four time Section VI champion, a three time state tournament place winner, a two time NYS finalist, an Eastern States champion, and owns the program’s career wins record. The only thing he doesn’t have? An individual NYS title. Dobbins has had an outstanding senior season for the Tigers and owns a head to head win by technical fall over Class AA champion Sheehan from the ECIC finals. An interesting stat about Dobbins: he hasn’t received a single forfeit in a dual meet this season. Sheehan hasn’t met Kuhn this season, although he defeated Carter 7-5 in the Class AA final last weekend. Carter/Kuhn should be an excellent quarterfinal battle. Mark is a returning sectional 3rd place finisher.
Semifinal predictions: McDougald tf. Kuhn; Dobbins dec. Sheehan, 7-3
Championship prediction: Justin McDougald p. Hasan Dobbins
- Willie McDougald – Niagara Falls – 12th
- Aiden Rabideau – Clarence – 12th
- Devin Collins – Hamburg – 10th
- Bryce Bolognese – Lancaster – 11th
- Jake Miller – Grand Island – 11th
The nationally ranked Wolverines senior has led WNY wrestlers for the last six years. McDougald has captured a NYS individual title and two more place finishes, four Section VI titles, and two Eastern States runner-up finishes. McDougald will look for his fifth sectional title on Saturday, however another accomplished wrestler in Rabideau hasn’t backed down from any competition this season. Rabideau is himself a two time Section VI champion and four time state tournament competitor. McDougald has a 3-1 win over Rabideau as well as a 4-0 win from the Class AA final last weekend. A McDougald/Rabideau final has potential to be one of the best of the weekend as it would combine six overall sectional titles, eight state tournament appearances, and nearly 450 combined wins on the mat at the same time. However, to reach the final Rabideau would more than likely need to defeat Hamburg’s young star for a fourth time this season, which is never an easy task. Aiden has a major and two close decisions over Collins this season, who is a returning sectional runner-up to McDougald from 2018-2019.
Semifinal predictions: McDougald p. Bolognese; Rabideau dec. Collins, 4-3
Championship prediction: Willie McDougald dec. Aiden Rabideau, 4-2
- Dylan Collins – Hamburg – 10th
- Ali Assaf – Niagara Wheatfield – 12th
- Jimmy Discostanzo – Clarence – 12th
- Teddy Hengel – Kenmore – 11th
- Dylan Coe – Orchard Park – 11th
- Jake Slowinski – Clarence – 12th
Dylan Collins responded to an injury exit from the 2018-2019 postseason by capturing his first Class A title and top seed for the state qualifier. Collins has two head to head decisions over Assaf this season (5-0 and 7-3) and pins over Dicostanzo, Hengel, and Coe. Assaf and Dicostanzo haven’t met face to face however Ali has decision wins over Hengel and Coe. Between seeds 2-6, decision head to head win of who beat who make the bracket a hard one to predict. However, Collins stands out as the favorite in the pack.
Semifinal predictions: Collins p. Coe; Assaf dec. Dicostanzo, 9-8
Championship prediction: Dylan Collins dec. Ali Assaf, 10-5
- Brian Bielec – Grand Island – 10th
- Jack Feltz – Clarence – 12th
- Jacob Thibeault – Niagara Wheatfield – 12th
- Ben Buscaglia – Amherst – 12th
- Josh Jelonek – Lancaster – 11th
- Owen Weller – Frontier – 12th
Bielec’s jump up to 160 paid off at least initially as the Vikings sophomore captured his third Class A title cruising through the bracket with two pins and two major decisions. Bielec does have a head to head win at weight over the 2-seed and Class AA champion Feltz, 7-1, from December 21st. The next closest match against the field was a 5-4 decision over Weller from the same day. Weller hasn’t seen Thibeault this season, however a quarterfinal between the two draws some interest for sure. On the top side of the bracket, Jelonek and Buscaglia haven’t met this season either, so first time matchups will have big implications in this bracket. A 5-seed for Weller might have made him even more of a darkhorse in the bracket since he has multiple head to heads and split wins with Jelonek and Buscaglia (assuming either one would be in the 4-seed spot) and given the close score with Bielec might make things interesting. Feltz and Thibeault met at the Duals on January 4th, with the Red Devils senior winning 6-2.
Semifinal predictions: Bielec md. Jelonek, 12-2; Feltz dec. Thibeault, 3-2
Championship prediction: Brian Bielec dec. Jack Feltz, 8-4
- Adam Daghestani – Grand Island – 12th
- Dylan Wojciechowski – Frontier – 12th
- Evan Brophy – Williamsville North – 11th
- Casey Dummitt – Grand Island – 12th
- Camden Smith – Lancaster – 12th
- Dom Manzella – Hamburg – 12th
Daghestani is the returning Section VI champion and NYS 4th placer finisher. ‘Adam D’ has been on a tear this season and other than missing a few weeks after an injury from Eastern States has looked downright unstoppable. Daghestani captured his third straight A title on Saturday while 2-seed Wojciechowski claimed his second straight with a finals major decision over Brophy. Unlike some of the other weight classes, there aren’t a lot of head to heads among the top seeds at 170-pounds. Daghestani/Wojciechowski haven’t wrestled, and neither have Dummitt/Smith, Dummitt/Brophy, or Brophy/Manzella making the quarterfinals an interesting set of matches.
Semifinal predictions: Daghestani p. Smith; Wojciechowski md. Brophy, 9-1
Championship prediction: Adam Daghestani md. Dylan Wojciechowski, 13-2
- Ryan Stencel – Lancaster – 12th
- Mike Pataky – Orchard Park – 12th
- Kevin Daskavitz – Lockport – 9th
- Andriy Petrov – Frontier – 11th
- Jonah Christakis – Amherst – 12th
The bracket’s top two seeds go into Saturday bringing state tournament experience. Stencel is a two time Section VI champion but fell in last year’s final, eventually wrestling to a 5th place finish in NYS Division I after earning a wildcard entry. Pataky is a defending sectional champion and became the first in fourteen years to win the Section VI title from Orchard Park. Stencel’s ‘no mercy’ style on the mat has built up his season and career wins record as he recently broke the program’s career wins mark and creeps closer to the season and career pins records. Stencel has two head to head wins each over Pataky (a major and a pin) and Daskavitz (7-0 and 3-0 decisions) this season. Pataky has traded wins with the Lions’ emerging star, as he was a 6-2 winner on 12/21 however Daskavitz earned a huge Class AA semifinal pin last weekend over the Quakers senior. A Pataky/Daskavitz semifinal will be a match to watch.
Semifinal predictions: Stencel p. Petrov; Pataky dec. Daskavitz, 2-1
Championship prediction: Ryan Stencel p. Mike Pataky
- Codie Scotland – Lancaster – 12th
- Dan Empfield – Lancaster – 12th
- Konrad Kryszton – Frontier – 10th
- Levi Cox – Niagara Falls – 11th
- Camerin Holmes – North Tonawanda – 12th
- Jon Bennett – Hamburg – 10th
The Lancaster seniors have met in three straight tournament finals with Scotland winning in close decision matches each time. Scotland is a returning sectional finalist and has wrestled Empfield, Kryszton, Cox, and Bennett a total of seven times this season alone, winning in each match. Empfield vs. Kryszton has been an individual rivalry to watch in WNY this season, trading wins in all three meetings. Empfield won the first head to head 3-1 in OT, followed by a Konrad win, 2-1, and most recently an Empfield win in the Class A semis, 4-2. Levi Cox moved up a weight for the postseason and will have an interesting quarterfinal with NFL rival Holmes, who advanced his position for the sectional seeding with an impressive 15-4 major decision in the Class A final over Hamburg’s returning sectional place winner Bennett. Bennett has met Kryszton this season once but fell 13-10. They will meet again on Saturday. The top six seeds in this bracket are all very close together in ability suggesting the potential for upsets in terms of seeding only.
Semifinal predictions: Scotland dec. Holmes, 6-0; Kryszton dec. Empfield. 2-1 UTB
Championship prediction: Codie Scotland dec. Konrad Kryszton, 4-2 OT
- Blake Bielec – Grand Island – 12th
- John Haberman – Hamburg – 12th
- Matt Wagner – Orchard Park – 12th
- Noah Michael – Kenmore – 10th
- Marquis Carns – Clarence – 12th
- Carl Ealy – Niagara Falls – 11th
The bracket features five returning sectional place winners led by defending Section VI champion Blake Bielec. Bielec has a head to head 8-0 major decision over returning finalist Haberman this season and a pin over returning 3rd place finisher Wagner. However, Blake hasn’t wrestled returning 5th place finisher Michael who has quietly put together a solid season. Haberman was bounced from the championship round in the Class A semifinal but returns with a some head to head wins over the field and a good points total. The Hamburg senior has three head to head wins over OP rival Wagner, including two 1-0 wins and an OT pin at the 7:21 mark in the ECIC final. Clarence’s Carns is also a returning state qualifier place winner.
Semifinal predictions: Bielec p. Michael; Haberman dec. Wagner, 2-1 UTB
Championship prediction: Blake Bielec p. John Haberman
- Ryan Bitka – Amherst – 12th
- Tyree Orange – Amherst – 11th
- Shane Constantin – Kenmore 11th
- Andre Clause – Niagara Wheatfield – 10th
- Ryan Venohr – Williamsville North – 12th
- Stefaan Fearon – Lockport – 10th
Bitka was the top seed in 2018-2019 but surpassingly fell in the large school semifinal. By wrestling back to 3rd place the Amherst heavyweight earned an invite to the state tournament as a wildcard. Now that he’s got that experience, Bitka will certainly be looking to claim is his first individual Section VI title. Teammate Tyree Orange is also a returning sectional place winner and earned the 2-seed in the bracket. Orange holds a 2-1 season record over Clause, but hasn’t meet Class AA champion Constatntin this season. Clause was able to gain an upper hand on returning sectional placer Venohr in the seeding as he holds a 5-1 decision over him this season, but they will meet again on Saturday. Constantin was a late match winner by pin over Fearon in the Class AA final. Their head to head on Saturday has potential for another entertaining bout.
Semifinal predictions: Bitka p. Clause; Constantin dec. Orange, 5-3
Championship prediction: Ryan Bitka dec. Shane Constantin, 3-1
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