At the conclusion of the 2022 state federation individual championships last February in Albany, Starpoint head coach Steve Hart set the ultimate team goal for 2022-2023 season well ahead of time: win the NYS Div. I dual meet title.
The Spartans delivered on that goal on Saturday night taking down two-time defending large school state champion Minisink Valley (Section IX), 35-27, in the title match. In doing so, the Spartans avenged a 55-7 loss to the Warriors from the 2022 Duals semifinals last January.
“We got here with ‘the Village,’ said Hart after the final. “Everything that every individual in our program has done, that’s how we got here. It comes down to the kids. The kids came here determined and on a mission. They put the work in, and they were up for the challenge. I think it showed in how they responded to adversity and went out and didn’t back down from anybody. Wantagh, Minisink Valley…we went out there and didn’t back down. That’s all credited to these young, battle tested student athletes.”
The undefeated Spartans entered the tournament as the 2-seed in the large school bracket on Saturday as one of four unbeaten top-4 seeded teams.
Starpoint started the day with a decisive 54-18 victory over Section III champion Cicero-North Syracuse in their opening round pool dual.
The Spartans advanced to the Duals semifinal for the second straight season following a 36-35 win over Section V runner-up Fairport in the third round pool dual.
It was the second win of the season for Starpoint over the very strong Red Raiders team who came into the tournament ranked #12 in the latest NYWN dual team ranking.
Freshman Kole Haseley earned a crucial pin with thirty-seconds left in the 102-pound match followed by sophomore Jaron Barrientos who iced the win over Fairport with a decision at 110.
In the semifinal, Starpoint would meet 3-seeded 28-0 Wantagh (VIII). The Warriors are one of the oldest and proudest high school wrestling traditions in New York State.
The Spartans won eight matches to Wantagh’s five while the teams split with three pins each. Ultimately, Starpoint won four of the last six weights including another huge pin by Haseley in which he trailed in the 110-pound bout at the time of the fall.
Freshman super star Griffin LaPlante sealed the 36-26 victory and advancement to the state duals final with a dominating first period pin at 138-pounds in the last bout of the match.
The #1 and #2 ranked large school teams in NYS would meet in the final, having been on a collision course trajectory since the end of last season. The two-time defending state champion and #21 nationally ranked Warriors brought with them seven returning state tournament qualifiers including returning champs Zack Ryder and Ethan Gallo and place winner Andrew Filip.
Starpoint opened the dual with back to back wins courtesy of a major decision by CJ Uptegrove at 152 and Zach Caldwell toughing out a close 7-4 decision at 160 for a 7-0 team lead.
Minisink took the lead after the next three weights. Starpoint’s Gage LaPlante bumped up to 172 to take on Filip who was a 6-2 decision winner over the Spartan junior in a matchup of two returning NYS place winners. Ryder and Gallo earned back to back pins at 189 and 215 for a 15-7 MV lead.
At 285, Starpoint senior Matt Caldwell toughed out two periods against impressive MV heavy weight Aiden Gove who held a height and weight advantage over Caldwell. However, Caldwell was determined for the critical team bonus points as he turned Gove only twenty-seconds into the third period for a momentum changing pin.
In the lower weights, Jaron Barrientos continued is impressive day with a major decision at 102 to get the extra team point while Haseley again was heroic in earning an early third period pin to extend the Starpoint lead, 23-15.
At 118, senior standout JR Leuer earned a crucial 8-3 decision over MV’s returning state tournament qualifier Wyatt Boice while Caden Barrientos dominated in a 6-2 decision at 126 to make the team score 29-15 with only three weights left.
Returning state tournament qualifier Anthony Tresch got a pin for Minisink to pull the Warriors to within eight points of Starpoint at 132.
With a 29-21 team score lead, returning state placer Griffin LaPlante met returning qualifier Zackary McKernan at 138. LaPlante came out with an impressive first take down knowing a win would seal the dual. However, a previous injury for McKernan was aggravated during the match and the MV senior was forced to injury default the remainder of the bout, thus sealing the Starpoint victory.
MV did get a pin in the final bout of the night at 145-pounds but the final score of the match would stand at Starpoint 35, Minisink Valley 27 for the NYS dual meet title.
“Kole Haseley came up with four big pins today,” said Hart after the match. “Jaron and Gage didn’t feel their greatest today, but they came and battled anyway. I bumped Gage up to a top—15 kid in the country and he loses a decision, but he saved us team points. Caden Barrientos, JR Leuer, and CJ Uptegrove were big for us. CJ even weighed in a class down that he is certified for but hasn’t been at all year for this. Matt Caldwell was big in getting that huge pin for us.”
The team state wrestling title is the first for any sport in the Spartans’ athletic program. The team state title is the second title won by a Section VI team: the Falconer/Cassadaga Valley Golden Cougars captured the small school state wrestling title in the 2019-2020 season.
The individual postseason kicks off next Saturday with the four Section VI class tournaments. Starpoint will participate in the Section VI Class A tournament at Williamsville South HS. The top-4 place winners in each weight class in classes AA and A will advance to the Section VI Div. I championships at Starpoint on Feb. 11.
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