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Wrestling Outlook: Amherst’s Devlin has the mind of a champion

Kellen Devlin is not averse to using a little creativity when it comes to getting a challenging workout in practice.

Interested in becoming more explosive, he recently brought in a resistance tool similar to the running parachutes sprinters use. A teammate holds the bands and he springs forward as if coming out of the blocks.

“He always has a goal in mind when it comes to practice. I’m surprised with what he comes up with,” Amherst coach Dennis Bauer said. “He’s willing to do whatever you ask him to, and then he comes up with more. It’s really deep inside him what he wants to work on. Whether he’s had a setback, or is successful, he’s always working on what’s next. It’s beautiful.”

The mindset has helped the Amherst junior become a champion.

Devlin is the only defending New York State champion from Section VI. Last year he was crowned the Division II champion at 126 pounds and finished 47-4. As a freshman he was third in the states at 120. What separates him style-wise from most is the frequency with which he’s able to score from the top position.

“He feels he can turn anybody and get back points,” Bauer said. “That’s a different mentality. Kellen is trying to score no matter what position he’s in. He watches a lot of college wrestling and that’s the name of the game.”

Devlin was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler this season at the Springville Duals and the Jon Vesper Duals at Clarence. His 19-0 record gives him 182 career wins against 13 losses. His next start will be the Officials Tournament this weekend at Niagara County Community College.

Bauer believes he’s coaching a once-in-a-career talent who has all the pieces on and off the mat.

“I didn’t know I would ever have a kid like this,” he said. “He doesn’t come with extra baggage, no headaches. I have him in chemistry,” class. “He does good work. I enjoy him in that realm, too.”

Top tier

Top seniors in the state, according to newyorkstatewrestlingnews.com, include: Jemone Carter (Niagara Falls), Cody McGregor (Tonawanda), Howie Nolan (Maple Grove), Anthony Orefice (Lockport) and Andrew Shomers (Lew-Port).

• Fredonia’s Dakota Gardner is a three-time state placer. Last year he finished fourth at 138 to highlight a 49-3 year. As a sophomore he was New York’s only finalist at the National High School Coaches Association Sophomore Nationals.

• Brad Bihler of Maple Grove is a two-time state placer with a third and a fourth. He finished with 44 wins a year ago. Last year at states he beat two-time state finalist Nick Casella of Locust Valley, who is heading to Maryland.

College commits

• Lew-Port boasts one of the section’s best in Shomers (152). He looks to reach the top and add to his 168 career wins after placing second in the state last year. He’s off to a 15-0 start and is eyeing his third Section VI title. He was MOW of the season-opening St. Francis Southtowns Duals. He is a multi-time state qualifier, coming off a 48-8 season. He was state runner-up in Division II at 145 pounds. He will continue his career at Edinboro.

Shomers has improved his footwork and feels he’s even stronger on top. His lofty goals this season include winning every match, winning a state title and being an All-American at national tournaments.

• Tyler Hall of East Aurora has committed to the University of Pennsylvania, where he will wrestle at 285 pounds while studying pre-med. Hall is two-time Section champ and two-time Fargo championships qualifier. He started the season ranked in the top five in New York at 220 pounds.

EA coach John Mion said Hall’s dream has always been to wrestle in the Ivy League. He sets a fine example for his teammates by setting goals and working to achieve them.

• Ryan Burns of Clarence is headed to Virginia Tech. Burns was the only Section VI wrestler who placed at the NHSCA Nationals. He’s a two-time state qualifier. He entered the season with 146 wins, including 43 last season.

Teams to watch

• Lockport (8-0) is ranked No. 1 among large schools by the Western New York Wrestling Review. The Lions went 5-0 in the Jon Vesper Duals, knocking off perennial powers Clarence and Iroquois. They are the two-time defending NFL Champions and defending Section VI Class AA champs.

Orefice (126) is the Lions’ all-time career leader in wins with 215. He’s a three-time Section VI champion and a four-time state tournament qualifier. Orefice and Mitch Seaver (99) are ranked No. 1 in WNY. Seaver was a Class AA champion and Section VI runner-up.

Vince Eberhart (145) has 112 career wins and is a three-time Section VI place finisher. He and Steven Kapuscinski (132) are honorable mentions all-WNY. Kirk Feeney (152) is a Section VI and Class AA defending champion with 118 career wins.

• Clarence has its usual solid line up. Consider: Nate Schwab (170) is a two-time Section VI champion with 180 career wins. Dylan Arena (108/113) is a returning sectional champ with 85 career wins. Virginia Tech-bound Burns (113) was a sectional champ in 2013 and runner-up last year. His career wins are at 175. Ryan Schlager (182) was section runner-up up last year while Jack Welsh (120) earned a top-five finish.

Clarence won last year’s Border Brawl with neighboring Lancaster, 41-21. This year’s 11th annual contest is Jan 23 at Clarence starting at 6 p.m. The Red Devils have won the last four meetings, but still trail the overall series, 6-4.

• Falconer has been the No. 1-ranked small school in Section VI the past three years. It’s currently No. 3 with a 3-0 record.

There’s plenty of talent to back up the ranking. Returning wrestlers Cameron Page, Jake Penhollow, Mike Raynor and Jake Peru all finished among the top four in Section VI last year. Penhollow won at 195 at the Southern Tier Wrestling Officials Association (STWOA) Tournament this year while Raynor and Peru were second. Look for Peru (99-31) and Penhollow (87-47) to surpass 100 career wins.

• Kenmore West has at least two wrestlers who will be among the favorites to win a section title.

Junior Anthony Argentieri’s only loss – he’s 14-1 – was to a nationally ranked wrestler from Hilton at 126. Argentieri was last year’s Section VI champion at 113 and is 120-25 in his career.

Senior Paul Bavisotto (132) was section runner-up a year ago at 126. He’s 14-3 this year and has a 130-71 career record.

Lew-Port senior Eric Cerminara (182) is 14-1 and made the all-tournament team at the St. Francis duals. At 6-1, Garrett Rath (285) is five wins from 100.

• Senior Alex Kelly (182) of Cattaraugus-Little Valley/Pine Valley added to his career win total of 140 by placing first at this year’s STWOA tourney. Reggie Goodemote won his 195 class at Maple Grove and was runner-up at STWOA.

• Despite being young, Lancaster is tough and talented, according to coach Ron Lorenz. He expects the Redskins will be in the mix for the ECIC title. In seven matches the team’s only losses are to Section V’s Pal-Mac and Webster-Thomas. Junior Tommy Michel is 16-4 at 99. Senior Mitch Lattuca, 15-3 at 220 and was third in the section a year ago. Senior Tyler Hartinger (145) is a past Section VI champion winning in 2010.

• Donny McCoy has more than 150 career wins for Niagara Falls, winner of the St. Francis Duals.

• For No. 4 small school Chautauqua Lake, junior Kale Gilbert (145) just won his 100th match. Bryce Rowe (113), sixth in the section last year, just won the STWOA tournament, giving him 54 career wins as a ninth grader. Mark Ecklund (126) was the Most Outstanding Wrestler at Byron Bergen and won his weight class at the STWOA. He’s a junior with 90 career wins. Nick Hudson (138) was section runner-up last year to Amherst’s Devlin. He’s a senior with 133 career wins. CL will host the Ripley Invitational on Saturday.

• Newfane’s 10-0 start includes titles at the Tonawanda Tournament and Orchard Park Invitational. Several wrestlers placed in the section last year including Jake Kubala, Cyrus Simmons and Chris Johnstone.

• Springville has been placing high and is getting strong seasons from Josh Ball (285), who is 12-0 with six pins, Jake Smith (138) at 10-1 and Jobe Murphy (126) at 8-3.

• Dunkirk’s Nick Jones (285) is coming off a 39-4 season where he placed second in the state qualifier.

• Sweet Home’s Steven Iverson (160) is looking to improve on his third-place finish at sectionals last year and make a run at states.

• Williamsville East returns senior Pat Faracca (285), currently ranked No. 1 in WNY.

• Lake Shore builds around Freddie Eckles, David Killian and Antonio Perna.

email: mmonnin@buffnews.com