Six of the 15 sectional champions from last year were underclassmen, with most competing at the lighter weight classes. Last year’s champions from 145 pounds and up all graduated.
While there are quite a few opportunities for newcomers, many of last year’s winners have changed weight classes.
That includes Lancaster sophomore Ryan Stencel, the top-ranked D-I wrestler at 152 pounds according to the Wrestling Review of Western New York after winning the 138 title last year. The Legends are a deep group and have been the No. 1 large school through all six weeks of the season.
They also boast eighth-grader Myles Gronowski at 99, senior Jake Harry at 106, junior Nick Barberio at 120 and senior 195-pounder Joe Andreessen, who recently moved into the top 10 all-time for wins in school history.
“We always have high expectations for our guys,” Lancaster coach Ron Lorenz said. “We finished fourth at the dual meet last year so I knew we’d be a little stronger this year with age. We scheduled pretty tough and we’re No. 1 right now with a nice win over Grand Island.”
Clarence sophomore Aiden Rabideau, the reigning 99 champ, is ranked first at 113. Lancaster’s Parker Rozler, the defending 106 champ, is second in 113. The Legends host the annual Border Brawl against Clarence on Wednesday. The teams split the last two years.
Aside from Rabideau, other top performers for the Red Devils include seniors Anthony Corigliano (126), Andy Burden (132) and Joe Mannarino (170).
Family affair: Brothers Justin and Warren McDougald of Niagara Wheatfield and cousin Willie McDougald of Niagara Falls are all favorites to capture their third sectional titles apiece.
Justin, a sophomore, lost in the 113 state final by 9-5 decision and is now up two weight classes at 126. Warren, now a junior, is No. 1 at 145 after winning the 132-pound sectional title last year. Willie is currently the top D-I wrestler at 132 after winning 126 as a freshman. Willie and Warren both placed sixth at states in 2017.
The Falcons won the inaugural Section VI Dual Team Championships last season as the No. 4 seed. After the McDougalds, Jake DeWolf (138) is No. 2 and Logan Haseley (106) and Josh Thibeault (152) are honorable mention in the latest WNY rankings.
“We’ve already been beat by Grand Island in our first match of the year. They have eight to 10 seniors so they beat us and Lancaster knocked them off in a dual match too,” Wheatfield coach Rick Sweney said. “So those two teams are ranked above us. A lot of it is matchups and staying healthy and improving each kid you have as the season goes along.”
In the mix: Grand Island is the second-ranked large school after losing a close 37-35 match to Lancaster on Dec. 12. The top-ranked wrestler for the Vikings has been senior Jaquan Johnson, who’s No. 1 at 285 pounds.
Sophomore Adam Daghestani (152) and junior Connor Kenney (182) are also ranked in their respective classes. Eighth-grader Brian Bielic (99), senior Dan Emblidge (170) and sophomore Blake Bielec (195) are honorable mention.
Lockport High School Hall of Famer Bill Morello takes over the program at his alma mater from retired coach Joe Scapelliti. The Class of 2000 grad was previously an assistant at Starpoint. The top Lions grapplers include junior Josh Gill (113) and senior Steve Daskavitz (182).
North Tonawanda junior Tyler Bartolomei is the current No. 1 at 106 pounds. Jamestown has a strong trio with Cody Pool (113), Seth McTavish (145) and Noah Turzillo (220).
Hamburg’s top performer is sophomore 120-pounder Ryan Forrest, while Frontier has a pair of honorable mention wrestlers in Owen Weller (106) and Derek Wojciechowski (170).
Amherst features seniors Calik Kennedy (285) and Brandon Simonson (160), who was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at last Saturday's Lockport Invitational.