The small schools title at the 2017 Section VI finals came down to a tiebreaker between Pioneer and Falconer, with the Panthers earning a 33-32 win due to the fact they recorded one more victory during the match between the teams.
Pioneer has been ranked No. 1 in WNY and Falconer No. 3 so far this season, with the Panthers beating the Golden Falcons, 38-30, at the Dick Vincent Duals at Letchworth High School just after Christmas.
Pioneer junior Mike Rigerman is No. 1 in the area at 220. Senior Doug Ciszak is the defending sectional champ at 106, and freshman Zach Russell is currently injured at that weight class. Freshman Kameron Riordan (132), junior Ather Phommatha (138) and senior Caleb Riordan (145) are also contenders.
“Coming into the year we didn’t really know what to expect because we have 11 new starters in the lineup,” Panthers coach Chris Edwards said. “We only have two seniors, and they’ve done a really great job of leading the kids and carrying on the tradition of the teams before them.
“We finished No. 1 the last two years, and I’ve been telling the kids the entire season that we weren’t No. 1 until that final poll. It doesn’t matter who’s on top the entire season. All that matters is at the end.”
Falconer is a veteran group with three seniors who placed at states in 2017 in Dylan Ingrao, Dan Torres and Corey Keefe.
Ingrao surpassed 200 career victories, became the school’s all-time winningest grappler at the Southern Tier Wrestling Officials Association Holiday Classic in December and is WNY’s No. 1 at 152. Torres is first at 160, Keefe second at 195 and junior Robbie Penhollow joins that group as the No. 1 170-pounder.
“We really expected good things as far as the team is concerned,” Falconer coach Drew Wilcox said. “We’re really trying to get each guy the individual coaching they need to have better success in the postseason.”
D-II contenders: Iroquois, which moved down from Division I this year, has held the second spot in the team rankings. The Chiefs were the runners-up at the ECIC Championships behind Lancaster, the second-largest school in the section. Junior Corey Day is second behind Warren McDougald at 145, while freshman Tyler Barry (120) and seniors Colton Slade (132) and Jacob Vergien (132) are all honorable mention.
Fredonia sophomore Dalton Gardner and senior Hector Colom won Section VI titles last year at 113 and 132, respectively. Colom was the state runner-up and is No. 1 in WNY in the same weight class, while Gardner is third at 126. The Hillbillies also have junior Giovanni Russo, who’s first at 138.
Maple Grove has two No. 1-ranked grapplers in freshman Luke Tomlinson (99) and senior Shane Hetrick (120). Zak Trim is No. 2 at 182. Hetrick lost a 1-0 decision to Fredonia’s Gardner in the 113 sectional final last year and finished fifth at states. Trim is the reigning Section VI champ at 182, winning a 2-1 decision over Falconer’s Keefe in the final.
Olean is currently undefeated at 18-0 and received the No. 1 seed for Saturday's Section VI Dual Team Championships. The Huskies are led by Nick Bierfeldt (120), Gavin Kulp (138), Icar Simon (152) and Pat Walsh (182).
Newfane is the top ranked-team in the Niagara-Orleans League with freshman Andy Lucinski (99), senior Julian Nixon (182) and juniors Jayden Heers (220) and Ty Castinelli (285) leading the charge.
Akron/Alden won the N-O tournament championship at the league meet last Saturday. Seniors Robbie PeQueen (160) and Jake Sarow (170) are two of their top wrestlers.
Other D-II wrestlers currently No. 1 in Western New York include Tonawanda junior Zach Braddell (126) and Southwestern senior Giuseppe Hoose (182).