Johnny Putney has his eyes on the prize in what could be his final wrestling season.
“I want to go out with a bang,” the East Aurora senior said. “A state title is my No. 1 goal. That would be awesome.”
Putney won the Section VI Division II championship at 138 pounds last season but an emergency appendectomy prevented him from competing at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships.
The sectional final match was Putney’s 167th career victory, putting him in a tie with Kevin Kot for the Blue Devils’ all-time record.
“I expected to break that record at states,” Putney said. “Being tied all offseason motivated me to work extra hard to blow that out of the water this year.”
Putney became the school’s all-time wins leader with a pinfall victory in 91 seconds during the season-opening Southtown Duals at St. Francis. Unbeaten so far this year, Putney got his 184th career victory by pin at 3:19 on Friday in his first match of the ECIC championships at Starpoint.
“That’s probably a record that is not going to get beaten,” East Aurora coach Jeff Michel said. “He should have broken the record in his first match at states. And to be the all-time wins leader as a junior is really something.”
Putney is also on track to break program records for career pins, major decisions, technical falls, escapes and takedowns. He’s been the team MVP three times, a feat his father Bill accomplished in 1986.
“I’m definitely looking to get those but at the end of the day that’s not what’s important,” Putney said. “Getting the sectional and state titles, those records will come with it.”
Currently ranked second in Western New York at 152 pounds, Putney is seeking his fourth ECIC title as the No. 1 seed in the 145-pound class.
“My end goal is a state championship, but I can’t overlook these tournaments,” Putney said. “I still have to win these to get where I want to be. I can’t look too far ahead.”
Michel is in his third season coaching at East Aurora after spending the previous three years at Lackawanna.
“I’ve watched Johnny grow up,” Michel said. “I’d much rather have him on my team than have to go against him.
“He’s been on varsity since seventh grade for a reason. He’s hard-working, dedicated, he has his goals set and he does what it takes to get there. He’s a great leader in the room. Talk about a role model, when the kids are looking over he’s doing 10-15 reps of what he already knows.”
Putney prepared for the rigorous wrestling season by leading East Aurora’s soccer team to a 20-1-1 record and an appearance in the Class B state semifinals. He tallied 24 goals and seven assists, earning first-team All-Western New York and all-state recognition.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Putney said. “Coming into my senior year, it was all about wrestling. Soccer was never my main sport. But it was an awesome experience and it took my mind off wrestling a little bit and kind of recharged me for the season.”
Putney found that playing soccer improved his conditioning for wrestling.
“A lot of wrestlers play football and I think they undervalue what soccer does for them,” Putney said. “I can go a full match any time of the season and be fine. A lot of guys can only do that in the second half.”
Putney is encouraged by the added depth on this year’s East Aurora team. The Blue Devils are currently 2-0 in ECIC III heading into Wednesday’s match at Tonawanda that could decide the division title.
“My whole career, we’ve always had one or two kids that can wrestle but the team wasn’t great,” Putney said. “This year we are a pretty complete team. If we can beat Tonawanda, we should win the division, which is something I never even thought about. To get that my senior year would be awesome.”
Preparing his application to study applied math at RIT, Putney is undecided about whether he will continue his athletic career.
“They want me for wrestling and soccer. Both coaches have contacted me,” Putney said. “I don’t think I’m going to wrestle in college. I don’t like cutting weight. I might play soccer, though I haven’t told anybody that yet. I might just focus on academics.”
The ECIC championships continue Saturday at Starpoint with quarterfinal matches starting at 9 a.m. The semifinals are scheduled to start around 12:30 and the finals at 4.
The tournament will be live streamed here.
The top two seeds in each weight class are:
99 — Nolan Skowronski (East Aurora), Gage LaPlante (Starpoint)
106 — Carson Alberti (Depew/Cleve-Hill), Myles Gronowski (Lancaster)
113 — Michael Alberti (Depew/Cleve-Hill), Michael Schiffihauer (Iroquois)
120 — Antoine Walker (Amherst), Ryan Sweeney (Iroquois)
126 — Michael Catanzaro (Williamsville North), Sam Stoelting (Starpoint)
132 — Aiden Rabideau (Clarence), Dylan Collins (Hamburg)
138 — Zach Braddell (Tonawanda), Jacob Vergien (Iroquois)
145 — Johnny Putney (East Aurora), Kyle Bauer (West Seneca)
152 — Giovanni Schifano (Eden), Zacori Volious (Maryvale)
160 — Cory Day (Iroquois), Ryan Stencel (Lancaster)
170 — John White (Clarence), Corey Snyder (West Seneca)
182 — Blake Harlock (Orchard Park), Nate Prelewicz (Clarence)
195 — Mike Pataky (Orchard Park), Jon Bennett (Hamburg)
220 — Raman Singh (Amherst), John Haberman (Hamburg)
285 — Ryan Bitka (Amherst), David Meyer (Starpoint)