Some additional notes collected while researching our wrestling story in today's Scholastic Spotlight.
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Four-time defending large school poll champion Niagara-Wheatfield is not surprisingly at the top of the first large school poll.
Rick Sweney's team has won five straight Niagara Frontier League championships. Sweney has been at the helm for three years following five years as an assistant; he was at Niagara Falls for 20 years prior to that.
The Falcons' top wrestlers are two-time sectional champ and junior Joey Malvestuto (125) and his brother, 189-pound senior Angelo Malvestuto, a three-time sectional champ who has signed with Virginia Tech. Angelo, a three-time high school All-American, placed fourth in the state twice at 160 and 171 pounds and last year was third at 171.
That's not all: Senior Jim Donner placed fifth in the state at 285 last year. Freshman Marcus Popp, who is now 15-2 and just took fourth at the Jamestown Tournament. Senior Antonio Ventry (152) has over a 125 career wins. Sophomore Jake Kelly (171) is one to look out for.
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Williamsville North is off to a nice 4-0 start in ECIC I with matches looming against the big three: Lancaster, Clarence and Jamestown.
North's top wrestler is Austin Berube, who has started 14-0 after placing fourth last year at 125 at the Section VI Class AA meet.
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At Sweet Home, Zach Fumerelle is at 135 after finishing second in the section last year. He is off to an 11-0 start, including three wins over wrestlers who have won tournaments, and he's coming up on 100 career wins.
Other Panthers to watch: Daiquann Burney (119, second in section last year); Gage Bateman (145, third in the section last year), who is also closing in on win No. 100; Jamal and Jamil Mustapha (both 275) and Alex Dennis (189).
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At Frontier, fourth-year coach Dan Uhteg might not have depth but he has some dangerous tournament wrestlers.
They start from the top with 96-pound eighth-grader Rocco Russo. Collin Gleason (112) is a returning junior who went to the sectional tournament last year. Senior Marc Stanton (140) is solid while junior Mitch Jamieson (152) is coming on. Uhteg reports that the Bannister brothers -- Greg at 160 and Nick at 171 -- could be in the running for sectional berths, as could be senior Dave Natwora (189 or 215).
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This years Border Brawl -- the Feb. 3 meeting between Clarence and Lancaster -- might be one of the best dual meets of the last few years.
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Williamsville East is coming off a landmark league championship season, it's first title in 30 years as it won the ECIC II title for the first time since 1978.
The Flames, co-coached by Bert Ernst (more than 300 career wins) and Paul Horton (more than 100), were undefeated in league dual meets and then finished second to league rival Cheektowaga in the Class AAA tournament last year.
Many are back from last year's team, including eight of nine wrestlers who placed at the Class AAA tournament and four of five sectional place finishers.
Senior captain Jake Beichner (145) took second in the section last year and is on pace to break the school record of 112 career victories. Another impact athlete is juniro Sam Beichner, brother of Jake; both are sons of University at Buffalo coach Jim Beichner.
Another senior captain is returning AAA champion Ben Mikac (125). Senior MP Joseph (189) was also a AAA champion. Other top returners include sophomore Dylan Cohen (112 AAA champion) and senior captain Will Kelly (215).
East has started 3-0 in its title defense, but matches against powers Iroquois and Cheektowaga as well as strong contenders Lake Shore, Starpoint and West Seneca East await in January.
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Amherst and coach Dennis Bauer are hoping increased participation (a roster of 27) will lead to continued progress after going 2-12 two years ago and 4-15 last year. The buildup in the program has been helped by the Kids Wrestling Program run through Amherst Community Education.
Bauer lauded senior captains Sean Cunningham (145) and Pat Donovan (135) -- "their combination of dedication to the sport and good judgment in all areas are what we want our team to emulate," he said. Other impact seniors for the Tigers are senior Brian Rice (189), Brandon Anderson (171) and Nick Pantano (125).
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ECIC III is set for a competitive season as Alden, Pioneer, Eden, East Aurora, Lackawanna, and Depew all have the ability to knock each other off.
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Third-year Eden coach Tom Page, a longtime coach in the Super Six club, welcomes back five returning sectional qualifiers.
Tom Page, the coach's son, had a 40-7 season to tie the school record for single-season wins, became the Raiders' first freshman sectional champion and took fifth at the states. Other place finishers at last year's sectionals were eighth-grader Alex Smythe (27 wins) and senior Ross Abram while Derek Zittel and Jacob Wisniewski seek a return to sectionals.
Among several developing team members are Zac Wisniewski (130) and Jeremy Lilga (140).
Eden recorded its best finish (ninth among 37 teams) at the Southern Tier Classic in Jamestown last weekend and had a program high of five place finishers: Lilga (eighth, 140); Zittel (sixth, 145); Abram (fourth, 135); Smythe (third, 112) and Page (Eden's first champion at Jamestown, 112)..
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Depew returns two top talents in returning state qualifier and Section VI champ senior Devin Kramer (140) as well as junior Ryan Baer (135). Both wrestlers have surpassed 100 career wins.
Devin has started 11-0 and was a member of the Cheektowaga Warrior Duals all-tournament team. Ryan is expected to return from a football injury Dec. 29th at the Maryvale invitational.
The Wildcats also boast senior captain Jason Brossard at 171-189, junior captain Mike Kasprzak at 215 and outstanding freshman Pat Mahony at 135. Mahoney has been giving Kramer quite the workout during practices.
Coach C.J. Barth and assistant Dan Wodarczak are both Depew wrestling alumni and are in their fifth season coaching their alma mater.
A huge weekend for Depew is Jan. 29-30 -- its senior night is its final ECIC III match on Friday against Alden, one that may decide the league title. On Saturday it hosts the Wildcat Invitational, which features Frewsburg, Ripley and Section V power Holley. A busy January starts with a Jan. 6 meet with Eden.
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The top returning wrestlers for Portville are senior Justin Taylor at 215 -- he won Class A and was the runner-up at the sectional qualifier. He took second at Jamestown. Other top names for 25th-year coach Mike DeBarbieri are senior Jon Jones (285), junior Trent Unverdorben (140), senior Collan Emley (119), senior Tyler Foster (112), sophomore Jordan Smith (130), junior Cody Johnson (152).
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Western New York Wrestling Coaches Association president Brian Swatland (Williamsville North) reports that the group's postseason banquet has gotten so large it has outgrown the location of sponsor Ilio DiPaolo's.