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DiPaolo family dishes out a night to remember

The Western New York high school wrestling family got together for their annual reunion.

Ilio DiPaolo's Restaurant in Blasdell served as the site of this gathering also known as the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Award dinner. The 15th annual event, which brought together 200, honored the best from the 2009-2010 wrestling season in the form of six awards and five college scholarships totaling $9,000.

Bob Koshinski of the Executive Committee made the case for the Class of 2010 being the most elite group in the award's history. The competition was so tough, two New York State Champions did not make the final list.

The winners combined for 836 career wins, 12 Section VI individual championships, nine place finishes at states and three state championships.

The distinguished group included:
Ilio DiPaolo award: Dominic Montesanti, Medina
Gary Castanza award: Kyle Colling, Pioneer
Destroyer award: Angelo Malvestuto, Niagara-Wheatfield
Bill Hein award: Joe Kalinka, Iroquois
Cauiflower Alley Club: James Donner, Niagara-Wheatfield
St. Francis football captain's award: Adam Pasnik

• Past winner of the Ilio DiPaolo scholarship, Kane Smith, was the guest speaker. The 2005 Salamanca graduate gave a polished delivery in which he talked about how revealing 6 minutes on a wrestling mat can be, and how the sacrifice, sweat and pain it takes to be a wrestler prepares you for everyday life.

• A DVD presentation prepared by the committee gave a look into the life of man who brought everyone together. The 1950s black and white footage showed DiPaolo in the ring displaying amazing athleticism for a man his size and he disposed of each opponent.

• Dennis DiPaolo, always a gracious host, did his best to recognize some of his guests: former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bills trainer Eddie Abramoski, retired Niagara-Wheatfield wrestling coach Ace Cacciatore, retired Roy-Hart/Newfane coach Dick Lange, Empire State Games local chairman Ralph Galanti, Preston Teague of the Buffalo Bills Community Relations department, Linda Knuutila of WNY Wrestling Review and his charming mother.

---Mary Jo Monnin

Wrapping up the Section VI wrestling championships

Here are the Division I and Division II stories from the Section VI wrestling championship. And here are plenty of extras from the Division II meet Saturday night at Niagara County Community College. But first, a couple observations.

1. This was the second straight year NCCC served as host for the event, and it's a great venue. There's plenty of parking, and NCCC coach Eric Knuutilla (one of the nicest men you could ever meet) does a great job having the gym ready. The support staff, including announcers and officials, also do a good job of keeping everything moving as close to on time as possible.

2. Another thank you to Ross Conti, an assistant coach at Fredonia and committee member of the Wrestling Review of Western New York, the group that does such a great job seeding and ranking area wrestlers. Conti is a walking encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge.

112-pound champion Tom Page, Eden: Page moved ahead with a takedown in the second period to defeat teammate eighth-grade teammate Alex Smythe. Here's Page's father, also Tom Page, on what it's like for two teammates to wrestle each other: "It's extremely difficult because they're so familiar with each other's style. It's unfair to both, but some coaches say it's a privilege. I'm proud of both of the athletes, because they've done a fantastic job."

The elder Page said he wrestled both at 112 because they were the best at that weight class and deserved a chance to showcase what they could do at the sectional level. Nothing wrong with that logic.

119-pound champion Kevin Strong, Frewsburg: It's the second trip to states for Strong, who improved to 43-2 on the season. Here he is on his game plan from Saturday: "I was working on holding him down and taking it slow. Once I got my points I was very careful." Strong beat Newfane's David Ciaramella, 9-0.

125-pound champion Emory Rowe, Ripley: The smallest wrestling school in Western New York had two finalists, including one champion in Rowe. He scored a late takedown to earn a 5-3 decision over Jake Baer of Olean, a raw talent in just his third year of wrestling. Here's Rowe on the end of the match: "I was just looking for an opening and I saw him loosen up, so I dove for it and got it."

140-pound champion Devin Kramer, Depew: The Most Outstanding Wrestler of the meet scored three late points to break a 2-2 tie with Ben Haas of Salamanca and win his second sectional title (he won at 130 last year). The 130- and 140-pound divisions are packed with talented wrestlers. Kramer, a senior who is a member of the Cobra Wrestling Academy, is 36-4 on the season.

145-pound champion: Dominic Montesanti, Medina: Montesanti put forth a dominant performance despite being hampered by a knee injury. He's wrestling on a torn meniscus in his right knee. Here he is on competing hurt: "It's been a real bother, but it's my senior so I couldn't get surgery. It would put me out for the rest of the year. I have one last chance to be a state champion, so I have to tough it out."

Montesanti took sixth at the state tournament last year after dislocating his elbow and having to injury forfeit two matches at 140.

171-pound champion John Mistretta, Southwestern: Mistretta beat Greg Burroughs of Fredonia for the third time this season, never the easiest thing to do. Mistretta has a unique style that could make him a tough out at the state tournament.

189-pound champion Colin Palmer, East Aurora: Palmer is unbeaten on the season (24-0) after missing time early due to injury.

215-pound champion Pat Langworthy, Southwestern: Langworthy (33-6), a junior, won a wild weight class. Consider: the seventh seed, Panama's Cody DiDomenico, beat No. 2 Bashar Srouji of Lew-Port in the quarterfinals. Langworthy, the third seed, then beat DiDomenico. On the other side of the bracket, top seed Justin Taylor of Portville was upset by fourth seed Jake Eddington of Gowanda in the semifinals.

285-pound champion Theo King, Roy-Hart: King and 96-pounder Zach Bickle won titles for the Rams. Here's King on what he hopes it means for the Niagara-Orleans League school: "I hope it can inspire more people to come out for the team next year and continue to build the tradition of the program."

That's it for now, although we may have some video later of a few matches (if I can figure out the technology).

---Jay Skurski

More from the Section VI Division I wrestling championships

The champs. Section VI provided the photo (but not the who's who :-).

SANBORN -- Greetings from Niagara County Community College, site of the Section VI wrestling championships this weekend. Division I (large schools), finished a couple hours ago, while Division II (small schools will wrestle all day Saturday, with finals set to start at 4:30 p.m.

We're finished with our print responsibilities for the night and have plenty of notes left over to share. First, an observation: The simple finalist information sheet each coach fills out for his wrestlers is a valuable tool for the announcer and media in attendance. One of the toughest aspects of covering high schools sports is the availability of (reliable) statistical information, so when coaches have stuff like that prepared, it helps journalists write a better, more complete story on their student-athletes.

On to the winners and some information about them, as well as additional quotes that didn't make the paper.

96-pound champion: Steve Michel, Lancaster: Michel beat teammate Eric Lewandowski, 4-3, in a match I'm not sure either wanted to wrestle. Lewandowski was emotional after the loss, while Michel didn't seem to take much happiness out of his second straight 96-pound title. Here he is on the move that gave him the deciding points: "I shot a sweep single, then I hooked his leg and I stepped over."

103: Ronald Rodriguez-Spencer, Cheektowaga: The Class AAA winner improved his record to 32-5 and was the youngest competitor (eighth grade) to win a sectional title.

112: Tim Schaefer, Lancaster: Schaefer is 3-for-3 in sectional tournaments. He won at 96 in seventh grade, 103 last year and now 112 as a freshman.

119: Dylan Caruana, Kenmore West: One of the best matches of the night, Caruana held off Daiquann Burney of Sweet Home with a late reversal for a 6-3 decision. Here's Caruana on the fantastic finish: "The end was really exciting. I just didn’t want to give up that take down. He was about to get behind me and I couldn’t let him do it. I was only up by a point, so it was real close." Caruana has won two most outstanding wrestler awards this season, at the Orchard Park Tournament and last week at the AAAA tourney.

125: Joey Malvestuto, Niagara-Wheatfield: Plenty on this match in the print product, but a quick note: Malvestuto has overcome a broken hand and knee injury this season. He's rounding into form and improved to 31-3. Opponent Ben Mikac lost his first match of the season, falling to 34-1.

130: Joe Kalinka, Iroquois: The first of three Iroquois champions on the night, Kalinka (46-2) will make his second straight tip to states. He won the AAA tourney last week, while his opponent, Mike Feeney of Lockport, won the AAAA tourney.

135: Pat Mix, Lake Shore: Both Mix and opponent Zack Fummerelle had just one loss entering the mach. Mix took control with an early takedown, then held on for the win. Nice celebration by the Lake Shore coaches and Mix after the match, too. A school not known for its wrestling program made nice strides this season.

140: Jimmy Kloc, Iroquois: Kloc, who is a pitbull on the mat, looked like he was going to cruise, but Gage Bateman of Sweet Home gave him all he could handle. A fitting final for a weight class my wrestling go-to guy, Fredonia assistant coach Ross Conti, called the deepest of the tournament.

145: Jacob Beichner, Williamsville East: Beichner was the only wrestler not seeded first or second (he was third) to win. His reaction after winning showed all that's right with high school sports: a tearful hug with his parents. Here's Beichner on what the win meant to him: "He was beating me up pretty good in the beginning, but I’ve been training my whole life for this moment. I just wasn’t going to let that stop me. I knew he was getting tired and he was breaking. It’s my senior year, I just went full force." The loss was the first of the season for Irvin Buck of Niagara Falls.

152: Kris Duge, Clarence: It was the 38th win of the season for Duge, a senior.

160: Raleigh Defields, Iroquois: Defields was struck with pneuomia during the season and didn't start to get healthy until the end of January. He had dropped an earlier decision by one point to his opponent Friday, Lancaster's Sean Woods. Defields was a fun interview after his match. Here's some of what he had to say: "I set a goal as a freshman that I always wanted to at least win [a] class [tournament] and going to states is just an awesome bonus." On his recovery: "I've been busting my hump in practice getting my conditioning levels back and it paid off because I could have gone another minute if need be." On the end of the match, which went to overtime: "I looked up at the clock with five seconds left, held on for dear life and smiled."

171: Tony Lock, Pioneer: A sophomore who has progressively improved this season, Lock picked up his 40th win.

189: Angelo Malvestuto, Niagara-Wheatfield: Falcons coach Rick Sweney called him the best wrestler ever to come through Niagara-Wheatfield, which sums up Malvestuto's career well. He was the only one to record a pin Friday night.

215: Kyle Colling, Pioneer: A 2009 national champion, the only surprise in Colling's title is that it didn't come by pinfall. According to Conti, it's believed Colling could become the first wrestler in state history to win class titles in Division I and II, due to Pioneer moving up to Division I this season (he won Division II last year).

285: Jim Donner, Niagara-Wheatfield: Donner gets a chance to build on his fifth-place finish at last year's state tournament.

Talk to you tomorrow from the Division II tournament.

---Jay Skurski



Niagara-Wheatfield, Fredonia are decade's best wrestling programs

   Niagara Wheatfield High School and Fredonia High School have been selected as the varsity wrestling "Teams of the Decade" in their respective divisions by a committee formed by long-time wrestling Coach Dick Lange and Niagara County Community College Coach Eric Knuutila.

   Using a wrestling tournament style scoring system, in which points are awarded for finishing in first place, second, third, etc, the committee reviewed the final top 10 ranking from the 2000-2001 season to the current 2009-2010 season. Finishing with the top point total over the past 10 years in Division I was Niagara-Wheatfield with five consecutive first place finishes, two seconds, two fourths and a tenth place finish.

   Niagara-Wheatfield, currently coached by Rick Sweney and Vince Schiffert, has also had coaches Tim Lukasik, Bill Dixon and Bill Dixon Jr. contribute to their success over the past decade. Some of Niagara-Wheatfield's outstanding wrestlers over that time were Eric Wiseman, Bill Hetherington, Kyle Schmelzle, Josh and Zech Lange, Matt Daniels, Rob and Jake Koshinski, Jeff Mitchell, Malvestuto brothers Joe, Bob and Angelo, Jehad Ali, Antonio Ventry and Jim Donner.

   The top five Division I teams in order are Niagara-Wheatfield, Lancaster, Iroquois, Niagara Falls and Cheektowaga.

   In Division II the top team over the past 10 seasons was Fredonia coached by Alex Conti.  The Hillbillies have been ranked number one in Division II six times since 2000 with one second place finish and three thirds. Conti has been assisted by Greg Betts, Ross Conti, Dan Morales and Wayne Vollentine over the past decade.

   Some of the outstanding wrestlers who contributed to Fredonia's success over that time were the late William Sidey, Frank Zielinski, Rob Dahn, Brandon Strandburg, Brad Bichelberger, Flolite Padua, Ryan Yerico, Justin Perry, Chris Conti, Carlene Sluberski and Kenny Betts.

   The top five Division II teams in order are Fredonia, Falconer, Southwestern, Newfane and East Aurora.

   Niagara-Wheatfield and Fredonia will be honored on Friday and Saturday at the Section VI hampionships at 4 p.m. at Niagara County Community College and again at the Section VI Coaches Banquet in March.

   The committee will announce the teams of the 90's just prior to the start of the 2010-2011 season.

   The selection committee included former coaches Dick Lange (Roy-Hart & Newfane) and Walt Thurnau (Southwestern), both of whom are being inducted in March into the Section VI WNY wrestling Hall of Fame. It also included Bob Koshinski, associated with amateur wrestling for the past 30 years as both a member of the media and DiPaolo Wrestling Scholarship Committee Chairman. Knuutila is a member of several wrestling Halls of Fame on the local, state and national level.

   The committee's ongoing task will be to designate the top teams of the past six decades, starting with the 2000's. "Every other sport has a Team of the Decade so it is time for us to be part of it," said Knuutila. "It was time for wrestling to honor the great teams of the past 60 years."

Vote for the four Section VI wrestling class tournament champions

More wrestling notes and quotes

Some additional notes collected while researching our wrestling story in today's Scholastic Spotlight.

Be sure to check out our highlights of the 2010 schedule as well as the season's first wrestling rankings.

* * *

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.

* * *

Williamsville North is off to a nice 4-0 start in ECIC I with matches looming against the big three: Lancaster, Clarence and Jamestown.

Continue reading "More wrestling notes and quotes" »

2010 wrestling dates to remember

Some 2010 dates to remember for wrestling fans, a combination of the Wrestling Review of Western New York's tournament schedule (thanks, Linda Knuutila) and a scan of league and individual schedules, notably of the ranked schools.

It is going to be quite the January ...

Jan. 5: ECIC I Jamestown at Williamsville North; STier I Gowanda at Falconer; NL St. Joe's at V-Holley
Jan. 6: ECIC III Eden at Depew; Alden at East Aurora; NL Ripley at St. Francis, Roy-Hart at Canisius
Jan. 8: ECIC III Depew at Lackawanna
Jan. 8-9: 29th Niagara Frontier Wrestling Officials Association tournament at NCCC.
Jan. 9: Ripley Tournament
Jan. 12: ECIC III Pioneer at Depew
Jan. 13: ECIC I Williamsville North at Lancaster, Clarence at Jamestown; ECIC III Lackawanna at East Aurora, Pioneer at Eden; NFL Kenmore East at Kenmore West; STier I Falconer at Fredonia
Jan. 15: ECIC II Cheektowaga at Williamsville East; ECIC III Depew at East Aurora; Eden at Alden; ECIC I West Seneca East at West Seneca West, Frontier at Hamburg
Jan. 15-16: 16th Lockport Boosters/Sunrise Optimists Tournament; 10th Patrick Morales Invitational at Falconer
Jan. 16: Williamsville Invitational at Williamsville North; 40th Franklinville Tournament; Catholic state dual meet championship at St. Anthony's (L.I.)
Jan. 20: ECIC I Clarence at Williamsville North (senior night), Lancaster at Jamestown; ECIC II Cheektowaga at Iroquois; ECIC III Lackawanna at Eden, Pioneer at East Aurora; NFL Niagara-Wheatfield at Niagara Falls; Kenmore West at Lockport; STier I Fredonia at Gowanda
Jan. 22: NL St. Joe's at Lockport
Jan. 22-23: ECIC Championships at Clarence.
Jan. 23: Cattaraugus-Little Valley Round Robin Tournament
Jan. 25: Monsignor Martin duals at Gow
Jan. 26: MMA Canisius at St. Joe's
Jan. 27: ECIC III Lackawanna at Pioneer; NFL Niagara-Wheatfield at Lockport; Kenmore West at Niagara Falls
Jan. 28: NL Gowanda at St. Joe's
Jan. 29: ECIC III East Aurora at Eden, Alden at Depew; STier III Portville at Ripley
Jan. 29-30: Lew-Port Lancers Pete Rao Memorial Invitational; Salamanca Invitational
Jan. 30: Iroquois Dual Meet Tournament; Ken-Ton Tournament at Kenmore West; Depew Wildcat Tournament
Feb. 3: ECIC I Clarence at Lancaster (Border Brawl); MMA St. Joe's at St. Francis
Feb. 5-6: Section VI Class Tournaments: AAAA at Kenmore West, AAA at Starpoint, AA at East Aurora, A at Frewsburg
Feb. 7: All-Catholic Championships at St. Francis
Feb. 12: Section VI Division I (large school) championships at NCCC
Feb. 13: Section VI Division II (small school) championships at NCCC
Feb. 14-15: Catholic state championships at St. Anthony's (L.I.)
Feb. 26-27: State championships at Times Union Center, Albany

If we left anything out, please feel free to shout it out.

---Keith McShea

More from the state wrestling meet

Some extra notes and quotes from Saturday's state wrestling championships:

* * *

Fredonia coach Alex Conti was emotional when discussing 96-pounder Carlene Sluberski, the first female to place in a state championship -- much less a second place after reaching the final.

"Carlene is a gracious winner and a gracious loser," said Conti as tears welled up in his eyes. "She epitomizes what this sport is all about.

"I will miss her and the wrestlers on my team will miss her."

* * *

Fredonia's Kenny Betts on his championship win:

"I had to wrestle a lot smarter than just go out there and brawl," he said of facing the long and lean Craig Scott of Lyons. "I didn't want to go underneath him because I didn't want to get into bad position."

* * *

East Aurora 119-pounder Matt Peters, who had beaten his final bout opponent, Quinton Murphy of Holley, earlier this season, recalled the first match when he ran the same cross-wrist tilt he used in the final.

"I was on top for 10 seconds in the first match and I scored two points with it," Peters said.

Peters received numerous congratulations from his coaches and fellow wrestlers.

"It feels breathtaking," Peters said. "This was my last high school match so I wanted to leave it all on the mat."

* * *

Pioneer's Kyle Colling led 8-0 through two periods of his 215-pound final and was never in danger. "This feels awesome," he said.

* * *

The smile on the face of Tonawanda 112-pounder Kyle McGregor's face explained how he felt.

"I don't know how to describe it," said McGregor of his first state title.

"Once I got legs in I was trying to run the power half and get some back points," McGregor said. "I could feel him on bottom getting tired so that made me work harder to keep him there."

Section VI sends 12 at-large wrestlers to state championships

The wildcard entries for the state wrestling tournament have been announced, and there are 12 from Section VI, three in Division I (large schools) and nine in Division II (small schools).

Division I

103 (pounds) Collin Dresher (Clarence-11), 140 Irvin Buck (Niagara Falls-10), 152 Mike Kiripolsky (Cheektowaga-12).

Division II

96 Carlene Sluberski (Fredonia-12), 125 Ben Haas (Salamanca-9), 125 Kevin Kott (East Aurora-12), 140 Thom Betts (Westfield-12), 145 Eddie Sarcione (Eden-12), 152 Jon Strong (Frewsburg-12), 171 Dave Richer (Gowanda-12), 215 Justin Taylor (Portville-11), 285 Pat Langworthy (Southwestern-10).

---Keith McShea

Monday morning point guard: Hoops, wrestling, Facebook

It was a busy weekend for sports (and this blog), so here's what you need to know as you try to stiff-arm the Monday blahs:

* * *

With the Manhattan Cup playoffs and sectional basketball tournaments starting the next three days, we've got a post for every hoop fan.

Each post includes a schedule and a poll -- so if your team is playing basketball this week, you can vote for them.

Scroll down to check them out or take the shortcuts here:

For boysManhattan CupAAA1A2B1B2, C and D.  

For girls: AAA1A2B1B2, C and D.  

* * *

Our All-WNY 50th anniversary boys basketball series continued with our All-1970s team, which is being discussed on our usual follow-up "How'd we do?" blog.  

News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan liked the depth of the 1970s team so much, he did some trash-talking by saying the third team from the 1970s could beat the first teams from the 1990s or 2000s.  

* * *

Most wrestling representatives for the state championships Friday and Saturday were determined at the Section VI meets this past weekend, but there are more to come in the next few days.

* * *

Prep Talk Nation has been officially recognized -- it's a Facebook group.

---Keith McShea

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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN |