ALBANY – Danny Gormley’s five-year climb up the awards podium ended one step short of the summit, while Tristan Rifanburg, the best in the state a year ago, had to settle for second best at the 49th Annual New York State Wrestling Championships, Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany.
Gormley, a Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton senior, was making his fifth New York State tournament appearance. He progressively improved at the tournament the past three years moving from sixth to fifth, and to a career-best third a season ago.
Facing Section II’s Andy Lyman in the 125-pound finals, a controversial stalling call on Gormley in the third period with a minute to go coupled with a Lyman escape shortly thereafter gave Lyman the edge in a 2-1 victory.
Neither wrestler aggressively sought takedowns in the first two periods, and neither wrestler ever came close to a two-point takedown. It was a bitter disappointment for Gormley, who came in as the tournament’s top seed. The post-match emotion from Gormley was matched by his head coach, Brandon MacNaught.
“He was my first five-timer,” a teary-eyed MacNaught said of his five-time sectional champion. “Maybe we were a little hesitant on our feet, I don’t know. What I do know is that the match should have gone into overtime. I felt the ref interjected himself into the match. I know for a fact we were not stalling on top. When you get two good wrestlers like that, what may look like stalling is just wrestling because both kids are talented.”
Rifanburg, competing in what was likely the most difficult weight class, needed to beat a returning state champion in the 112-pound division just to reach the finals. Rifanburg edged 103-pound state champion Abdulqawi Mohamed 3-1 in the semifinals using a two-point back tilt in the second period to create his winning margin.
The lone eighth-grader to reach the Division II state finals, Rifanburg squared off with three-time reigning state champion Arik Robinson of Peru for the title. Rifanburg settled in over the final two periods, but a 6-0 first-period deficit was too much to overcome in a 7-2 loss. Rifanburg had four losses on the season, one each to the 2011 Division I (Sean McCormick) and Division II 112-pound state champions. “Every kid he beat this weekend was a state place finisher,” said Norwich coach Joe Downey. “Tristan had a hell of a tournament, and he has nothing to be ashamed of.”