By Patrick Newell
Sun Sports Editor
A year ago we resurrected our Evening Sun all-star wrestling team. Unlike other sports where your postseason awards are determined by season-long performances, our primary criteria in assessing the most worthy athlete in each weight class is the season-ending results in the most significant tournaments – sectionals and the state tournament.
Often, wrestlers match up during regular season tournaments or a dual meet. One wrestler may have the upper hand in the initial head-to-head competition. At the end of the season, though, that wrestler who was bested when the stakes were lower, rises above his conqueror to produce the better finish when it matters most. We have at least one top pick this year who did just that rising above his seed and past the young man he lost to during the regular season.
The top wrestlers in each weight class shook out with relative ease this year as 11 area wrestlers qualified for the state tournament in nine different weight classes. Not only that, 13 of 15 weight classes yielded at least a first, second or third in sectional competition. Summing up: The quality of wrestling in Chenango County was not too shabby, and five of our six schools are represented on this year’s all-star team.
The wrestlers named to our all-star team are listed by weight class beginning at 96 pounds, and ascending to the 285-pound division.
Joe Nelson, fr., Oxford 96 pounds
Nelson, a freshman, made a big splash in his varsity debut winning the Blackhawks’ Clyde Cole Tournament, and he went on to finish his campaign with a 32-5 record. Three of Nelson’s losses came to eventual state champion Lucas Malmberg of Marathon, one of those a runner-up finish in the Section IV finals. Nelson also picked up a win over Dylan Snow of General Brown during the regular season. Snow went on to reach the state finals losing to Malmberg. “Joe is right there, and we definitely think he could have competed up there (at the state tournament),” said Oxford coach Craig Tefft. “Malmberg was a buzzsaw this year, but we thinnk Joe belongs among the top 10 in the state in his weight class.”
Austin Crandall, so. Oxford 103 pounds
About one-third of the way through the season, Crandall made the full-time switch from 112 to 103 pounds, and he was 16-5 at that weight placing fourth in the Section IV Division II tournament. He was 28-11 overall, and was a “pinner” with 19 of his victories coming by pinfall. He had eventual state champion William Koll nearly pinned in their Section IV semifinals match, evidence of Crandall’s talent level against elite competition.
Tristan Rifanburg, 8th grade, Norwich, 112 pounds
Rifanburg won his second straight Section IV title finishing 36-4 this season in finishing as the runner-up in the New York State Tournament. Two of his losses came to the Division I and Division II New York State champions, and he won several tournaments this year raising his career record to 71-5 overall. Rifanburg’s 36 wins also matched the team record for wins in a season, said head coach Joe Downey. “I thought Tristan had a phenomenal year,” Downey said summing up Rifanburg, who had 25 pins or technical fall victories.