ALBANY – So close, yet so far away.
A long journey through grueling practices, months of off-season workouts, and relentless dual meets and tournaments ended in runner-up finishes for three Chenango County grapplers at the state wrestling championships Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany
Norwich sophomores Tristan Rifanburg and Frankie Garcia along with Greene freshman Christian Dietrich each placed second in the Division II finals, three of the six place finishers for Chenango County grapplers this past weekend.
Rifanburg, Garcia, and Dietrich all grew up wrestling in similar pee wee tournaments, and all three came to the varsity level with a strong pedigree. So far, all three have lived up to their billing, but each came up a notch short on this occasion.
"People don't realize how good second place is," said Norwich coach Joe Downey. "It's quite an accomplishment, and there were a lot of highly regarded guys up there who didn't get that far."
Rifanburg routed his opening two opponents Friday evening winning by matching 15-0 technical falls to reach the semifinals. He eked out a 3-1 win over defensive-minded Sam Ward of Section III in the semifinals to set up a rematch with top-seeded Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer of Section VI.
Rodriguez-Spencer and Rifanburg squared off in last year's tournament with the Section VI entry escaping with an overtime victory. The flow of the 132-pound finals went Rifanburg's way, who avoided Spencer's explosive takedowns in the opening period.