ALBANY – Norwich juniors Frankie Garcia and Tristan Rifanburg made school history.
The best friends and longtime training partners won Division II state wrestling titles Saturday night at the Times Union Arena in Albany. Rifanburg captured the 138-pound title, his second state championship, while Garcia won his first championship two weight classes later taking the 152-pound crown.
It was the first time in the eight-decade history of Norwich wrestling that two wrestlers captured state titles in the same season. "It really was a great weekend for us," said Norwich coach Terry Hagenbuch in what was clearly the understatement of the season.
Greene sophomore Christian Dietrich completed a 43-0 season with his first state title taking the 182-pound D-II championship in a splendid display of efficiency and dominance.
For Rifanburg, his second state title was four years removed from his first when he became the first seventh-grader in school history to win a state title. In the respite between his two titles, Rifanburg had a pair of runner-up finishes including last year's excruciatingly close defeat where he gave up a one-point lead in the last five seconds.
Rifanburg put that loss behind him, and shook off a midseason loss to ascend to the top. "From the first day of practice, this is what we train for," Rifanburg said. "We didn't take anyone lightly and we didn't train for second place."
Just like his first state title, Rifanburg was entered in the tournament as a third seed. After two blowout wins to reach the semifinals, Rifanburg squared off again with Sam Ward of Section VII. Rifanburg beat Ward in the semifinals last year, but dropped a 6-4 decision to Ward in the Eastern States Classic earlier this season.
Rifanburg clearly made the better adjustments coming off the loss rolling to a 5-0 win to reach the finals.
Rifanburg had the initial takedown, and once in the lead, dictated the rest of the match. "We knew that if Tristan scored first, he would be tough to beat because he doesn't give up many points," Hagenbuch said.