ALBANY – The New York State High School Wrestling Tournament took place at the Times Union Center, in Albany, this last weekend, Feb. 26 and 27.
•The Norwich Purple Tornado had two wrestlers place in the competition. Ty Rifanburg placed fifth in the Division II, 126-pound weight class, while Eli Rodriguez finished third in the Division II, 99-pound weight class.
Rifanburg, who went into the tournament at 42-6 on the season, suffered a very tough 4-3 quarterfinal loss to Morrisville’s Zack Burke, but was able to avenge his earlier defeat in another grueling matchup against Burke, earning a 6-3 OT victory to clinch fifth place.
“I achieved my goal of placing in states, but there is always room to improve and I hope to be on top of that podium by the end of my high school years,” said an enthusiastic Rifanburg.
Rodriguez, a young eighth-grader who held a 34-8 record going into the weekend, continued to show great promise for the future.
“At the beginning of the season I had set a goal to make it to states. I fell short at sectionals, but ended up getting a wild card. From there, I felt like I needed to prove to myself that getting my chance to go to states was well worth it and sure enough it was. I wasn't expecting to go there and get first place but my goal was to at least place,” Rodriguez said.
On Saturday, Rodriguez won four consecutive bouts to clinch the third spot on the podium. He wrestled back after suffering a closely fought 10-8 loss to Putnam Valley’s Mikey Bruno. Rodriguez also got redemption, as he beat Bruno 13-2 on Saturday to secure a third place finish.
“When I arrived at the arena, my nerves definitely were starting to kick in, but I feel like I wrestled the best I could,” said a reflective Rogriguez. “I ended up falling short in my quarterfinals match. After that, I knew I had to step up my game and accomplish my goal of placing in my final match for third place. I had to wrestle the kid I fell short to in the quarters and realized that I should stick with moves that I'm comfortable with and I did that and felt like I wrestled my match.”
Norwich head coach Bob Hagenbuch was very pleased with his team’s efforts in the tournament. “I definitely am pleased how our season ended up. You can't be disappointed, that’s for sure. The guys wrestled really well against very good competition. They believed in themselves. They believed in their training.” He said. “They are still young and can make more trips to the states. Ty has an opportunity to go two more times and Eli has four more chances. Very proud of these young men and Norwich should be as well, all around great kids.”
Several other Chenango County schools also had wrestlers on the mat in the tournament.
•Bainbridge-Guilford-Afton-Harpursville (BGAH) sent three wrestlers to Albany; Madison Hoover, at the 152-pound weight class, Austin Carr, at the 160-pound weight class and Chris Cirigliano, at the 113-pound-weight class.
Cirigliano went into the weekend as the top seed at the 113-pound weight class, coming off a perfect season, with an untarnished 30-0 record, and on the back of his fifth Section IV title.
However, it was heartbreak, yet again, for Cirigliano on Saturday, as he lost in his semi-final matchup for the second year running. Austin O’Reilly, of Mexico, secured the decision win, 9-4. Cirigliano did not get disheartened, and managed to wrestle back to secure another third place finish at the tournament, a hugely impressive feat. He graduates with a terrific overall record of 125-17.
Carr won his first match, but succumbed to defeat against Zack Loomis, of Avon, in a tough 8-6 decision loss. He was unable to wrestle back and place. Hoover also suffered defeat, at the hands of South Jefferson’s Caleb Beach. He too was unable to make his way onto the podium.
•Greene sent one wrestler to the Times Union Center, Braxton Howell, competing at the 195-pound weight class.
It was the seniors first ever trip to states, after he ended the season as a Section IV Champion, with a 36-6 record. He had a rough first day, and was ultimately eliminated from the competition following a 1-0 decision loss.
Howell’s head coach, Jason Goldman, was extremely proud of his efforts throughout the season, “Braxton worked hard this season and even though it was a difficult finish to his season, he accomplished something that less than 3% of the wrestlers that started in November didn’t - and that was the opportunity to represent his section and his school in the NY State Wrestling Championships.”
•Oxford sent two wrestlers to the tournament; Kordell Huntley, at the 285-pound weight class, and Garrett Sylstra, at the 182-pound weight class. Both won their opening match-ups but yielded defeats in their second round bouts. They were both unable to wrestle back for a chance for a spot on the podium.
A full report and brackets can be found online at New York State Public High School Athletic Association's website or on trackwrestling.com.