OXFORD – Two years ago, Oxford freshman Joe Nelson was playing modified basketball. Having never wrestled in his life, Nelson made the switch to a new sport, and the change paid off big time in his first-ever varsity tournament.
Nelson kicked off the finals of the 48th Annual Clyde Cole Tournament with a hometown victory at 96 pounds leading the Blackhawks to a seventh-place finish.
Wyoming Seminary, a private school in Pennsylvania that is among the best programs in the Northeast, dominated the tournament with seven overall champions and 280.5 total points. Queensbury was a distant second with 204.5, and B-G/Afton placed third with 198.5 points to lead all local teams.
Nelson was not only wrestling his first tournament, but in his first varsity matches. After cruising to the finals with two decisive wins, he was taken down and thrown to his back by Chenango Valley’s Billy Liberati early in the opening period.
Nelson bridged his way to the edge of the mat to force a restart, earned an escape, and dominated the rest of the way en route to a 17-8 major decision win. “He’s an extraordinary kid, very bright, and very teachable,” said Oxford volunteer assistant coach, Thad Rice. “He came back strong (after the takedown), kept his head on straight, and controlled the rest of the match. He impressed me.”
B-G/Afton was in second place after the first day, and maintained its top-three showing with back-to-back champions at 125 and 130 pounds. Wayne Cirigliano (125) beat Oxford’s Nik Hansen by decision, and four-time sectional champion, Danny Gormley (130), was a 6-2 winner over Wyoming Seminary’s Tyler Edwards.
Greene, attempting to defend its team title from 2009, finished fourth overall and had a pair of champions in Kurt Shear (189) and Kyle Stanton (215). Shear pinned all three of his opponents, the longest match taking 3:15 as he stuck T.J. Baldwin of Queensbury in the finals. Stanton, meanwhile, won a 3-2 decision over Queensbury’s Brandon Breault.
Norwich had its best showing at the Oxford tournament in years finishing a half point out of fifth-place in the 15-team field. Tristan Rifanburg (112) and Frankie Garcia (119) ran into tough customers from Wyoming Seminary in the finals to finish second.
Kegan Levesque (215) was third, Cody Bradbury wrestled back from a first-round loss to take fourth at 171, Brandon Godoy (285) was fourth, while Landon Cummings (103), and Tanner Cummings (135) took fifth place.
“We struggled a little bit on Friday and had some tough draws and matchups,” said Norwich coach Joe Downey. “A lot of our guys wrestled back well on Saturday. I was really impressed with Landon in his first tournament. Bradbury wrestled very well. He lost his first match to the number one guy, but came all the way back and had a lot of good stuff.”
For Rifanburg, it was his first loss since the Windsor Tournament a year ago. Garcia, a Section IV place-winner a year ago, also suffered his first loss of the season. “This (the losses) will only make those guys work harder,” Downey said. “They’re going to lose some matches...this will not be the first time. We’ll just take a step back and look at what we have to do to improve.”
Oxford’s Hansen, coming off a knee injury last winter, won in overtime over Unadilla Valley’s Dustin Badger, 6-4, to reach the finals. “We set goals for Nik in this tournament, and he surpassed them,” Rice said. “He’s been working hard since he came back (from the injury), and he looks strong this year.”
Also placing second for B-GA were Daren Terpstra at 152 pounds, and Vinnie Buttice at 171 pounds.
Team scores: Wyoming Seminary, 280.5; Queensbury, 204; BGA, 198, Greene, 191; LaSalle, 119.5; Norwich, 119; Oxford, 101; Averill Park, 93.5; Unatego, 74.5; South Glens Falls, 66; Chenango Valley, 63; Sidney, 38; Unadilla Valley, 20; Delhi, 19; Edmeston, 0.
96: Joe Nelson (Ox) dec. Billy Liberati (CV), 17-8.
103: Tyler Ponte (WS) dec. Tyler Wood (Q), 15-2.
112: Evan Botwin (WS) dec. Tristan Rifanburg (N), 8-0.
119: Dom Malone (WS) pinned Frankie Garcia (N), 1:36
125: Wayne Cirigliano (BGA) dec. Nik Hansen (Ox), 8-2.
130: Danny Gormley (BGA) dec. Tyler Edwards (WS), 6-2.
135: RC Ramirez (WS) dec. Brenda Goldup (Las), 6-3.
140: Connor Sutton (Las) dec. Cohl Fulk (WS), 6-1...