BINGHAMTON – Norwich coach Terry Hagenbuch has said all season that he thought his squad was a better tournament team than a dual meet team.
Hard to argue with Hagenbuch as the Purple Tornado matmen completed a triple crown of championships winning the STAC title, the Class B championship, and Saturday night at the Floyd L. Maines Memorial Arena, repeated as Section IV Division II champions totaling 159.5 points to easily outdistance runner-up Unatego by 33 points.
Norwich had eight wrestlers place in the top six, the most of any club, and senior standouts Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia, the lynchpins to the program the last six years, tacked on two more individual sectional championships.
“Coach Hagenbuch says that Tristan and I set the standard for the rest of the guys,” Garcia said. “The rest of the guys are training as hard as we do, and they deserve the recognition.”
Four other area wrestlers won sectional crowns. B-G/A/H’s Chris Cirigliano won his third straight Section IV title; Oxford sophomore Garyn Huntley won his first; while Sherburne-Earlville’s Garrett DuVall and Jack Buell claimed Section III titles at Onondaga Community College Saturday evening.
Other than a first-period reversal in his finals match against Whitney Point’s Nate Grubham, Rifanburg (145) was completely dominant on his feet and on the mat winning by a 12-2 count. It was the sixth Section IV title for Rifanburg, tying the all-time section record set by former B/G/Afton standout Eric Decker.
“Our first goal is to never lose, never finish second,” Rifanburg said. “We come here to win and to move on (to states).”
Garcia (152) was never in any danger, either, although it took a while before he solved defensive-minded Madison Hoover of B-G/A/H. Garcia earned a takedown with 35 seconds left in the second period on his way to a 5-0 win. It was Garcia’s third Section IV title, that after placing second twice and third in his first three sectional tournament appearances.
“To be honest, I learned more from those losses than anything,” Garcia said. “I think that’s why I am what I am today. I’m at this level, and I don’t want to give it up.”
Hagenbuch said he was happy to have his team fly under the radar last year. This year, he knew Norwich would have a bullseye on its back. “I have to say repeating (as D-2 champion) is much tougher than the first time,” Hagenbuch said. “The first time, no one knew it was coming. All of a sudden, we jumped to the top, people knew who we were, and we were being hunted.”
Cirigliano (113) needed just 23 seconds to advance to the state tournament as opponent, Dean Raymond of Deposit-Hancock, suffered an injury on a Cirigliano takedown attempt, and was unable to continue. Cirigliano had a single leg, and Raymond was hopping around on his right leg before falling awkwardly.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Cirigliano said of Raymond’s injury. The junior grappler was third in the state his first trip to Albany, but did not place last year. “This year the goal is to finish on top of the podium, if not, second or third. I feel I match up pretty good with everyone.”..