Section IV crowns no champions at the 2017 NYS Wrestling tournament

Dwayne A. Lobdell Photos

ALBANY, NY – All roads lead to Albany. That was the thought process of two Chenango County Section IV DII teams all season long – Norwich and BGAH – however, much like the rest of the Section IV stock for the NYSPHSAA Wrestling State Championships for 2016-2017, neither local team cracked the mold as all nine local wrestlers fell short of a finals berth on the weekend.

For the first time in two decades, Section IV wrestling – and that includes Chenango County – did not bring home a State Champion at either division, at any of the 15 weight classes.

Just seven total Section IV DII wrestlers – and just one Section IV DI wrestler – appeared in semifinal matches this year in Albany – all but one of the eight wrestlers failed to earn wins in their semifinal bouts – instead getting tossed back into the wrestle-backs.

“It is hard sport, but the greatest sport on earth,” said Norwich head coach Bob Hagenbuch. “We just got a little humble pie this weekend.”

Norwich brought five wrestlers to Albany on the year, four by way of Section IV Champions at their respective weight classes – Mikey Squires, Eli Rodriguez, Ty Rifanburg, and Brennan Slater – one by way of a wild-card in Cole Rifanburg.

BGAH produced similar results in this years sectional tournament, taking home three Section IV Champions – Ben Bivar, Madison Hoover, and Austin Carr – while eventually bringing four to the state tournament by way of a Brody Oleksak, a wild-card selection.

Nine representatives were sent to Albany from Chenango County on the weekend of Feb. 24 and 25 – five stepped on to the podium Saturday evening, while none took home a top-three finish.

• 106 pounds: Chenango County had two representatives at the weight in Mikey Squires of Norwich who was the fourth-seed and Brody Oleksak of BGAH, the fifth-seed at the weight,

Squires, a Norwich freshman, snagged an early victory in the tournament – eventually cruising his way to the semifinals of the state meet. In the first round Squires defeated Ricky D`elia of Port Jefferson by a major decision at 11-2; before earning a second round win over Joe Contrastano of Carle Place-Wheatley by fall at 1:46, following an early takedown in the match.

Friday was a fantastic day for Squires – one of just two Tornado wrestlers to reach the semifinal round – setting himself up for a Saturday match with top-seeded junior Jon Charles of Central Valley Academy.

Following a takedown turned near-fall, Charles led 4-0 come the second period, where Squires deferred choice to Charles who chose neutral, resulting in a 0-0 second period. Squires chose down in the third, but would subsequently be ridden out for the 4-0 loss in the semifinals.

Squires suffered a loss in round one of his wrestle-back pursuit of third place, losing 4-0 to Matt Garland of South Jefferson-Sandy Creek, before snagging another win over Contrastano – this time at 14-5 for the spot on the podium, taking fifth place.

“Mikey won his wrestle-back and that was the only win on the day,” said coach Hagenbuch on the lack of wins Norwich had on Saturday of the state tournament.

Brody Oleksak, a BGAH eighth grader, saw his first match – which happened to be against Contrastano – end in a 4-3 loss. An early takedown by Contrastano and reversal in the second period gave Contrastano a 4-0 lead – eventually becoming too much for Oleksak who climbed to a 4-3 loss in the final period.

Oleksak then went the way of the wrestle-backs, defeating D`elia by a 3-0 margin taking a second period escape and takedown for the win.

That is when – just like Squires – Oleksak met his match in third-seeded Garland. The high-scoring affair saw Oleksak impressively take advantage of the situation, climbing to a 6-3 lead after the second period. Garland chose down, and with :54 seconds left to which he reversed Oleksak to draw the match to 6-5 – an escape from Oleksak gave the BGAH eighth grader the two-point advantage with :33 seconds to go.

That is when Garland kicked it into gear, handily securing the takedown with just :12 seconds left, forcing overtime.

Garland earned the win, and essentially ended the match at :42 left in overtime as Garland secured the takedown to take the win at 9-7. This effectively removed Oleksak from the tournament, Garland went on to take home a third place finish.

“Him and I are both frustrated. Brody wrestled phenomenal in that match. We are right there with him (Oleksak) in the matches, we're on the cusp.” said BGAH head coach Brandon MacNaught. “He (Oleksak) is young, he is an eighth grader. Unless health steps in the way, which we hope not. He will be there for four more years. I would be surprised if he doesn’t get on the podium for four more years.”

Trent Svingala of Maple Hill was the eventual champion at the weight, as he defeated Jon Charles of Central Valley Academy at 9-2.

• 113 pounds: One of the most surprising weight classes on the weekend was the 113 pound weight class where Norwich's top-seeded Eli Rodriguez, a freshman, fell victim to a first round loss. Rodriguez's fall from grace – as an expected finalist at states – started with a loss to Matt Laporte of Hoosick Falls by a score of 10-4.

“He (Rodriguez) had a real tough time making weight, and it broke him mentally. He picked a bad time to have his weight be a little out of control and it cost him his energy,” said coach Hagenbuch. “Eli actually got the first takedown, but he just ran out of energy from there.”

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