Scardsale Inquirer: Inexperienced Panthers wrestle like veterans

George Mellor, above, took third place in the section, while Kyle Aslanian, right, placed second. SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JOHN MEORE PHOTOS

George Mellor, left, took third place in the section, while Kyle Aslanian placed second. SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JOHN MEORE PHOTOS

From The Scarsdale Inquirer (PDF of full article).

By Todd Sliss
Feburary 20, 2015

Edgemont wrestling has been competing to win a Section 1 Division 2 team title for several years, but the title has eluded the Panthers. This winter there was no way Edgemont was going to compete. Or so the outside world thought.

Putnam Valley won the team title with 233 points. Pearl River was runner-up with 224. Both teams had four champions. With only one champion, Edgemont took third place with 210 points. Nanuet took fourth at 195, Pleasantville fifth of 14 teams at 170 points. After the first day of competition at Westlake on Friday, Feb. 13, the Panthers trailed only Pearl River 110-102. Putnam Valley sat in fourth with 87 points.

“I think overall everyone wrestled amazingly for the team, definitely exceeded my expectations,” junior Kyle Aslanian said. “We came into this tournament with 17 guys and most of them were first-year wrestlers and most of the first-year wrestlers were underclassmen. For having as many guys placing as we did is amazing. I think everyone pulled their weight this year more than I expected.”

Edgemont had five wrestlers in the top three, which earned them All-Section. Sophomore Cliffton Wang won at 152 pounds, Aslanian was the runner-up
at 120, senior John Lee the runner-up at 285, sophomore George Mellor third at 113 and senior Brian Evans third at 145.

Also placing were junior Max Worobow fourth at 145, freshman Frankie Sayegh fourth at 170, senior Sam Charnizon fifth at 152, sophomore Lou Russo fifth at 285, sophomore Andy Williams sixth at 106, senior James Hammond sixth at 132 and senior Chance Moore sixth at 170.

Edgemont coach Pete Jacobson came up with some telling facts and statistics following his young and inexperienced team’s remarkable team finish.

  • The Panthers had five champions last winter and were the runner-up team — but scored only 197.5 points.
  • Sixteen of the 17 wrestlers Edgemont entered this year made it to the second day of the championships, a school record and the most in the tournament
    this year.
  • Of the 17 wrestlers, 12 placed in the top six, again the
    most in the section.
  • Of the 12 wrestlers, seven will return next winter along with four more who were one win away from the top six.

“Our younger kids are awesome,” Jacobson said. “Everyone said we’d be the fifth best team this year. Everybody. We took third. I think we should have done better than that. I know what kind of team we have. They don’t settle for what people expect.”

Another year, another title
Wang repeated as champion and he’s catching up to older brother Ray, who won three titles for the Panthers and placed third in the state as a senior in 2009-10. Proud older brother was watching from the front row at sectionals and younger bro expressed his excitement in Ray’s direction following pinning Pleasantville’s Thomas Marrone in the finals in 3:40.

“Just like last year I felt like I came too far to lose and I’m trying to build a legacy here,” Wang said. “I really improved on getting more aggressive on
my feet, a lot better than last year. Last year I didn’t shoot at all in the finals. On top I did really well riding. Overall I think I’ve improved a lot.”

Like many young first-year state wrestlers, Wang did not fare too well, but it was a tremendous learning experience freshman year.

“I have been here before, so it gets a little less nerve-racking,” Wang said. “I just have to do my own thing, wrestle hard and not be afraid of anybody. I’m really excited about going to states this time. Last year I wasn’t ready for it.”

From the day he left the Times-Union Center in Albany last winter, Wang has been preparing for his return Feb. 27-28.

“He’s ready to go,” Jacobson said. “He was ready to go six months ago. There are very few people in the state that I would say Cliffton can’t hang with. I don’t know if there’s any. He showed that at Eastern States even when he didn’t win. He gets better every time he wrestles because he works hard. In his mind he has to get better every day. It’s not acceptable to him to leave practice unless he feels he got better from the day before. That’s 365 days a year with him. It’s a lifestyle. He lives that lifestyle.”

Kyle’s close call
The one that got away from Edgemont was defending champ at 106 pounds Aslanian, who won his 100th career match in the final dual meet of the season against Rye Country Day School’s Arthur Nahashim. Aslanian, at 113 pounds this year, had the misfortune of Pearl River dropping down from large schools to small schools this year, which meant an old nemesis, James Kelly, also a defending champ from last year, would be in his bracket.

Aslanian had faced Kelly as an eighth-grader and freshman and despite competitive matches, was 0-3. They had not seen each other since the Edgemont Tournament in 2012-13.

With 50 seconds left in the second period of the finals, Aslanian trailed Kelly 5-0. With 10 second left, Aslanian got a reversal and with two seconds left back points to trail only 5-4. Aslanian was unable to score in the third, falling 6-4.

“Kyle got beat in a couple of positions by that Pearl River kid,” Jacobson said. “That kid is real solid on his feet. Kyle wrestled great on bottom, great on top. It was the little positioning that was the difference in the match. He was right there with him and I know he knows he’s right there.”

Aslanian was disappointed, but gracious in defeat. For him it was another learning experience. “There are a few positions from neutral that I think if I just fix those small mistakes where he got two points I think that would have helped a lot, would have probably been a gamechanger,” Aslanian said. “I think from top I did really well. I think I need to get that fine-tuning to get turns off when I get crosswrists.”

Aslanian was hoping to get a wild card to states, since he feels he has unfinished business there from last year. He is the first alternate and would replace Kelly or one of the four wild cards from around the state should any
of them drop out.

“I still want to win a state title,” Aslanian said. “Even though I didn’t win here it’s still possible for me to win if I get that wild card. I’ll be training as hard as I usually do, not changing too much, maybe going a little bit harder, working the positions I didn’t do well on today and just wrestle hard.”


John Lee made the finals at 285 pounds. SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JOHN MEORE PHOTOS


Late-comer Lee
Lee was the team’s third finalist and had some unique circumstances. Lee is a first-year wrestler who only had 18 matches coming into sectionals, but benefited from a small six-man bracket at super heavyweight. As the second seed he had a bye in the semifinals.

Lee was slated to wrestle as a junior, but tore his ACL during football. As a senior he decided to honor his commitment to give the sport a try.

“Wrestling is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Lee said. “Many times I wanted to quit, but I was just glad to come to sectionals and even though I lost in the finals, I’m glad I stuck through it.

“Coming in here as a senior, even though I was strong, I was big, I just didn’t know some of the moves you really needed to know. Sometimes they got the better of me, just like today, but it was difficult because there’s a lot of pressure put on the coaches and they definitely care a lot. This group of guys are definitely one of the most dedicated and hardest working kids I’ve worked with and it’s a privilege to say I was part of the Edgemont wrestling team.”

Lee worked with other firstyear wrestlers Lou Russo and Kofi Keteku, who also came from football, along with the coaching staff, most notably fellow big-man Matt Lee, a 2007 Edgemont graduate.

“They definitely got me ready,” Lee said. “I only had 18 matches, but I had all the practices with the coach and all the one-on-one time. They put in a lot of hours with me and I’m 100 percent appreciative.”

In the finals, Lee was pinned 1:01 into the match by Irvington’s Adam Kreiger, a much heavier opponent compared to the svelte Lee.

“Because there were only six kids, I got the full first day off,” Lee said. “It gave me a lot of time to prepare and think and come into today with the right mindset. I wrestled well in my first match and got myself to the finals. Adam’s a great wrestler, great kid, worked hard, big kid, definitely got the best of me, but I wish him the best of luck at states.”

All-Section honors
A finally healthy Evans didn’t end his final year with the title he wanted, but to take third place — unfortunately over teammate Worobow — and earn All-Section honors was a proud moment.

“It’s obviously not the result I wanted — I worked hard all year — but for me, personally, it proves something to me that I wrestled back hard and came back and took third,” Evans said. “It’s not what I wanted, but I got the team points and at the end of the day it’s about the team.”

Evans was oft-injured over the years and had a big moment by winning the Edgemont Tournament last month in a match that showed his growth and maturity in the face of adversity. Since that moment he had the best wrestling month of his career.

“Brian’s the hardest working senior on our team,” Jacobson said. “He really fought this whole tournament. When he started to lose his composure, which is something he’s dealt with, the toughest battle he fought was reigning himself back in. His semifinals against Pleasantville was circled on his sheet. He didn’t win, but I think my proudest moment ever of him as a coach was that match because he was dealing with some things and things weren’t going his way. He dug deep and almost pinned the kid in the third period, had him on his back when he was losing. He knew he had to give it a shot and he went for it. He powered through from there.”

Edgemont wrestling likes to build champions and men, and that’s what happened with Evans.

“Wrestling for Edgemont is probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Evans said. “I love Pete. He’s the best guy. I was crying after my match. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him in college. But it changed me as a person. It made me better with my work and made me an all-around mentally tougher person.”

What Evans wants to leave behind is that the journey is the most important thing.

“I hope that the young guys realize that when you lose it’s bitter and it sucks and you want to quit, but you’ve got to stick with it,” Evans said. “In the end you know it’s hard, but every second that you wrestle is worth it. It’s the best sport on earth.”

Mellor rounds out Edgemont’s All-Section team. In his final match of the tourney, Mellor topped Josh Rucker of Woodlands 3-1 for third place.

“He beat a kid who had beaten him twice this season,” Jacobson said. “We thought we were going to see this kid in the thirdplace match. We had it circled. We’ve been working for the last two and a half weeks on a game plan to beat this kid and he executed the game plan to a T and it worked. When he lost to this kid the kid controlled the match both times, but for a high school kid to lose twice like that and then not back down and accept the status quo, that’s a huge thing.”

Wrestling roundup

  • Eighth seed Williams fell in the opening round of the 11-wrestler draw at 106 pounds, 15-5 to Pearl River’s Dante Simeti. Williams won his first wrestleback in 5:20 over seventh seed Carlos DeJesus of Pleasantville. In the next round he won by forfeit before falling in 3:53 to Hastings’s Damian Carrera. Williams took sixth place after getting pinned in 42 seconds by fourth seed Akif Ahmad of Nanuet.“Andy Williams took sixth and for him a big match was the blood round, the wrestleback this morning for the guys who made it back,” Jacobson said. “They lose, they’re out of the tournament, and if they win they place. He knew that and he went out and beat a kid who beat him twice this season. Similar to George Mellor.”
  • In the 12-man 113-pound bracket, Mellor had the fourth seed, Lucas Bayuelo the fifth seed. Mellor had a bye and Bayuelo blanked Ardsley/Dobbs Ferry 12th seed David Tosto 10-0. Bayuelo then forfeited to Mellor.Top seed and eventual champ Satoshi Abe of Putnam Valley pinned Mellor in 1:32 in the semifinals. Mellor beat ninth seed Noah Fleischman of Pawling 17-1 in 4:10 and then topped third seed Rucker of Woodlands 3-1 to take third place.Bayuelo won his first wrestleback in 1:47 over 11th seed Ben Hunt of Irvington before falling to eighth seed Kevin Lynn of Nanuet 6-2.As a freshman, Bayuelo has battled most of the season at 120 pounds, including against touch competition at Center Moriches with eight matches in two days. In the blood round he was winning 8-2 in the third period when he got caught in a headlock and pinned.“He’s an inspiration to a lot of guys on the team because everybody knows that when Lucas steps on the mat — Frankie Sayegh is similar — he goes after guys and has no fear,” Jacobson said, “That’s awesome to see as a coach. He’s got a great future ahead of him.”
  • Second seed Aslanian’s 120-pound class featured 10 wrestlers. After a bye, Aslanian topped Putnam Valley’s Joe Abate in 1:31. In the semifinals, third seed Robert Dinota of Westlake fell to Aslanian 9-4. In the finals, top seed Kelly won 6-4.
  • Chris Eppolito entered the 126-pound class seeded fifth of 11. After a bye, he fell in 3:16 to fourth seed Connor Foy of Pawling. Eppolito then beat 11th seed Jakob Cantor of Hastings in 2:17 before falling in 3:32 to ninth seed Emmet McCann of Pearl River.
  • Fifteen wrestlers vied for the 132-pound title, including Edgemont’s sixth seed Hammond and ninth seed Hunter Moore. Hammond won his opener in 2:38 over Croton-Harmon 11th seed Jake Dominello. He then fell in the quarterfinals to third seed Antonio Espada of Woodlands in 2:30. Moore won his opener over eighth seed Nick Sestito of Hastings 7-5. He then lost to top seed Chris Lowery of Nanuet 8-2.Hammond beat Pawling’s Jose Santiago, the 12th seed, in his first wrestleback in 2:56, followed by an 11-6 decision over Woodlands seventh seed Awa Nyambi. Hammond then fell to Lowery 1-4 to go to the fifth/sixth match, where he lost to Espada 2:05.“James Hammond didn’t start wrestling until he was a sophomore,” Jacobson said. “James was one of the best kids on our team this year. I can only think of one time this whole season where I felt like when he stepped off the mat he didn’t give everything he had. That’s out of 30 or 40 matches. That’s consistency. That Will Graybeal-level consistency as far as giving everything you have every time you step on that mat.”Moore beat 10th seed Brian Eng of Westlake in 4:57 before falling to fourth seed Steven Montes of Pleasantville 7-4.Moore wrestled when he was younger, but returned to the team as a junior. He beat some top wrestlers along the way this season. “Every match he’s a fighter,” Jacobson said.
  • Eric Last entered with 12 others at 138 pounds and was seeded 11th. He lost in the first round in 2:50 to sixth seed Moise Romano of Hastings. Last then lost in 39 seconds to Pleasantville fifth seed Daniel Gottlieb.
  • Evans and Worobow were the third and fourth seeds at 145 pounds and were on the opposite sides of the 12-man bracket. Both had byes and then Evans beat sixth seed Alex Julian of Croton-Harmon in 1:56, while Worobow took care of fifth seed Chris Van Schiack of Nanuet in 5:10. Both wrestlers then fell in the semifinals, Evans to second seed Lou Quintanilla of Pleasantville 13-3, Worobow to top seed and eventual champ Chris Santana of Pawling 6-1.Evans beat eighth seed Rudy Gonzales of Putnam Valley in 4:38 and Worobow topped seventh seed Ken Rogan of Lourdes in 3:15, setting up an Evans-Worobow match for third place. Evans won in 1:34.“Max wrestled really consistently the whole tournament,” Jacobson said. “He lost to the kid who won it in the semis, but other than that and wrestling Brian, he was just well prepared. He forced his positions on people and stayed where he knew he was strong. He just really was workmanlike.”
  • Wang was the top seed at 152 pounds, a 32-5 season record coming in. Of 14, Charnizon was ranked fifth. Wang rolled through the tournament. After a bye, he pinned ninth seed Paul Bellucci of Pawling in 45 seconds. In the semis it was a 14-3 win against fourth seed Matt Kulhman of Pawling. In the finals Wang pinned second seed Thomas Marrone of Pleasantville in 3:40.Charnizon beat 12th seed Owen Corrigan of Lourdes in 3:11 in the first round before falling to Kuhlman in 4:33. In the wrestlebacks, Charnizon pinned 11th seed Jack Fanshawe of Pearl River in 1:37. He then topped Bellucci 2-0. Charnizon lost in 4:17 to third seed Sam Honors of Putnam Valley and won by default in the fifth-place match vs. seventh seed Lucca Ardovini-Brooker of Lourdes.“Sam Charnizon is the perfect example of an Edgemont wrestler,” Jacobson said. “He’s not the most athletic kid and not the kid, if you know him at all, that you would stereotypically paint as a wrestler. He doesn’t have any business placing in the section, but he put in the time and he worked hard and he believed in the system.”
Frankie Sayegh wrestled well as a freshman. SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JOHN MEORE PHOTOS

Frankie Sayegh wrestled well as a freshman. SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JOHN MEORE PHOTOS

  • Fifth seed Chance Moore and ninth seed Sayegh were among the 13 competitors at 170 pounds. Moore lost his first match to 12th seed Miguel Perez of Pawling in 2:13. Sayegh won his opener in 3:57 over eighth seed Nate Moncey of Nanuet, but fell to top seed and eventual champion Willie Messenger of Putnam Valley 17-1 in 2:44.In the wrestlebacks, Sayegh beat seventh seed Christopher Abate of Westlake in 2:44 and third seed Silvio Trabucco of Woodlands 5-0. Sayegh took fourth as fourth seed Frank Toto of Nanuet won 7-1.“He’s a freshman who weighs 154 pounds wrestling 170,” Jacobson said. “He was seeded ninth, and took fourth in the section and in triple overtime. He lost to a senior from Nanuet who cut down to 170. He’s a competitor.”Moore topped Pawling sixth James Bellucci 5-4 and 10th seed Cameron Coyle of Pearl River 2:58 before falling to Toto in 1:17. Moore then took sixth as Trabucco pinned him in 1:32.“Chance is a first-year wrestler as a senior,” Jacobson said. “He didn’t have to do this. If you’re going to pick a sport to join, this is not the easiest choice to make, but he wanted this for himself and he competed with a lot of fire and passion every time he wrestled. He had no experience, but every day in practice he worked as hard as he could to get better. He and Hunter just pushed each other.”
  • Sophomore Kofi Keteku was among the 11 wrestlers competing for the 220-pound title. The ninth seed won his opening match against eighth seed Jake Wildhorn of North Salem 11- 8. In the quarterfinals, Keteku lost to No. 1 seed and eventual champion Constantine George of Putnam Valley. Keteku then beat 10th seed Andy Quinones of Putnam Valley in the wrestleback in 1:23 before getting pinned in 41 seconds by fifth seed Melvin Ward-Johns of Ardsley/Dobbs Ferry.
  • There were six wrestlers vying for the 285-pound championship. Lee was the second seed, Lou Russo the fifth seed. Lee won his semifinals match 10-8 over sixth seed Oran Hamilton of Pearl River 10-8 before getting pinned in the finals by top seed Kreiger in 1:01.“Our system, if you buy into it, we produce champions and I think it’s a little easier to do that at heavyweight because it’s a little less technical, so you can get kids up to speed more quickly,” Jacobson said. “John Lee is also a fierce competitor and he’s scrappy and he won’t quit on himself. That’s not only important in a match, that’s important every day. You have to have that resilience and grit daily, otherwise you can’t train the way you need to train.“He bought into the system and did what we asked of him. He didn’t have a lot of time. I don’t know if he necessarily enjoyed the things we asked of him, but particularly the last month he did what we asked of him and he made a huge jump. I would say it’s partially the system, but mostly it’s John Lee.”Russo won his quarterfinals match in 3:52 against fourth seed Paul Sacchetti of Westlake. He lost to Krieger in 1:38 in the semifinals. Russo lost to Cody Yu-Thompson of Woodlands 7-4 in the wrestleback. In the fifth-place match, Sacchetti forfeited to Russo.“He wrestled the best match of his life and he lost in the concy semis,” Jacobson said. “He was this close. He got better and better throughout this tournament. He’s going to be very good for us. He knows how to use his size to his advantage and he’s going to do big things for us.”

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