There used to be a time when Clarence hoped to break through in the large tournament format and finish near the top of the standings.
That must feel like an eternity ago for the Red Devils’ competition, as Clarence and its deep roster have clearly found their way in recent years. The Red Devils look to add to their title collection Saturday at the Class AA team championship at Lockport.
Clarence, the two-time defending team champion, brings the No. 1 ranking in Western New York into the Class Tournament. The Red Devils have won three of six tournaments this season, including the ECIC Championships and Lockport Tournament. They are 10-2 overall with both losses coming against non-Western New York foes (General MacArthur of Long Island and V-Hilton).
The Red Devils’ quest for a fourth class title in five seasons is buoyed by the return of three Section VI champions (Ryan Burns, Nate Schwab and Jake Weber).
Clarence figures to receive a test from No. 2-ranked Lockport. The Lions have two quality heavyweights in 220-pounder Marshall Taylor and 285-pounder Marcelus Hinton. Taylor went to states last year.
They also feature three-time state tournament participant Anthony Orefice at 126 as the Lions try to win their first class team title.
“Both teams have a lot of guys who will be getting to finals scoring points,” Clarence coach Jason Chase said. “It should be a tight race.”
It’s a race the Red Devils hope to win once again.
“This is a team that’s been together a long time,” Chase said. “The past couple of years have been our most successful. ... Hopefully, we continue competing for sectional titles.”
The top four finishers in each of the Class AA and Class A tournaments advance to the Section VI state qualifier on Feb. 14 at Niagara County Community College.
Here are potential favorites in each weight class in each tournament. Lineups for the tournament have yet to be finalized, so some competitors may move up in weight because it’s strategically beneficial to them in their quests to reach states.
• 99: Dylan Arena of Clarence is ranked No. 1 by Wrestling Review of Western New York, but Lockport’s Mitchell Seaver can’t be ignored. They could be on a collision course to meet in the final.
• 106: Niagara Falls’ Jemone Carter is ranked first in Western New York. The sophomore Arena’s older brother, senior Brendan has a shot at going deep in the bracket for Clarence.
• 113: This intriguing class features a returning sectional champ in Clarence’s Ryan Burns and the person he defeated for the crown at 106 in Kenmore West’s Anthony Argentieri. Argentieri, ranked first in the WNY, has won their only meeting this season. Last year they split two matches.
• 120: Donny McCoy won the sectional title at 99 pounds for Niagara Falls last year and returns ranked third in the area but highest among wrestlers from large schools. Mike Wisniewski of West Seneca West and the Red Devils’ Jack Welsh are also rock solid.
• 126: Lockport’s Orefice.
• 132: Williamsville North’s John Freda and West Seneca West’s Pete Walsh are bound to run into each other, unless someone serves up a surprise – which has been known to happen at the Class Tournaments.
• 138: Rocco Russo of Frontier is the favorite and has a winning pedigree, having captured the sectional title at 126 last year. Jamestown’s Dylan Lundmark is a tough customer. Clarence’s Tyler Arno took third at sectionals last year at 132.
• 145: Kirk Feeney of Lockport and Zac Kelly of Williamsville North are the favorites, while Austin Czaja of Clarence could make a deep run.
• 152: Mark Stucke of Kenmore West.
• 160: Schwab of Clarence, who won the sectional title at 152 last year.
• 170: Defending sectional champion Weber of Clarence is viewed as the prohibitive favorite.
• 182: Jason Vranic of Niagara-Wheatfield is ranked third in WNY, but Michael Ziolo of Lancaster, along with Clarence’s Travis Griner and Ryan Schlager could make some hay.
• 195: Defending champion James Empfield of Lancaster is ranked No. 1, but could be pushed third-ranked Dylan Nuhn of Lockport.
• 220: Marshall Taylor of Lockport wants to make a return trip to states. This is where it starts. Mitch Lattuca of Lancaster can’t be discounted. Sophomore Da’juan Jackson of Niagara Falls is ranked among the honorable mentions.
• 285: Lockport’s Hinton.
•99: Trent Nadeu of Sweet Home is ranked third in WNY, while Iroquois’ Cory Day is 28-6 and won the Webster Tournament. Seventh-grader Dominik Thomas of Lake Shore is 23-3 and took second at the Ken-Ton Tournament.
• 106: Troy Keller of North Tonawanda is ranked second and owns a win over ECIC champion Connor Day of Iroquois, who is 32-3. David Killian of Lake Shore and Dominic Crouse of Sweet Home also figure to contend in the tournament.
• 113: Williamsville South’s Matt Genau and Iroquois’ Anthony King are the favorites.
• 120: Deep talent pool includes Iroquois’ Tristen Almeter, who is ranked among the honorable mentions and is 35-4 with tournament titles at the Spencerport and Alden – including most outstanding wrestler at Alden. Tyler Mack of Starpoint is solid.
• 126: Freddy Eckles of Lake Shore and Pat Welling of Iroquois could meet in the final.
• 132: Williamsville South’s Anthony Cooper.
• 138: Reigning Section VI champion Danny Graham owns the West Seneca East record for career wins and is ranked third in WNY.
• 145: Junior Matt Kloc of Iroquois has 110 wins and won the class title last year. Lake Shore’s Lawrence Jenkins is back from injury and could be a dark horse.
• 152: Iroquois’ Andrew Paulsen went to states last year at 170. Eric Sheffield of Hamburg and Williamsville South’s John Simonian will be among those trying to block his path.
• 160: Senior Dylan Murphy of Lake Shore is the hunted.
• 170: Defending class champ Preston Smith of Kenmore East returns.
• 182: Top-ranked Chris Willms of Starpoint is the clear-cut favorite, according to several Class A coaches. He may be pushed, though, by West Seneca East’s Devin Linder.
• 195: Briar Dils of Lake Shore is the returning class champion. Richard Durmeyer of Starpoint could serve up a surprise.
• 220: Hamburg’s Garrett Knoll.
• 285: Lake Shore’s Luke Catalano and Williamsville East’s Pat Faracca are ranked second and third in WNY.