Dakota Gardner has no intention of leaving this weekend’s New York State Wrestling championships disappointed.
After placing second last year, the Fredonia sophomore is focused on bringing home the Division II title at 138 pounds. The Hillbillies’ last state champion was Kenny Betts in 2009. Gardner is one of 46 wrestlers who will represent Western New York at the annual event on Friday and Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany.
It will be Gardner’s third trip to states. He lost in last year’s final, 6-2. “What I’ve realized is if you keep attacking, you’re going to score on everybody,” he said. “You can’t half-finish moves, you won’t score the takedown against the guys at that level. But if you keep going after kids, you can break them very easily up there because the mindset is so big with everyone watching. My eighth grade year when I went up there I wrestled a little timid versus the one seed, and last year I just attacked everybody and made it to the finals.”
Clarence, Lockport and Maple Grove have three wrestlers each. There are two sets of brothers who qualified: Shane and Ryan Hetrick of Southwestern and Hector and Tito Colom of Dunkirk. Dunkirk went 23 years without wrestling before resurrecting the program six years ago. The Coloms are the first Dunkirk wrestlers to qualify for states since 1989.
The most experienced wrestler is junior Cody McGregor of Tonawanda, who will be making his fourth trip.
While the Section VI roster is talented, the best wrestler in the Section is not on it.
Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer, the 2013 New York State champion in the Division III 132 pounds had his season ended by a knee injury. The Cheektowaga senior ends his career with a school record 188 wins (92 pins) against 13 losses in five varsity seasons. He has signed a wrestling scholarship with the University of Iowa.
“He tweaked his knee at ECIC in a match against Amherst and it had been something that was bothering him,” said Warriors coach Matt Haberl. “His father must have taken him in and the knee was getting worse. They didn’t want to chance anything. It’s a tough way to end it, we had all these goals, but hey, you have to look out for his safety. Renaldo is the toughest kid I’ve ever coached and if he could have gone, we would have went.”
If he’s healthy, Rodriquez-Spencer will compete next in the Dapper Dans on March 16 in Pittsburgh. He’s part of a national team that will compete against Pennsylvania’s state champions.
Here’s a capsules look at each wrestler heading to the state capital:
99: Dylan Arena-10 Clarence. Record: 42-3. First trip to states. Undefeated at Jon Vesper and Union-Endicott Duals. Won Lockport Tournament and ECICs.
106: Jemone Carter-11 Niagara Falls. Record: 43-4. Has 105 career wins. All-tourney at Alden Bank Duals, won at NCCC, on varsity since seventh grade.
Troy Keller-10 North Tonawanda. Record: 34-4. Was an alternate on last year’s state team. Four-year varsity wrestler with 124-43 record. Won Akron, Lockport, Cattaraugus/Little Valley Tournaments. Second at NCCC.
113: Ryan Burns-11 Clarence. Record: 42-5. Second trip to states, didn’t place. Won Lockport Tournament, ECICs and unbeaten at Union-Endicott Duals.
Anthony Argentieri-10 Kenmore West. Record: 39-4. Fourth year on varsity. Surpassed 100 career wins at class tournament. First trip to states, MOW of Jon Vesper Duals and Ken-Ton Tournament, undefeated in Niagara Frontier League, has three wins over Ryan Burns of Clarence. Competed at Eastern States.
120: Donny McCoy-11 Niagara Falls. Record: 35-9. Second trip to states, went 1-2 a year ago. Strong second half of the season after being injured at NCCC. Placed at Webster, won Pine Valley Tournament. Has 142 career wins.
Tristan Almeter-10 Iroquois. Record: 50-4. MOW of Alden Duals. Beat Donny McCoy of Niagara Falls, 2-0, in sectional final after losing to him last year. Won his weight class at three tournaments this year.
126: Anthony Orefice-11 Lockport. Record: 43-0. Only Lockport wrestler to qualify for four state tournaments. Placed twice in those four trips. Is 203-17 in his career and next year will likely break school record of 215 held by Bill Morello. MOW of Lew-Port Tournament, beating Kellen Devlin of Amherst in the final.
132: John Freda-12 Williamsville North. Record 32-2. 96 GPA. First trip to states. Has 77 career wins despite missing most of last season with a non-wrestling injury. Went undefeated in ECIC I and Depew Duals, won North Tournament.
138: Rocco Russo-12 Frontier. Record: 49-2. Has signed with University at Buffalo. Making his fourth trip to states. Best finish was sixth place freshman year. His 233 career wins ranks fifth in Section VI history. Was large school MOW of Section VI Championships for second time in three years. Five-time Kenmore West champion, three-time ECIC champion, three-time NCCC champ. Competed at East States.
Danny Graham-12, West Seneca East: Record: 33-5. Played seventh at Eastern States. Holds school record for career wins with 150 against 23 losses. Did not place in his only other trip to states. Five-year varsity wrestler. First Trojan wrestler in nine years to qualify for states.
145: Kirk Feeney-11 Lockport. Record: 33-4. All four losses are to wrestlers who qualified for states. First trip to states. Career record is 106-63. Older brother Mike was a two-time state qualifier.
152: Andrew Paulsen-12 Iroquois. Record: 42-8. Second trip to states, last year went 0-2 at 170. Was a finalist at Spencerport, third at NCCC, surpassed 100 career wins.
Dylan Lundmark-11 Jamestown. Record: 37-10. Transfer from Southwestern, who went to states two years ago at 99 pounds. Won STWOC and Falconer.
160: Nate Schwab-11, Clarence. Record: 41-5 with the losses coming to state qualifiers. Second trip to states, last year went 1-2. Was an OT loss away from placing. Won Lockport Tournament, undefeated at Jon Vesper Duals.
170: Jake Weber-12 Clarence. Record: 45-1 with loss to Long Island wrestler who was state runner-up a year ago. Given his verbal to University at Buffalo. Third trip to states, yet to place. Won at Spencerport, Webster, ECICs, Lockport and undefeated at Jon Vesper Duals.
Richie Jones-11 St. Joe’s: Record: 45-4, two losses to Weber of Clarence. Had three pins and a tech fall to earn the CHSAA state title two weeks ago, named the Monsignor Martin Association Wrestler of the Year. Hasn’t lost since mid-January. Won NCCC, Ken-Ton and Batavia.
182: Jason Vranic-12 Niagara-Wheatfield: Record: 33-2 with 20 wins by pin. First trip to states, undefeated in Niagara Frontier League, won at Lew-Port. Hopes to walk on at UB for football.
195: James Empfield-12 Lancaster. Record: 38-6. Second trip to states, went 2-2 last year, two-time winner of ECICs and at NCCC. Placed fourth at Spencerport in a loaded field.
220: Marshall Taylor-12 Lockport. Record: 39-2. Second trip to states, sixth place last year. Went undefeated against Section VI, his only losses were to Section V wrestlers, who he could face again at states. Is 128-41 in his career.
285: Luke Catalano-12 Lake Shore. Record: 43-3. First trip to states. Won at Ken-Ton, Williamsville North, all-tourney at Dunkirk Duals, has 113 career wins.
Marcelus Hinton-12 Lockport. Record: 36-6. First trip to states. Is 84-52 in his career. Won at NCCC, Class AA championships. Looking to play football at Buffalo State in the fall.
99: Johnny Fiebelkorn-8, Akron. Record 32-5. First trip to states, 57-12 in two varsity seasons, won class tournament, Akron, Batavia, undefeated in Niagara-Orleans League, started career as Akron’s team manager in sixth grade.
Shane Hetrick-8, Southwestern. Record: 41-5, first trip to states, won STWOC, won Falconer.
106: Hector Colom-8, Dunkirk. Record: 27-2 with both losses coming from out of the section, first trip to states, won at Salamanca, Falconer, Class Tournament, undefeated in CCAA I.
113: Tito Colom-10, Dunkirk. Record: 37-4 first trip to states, won STWOC, Salamanca, Chautauqua Lake and Dunkirk Duals.
Ryan Hetrick-10 Southwestern. Record: 43-6, second trip to states, placed third last year at 99 pounds, won Attica, STWOC, was second at NCCC and Ken-Ton to large school champ Anthony Argentieri of Kenmore West.
120: Drew Marra-12, Olean. Record: 41-1 with loss to Brad Bihler of Maple Grove, 3-2 at NCCC, holds school record for career wins with 167. Third trip to states, placed fourth as a sophomore and sixth last year, winner of multiple tournaments.
Abdul-Fatah Alshawai-12, Lackawanna. Record: 33-5. First trip to states, has 107 career wins, four years on varsity, won Williamsville North, becomes seventh wrestlers in six years from Lackawanna to reach states.
Bradley Bihler-10, Maple Grove. Record 40-4, second trip to states, placed third last year at 106, won STWOC, NCCC, Falconer, has surpassed 100 career wins.
126: Kellen Devlin-10 Amherst. Record: 44-4. Third trip to states, placed third last year at 120. MOW of Division II sectional championships and of Class B Tournament. Placed sixth at Eastern States.
132: Cody McGregor-11, Tonawanda. Record: 42-3. Fourth trip to states, placed fifth as an eighth grader and fourth as a freshman, won at Portville, Akron, completed at Eastern States where he beat five sectional champions from around the state, holds school record for career wins with 180.
Austin Acquard-12, Pioneer. Record: 40-3, did not place when he made states as a freshman, is 181-47 in his career, MOW of ECIC, won Edinboro, NCCC, Alfred, Bryon-Bergen.
138: Dakota Gardner-10, Fredonia. Record: 46-1 with loss to 145 pound section champ Andrew Shomers of Lew-Port. Third trip to states, placed second last year and sixth place two years ago. Career record of 177-21, won all seven tournaments he competed in this season.
145: Andrew Shomers-11 Lew-Port. Record: 45-7. Second trip to states, didn’t place a year ago. Memorable win over Dakota Gardner of Fredonia at Dunkirk Tournament. Four-year varsity wrestler.
Nate Martin-12, Newfane. Record: 34-2 and 136-24 in his career. First trip to states, MOW of Niagara-Orleans Tournament, won Lockport, Orchard Park and Sweet Home.
152: Ryan Kromer-12 Lew-Port. Record: 47-2 with one of the losses coming to Brian Westerdahl of Maple Grove in sectional final, 4-2. Has committed to University at Buffalo. Holds the school record for most career wins with 199. Placed fourth at states last year. Has a win this year over Alex Smythe of Eden, who was third in the state last year.
Brian Westerdahl-11, Maple Grove. Record: 38-4. First trip to states, 136 career wins, won Class tournament, Tonawanda and Maple Grove.
Eddie Hutchenreuter-12, Alden. Record: 43-3. Holds school record for career wins with 164, third trip to states, has yet to place, MOW at Alden Duals, also won ECICs, Attica and Holley and Victor Duals.
160: Alex Smythe-12 Eden. Record 39-1 with only loss to state qualifier Ryan Kromer of Lew-Port. Verbal to University at Buffalo. Third trip to states. Placed fifth as a freshman and third as a junior. MOW at Pine Valley and of Class C Class Tournament, won at NCCC. Has school record 22 wins.
Howie Nolan-11, Maple Grove. Record: 35-5. First trip to states, has over 110 wins since career began in seventh grade, won Maple Grove, NCCC, class tournament.
170: Kyle Ross-12, Falconer. Record: 42-1 with loss to Richie Jones of St. Joe’s. Career record is 155-47. Needs three wins for school record for most in a season. Won STWOC, Eisenhower (Pa.), Falconer, Salamanca.
182: Marquis Buchanon-12 Dunkirk. Record: 32-6, first trip to states, won Salamanca, class tournament, Chautauqua Lake Duals. Only in his second season wrestling.
195: Trevor Spicer-12, Frewsburg. Record: 35-0. Bears have sent at least one wrestler to states for eight years in a row. Won Maple Grove, went 10-0 at Dunkirk Duals, won STWOC, Falconer, Salamanca. Looks to be first state champion from his school since 171-pounder Bill Prince in 2000.
220: Brad Cunningham-12, Salamanca. Record: 35-3, first trip to states. Won Salamanca, Cassadaga Valley and Dunkirk Duals. Warriors have sent at least one wrestler to states for 13 consecutive years.
Tyler Hall-11, East Aurora. Record: 39-4. First trip to states, undefeated in ECIC III, won Attica, class tournament, Franklinville, qualified for Fargo, N.D. tournament in July.
285: Eric Feitshans-12, Alden. Record: 43-1 with only loss to third-ranked wrestler in the state. First trip to states, won six of the seven tournaments he participated in, has 99 career wins.