THE MAT SLAP'S
LOOK BACK AT THE TOP 25
NYS WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
By Jim and Tony Nordland
25. Greg Diakomihalis (Hilton HS) defeated Dylan Ryder (Hills West HS),3-2 OT, in the 113-pound final in 2018. In 2020, Diakomihalis (217-2 career) claimed his fifth-state title along with the MOW Award, he is the top-ranked 120-pounder in the nation and will join his brother Yianni at Cornell.
Ryder (Hofstra) was a 2020 EIWA place-winner.
25. Bob Bury (Calhoun HS) decisioned Don St. James (Rush-Henrietta HS), 8-2, for the 119 pound title in 1978. Bury (32-0,115-3) was a four-time state placer (4-1-1-1) and a three-time champion. He later would wrestle at Penn State University and St. James was national Greco-Roman champion.
24. Peter Yozzo (Sayville HS) defeated Tim Ferrante (New Paltz HS),18-1, at 132 pounds in 1983. Yozzo was a national high school freestyle champion, a three-time All-American (3-2-1) and won the NCAA title for Lehigh University in 1987 with a stunning fall in the 142-pound final.
23. Steve Hunte (Bellmore-Kennedy HS) decision John Janiak (North Syracuse HS),10-5, at 138 pounds at the Utica in1973. Hunte edged Frank DeAngelis (Spencerport HS),16-9, in the semifinals and was a two-time state king. Hunte would later star at Iowa where he won two Big Ten titles and Janiak was NCAA runner-up for Syracuse at 158 pounds in 1975.
22. Al Palacio (Long Beach HS) decisioned Brian Keyes (Port Jervis HS), 6-0, for the 105-pound title in 1981. Palacio was a four-time state placer (3-1-1-1), a three-time state champion and won the MOW Award in 1981. Palacio was an NCAA finalist for North Carolina at 118 pounds in 1986.
21. J.P. O'Connor (Oxford Academy HS) defeated Phil Lombardi (Greece-Olympia HS),11-4, for the 145-pound title in 2006. O'Connor (238-12 career) was a four-time state winner and won his first state crown as a freshman in the 96-pound class. O'Connor became Harvard's first freshman AA and third NCAA champion when he won the 157-pound crown in 2010 at Omaha. O'Connor had a perfect 35-0 mark in his senior year and finished with an impressive 132-16 career record.
20. Carl Adams (Brentwood HS) decisioned Gary Ventimiglia (Island Trees HS), 5-1, for the 154-pound gold medal in 1968. Adams was a three-time Suffolk County champion and won the MOW Award in his junior and senior season. Ventimiglia was a NJCAA finalist at Orange CC. Adams (77-9-4) would go on to win two NCAA titles at Iowa State, and become the legendary coach at Boston University. He would later be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2019.
19. Clar Anderson (Olean HS) decisioned Mark Shortsleeve (Fulton HS),7-6, at 126 pounds in 1980. Anderson (158-7-1) was a three-time state place-winner and a two-time champion. Later he would become a three-time NCAA All-American and claimed the NCAA title at 134 pounds in 1983 while competing at Oklahoma State University.
18. Brandon Lehman (Ithaca HS) pinned Otto House (Hornell HS) at the 4:26 mark of their back-and-forth 105-pound final in 1996. Lehman (223 wins) defeated SWR's Jesse Janzten, 9-3, in the semifinals and went onto to becoming a four-time finalist and three-time state champion.
17. Paul Widerman (Huntington HS) decisioned Lindsay Biagini (Massapequa HS), 3-2, for the 105-pound title in 1977. Biagini was a two-time state runner-up and Widerman would finish as a two-time state champion. Widerman was a NCAA standout wrestler for Harvard University and a two-time Maccabiah Games champion.
16. Frankie Gissendanner (Penfield HS) edged Kiernan Shanahan (Shenendehowa HS), 7-6, with a late slick duck-under in the 145-pound finals in 2018. Gissendanner (267-11 career) captured his fourth state crown and recently finished fourth at the NJCAA Championships in the 149-pound class at Niagara CC.
15. Troy Bouzakis (Pine Bush HS) defeated defending state champ Lou Roselli (Royalton-Hartland HS), 9-5, at 105 pounds in 1987 and was voted the MOW Award. Bouzakis (175-2 career) would win three state titles and become a five-time state medalist with placings of: 1-1-3-2-1. Roselli (Edinboro) finished fourth at the 1991 NCAA Division I Championships at 118 pounds. Following graduation, Roselli, had a stellar stint as assistant coach at Ohio State and is now the head coach at Oklahoma University.
14. Dan Hunt (West Genesee HS) edged Bob Sloand (Niagara-Wheatfield HS), 9-8, on an illegal clasp in a battle of reigning state kings for the 119-pound crown at Utica in 1973, and capped off a perfect season at 29-0. As a freshman, Hunt lost to Brentwood's Ivan Gonzalez, 5-2, at 112 pounds, and in 1974 became the first three-time champ in the Empire State. Hunt actually started his wrestling career at 0-3 and then compiled an impressive 107-4-1 career mark. Sloand took his mat skills to Lehigh University where he won an EIWA title and upset # 1 seeded Steve Hunte (Iowa), 12-11 OT, and placed 4th at the 1976 NCAA Championships.
13. Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville HS) major decisioned Kyle Kelly (Chenango Forks HS), 14-4, in the most anticipated 113-pound final among defending state champions in 2013, and later won the MOW Award. In the state semifinals in 2011, Piccininni dropped a close 6-4 decision to Kelly and avenged that loss.
Piccininni (226-5 career) would become a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State and in 2020 claimed his fourth Big 12 Championship title and won the OSW Award. He was seeded third at the 2020 NCAAs with a 26-2 season record and finished with a 110-27 career mark as a Cowboy.
12. Kyle Grunwald (Pioneer Central HS) decisioned Rich Cavayero (27-1-1) of Bellmore-Kennedy HS,12-8, in the 138-pound final. Grunwald was injured in an accident and had to wear a protective hockey mask in the 1977 final bout. The unbeaten Grunwald (104-4 career) was a two-time state king who defeated Cavayero's older brother Steve in the 1976 final, Steve was a two-time NCAA Div. III champion at Binghamton and Grunwald was a NCAA qualifier at LSU.
11. Dan Mayo (Sachem HS) pinned Chris Schojan (East Rochester HS) in 39 seconds with a stunning hip-toss in the 177-pound final in 1983. Mayo was state runner-up in 1982 and was voted the MOW Award in 1983. Mayo (Penn State) was a two-time All-American for the Nittany Lions and a NCAA finalist to Iowa's legendary Royce Alger at 177 pounds in 1988.
10. Jeff Prescott (Olean HS) tech fall Shannon Derouchie (Massena HS),15-0, at 105 pounds in 1986. Prescott (162 career wins) was a four-time state placer (3-1-1-1) and a three-time state king, along with winning the MOW Award in 1986. He later be a two-time All-American at Penn State and en route to the 118-pound national title defeated Section Six rival Lou Rosselli (Edinboro), 5-0, in the quarterfinals, he was voted the NCAA's OSW Award in 1991.
9. Jesse Jantzen (Shoreham-Wading River HS) won his first state title as a freshman over Packy Burke (Cooperstown HS) with an exciting 3-2 overtime victory at 119 pounds in 1997. Janzten (221-3 career) was a six-time state placer (3-3-1-1-1-1) and a four-time state champion that ended his high school career with 157 consecutive victories and the MOW Award at the 2000 state meet. Janzten won three EIWA titles and was a three-time All-American (3-3-1) and NCAA champion for Harvard University (131-13, 50 falls) at 149. He also won the OSW Award at the 2004 NCAA meet in St. Louis.
8. Ian Paddock (Warsaw HS) defeated Kyle Dake (Lansing HS), 9-4, in the 2008 Divison II championship final at 130 pounds. Paddock won the MOW Award in 2008, and both he and Dake would finish as two-time state champions. Paddock wrestled at Ohio State and Dake (Cornell University) became the first NCAA wrestler to win four NCAA titles in four different weight classes (141-149-157-165) and was voted the OSW Award at the 2013 NCAA meet. He is aspiring to be on the 2020-2021 - USA Olympic Team.
7. Jacori Teemer (Long Beach HS) pinned Adam Busiello (Eastport-South Manor HS) with a scramble cross-face cradle at the 4:36 mark in the 99-pound final in 2014. Both Teemer (210-5) and Busiello (280-8) would garner five state titles and both earned state MOW awards during their illustrious high school career. Teemer recently won the Pac-12 Championships at 157 pounds for team champion Arizona State.
6. Mike Giustizia (Walt Whitman HS) decisioned Ed Pidgeon (Locust Valley HS), 6-3, in the 126-pound final in 1978. Pidgeon was a two-time state finalist losing to Ithaca's three-time winner Mark Iacovelli in 1977 and while competing for Hofstra, he became a two-time NCAA All-American. Giustizia (Tennessee), also earned AA honors, as he finished 6th at 126 pounds in the 1980 NCAA meet.
5. Robin Parker (Caledonia-Mumford HS) pinned Mike Picozzi (Huntington HS) at 4:29 at 119 pounds in 1976. Parker was trailing,18-13, in one of the most exciting back-and-forth matches in state history, he was nearly pinned on two different occasions and the only way to win the state crown was via the pin route, and for his heroics was voted the MOW in the state meet. Picozzi (Iowa State) was an All-American as he finished fifth at 118 pounds in the 1980 NCAA Championships.
4. Troy Nickerson (Chenango Forks HS) tech fall Sean Bauer (Valley Central HS), 20-5, for the 125-pound title in 2005. Nickerson (213-6 career) was a five-time state king and was voted the MOW Award three times and in his senior campaign won the NHSCA title and led the Empire State to the national team title in Cleveland, Ohio. Nickerson would later go onto to become a four-time All American and a NCAA champion for Cornell University in 2010 and concluded his collegiate career with a 97-8 career record. He is currently the head coach at Northern Colorado.
3. Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton HS) decision Vito Arujau (Syosset HS), 3-2 OT, in the 99-pound final in 2013. Diakomihalis rode out Arujau in the 30 second overtime stanza and handed him his only high school defeat. Both Diakomihalis (243-3 career) and Arujau (216-1) would go onto to win four state titles. They are both teammates at Cornell and Diakomihlais is already a two-time NCAA champion and Arujau earned All-American accolades as he finished fourth at the 2019 NCAAs.
2. Sirrell Gissendanner (Spencerport HS) edged Mitch Clark (Canton HS),12-10 OT, on a blast double-leg takedown thirty seconds in the overtime period to win the 167-pound crown at the Onondaga Convention Center in Syracuse in 1993, Gissendanner was voted the MOW Award. Gissendanner would later wrestle at Iowa State and Clark (36-1), a two-time state finalist would take his mat skills to Ohio State. As a Buckeye (39-1) he would capture the NCAA title in 1998 as he scored a 17-0 tech fall at the 3:00 minute mark in the 177 pound final vs Vertus Jones (West Virginia).
1. Dominick Macchia (Island Trees HS) decisioned Ed Banach (Port Jervis HS), 8-4, in 1977. Macchia scored with a third period reversal and a near fall to defeat the previously unbeaten Banach (33-1) in the 155-pound championship final. Macchia (30-1, 98-6), a two-time state placer recalled that dramatic match: "My whole life was centered about being a state champion and in the final, I was in another zone - it felt like an outer-body experience." Macchia added: "Losing was not an option and I expected to win." Macchia took his mat skills to Rhode Island where he was a two-time NCAA qualifier. Banach (97-8 career) would win the state crown in 1978 and later capture three NCAA titles at Iowa, he is the all-time Hawkeye pin leader with 73 falls and finished his spectacular collegiate career with a 141-9-1 mark. Banach also won the Olympic gold medal in 1984.
A look back at some of the more memorable semi-final matches and one of the top in state history has to be the upset recorded by Jeff Thomas (Huntington HS) in the 1974 semifinals. Thomas (123-5-3 career) defeated Mark Iacovelli (Ithaca HS),7-3, at 98 pounds. Thomas would win two state crowns and Iacovelli (135-1-1) would garner three titles, including the MOW Award in 1977. Thomas went on to earn NCAA All-American honors at Michigan State. Iacovelli went to Arizona State and then transferred to Syracuse University.
The 1967 and 1968 semifinals featured classic matches between Randy Payne (Sidney HS) and Steve Weiss (Lindenhurst HS). In 1967, Weiss defeated Payne, 8-6, at 103 pounds for his only high school loss and in 1968 Payne avenged that defeat with an exciting 8-7 victory at 112. Payne (107-1 career) would win two state titles and was the first freshman to ever reach the NCAA finals. Competing at Pitt, Payne dropped an 8-0 decision to Dwayne Keller (Oklahoma State) in the 1970 final at 126 pounds. Weiss won his state championship in 1969.
In the 1976 semifinal round, Steve Cavayero (Bellmore-Kennedy HS) denied Thomas a chance for a third state title, as he edged him with a thrilling, 4-4, 5-1 OT match at 126. Another semifinal battle saw Bob Antonacci (Brentwood HS) defeat tough Tim Granowitz (Massapequa HS), 1-0 OT, at 126 pounds in 1971. Antonacci would win two-state gold medals and finished fifth at the 1975 and 76 NCAAs, while competing for Iowa State.
Looking back again, the road to a state championship for Steve Hunte (Bellmore-Kennedy HS) is unmatched at the 1973 state meet held at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. In the quarterfinals, Hunte pinned Keith Stearns (Pioneer HS) in 1:15, defeated Frank DeAngelis (Spencerport HS) in a 16-9 semifinal brawl, handing him his only high school defeat. In the finals, Hunte posted a solid 10-5 verdict over John Janiak (North Syracuse HS) en route to the 138-pound title. Both Stearns (in 1975, was 37-0 with 36 pins, 108-11 career) and DeAngelis (102-1 career) earned state titles and MOW Awards in subsequent years and later wrestled at Oklahoma University. Stearns was NCAA champion in 1978 and DeAngelis was NCAA runner-up, Janiak also would finish as a NCAA finalist while at Syracuse University.
Special thanks to LIWA (Steve Meehan), Arm Drag, Syracuse Post-Standard (Neil Kerr), Steve Parker- NYSPHSAA photographer and the Friends of Long Island Wrestling (Jerry Seckler) for all the much-needed background information.
Headlining the Empire State Dream Team are the heralded Banach brothers: Ed (141-9-1,73 falls) at 177 and twin brother Lou (90-14-2) at 285. The Big Red of Cornell has three representatives: TroyNickerson (97-8) at 125, junior Yianni Diakomihalis (63-1) at 141 and four-time champion Kyle Dake (137-4) at 165 pounds.
At 133 is Clar Anderson (73-14-4) of Oklahoma State and bolstering the formidable squad is MOW winner Jesse Jantzen (131-13, 50 pins) of Harvard at 149, along with Iowa State's two-time titlist Carl Adams (77-9-4) at 157. Rounding out the team are Mitch Clark (77-6) of Ohio State at 177 and Syracuse's Tom Schlendorf (84-8-1) at 197.
Greg Diakomihalis has a single on Dylan Ryder.
Troy Nickerson works for a takedown and near fall points en route to a tech fall on Sean Bauer. Nickerson was the first 5-time NYS champion.
Onondaga War Memorial - Syracuse
Steve Hunte (photo courtesy of FOLIW)
NEW YORK STATE DREAM TEAM OF NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONS
Dan Mayo (photo courtesy of Sachem Wrestling)
Peter Yozzo (photo courtesy of Peter Yozzo)
Kyle Dake (Cornell) - Four-time NCAA Champion
Dan Hunt first 3-time New York State Champion. (photo by Steve Parker)
Paul Widerman (photo by Steve Parker)
Nick Piccininni works for his takedown on Kyle Kelly.
SOME OF THE TOP MATCHES OF ALL TIME IN THE NEW YORK STATE TOURNAMENT FINALS
Yianni Diakomihalis controls Vito Arujau in overtime.
Clar Anderson (photo by Steve Parker)
Sirrell Gissendaner (photo by Steve Parker)
Jeff Prescott (photo by Mike Doherty)
Frankie Gissendanner uses his duck under to takedown Kiernan Shanahan.
Troy Bouzakis (photo by Steve Parker)
Times Union Center - Albany
JP O'Connor works for control on Phil Lombardi.
Ed and Lou Banach
Mike Giustizia (photo by Steve Parker)
Bob Bury (photo by Steve Parker)
Jacori Teemer pins Adam Busiello.
FIrst four-time state champion
Kyle Grunwald (photo by Steve Parker)
Ian Paddock takes down Kyle Dake.
(photo courtesy of Macchia Family)