There are two tournaments every season that involve every wrestling team in Section 1. On Tuesday, the Section 1 Dual Meet Championships will get underway.
It’s still very early in the new wrestling season, but it’s about to get real — and fast.
There are two major events in Section 1 every year — the Section 1 Championships, which take place at the end of the season to determine which wrestlers will qualify for states; and the Section 1 Dual Meet Championships, which begin on Tuesday.
The end-of-the-year sectional tournament focuses more on individual accomplishments, specifically which is the best wrestler in each weight class. That’s part of what makes the sport so unique — no matter which school you come from, anyone has an opportunity to be a section champ. But at its core, wrestling is still a team sport.
There’s a reason the singlet features the name of your school, not the individual.
The Section 1 Duals are meant to reward the best overall team. As good as your best wrestler might be, it’s going to take a balanced lineup of 15 to excel in this tournament.
“We enjoy kicking the season off with this event,” Section 1 wrestling coordinator Jamie Block said. “It brings good publicity and a lot of excitement. Last year, many matches were decided by final bouts and there were some tremendous matches. I expect the same this year.”
Some have argued that a tournament with this much significance belongs at the end of the season, and I can see the merits in that. But as Block rightfully points out, having an event with this much meaning at this early juncture is a great way to generate interest from fans.
Next season, it’ll get even more interesting when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association implements a state-wide dual meet championship tournament. For now, in honor of the six points every wrestler hopes to get for his team by pinning his opponent, here are my six things to watch in the 2016 Section 1 Dual Meet Championships.
1. Early battles: Wednesday will be one of the busiest days of the season with eight different teams hosting a quad meet in Division 1 (large schools). Of the 32 teams in action, only eight will advance to the quarterfinals on Dec. 13.
Three sites will have strong favorites to get to the quarters — John Jay (at Somers), Suffern (at home) and New Rochelle (at Tappan Zee). The other five look like toss-ups.
My best guess is those quads will come down to Horace Greeley and Arlington (at Greeley), John Jay-EF and Ketcham (at JJEF), Harrison and Yonkers (at Harrison), and East Ramapo and North Rockland (at Ramapo). All of those matchups could go either way, but the best battle of them all might be at Hen Hud, where Brewster, Fox Lane and Mahopac look pretty evenly-matched.
2. Weight class shuffle: We got an early glimpse at which weight class the top guys are beginning the season at over the weekend, but we’ll get more clarity this week.
It’s impossible to know how the matchups will work out in the tourney because coaches will have the option to bump guys up a weight for a more desirable bout. But of all of the potential must-see matches on Wednesday, the one that would surely draw the most attention would be if All-State returners Matt Grippi of Fox Lane and Grant Cuomo of Brewster collide at Hen Hud.
3. The Big Twos: The expectation among most coaches (and this reporter) is that each division will come down to two familiar teams. In Division 1, that would be John Jay and Suffern. And in Division 2, it’s Pearl River and Putnam Valley.
John Jay and Pearl River are the defending champs and should be considered the favorites again. But if these do turn out to be the matchups in the finals, expect some fireworks. These teams are eager to take shots at each other.
4. The sleepers: Of course, it’s no guarantee that the finals will involve the teams we expect. You only need to look back to last season when East Ramapo shocked the section by upsetting Suffern in the quarterfinals.
There are some teams that could crash the party. In D1, watch out for Greeley, New Ro, North Rockland, East Ramapo, Mahopac and the Dutchess trio of Arlington, Ketcham and John Jay-East Fishkill. In D2, Pleasantville just turned heads by winning the Mike Nardone Tournament at Ossining and is looking very deep.
It’ll be very interesting to see who makes the quarters and the final four in each division.
5. D2 prediction: When you have a lineup that features five former section champs — which is exactly what Putnam Valley has now that Constantine George has returned after missing a year to concentrate on football — it’s very difficult to pick against you. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
I like Pearl River to retain the title by a hair, but there should be some great matches in this one. Put Valley could do some real damage in the light-to-middle weight range, making it critical for the Pirates to take care of business in the matches they’re supposed to win. Expect this to come down to the wire.
6. D1 prediction: I have a hard time envisioning Suffern getting tripped up before the finals again, which would give us the dual that everyone has wanted to see for the last two years.
On paper, this meeting would be littered with swing matches. Dean Artrip and Matt Kramer at 126 pounds. Peter Oliveto vs. Ray Cotto at 145. Anthony Guccione vs. Josh Rubin at 152. Brice Artrip vs. Conor Melbourne at 160. Halil Gecaj vs. Tyrell Jackson at 220. The list goes on and on.
In the end, I think the Indians have just a little bit more firepower, which is why they’re my pick for the repeat.