Kyle McGregor did something on Saturday in Albany that no one from Tonawanda has ever done.
He won a New York State wrestling title.
The junior countered an attempted takedown by Kyle Crisafulli of Phoenix out of Section III with a down block and spun behind him for a takedown of his own with 17 seconds left in the first period before he held onto that lead for the rest of the match to claim the Division II New York State title at 112 pounds at the 47th annual New York State Wrestling finals held at the Times Union Center.
“There is nothing I can say right now,” said McGregor, who finished the season 38-2. “The last couple of weeks I thought that I might have a shot at making this happen and this is the pay off.”
“If this kid could have a mat for a bed he would,” Tonawanda head coach Jim Schraufstetter said about his champion. “He loves being on the mat. He gets up at 6 a.m. to run and go to the weight room. He goes to double sessions. He does it all. He is a luxury and a blessing to have in this program and he is going to open doors for this program.”
This was McGregor’s fourth trip to the state’s biggest tournament, but it was the first time he won the championship and according to him and his coach it was due to the improvements he made in game that allowed him to counter Crisafulli’s move in the first period.
“The first time he took a shot it wasn’t too deep,” McGregor explained. “I knew I could capitalize if he did it again and I down blocked it and spun and was able to get there. It is just something that I have been doing over and over and over again in practice. Things like that really do eventually pay off.”
“We have been working on finding offense out of defense,” Schraufstetter said. “To win in college you need to be good on your feet. Kyle’s weakness use to be takedowns, but it isn’t anymore.”
After the first round takedown, McGregor was on the bottom for the second round, and despite a stall warning with about a minute to go in the period; he was not in trouble of giving up points. With control in the final period, McGregor simply held on for the first state title in school history. However, even though he plans on enjoying the victory, Mcgregor wants to double his school’s state title haul in about a year.
“I really appreciate everything and everyone that has gone into getting me this far and helping me win this,” McGregor, who reached the final with a 3-0 win over Joe Smaldone of Geneva earlier in the day, said. “But I am going to start working again this summer to do it all over again too.”
Malvestuto finishes in third, disappointed
In a very business-like manner Niagara-Wheatfield’s Angelo Malvestuto came back from an upset loss earlier in the day to win the Division I third place match in the 171-pound tournament over Josue Mendez from Section XI’s Brentwood, 7-1, on Saturday.
Despite the victory Malvetuto, a three-time state qualifier and two-time All-American who entered the state tournament undefeated, wasn’t overjoyed with the result. He had his sights set higher.
“I am happy that I was able to win and getting third place is great, but I really wanted to win the whole thing,” Malvestuto, who also finished third in last year’s state tournament, said. “This is why the state tournament is so hard because there are upsets all of the time. I really wanted it (the state title) this year.”
The upset that Malvestuto referred to came in the championship bracket’s semifinal round when he ran into Jesse Villella, of Chenango Forks of Section IV, who employed a different strategy that neutralized Malvetuto’s most potent weapon, his takedown.
While neutral, Villella continually went to a knee, lowering his center gravity and points of contact for Malvestuto to attack.
“We knew coming into the match that he was going to do that, but that had a major effect on what Angelo was able to do,” Niagara-Wheatfield coach Rick Sweney said. “If he (Villella) stays on his feet then Angelo takes him down and wins that match. It was a good strategy. It kept (Malvestuto) from driving in and getting takedowns.”
The loss was the first and only one, of the season for Malvetuto, who finished the 2008-09 campaign 48-1.
The kneeling defense didn’t seem to affect Malvestuto too much in the early going of the semifinal. After a stalemate-filled first period, Malvestuto started the second period down and was able to take the lead, 2-0, after breaking a long hold with a reversal with 53 seconds left. The lead was a short-lived one as Villella was able to free his arms and get a reversal of his own, along with a pair of back points, to take a 4-2 lead into the final period.
Malvestuto chose to start the period neutral, in the hopes of scoring on a takedown, but Villella’s kneeling strategy proved to be the difference as he was able to score another takedown against Malvetuto securing a spot in the state final with a 6-2 win.
Malvestuto reached the consolation final with a 10-5 win over John Daddino from Section VIII’s Sewanhaka East.
“It was a letdown to come this far and not make it all the way,” Sweney said about his wrestler coming up short. “He already had a third-place finish, but Angelo is the kind of kid that is tough and focused for what is ahead. He is a junior; this isn’t the end of the road.”
Malvestuto, though disappointed, did echo the sentiment of his coach, “My season goes all year long. My goal is coming back and winning this thing.”
Roundup of other state finalists
Niagara-Wheatfield junior 285-pounder Jim Donner made the most of his first trip to the state tournament reaching the semifinals of the Division I consolation bracket. In his that match, against Brendan Byrne of Section IX’s Minisink Valley, Donner nearly turned the tables on his competitor, who outweighed him by about 30 pounds. After avoiding a takedown by getting out of bounds in the first period, Donner made his only mistake of the match by letting Byrne escape to neutral at the 1:55 mark. Donner nearly had a take down in the closing seconds of the round, but couldn’t get the needed leverage. Being on the bottom himself in the final period Donner couldn’t get to neutral and lost, 1-0. Donner came back to finish in fifth place by squeaking by Enzo Zagari of Spencerport, 3-2, in the fifth-place match.
After grinding his way into the semifinals of the Division I consolation bracket in his first trip to the state tournament, Niagara Falls senior Matt Johnson ran into a tough match-up with Spencerport’s Matt Glover. Johnson was taken down in the first minute of the match, and after starting on top at the beginning of the second period Glover was able to get a reversal and a pair of back points, which put him in position for a 12-2 victory. Johnson ultimately finished in sixth place after being pinned in the 215-pound fifth place match.
Johnson’s teammate, senior Ken Hamilton, won his first round match of the tournament, 18-11, over Homer Dobransky of Carthadge from Section III, but back-to-back pins knocked him out of the Division I 189-pound bracket.
Niagara Falls sophomore Irvin Buck, who earned a spot in Albany with an at-large birth after finishing second in the Section VI tournament, reached the second round of the Division I 140-pound consolation bracket, but fell to Andre Berry of Uniondale from Section VIII, 12-11.
Nate Skiba, who topped Buck for the Section VI final, fared better in the Division I 140-pound consolation bracket, reaching the quarterfinals. Skiba’s second trip to the state tournament went no further though after falling to Section II’s Giuseppi Lanzi from Amsterdam.
Grand Island’s Lee Schuster, despite a 34-2 record going into the state tournament, was knocked out of the Division I 112-pound tournament after being pinned on Friday.
Dom Montsesanti, a junior from Medina and Section VI runner-up and the only other local wrestler in Division II other than McGregor, won his first round match over Adonis Vasquez with a pin with 53 seconds left in the second period. After being bounced to the consolation bracket with a second round loss, he scored a 15-0 technical fall over Michael Armata from Cold Spring Harbor in Section VIII to keep his tournament alive. Sadly, Montsesanti’s tournament came to a sudden end when he was injured in his consolation semifinal match against Ben Freeman of Copenhagen out of Section III. Montesanti was removed from the mat on a stretcher, though his head and neck were not stabilized and he was conscious as he left the arena. There was no immediate word of his condition.
Malvestuto’s brother, Bob, reached the quarterfinals of the Division I 152-pound consolation bracket, but fell in triple overtime to Chris Carlucci of Section XI.
The two-time state qualifier from Niagara-Wheatfield summed up what every wrestler, who fell short of the ultimate goal of a state title felt on both Friday and Saturday at the Times Union Center, felt, “You just hold on for as long as you can. You try and do something with every second you have out there, but sometimes you just run out of time.”
Kyle McGregor did something on Saturday in Albany that no one from Tonawanda has ever done.