SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – There is no better way to break up a holiday break than getting tested on the mat for several Section II wrestling squads Saturday at Saratoga Springs High School.
Ballston Spa edged out Section IV perennial powerhouse, Windsor, but less than eight points to claim the 2020 title with Queensbury finishing third overall and the host Blue Streaks fourth.
Niskayuna was fifth followed by Whitehall-Fort Ann, Columbia, General Brown, Averill Park and Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George in 10th.
“A couple teams dropped out because of the weird scheduling with the two-week Christmas break and some of the teams were a little down on their numbers,” first-year head coach Jake Zanetti said. “Last year due to it being such a high-class, difficult tournament some of those teams didn't feel like their teams were up to the level of competition that we were going to deliver.”
One of those top teams includes the Lions from Windsor, just outside of the Binghamton-area.
“We've always gone to their place right after Christmas and they've always come to us,” Zanetti said. “They're a good, strong program, years and years of success on their end, so it is nice to get them in. “Averill Park was a last-minute edition, they had a gap in their schedule, we got them in a week or two ago. They were a nice addition also.”
Saratoga’s highlights included second-seeded Jacob Pratt who finished second at 106-pounds to Ballston Spa’s Nick Palso.
“He ran into a buzz saw (Palso), but he's a senior who has been on the team since he was in the second-grade with the youth program,” Zanetti said. “This year he's finding a lot of success at the varsity level. “For him to wrestle into the finals and do the best he could with Palso, but to earn a second-place spot was a nice surprise, that was great.”
The quality of competitor, both in and out of Section II was a draw for the Columbia Blue Devils who brought a split squad to the Saturday event.
“Depending on where we are at, what part of the season and where our health is, where our skill level is with some of the younger guys,” Columbia Coach Anthony Servidone said about his Saturday entries. “It's a good mix of teams here from what we have here in Section II, we have an out of state team here and obviously Windsor, it's great.”
Blue Devil eighth-grader Matt Hoxie made a name for himself at the event, earning a 2-0 decision over No. 4 seeded Ryan McManaman from General Brown before then pinning No. 1 seeded Lucius Anderson from Saratoga in just 26 seconds before falling to No. 2 seeded Ballston Spa’s Ralph Keeney by a technical pin fall in the closing seconds of the final.
“He was an unseeded kid, knocked off the four-seed and the No. 1 seed,” Servidone said. “He ended up second, so that’s a good day for him.”
The sweat put into Saturday’s match could pay dividends as Columbia will take on Ballston Spa on the road Wednesday night.
“We're approaching the harder part of our season right now where it’s really going to indicate where we are going to be class-time and sectional time,” Servidone said. “We're going to have some heads-up matches with some guys that we're going to see in the (Class B) tournament and also the sectionals so we want to be ready to go.”
The Scotties saw Keeney, Palso, Connor Gregory at 113-pounds and James Prastio at 160 all walk away with titles Saturday night.
“It's great for us because we wrestle all dual-meet tournaments up to this point,” Ballston Spa Coach Harvey Staulters said. “In the second half of the year we're looking to go individual because of the sectionals, so now it's preparation for that.
“This is always a strong tournament and Windsor is always a strong team, so it’s nice, if we out-distance them it would be great.”
Making the podium, but not in the top spot for Ballston Spa was un-seeded junior Zach Fitzgerald at 126-pounds.
“He came into the tournament (with a) 7-10 (record), but we've had one heck of a schedule, so we knew coming in that he's better than 7-10,” Staulters said. “He's wrestled against Hilton, Fulton; it's good for us to come in today. It was a nice win for the guy to take third place.”
Senior big man Mike Lupo also finished third for the Scotties on Saturday. He pinned South Glens Falls’ Aiden Mickel before falling to No. 1 seeded Collin Bidwell from Windsor in the semifinal, pinned in the second period. He earned his spot for third on the podium after an injury default in his match against No. 2 seeded Cameron Duers of Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George.
The Ballston Spa varsity group earned a solid sweat just a few days before facing Columbia at home, a preview of several matches to be contested again in the next month.
“It's going to be a good one, I think they are ranked right now ahead of us, so that's good,” Staulters said. “Whatever happens happens. I tell everyone I love watch the kids doing their job, win or lose I know they are going to compete.”