QUEENSBURY - What a difference a year makes.
Last season, Johnstown's Joe Nellis was forced to the sidelines for his entire junior season with a shoulder injury after reaching the Section II Division II (small-school) finals as a sophomore.
In his senior season, Nellis finished atop the podium Sunday at the Section II Division II Wrestling Championships at Queensbury High School.
Johnstown’s Joe Nellis poses atop the podium after winning the 220-pound Section II Division II championship Sunday at Queensbury High School. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
"All last year, all I could think about was getting back and winning sectionals," Nellis said. "It was real tough to miss last season and placing second as a sophomore. It just feels great to win it."
Nellis will be joined at the state championships by Amsterdam's Brandon Lapi and James Marquez, who won Section II Division I (large-school) titles Sunday after the originally scheduled two-day event was compressed into a long 14-hour, one-day event by Winter Storm Nemo.
Nellis won the 220-pound Division II title by pinning Schalmont's Marcus Ramundo 1:10 into the first period.
"This is right where Joe [Nellis] wanted to be all year long," Johnstown coach Joe Morrison said. "He did everything he had to do to get here. He put in a lot of hard work to be here. I'm so happy for him and proud of him."
Nellis had little trouble on his way to the title, scoring first-period pins in all three of his matches on his way to winning Johnstown's first Section II Division II title since Morrison and Mark Gillen won in the 2008-09 season. After injuring his shoulder before last season, Nellis' 2012-13 season was in doubt until just before it began.
"I only got cleared to wrestle two days before the season," Nellis said. "I wasn't able to lift right away, so it took a while to get into shape. It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off."
Nellis improved to 29-1 on the season, pinning Mechanicville's Zach Perras (1:09) in the quarterfinals and Schuylerville's Harrison Proctor (1:24) in the semifinals on his way to the championship match.
Also winning his first Section II title was Amsterdam's Marquez, a senior, who won the Division I (large-school) 160-pound championship.
Marquez, who was edged in the Class B final last weekend by LaSalle's Brendan Goldup, was denied a rematch by Columbia's Chris Morrissey, who topped Goldup 10-6 in the semifinals.
"I don't care who it was against. A win's a win," Marquez said. "I would've [beaten Goldup], anyway."
Instead, Marquez earned his first Section II Division I title with an 8-2 victory over Morrissey.
"I've been thinking about this all week," Marquez said. "I couldn't get any sleep, I've been thinking so much. It's amazing."
Marquez, who improved to 39-9 on the season, defeated Guilderland's Ryan Harris 8-5 in the quarterfinals and Shenendehowa's Chris Nacarrato 11-2 in the semifinals to reach the championship match.
"That was the icing on the cake," Amsterdam coach Ken Benton said. "At the beginning of the year, Jimmy got off to a bit of a rough start with some of the tournaments that we go to, and he really, totally focused. He knew exactly where he wanted to be at the end of the year - he wanted to go to states."
While Nellis and Marquez were winning their first titles, Lapi, a junior, was collecting his fourth Section II Division I crown.
"This is kind of getting to be old hat for Brandon [Lapi]," Benton said. "He's been here so many times that he's kind of accustomed to it."
Lapi won by technical fall, 15-0, over Columbia's Kyle Greene in the championship match.
"It was real nice to be able to wrestle somebody that didn't stall so much," he said. "I could hit some of the techniques and stuff that I wanted to."
Lapi improved to 45-3 on the season with the win, earning his fourth straight trip to the state tournament.
In his first match of the day, Lapi posted a 12-0 win over Schenectady's Nick Wagenbaugh in the quarterfinals before pinning Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Nolan Hale in 1:33 in the semifinals.
"It feels great to win my fourth Section II title," Lapi said. "It's right at home, even though I wanted to be at the Civic Center and they had to cancel that. It was still alright - you make due with what's best."
Nellis, Marquez and Lapi all qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Times Union Center. Lapi has finished third and fourth, respectively, in his last two trips to the state meet.
"I'm really excited to have the experience of going to states," Nellis said. "I can't wait."
In addition to the three champions, four other area wrestlers finished in the top six of their weight class.
Amsterdam's Ken Garcia placed third at 195 pounds in the Division I tourney, going 4-1 to finish the season with a 38-11 record. Garcia won his first match over Albany's Josh Britton by technical fall before losing to Bethlehem's Chris Tangora in the quarterfinals.
In his first consolation match, Garcia defeated Queensbury's Chris Goudy before eking out a 5-4 win over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Race Viedt in the consolation semifinals.
In the consolation finals, Garcia avenged his lone loss of the tournament with a 4-3 overtime win over Tangora to place third.
"I'm very proud of everyone's effort," Benton said. "Brandon, Jim and Ken [Garcia] all wrestled well today."
Three other area wrestlers finished among the top six in their respective weight classes.
Fonda-Fultonville's Eric Moyer placed fourth in the Division II Tournament at 285 pounds. Moyer pinned Rensselaer's Anthony Sierra in 3:32 in his first match before losing 4-1 to Cohoes' Nick Scott in the quarterfinals.
In his first consolation match, Moyer posted a win over Granville's Dwayne Nadeau and advanced to the consolation finals with a win over Catskill's John Farace.
In the consolation finals, Moyer lost by pinfall to Lansingburgh's Raekwon Ward in 1:55. Moyer finished his season with a 23-7 record.
Canajoharie-Fort Plain's Tim Hazzard (99) advanced to the semifinals with a 9-4 win over Hudson Falls' Gage Latterell before losing by pinfall to Corinth's Garon LeClair.
In the consolation semifinals, Hazzard lost 12-0 to Schalmont's Alex Lambert before finishing sixth after losing to Latterell in the fifth- and sixth-place match. Hazzard finished the season with a 26-13 overall record.
Fonda-Fultonville's Ryan Park also placed sixth after going 1-3 on the day. Park lost his first match in overtime to Salem's Dustin Humphrey. In his first consolation match, Park posted a win over Mechanicville's Chris Kawola. Park lost his final two matches by default to finish sixth, closing his season with a 21-8 record.
Dal Orengo (138), Dan Banewicz (152), Rob Santiago (170) and Chris Lopez (220) went 1-2 on the day for Amsterdam and failed to place in their respective weight classes.
Shenendehowa won the Division I team title with 264.5 points after placing all 15 of their wrestlers in the top six and claiming five individual titles. Columbia (176 points) was second, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (138) was third, Queensbury (120.5) was fourth and Colonie (101) was fifth. Amsterdam placed eighth in the Division I team standings with 76.5 points.
Hoosick Falls won the DII team title with a 127 points, while Duanesburg (123.5) was second. Corinth (113.5) was third, Schalmont (100) was fourth and Salem (94) was fifth.
Johnstown was 18th with 28 points, Fonda-Fultonville was 24th with 19 points and Canajoharie-Fort Plain was 32nd with 7 points.
Albany Academy's Sean Romanski was named the Division II Most Outstanding Wrestler, while Columbia's Angelo Kress was named the Division I Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Section II Championships
At Queensbury H.S.
1, Shenendehowa 264.5, 2. Columbia 176, 3. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 138, 4. Queensbury 120.5, 5. Colonie 101, 6. Saratoga Springs 92, 7. Averill Park 78, 8. Amsterdam 76.5, 9. Guilderland 69, 10. Shaker 61.5, 11. LaSalle 56, 12. South Glens Falls 38, 13. Mohonasen 36, 14. Bethlehem 29, 15. Albany 28, 16. Ballston Spa 27.5, 17. Schenectady 26, 18. Niskayuna 19, 19. Scotia-Glenville 8, 20. Christian Brothers Academy 0.
99: Josh LoGuidice (Guilderland) pinned Anthony Sgorrano (South Glens Falls), 1:53.
106: Golan Cohen (Colonie) dec. Mike Lainhart (Guilderland), 6-0.
113: Corey Ali (Shenendehowa) dec. Brandon Winchip (Queensbury), 7-0.
120: Blake Retell (Shaker) dec. Kevin Parker (Shenenehowa), 8-6 (OT).
126: John McHugh (Columbia) dec. Kody Bruno (Queensbury), 7-2.
132: Brandon Lapi (Amsterdam) tech. fall Kyle Greene (Columbia), 6:00 (15-0)
138: Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) dec. Joey Butler (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 5-0.
145: David Almaviva (Shenendehowa) pinned Jim Devine (Columbia), :56.
152: Angelo Kress (Columbia) dec. Zach Joseph (Shenenehowa), 2-1.
160: James Marquez (Amsterdam) dec. Chris Morrissey (Columbia), 5-2.
170: Jack Hatton (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) pinned Franky Nassivera (Queensbury), 5:45.
182: Ali Hashimee (Shenendehowa) pinned Anthony Papa (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), :27.
195: Levi Ashley (Shenendehowa) dec. Wayne Burt (Colonie), 3-2.
220: Jason Johnson (Colonie) dec. Nico Fragale (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 9-1.
285: El Shaddai VanHoesen (Columbia) pinned Austin DiCerbo (Colonie), 2:58.
99: Richard Schrade (Saratoga) pinned Dietrich Hartman (Shenendehowa), :30
106: Kevin Guardino (Shenendehowa) dec. Max Tempel (Averill Park), 7-2
113: Alan McNeil (Averill Park) def. Dominic Inzana (Saratoga Springs), default
120: Hunter Rumpf (Saratoga Springs) pinned Tristan Canova (Bethlehem)
126: Jordan Maynard (Shenendehowa) dec. Brandon Diaz (LaSalle), 9-2
132: Nolan Hale (Burnt Hills) pinned Gary Goodermote (Averill Park), 3:30
138: Spencer Kilburn (South Glens Falls) injury default over Joseph Clemente (LaSalle)
145: Dillon Deckert (Queensbury) dec. Eric Steele (Niskayuna), 5-2 (OT);
152: Jake Ashcraft (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) dec. Tyler Moses (Averill Park), 5-1;
160: Brendan Goldup (LaSalle) dec. Nick Dodd (Shaker), 5-0
170: Will Martin (Columbia) dec. Tyler Gougler (Shenendehowa), 1-0
182: Jesse Futia (Guilderland) dec. Garrett O'Grady (Ballston Spa), 12-3
195: Ken Garcia (Amsterdam) dec. Chris Tangora (Bethlehem), 4-3 (OT)
220: Emanuel Zamora (Schenectady) dec. Matt Holton (Saratoga Springs), 4-2
285: Jim Helin (Saratoga Springs) pinned Cody Thomason (Albany).
1. Hoosick Falls 127, 2. Duanesburg 123.5, 3. Corinth 113.5, 4. Schalmont 100, 5. Salem 94, 6. Hudson Falls 92.5, 7. Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk 89, 8. Albany Academy 79.5, 9. Whitehall 63.5, 10. Galway 50.5, 11. Watervliet 50, 12. Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George 48, 13. Cobleskill-Richmondville 41, 14. Schuylerville 40, 15. Lansingburgh 37, 16. Glens Falls 36, 17. Granville 34, 18. Johnstown 28. 19. Cairo-Durham 26, 20. Mechanicville 24, 21. Rensselaer 23, 22. Taconic Hills 22, 23. Green Tech 20, 24. Fonda-Fultonville 19, 25. Maple Hill 18, 26. Schoharie 15, 27. Cohoes 11, 27. Catskill 11, 29. Tamarac 8, 29. Berne-Knox-Westerlo 8, 29. Voorheesville 8, 32. Canajoharie-Fort Plain 7, 33. Ichabod Crane 6, 34. Warrensburg 4, 35. Greenville 2, 36. Coxsackie-Athens 0, 36. Cambridge 0, 36. Fort Ann 0, 36. Waterford 0.
99: Garon LeClair (Corinth) tech. fall Bryan Kern (Maple Hill), 6:00 (17-1).
106: Luis Weierbach (Hoosick Falls) pinned Nico Riccio (Galway), 1:55
113: Matt Morris (Albany Academy) tech. fall Nolan Foster (Hoosick Falls), 2:47 (15-0)
120: Al Aubin (Whitehall) dec. Carter Merecki (Salem), 2-1 ( 2OT)
126: Dan VanDyk (Salem) dec. Anthony Mosca (Watervliet), 7-4
132: Ryan Matuszak (Corinth) pinned Sam DeLarge (Albany Academy), 1:57
138: Sean Romanski (Albany Academy) dec. John Diekel (Whitehall), 5-0
145: Kyle Mulcahy (Corinth) dec. Taishon Graham (Lansingburgh), 9-5
152: Connor Lawrence (Duanesburg) dec. Bryan Sherman (Hoosick Falls), 8-7
160: Nick Gallo (Schalmont) def. Sheldon Allen (Green Tech), injury default
170: Geno Brancati (Hudson Falls) dec. Mike Green (Cobleskill-Richmondville), 2-1
182: Brad Burns (Hoosick Falls) def. Tyler Morris (Salem), injury default
195: Jeff Senecal (Duanesburg) def. Andre Maxam (Glens Falls), disqualification
220: Joe Nellis (Johnstown) pinned Marcus Ramundo (Schalmont), 1:10
285: Alex Soutiere (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk) dec. William Baker (Taconic Hills), 11-7
99: Devin Van Vlack (Duanesburg) pinned Alex Lambert (Schalmont), 2:39
106: Austin Rich (Whitehall) dec. Shane Barberis (Duanesburg),9-0
113: Cassidy White (Corinth) dec. Brandon Merchant (Cobleskill-Richmondville), 6-2
120: Dan Jardine (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George) pinned Kyler Harrington (Hudson Falls), 2:27
126: Jake Anderson (Schuylerville) dec. Tyler Mulcahy (Corinth), 8-6 (OT)
132: Colby Davendonis (Hoosick Falls) dec Austin Lown (Duanesburg), 8-3 (OT)
138: Freddy Pechette (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk) dec. Jason Hoffman (Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George), 7-4
145: Andy Mollevik (Duanesburg) dec. Steven Culbert (Galway), 3-0
152: Anthony Paturso (Schalmont) dec. Garrett Hayes (Glens Falls), 10-0
160: Brad Perry (Granville) dec. Luke Misuraca (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk), 6-3
170: Frank Capone (Watervliet) pinned George Pooters (Cairo-Durham), 2:38
182: Tim Flower (Schalmont) dec. Brandon Boomhower (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk), 3-0
195: Santino Sierra (Rensselaer) dec. Sean Hogan (Hudson Falls), 10-8
220: Harrison Proctor (Schuylerville) pinned Zach Perras (Mechanicville), 2:30
285: Raekwon Ward (Lansingburgh) pinned Eric Moyer (Fonda-Fultonville), 1:55.