Thursday February 27, 2014 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
STATE CONTENDER — Frontier senior Rocco Russo takes his fourth and final shot at a state title this weekend. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Two wrestlers are going back to states with something to prove, while another will make his state debut.
Seniors Rocco Russo of Frontier and Alex Smythe of Eden get their final turns at the state-wide tournament, on Feb. 28-March 1 at the Times Union Center in Albany. Russo has qualified for a fourth time and Smythe for a third. The two University at Buffalo-bound wrestlers are bonafide contenders to win state championships and both said earlier in the season that they made that goal their priority this winter.
Russo has never finished better than sixth place at states, which he did as a freshman. Joe Russo, his coach and uncle, is excited about this opportunity. Russo won a fourth sectional title, in Division I at 138 pounds, on Feb. 14 at Niagara County Community College.
“We’re at the point where we want to win at the state level,” Joe Russo said. “He know what it’s like now. You have to go out there and compete at a high level. Every wrestler there is capable of winning.”
Smythe took third at states last season. He won his second straight sectional title, doing so at Division II 160 pounds, on Feb. 15 at NCCC. Eden head coach Tom Page said Smythe is a focused individual who is 100 percent committed to the task at hand. He also got a boost, being named the top seed at 160.
“He’s hopeful but he also knows he has to prove himself one match at a time,” said Page of Smythe, who’s done some training on his own, in Clarence and Warsaw, to spar against some the top competition locally. “We have a gameplan and he’s excited for the opportunity.”
Lake Shore will send first-timer Luke Catalano, who won a sectional title at 285 pounds, with a 2-1 win in the Division I final. Catalano, who’s been working on his defense, scored just enough offense in the win.
The senior bounced back from a disappointing Section VI Division I tournament last season, after finishing second as a sophomore. He’s been working in the offseason since his freshman year, so Lake Shore head coach Bill Sills was glad to see that work pay off.
“We realized that he can’t always shoot his shot that he likes to do, so we’ve been working on outside singles and defending, and he’s looking for control of his opponent,” Sills noted.