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Russo wins fourth title, Smythe repeats; Catalano also a champ at sectionals

The score may indicate a close match but Rocco Russo was well in control as the Frontier senior won his fourth sectional title in as many seasons.

Russo defeated West Seneca East’s Danny Graham for the third time this season 3 – 1, in the 138-pound Division I championship match on Feb. 14 night at NCCC and was voted most outstanding wrestler for his dominant run through the tournament. He advances to the state championships on Feb. 28 – March 1 at Albany’s Times Union Center for the fourth time.

“Rocco was able to control the tempo, on top and bottom,” his coach and uncle, Joe Russo, said. “He was riding out Danny for most of the time in top position.”

Also that day, Lake Shore’s Luke Catalano, who’s been closing in on a sectional title the past few seasons, got that elusive championship with a 2 – 1 win over Lockport’s Marcelus Hinton at Division I 285 pounds.

Catalano had been working on engineering enough offense in big matches, according to his head coach Bill Sills. Ctalano got just enough Friday to qualify for his first state tournament.

The next day at NCCC, Alex Smythe won his second sectional title and advanced to the state tournament for a third time with a Division II title at 160 pounds. He defeated Maple Grove’s Howie Nolan 13 – 5.

Now, one of the most veteran os Section VI wrestlers going to states, Russo completed his first two goals this season, bypassing 200 wins — he’s got 233, good for fifth all-time in WNY — and winning another sectional title. Now, he’s looking for a state title. His best finish was sixth place in 2011.

“Luck hasn’t been on his side in past years at states, but we’re hoping he can change that this year,” Joe Russo said. “We just need him to stay healthy and be on his ‘A’ game for the tournament.”

As a program, coach Russo couldn’t have been happier with the way his team finished off the season and the manner in which parents supported the team. He was proud that a program-best seven wrestlers advanced to sectionals, where three placed.

Senior Jessie Harrison (37 – 13), who missed last year’s postseason with a knee injury, wrestled back to grab third place at 126, while classmate Joe Aronica took fifth at 138. They both were in the first time wrestling at sectionals.

“For guys who hadn’t been there before to place, that was pretty cool,” coach Russo noted.

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