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Frontier wrestling reaching new heights, Russo gets 200th win

The Frontier wrestling team is winning more matches, placing higher at tournaments and taking on more competitions than the program has done in many years.

After taking fifth among a competitive 16-team field in Dunkirk over the holiday break, the Falcons had three top eight finishers and many other solid showings at the Niagara Frontier Officials Association Tournament on Jan. 3-4 at NCCC.

In fact, Frontier head coach Joe Russo noted it has been a number of seasons since Frontier even took an entire team to the NFOA event, which is regarded as Western New York’s top in-season competition, featuring teams also from Rochester and Pennsylvania.

“As a team, I’m very happy – a majority of our guys won at least a few matches,” said Russo, who was disappointed that some teams couldn’t make the tournament due to the weather and school cancellations. “I also can’t tell you how many guys lost in very close matches. It’s a stepping stone. They’re getting quality time on the mat and holding their heads high.”

Rocco Russo, who won his 200th career match at the Dunkirk Tournament, was Frontier’s lone champion, winning the 138-pound weight class. The three-time sectional qualifier defeated fellow 2013 state-qualifier Danny Graham of West Seneca East, 3-2, in the final.

The weight class included three state qualifiers and a total of six wrestlers that placed last season between Section VI and V. The University at Buffalo-bound Russo now has 211 career wins against only 29 losses. His uncle and head coach believes he could finish in the Top 5 all-time in WNY in wins before it’s all said and done.

Also at the competition, Adam Gibson, who just returned recently from an injury, took sixth at 285 pounds and senior Seth Jones was eighth at 152. Coach Russo also noted that Joe Aronica (145), Kyle Genovese (120) and Connor Miller (99) enjoyed solid performances.

At Dunkirk, after the first day of the competition, Frontier at 4-1, made it to the championship round. Among the highlights were the Falcons defeating Kenmore West 42-37 and getting within 40-26 of WNY power Lew-Port, which beat Frontier 66-12 at the Southtowns Duals at St. Francis in early December.

“That’s probably the best Frontier has done as a team in years,” said Russo, despite a 1-4 record the second day. “Some of the best schools around were there. It’s a tough sport, as is, it’s important that they know they’re getting better every day .We’re starting to see some results.

In addition to Russo going unbeaten, Gibson went 7-3 in his first tournament of the season. Genovese, a co-captain who missed some time with a neck injury last year, was 13-6 this season after the tournament, and Jessie Harrison is 14-5 after also suffering from an injury in 2012-13.

Aaron Valachos has contributed in his first varsity season and Andrew Heppner and Paul Hendra have added solid experience, their coach noted. In the three lightest weight classes, eighth graders Mike Ventresca and Miller and ninth grader Jake Dickey have combined for more than 35 wins. And Frontier finally has depth from top to bottom in its lineup, noted coach Russo.
“They’ve been a great addition to the lineup,” he said.

Rocco Russo will be taking part in the Eastern Regional Championships Invitational this weekend at Sullivan County Community College. It will feature some of the top wrestlers from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Russo was also invited last season and finished 2-2. Russo is still in search of a state title.

“This will give him a good test for where he’s at,” coach Russo noted.

Frontier Senior and Alumni Night will be held this season on Friday, Jan. 24 at the high school. The match starts 6 p.m. and alumni are invited to attend and be recognized. Russo asked that alumni show up at 5:30 p.m. and sign in. He was happy with the “great showing” at last year’s match.

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