This Saturday, Cayuga County-area wrestlers will gather to decide who lays claim to the title belts.
Wrestlers from Auburn, Cato-Meridian, Jordan-Elbridge and Port Byron will head to Onondaga Community College for the Section III championships to determine who will be heading to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships at the Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.
Area wrestlers can automatically qualify for the state championships by winning their weight class, while at-large wrestlers will also be considered based on resume.
The lone Division I program in the Cayuga County-area, Auburn has a number of wrestlers in contention for titles.
Luca Pirozzolo is the No. 1 seed in the 132-pound class and will be searching for the first sectional title of his four-year career. Pirozzolo, a sophomore, is 32-4 this season with 16 pins, 165 points for and only 13 points against. He finished as tournament champion at the Phoenix Round Robin, Port Byron Mid-Winter Classic, Cazenovia Invitational and the Section III, Class AA tournament.
Last season, Pirozzolo finished second at the Section III, Division I championships while wrestling at 113 pounds.
Keyshin Cooper is another Maroon to look out for. Seeded No. 2 in the 182-pound division, Cooper went 28-3 this season with eight pins and 16 decisions. Cooper earned tournament wins this year at the Kenneth Haines Memorial, Port Byron Mid-Winter Classic and Cazenovia Invitational. He was also the runner-up at the Bill Andersen Memorial Tournament, Phoenix Round Robin and Section III, Class AA Tournament. Last year, Cooper finished fourth in the 170-pound division in Division I.
Cooper has not faced the top seed, Carthage's Fombo Azah, during his career.
Five other wrestlers from Auburn will take part in the tournament.
Liam McLoughlin (160) and Lucas Hogan (170) are both four seeds in their divisions, Christian Hogan is the No. 5 seed at 99 pounds, Thomas Pilbeam (195) is a second alternate, and Alex Ansteth (145) is a third alternate.
After consecutive years of finishing as the runner-up in his weight class, can Port Byron's Joe Powers break through and win his first sectional title?
As a sophomore wrestling at 120 pounds, Powers fell to Phoenix's Cahal Donovan in the championship bout by a 19-6 major decision, then as a junior returned to the final only to lose a 3-2 decision to Mexico's Dean Shambo. Powers did receive an at-large bid to the state tournament, where he went 2-2.
Now, wrestling at 126 pounds, Powers is the No. 3 seed in his division following a 24-3 season. Ahead of him are Central Valley Academy's Marek Bush and Mexico's Shambo. Powers has not lost to a 126-pounder this year. He lost to Onondaga/Tully's Dylan price twice, once at 138 and again at 132, and then dropped another bout to Otselic Valley 138-pounder Dakota Hackett. This season, Powers won the Port Byron Mid-Winter Classic, the Bradshaw Invitational and the Section III, Class C tournament. He finished second at the Liberty/Patriot League tournament.
Other seeded wrestlers for Port Byron include Tyler Parker (fifth, 145 pounds), Aaron Clark (fifth, 285 pounds), Jack Smith (seventh, 113 pounds), and Mitch Tanner (alternate, 220 pounds).
Hunter White is Cato-Meridian's lone seeded wrestler, ranked fifth in the 126 division. White, a junior, went 31-6 this season and earned tournament victories at the Cazenovia Invitational, Liberty/Patriot League tournament and Section III, Class D tournament. He finished fourth at the Section III, Division II championships last season as a 120-pounder. The Blue Devils will also be represented by Chad Thompson, who is an alternate in the 145-pound division.
Jordan-Elbridge will have six wrestlers in the mix. Landry LaFleur earned the Eagles highest seed with the No. 5 ranking in the 182-pound division. Bryan Tanner was placed eighth in the 99-pound division, while Marion Quigley is in the same position at 145 pounds. Anthony Baron (195), Jared Lawrence (220) and Cole Mullen (152) are all alternates.