Honesdale will be well-represented at this weekend's Northeast Regionals. Four Hornet wrestlers advanced to the tournament after winning medals at the District Two level.
Honesdale’s varsity wrestling program has certainly come a long way in a very short time.
Current Hornets’ Coach Ryan Chulada took the reins just three years ago when health issues forced his Dad to retire. Ryan’s rookie season living in the immense shadow of PIAA Hall of Famer Rich “Chooch” Chulada was a learning experience to say the least. Honesdale’s starting line-up was peppered with underclassmen and the Red & Black took their lumps.
After a winless Lackawanna League campaign, the Hornets struggled at the District Two tournament and failed to advance a single wrestler to regionals. Now, two seasons later, Maple City fans are basking in the warmth of a wrestling renaissance.
This year, the Hornets went 5-2 in Division One and came within one bout of knocking off undefeated Abington Heights.
Honesdale capped its remarkable season with to a Top 10 finish at the 2008 District Two meet. Four Hornets (Ryan Smith, Peter Mesko, Bob Kinsman and Luis Rivero) visited the medals stand this past weekend at Hazleton Area and all four will be moving on to Northeast Regionals.
“On the whole this has been an outstanding season,” Coach Chulada told TWI Sports. “When Coach (Joe) Arnone and the rest of our staff sat down and talked about it, we were pretty pleased. Obviously we would have liked to take a couple more wrestlers to regionals. But, overall, we’re very happy.”
Coach Chulada has a right to smile. After two seasons of re-tooling the program from top-to-bottom, Honesdale is starting to attract attention all over the region. In fact, at the conclusion of this weekend’s tournament, Hornet coaches were honored as the top Class AAA staff in all of District Two.
This annual award is voted on and presented by local referees.
“We were really surprised,” said Coach Chulada. “It’s quite an honor and we were humbled to accept it. To be singled out for an award like this is awesome. I think the program is moving in the right direction at every level.”
Ryan Chulada and Joe Arnone will be matside this weekend at Northeast Regionals. This year’s edition of the event is being hosted by Bethlehem Freedom High School. The tournament gets underway Friday afternoon and concludes Saturday night.
Ryan Smith is one of the most exciting young wrestlers to burst onto the local scholastic scene in many years. Simply put: if this freshman phenom avoids injuries and keeps on his current pace, he’ll end his varsity career among the best Honesdale has even produced.
Smith started sluggishly early in the year, but caught fire over the course of the final month. In fact, Ryan won 15 of his final 16 bouts heading into districts and closed out his regular season with a 22-11 record.
This weekend, Smith began his quest for a Class AAA medal at 103 lbs. with a dominating 12-5 win over Paupack’s Xavier Rake. Ryan then dropped a 5-0 decision to eventual runner-up Ray Yagloski of Tunkhannock. That loss sent Smith to the losers’ bracket, but he didn’t exactly mope about it.
Smith catapulted himself into the bronze medal bout with a third period pin of Hazleton Area’s Cody Pehala (4:20). Ryan squared off against an old nemesis in his final bout of the tournament: West Scranton’s Sean Jakes.
These two youngsters had already met twice in the regular season with Jakes winning both bouts. However, Smith had been closing the gap all year and Coach Chualda was thrilled with his performance in the consolation final.
“Ryan Smith wrestled a great tournament,” he said. “Jakes handled him pretty well the first time they met, but Ryan’s been getting closer and closer. I’m super excited to see what he can do at regionals. Ryan is going to accomplish some great things for us in the future.”
Jakes slugged his way to a 6-4 decision over Smith, but Ryan took fourth place and earned a trip to regionals.
Another wrestler to whom the Hornets will look for leadership next year is Peter Mesko. A talented junior who paid his dues with back-to-back losing seasons, Peter broke out this winter with a 20-win campaign.
Mesko earned a #3 seed at 152 pounds and quickly opened eyes with a smooth trip to the final. After a first round bye, Peter pinned Coughlin’s Mike Zluchowski in he third period (5:20). He then fought his way to an 8-5 decision over Paupack’s Catlyn Miller, earning a spot in the final opposite Robbie Robinson of Pittston Area.
The Patriots’ #1 seed rolled into the gold medal bout with an undefeated record (33-0). Mesko fought him gallantly, but eventually surrendered a second period fall (2:42).
“Pete Mesko is our first District Two finalist since Joe and I took over the team,” said Coach Chulada. “We really weren’t expecting Pete to beat Robinson. That would have been a bit of a Herculean task. But, we did want him to go out there, give it his best shot and learn from the experience. Pete’s worked very hard and we wanted him to enjoy the moment.”
Bobby Kinsman also turned in an outstanding performance at districts. The Hornet senior overcame a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss and battled all the way back to earn a spot in the third place bout.
Kinsman kicked off his quest for a spot on the podium with a bye, then dropped a 3-1 overtime decision to Scranton’s Steve Teaman. That defeat sent Bobby down to the losers’ bracket and began an impressive run through wrestlebacks.
In the second round of consolations, Kinsman pinned Coughlin’s Chris Schall in just :26. He followed that up with a grueling 4-3 decision over Dan Dellavechia of Delaware Valley. That win set up a semifinal encounter with Tunkhannock’s John Benko...a bout Kinsman won via fall at the 3:27 mark.
The consolation final brought with it a re-match with Scranton’s Teaman and yet another razor-thin defeat. Kinsman once again wrestled well, but came out on the short end of a 5-4 final.
“I can’t say enough good things about Bob Kinsman,” said Coach Chulada. “He was down four points to that kid from Tunkhannock and still found a way to come back and pin him. Bob doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but when the referee slapped the mat that time, he jumped up and pumped his fist. Coach Arnone and I were so happy for him. He’s a great kid.”
Luis Rivero punched his ticket to Northeast Regionals with a stellar performance in the 189-pound bracket. A senior who entered the fray with a 20-11 record, Luis bounced back from a thrashing in the semifinals to capture third place.
Rivero’s road to the dais began with a second period pin of Paupack’s Taylor Newcomer (2:19). Luis then ran in to the eventual champ, DV’s Joe Kennedy, and absorbed a 17-2 technical fall. However, he rebounded quickly with a huge win in the consolation semis.
A multi-sport athlete who also excels on the football field, Rivero pounded out a 6-3 decision over Tunkhannock’s Colton Rosario to earn a place in the bronze medal bout. There, Luis took care of business once again, this time rolling to a 9-3 decision over Jason Laboranti of Pittston Area.
“Luis is the most athletic kid on our entire team,” said Coach Chulada. “He does things on the mat that just make us shake our heads. He’s a very capable wrestler with a ton of potential. I hope this whole experience makes him hungry for next year.”
Three of Honesdale’s senior wrestlers came tantalizingly close to a spot in the field at Northeast Regionals, but fell just short in the end. Randy Donovan, Vinny Sapienza and Mike Savastano each ended his senior season at districts.
Donovan lost a pair of heartbreakers on his way to a sixth place finish at 215. Randy dropped a 2-0 decision to Hazleton Area’s Brendan Boyle in the quarterfinals, then suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of DV’s Ben Webb in the consolation semis.
Sapienza also took two razor-thin losses on the chin. Vinny opened with an impressive 13-1 major over Matt Ritz of Crestwood. However, he then suffered a 3-2 loss to Tunkhannock’s Jason Kalmanowicz and a 3-1 setback to Tim Samec of Hazleton.
Vinny ended his senior season with an overall record of 23-13 and a sixth place finish at 125.
The recipe was the same for Savastano at 130. A senior co-captain, Mike opened with an impressive 15-0 tech fall of Scranton’s Vince Hein. He then dropped an 8-6 decision to Hazleton’s Rich Biesadesky.
Savastano bounced back with a pair of wins over Tunkhannock’s Tony Migliori (11-0) and Jordan Saneholtz of Valley West (7-1) However, Mike’s winning streak came to an abrupt end with consecutive losses to Coughlin’s Mike Smith (11-3) and Chris Benson of Crestwood (fall, 4:28).
“Those are three kids we’re definitely going to miss,” said Coach Chulada. “Each one of them has played a huge role in whatever success we’ve had here in the past three years.”
Jake Arnone came up short in his bid for a first District Two title. Honesdale’s junior co-captain won his quarterfinal bout against DV’s Joe Haber by a score of 4-3, but then absorbed a 10-6 loss at the hands of the eventual champion, Abington’s Vinny Armetta.
Arnone suffered a knee injury in his wrestleback bout against Tunkhannock’s Dustin Faux and hobbled his way to a 10-2 loss. Jake was forced to default in the final round when the knee swelled and stiffened. He finished his season with an outstanding 29-3 overall record, but a disappointing sixth place finish at districts.
“I feel bad for Jake,” Coach Chulada said. “He really wanted that district championship. He came into the tournament ranked 10th in the state, so we all had big expectations. I just hope he can put this behind him and work even harder for next year.”
While no official diagnosis has yet to be made, Hornet officials believe Arnone has suffered a torn MCL and possible a partial tear to the LCL. Jake was slated to have an MRI later this week.