Tornambe, Venables, Berisha Headline Section 1 Grapplers at States

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Brewster, Put Valley, Croton, B/BH/V/W All Repped at States

By Tony Pinciaro

Joe Tornambe grew up on a wrestling mat as his father, John, coached the Yorktown varsity wrestling team and his uncle, Steve, was the Pleasantville assistant and now the Mahopac coach.

Yorktown’s Joe Tornambe placed fifth at 138 pounds at the New York State Wrestling Championships Saturday in Albany. FACEBOOK PHOTO

It was only natural the YORKTOWN student would continue the family tradition established by his father and uncles, Anthony and Steve, who wrestled for Ossining.

Tornambe debuted on varsity as an eighth-grader and concluded his career as one of the finest and most-accomplished wrestlers in program history. Yorktown’s only three-time sectional wrestling champion, Tornambe placed fifth at 138 pounds at the New York State Wrestling Championships. He is also the only Yorktown wrestler to be a two-time place-finisher.

Tornambe finished with a 31-5 record this season and is 151-27 for his career, second only to two-time sectional champion Steven Sabella.

“My wrestling career has been very special,” Tornambe said. “It’s taught me so  much about myself that I never would have known without it. From the devastating losses along to the great wins, it all definitely benefited me as a person and taught me how to deal with adversity.

“It’s been awesome wrestling for Yorktown. Truly, I don’t think many teams hold a bond like we do. I am excited for my college career. I feel being around the college atmosphere will definitely get me a lot better.”

Tornambe, like his uncle Steve, will wrestle in college. He will attend Sacred Heart University in September. Even though he will be at Sacred Heart for the next four years Tornambe knows he has tremendous support from his family

“They have all mentored me to be the person I am today,” Tornambe said. “I’ve had and will continue to have endless amounts of support from them. I am beyond thankful for all they have done for me.”

Tornambe was one of seven Examiner-area wrestlers to finish top-eight in the state. CARMEL’s Leo Venables (171 pound) and FOX LANE’s Alexander Berisha (215 pounds) were state finalists. Ian Sutherland of BREWSTER and Vincenzo Mannello of BRIARCLIFF/BYRAM HILLS/VALHALLA/WESTLAKE finished fifth at 190 and 101 pounds, respectively. PUTNAM VALLEY’s Esuar Ordonez was sixth at 131 pounds (Division II), and CROTON’s Henry Martin became the first in program history to place at the states, finishing seventh at 152 pounds (Division II).

Carmel senior Leo Venables placed 2nd in Saturday’s NYSPHSAA wrestling tournament in Albany where the three-time sectional champ cemented his legacy as Carmel’s all-time great. CHRIS BALL PHOTO

Venables, who will attend Life University (Georgia) in September and also play rugby, graduates as Carmel’s only three-time sectional champion and also with 137 career wins; without question Carmel’s all-time great and standard-bearing grappler.

It was quite a year for Croton Coach Joe Bucello who also had a program first with two sectional champions in one year – Mekhi Smithwick and Martin.

Bucello recruited both right from the football team his first year as coach.

“They were both my starting outside linebackers so I got them to come out for wrestling,” Bucello said. “I told them that they could do this. They told me they didn’t want to because they wanted to lift to get stronger for football. I told them they could get stronger through wrestling. I knew they had it in them because they had the talent.”

It worked out perfectly for both as they became drill partners and both benefited.

“They pushed each other so hard in the room from day one they made each other better,” Bucello said. “They made leaps year after year and this is only their third year.”

Smithwick graduates in June, but Martin will return for his senior year. The success the two enjoyed this year has the school excited about wrestling.

“I think this is something and we’re really going to ride this wave,” Bucello said. “My first interest meeting we had three kids and now we have 30 kids. Everyone sees the success and the hard work our wrestlers put in and now the buzz is around the town.”

While waiting for his medals, Martin and Bucello began discussing the 2024-25 season.

“Henry and I had a serious talk, Bucello said. “Our goal this year was to get on the podium. Next year, the goal is to get on top of the podium.”

Fox Lane’s Alexander Berisha placed second at 215 pounds in Saturday’s D-I NYSPHSAA wrestling tournament in Albany. CHRIS BALL PHOTO

Briarcliff/Byram Hills/Valhalla/Westlake coach Joey Grippi is also looking forward to last year with Neil Paulercio, Nick Fortugno and Vincenzo Mannello winning sectional titles and Mannello placing fifth at 101 pounds.

The last seventh-grader in Section 1 to place at the state championships was then-Carmel student P.J. Duke, who won a state title.

“Vincenzo had a great season,” said Grippi of the Westlake Middle School student. “He’s very technically sound, works hard and has confidence in himself. He carries himself with poise and has a good head on his shoulders.

“Finishing fifth in New York is impressive for any age, but as a seventh-grader makes it that much more impressive. He has an extremely bright future and it was great coaching him this season. Looking forward to the next one, already.”

PUTNAM VALLEY senior Ordonez won his second consecutive sectional title and finished his wrestling career with a sixth-place finish at the state championships, becoming the Xth Tiger in history to do so.

“Wrestling for Putnam Valley these past years has been an absolute honor,” Ordonez said. “Being on the Putnam Valley wrestling team has been a truly special experience and something I will most likely never forget about, especially under the best coach I could’ve asked for, Coach Carano.

“I’ve learned so much about not only the sport of wrestling, but also about life. I started on this team with my brother as a veteran and some other amazing wrestlers as role models to teach me. My brother has been pushing me to become a better wrestler since I started the sport. He’s pushed me during practices. He made me do extra workouts and he even pushed me through working hard by himself and showing me what I should strive to be if I wanted to be a winner.”

With 285-pound Section 1 D-II champ Jaden Tesher joining him at states, Putnam Valley has now sent 36 sectional champions and 40 state qualifiers to states, both tops in Section 1 D-1 and D-II history and 10th in NYS. Amazing, considering the program has only fielded a varsity team since 2004.

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