Ivy League Of Their Own: Poly Prep Takes Crown For Fourth Straight Year

Poly PrepIt has been a week of streaks for Poly Prep Country Day School.  Just eight days removed from claiming their second straight Mayor’s Cup team title, the Blue Devils were back at it on Saturday, making the trek into Tarrytown (Hackley School) in the morning and then exiting a few hours later adorned in gold…Winning nine of the 15 individual weight classes and putting 15 of their 17 total entries onto the podium, the Konstantin Avdeev guided program sent a very strong message in cruising to their fourth consecutive Ivy League crown.   The 93-point margin of victory (201 to the 108 earned by runner-up, Dalton) was the highest posted by the Brooklyn based program during their four-peat…When the streak commenced in 2013, PP won by 28 over Horace Mann (252 to 224); 2014 witnessed the closest call, with Poly hanging on for a 3pt win over Hackley (202-199), and last year fell somewhere in the middle as Gotham City’s top-ranked squad enjoyed almost every second of their 35 point (207 to 172) triumph over Mann…Aside from the obvious rationale, if you put stock in history and tradition, yesterday’s outstanding collective effort takes on even greater significance when you consider that in the last two seasons, the hardware at Ivies has had a way of serving as a catalyst and/or precursor to eventual NYS Private School team glory.

Ascending to the top of the podium yesterday afternoon for the Blue Devils were David Berkovich (106), Dove Bonjean-Alpart (113), John Luke DeStefano (120), Joseph Donohue (126), Andrew Andrade (132), Lenny Merkin (145), Jake Barry (152), Victor Marzano (195), and Stanley Kaminsky (285)...Luke Reich (99), Charles Barry (126), Jeremy Levit (170), and Rich Quan all notched silver, with John Walker (99) and Liam Harvey (138) rounding out the full list of medalists…Among the titlists, only 8th-grader extraordinaire, Bonjean-Alpart and the super sophomore, Marzano (transferred in from St. Joe’s by the Sea following his frosh campaign), were Ivy champs for the first time in their respective careers.

For the second time in as many years, it was Berkovich getting his team on the board first, punching in and punching out all within 33 seconds to earn the fall in his lone bout of the day over Collegiate’s Jack Shire…The one-sided victory by the Elite Wrestling Academy (shout out to Dmitriy Landa, who has had a profound impact on several of the PP studs) would spark a wave of domination as the his teammates went on a murderer’s row run, reeling off finals wins in the next four weight classes to bring their total to five uninterrupted yellow medals…The ability of the student-athletes to feed off of one another is becoming something of a Saturday ritual as last weekend, it was Bonjean-Alpart’s MC victory at 113 that begot DeStefano and Donohue’s crowns at 120 and 126.

Speaking of Bonjean-Alpart, he continued to look every bit the part of Gotham’s next can’t miss prospect, compiling a 2-0 record with both wins coming by way of the stick..Seeded first at 113 pounds, the “baby boy” of Jennifer Bonjean and Ken Alpart was not playing around in his opening round match, pinning fourth-seeded Jimmy Jones of host, Hackley, at the 42 seconds mark of the first period…Bonjean-Alpart’s finals match lasted longer, but not much else changed as the youth phenom took a huge step in guaranteeing himself the top seed in the state tournament when he earned the fall over 2015 Ivy League runner-up/2015 NYS Private School silver medalist, Willie Swett, of Dalton, in 2:42…Just like we predicted five Mayor’s Cup golds a week ago, we now are going out on that not so thin ice in saying that we see Bonjean-Alpart finishing his scholastic career having never tasted defeat at this event.

After pinning his way to three straight Ivy golds, DeStefano actually had to go the distance this weekend in order to tack on #4, as he received a challenge, but prevailed yet again, winning a 10-4 decision in the finals over 2014 Ivy 2nd/2014 NYS Prep 3rd, Gabe Welch of Hackley…Prior to the “w” over Welch, the Staten Island native was his regular “bonus machine” self, pinning Collegiate’s Harry Sultan in 43 seconds before following it up with 61 second fall in the semifinals against Jaime Berg (Horace Mann)…By virtue of going 3-0 yesterday, “Lukie” improves his career tally at this tournament to 8-0 with seven pins…Next week, DeStefano will be a heavy favorite to pick up a matching fourth state title to go along with all of his Ivy trophies.

Donohue made it two titles in two tries, as he pinned his way through the 126-pound bracket in 2016 after accomplishing the same feat last season at 120 pounds…The defending NYS Prep School champ started the day with a 1:17 pin versus Hackley’s Jack Kneisley.  There was no letdown in his final two contests of the tournament as Donohue posted identical 2:40 falls over  Richard Hausman (Horace Mann) in the semis and then against his fellow PP competitor, Barry, in the money match…While it was not the color medal he wanted, Barry’s silver on Saturday surpasses the bronze he won in 2015 at 106 pounds…Only a freshman, the younger of the two Barry siblings remains on pace to equal his big brother’s total of five All-Ivy distinctions.

No conversation regarding five-time Ivy place-winners would be complete without giving considerable attention to the senior, Andrade…Winning his first title at this event as an 8th grader in 2012 at 99 pounds, the Poly upperclassman endured a little bit of frustration in his freshman and sophomore seasons, settling for 2nd and 4th in 2013 and 2014…However, last year signified something of a resurgence for him as he caps this chapter of his career with back-to-back titles and three overall…In each of his last two brass ring winning efforts, the key to victory seemed go directly through one opponent, Horace Mann’s Ben Kaufman…A three-time Prep State place-winner who has never finished lower than third, Kaufman has lost to Andrade by scores of 5-4 (2015) and 3-1 (yesterday) en route to being a now four-time bridesmaid at the Ivy Championships (all four losses coming to Poly Prep representatives as DeStefano beat him in 2013 and Noah Malamut was the culprit in 2014)…Having already gotten past his rival in the first match of the round-robin bracket, all Andrade needed to do to lock up the title was defeat Trinity’s Peter Richieri, which he accomplished, hearing the slap of the mat with 15 seconds remaining in the 1st period.

After a brief, one-weight pause, Merkin and the elder Barry returned the Blue Devils to their winning ways, going back-t0-back at 145 and 152 pounds to increase the title count to seven.

Similar to DeStefano, Merkin too saw his streak of consecutive falls snapped (nine in a row from 2013-2015), as he had to make do with a 13-0 major decision (versus now three-time Ivy top-4 finisher, Mason Roth, of Horace Mann) in the semifinals…No worries though, Merkin’s “slump” was short-lived, as he clinched his fourth Ivy gold with a second period pin (3:25) over Hackley’s three-time Prep State medalist/2014 Ivy League Champion, George Germankos, in a battle of decorated seniors…Germankos’s resume at this event now reads: 2nd, 1st, 4th, 2nd, which is nothing to hang his head about.

As noted above, Merkin’s fellow returning National Prep All-American teammate, [Jake] Barry, closed out the Ivy Championship portion of his career with a fourth consecutive title and his fifth overall (finished 3rd as an 8th grader) trip to the podium…In alignment with his training partners, Barry himself is no stranger to putting “+2+ on the board in tournament competition, as he earned falls in eight of his nine wins on behalf of Poly (had one pin when representing Riverdale in 2012)…Going 2-0 yesterday, the future scholar at Stanford University opened up his weekend with a fall in 2:35 over Tyler Meyer (Hackley).  For his encore, the reigning NYS Private School champ turned up the intensity, nearly cutting his work time in half by securing the pin 1:25 into the finals against 2014 Ivy 4th place finisher, JD Wieland of Trinity.

Marzano, the 2015 NYC Catholic League runner-up/2015 CHSAA State bronze medalist, made sure his first taste of the Ivy Championships was a sweet one, compiling a 2-0 record, with wins over Hackley’s Sam Goldberg (Fall 2:36) and a 10-3 decision against 2013 3rd place finisher, Jack Willey (Trinity).

Kaminsky had the most leisurely day of the pack, needing only to step on the mat to be awarded the title.  A man without a challenger, for the second straight year, the Poly wrestler found himself as the lone entry at 285 pounds.    Last season, coming in fresh yielded a state title.  The Blue Devil faithful are hopeful that there will be some deja vu in the air.

While it may have been the names above who collectively stole the show, two additional wrestlers also went on to claim at least their second Ivy League gold, as Horace Mann’s Matt Bock and  Elijah Ngbokoli were the last men standing at 138 and 170 pounds respectively.

A champion in 2013 (beating Andrade in the finals), the senior from HM [Bock] returned to the Titletown this weekend after being stuck in Runner-up Blvd. during his sophomore and junior seasons…Seeded 1st in his bracket this weekend, the 2015 National Prep qualifier/three-time State place-winner (2nd, 5th, 3rd), the four-time Ivy finalist/2x titlist kicked off his final league tournament by pinning 2015 Ivy runner-up/State 4th, Peter Donohue of Trinity in 1:17 to punch his ticket to the finals…In the championship bout, he bested 2015 Ivy 4th/Prep state 5th, Benji Ho (Collegiate), getting the pin + win with 18 tickets remaining in the middle stanza.

Ngbokoli is another wrestle with no knowledge of the consolation bracket, as he seized his third crown in a row after winning silver as a freshman in 2013…A darn-near carbon copy of his 2015 semifinal victory, the two-time defending NYS Private gold medalist pinned Dalton’s Max Gardner (4th at Ivies/6th at states last year) in 49 seconds yesterday after doing the deed in 48 ticks last season’s championship round of 4…In the finals, Ngbokoli closed the show in impressive fashion, pinning Levitt 33 seconds into the final period…With Levit expected to be among the most serious of hunters next week, the margin of victory has to add to the confidence felt by Hornet senior.

Dalton, which joined Poly Prep as the only two schools to crown multiple champs, accounted for the four remaining gold medals, as Jake Intrater (99),  Casey Schneider (160), Faulkner Wilson (182), and Tareq Saghie (220) all ascended to the top of the totem poll in their weight classes.

Competing in the lightest weight class, Intrater showed himself to be something of a Devil slayer, knocking off both Reich and Walker in round-robin pool play to be the only person to post a perfect (2-0) record…Facing off in the first round, Intrater ran a tight half to pick and keep Reich on his back to earn the fall (1:28) in the quasi title bout…After Reich defeated his teammate [Walker] 6-1 in the next round, Intrater knew that all that stood in his way would be a “w” over Walker.  The opportunity was not squandered as he earned a 15-6 major decision.

Gone in an instance would be two years of heartache for Schneider, who recorded a pin and a major decision in his two bouts to erase the memories of losing in the blood round in both 2014 and 2015…Needing less than 1:00 (0:52) to put his semifinal match versus Matthew Dioguardi (Hackley) in the books, the 2015 NYS Private School top-6 placer failed to get a pin, but did just about everything else, racking points to the tune of a 19-6 victory over another Hornet wrestler, second-seeded Spyridon Coffinas…Taking absolutely nothing away from Schneider, but it ought be noted that the likely odds-on favorite to win this weight class, Poly junior, Vito Smolyak (two-time Ivy silver medalist/two-time state top-3 placer), who was held out of competition this weekend so that he could get back to being 100 percent healthy for the homestretch.  The 2015 State runner-up/USAW Cadet Greco-Roman All-American was fully prepared and able to go if necessary on Saturday.  Therefore, his absence should not be a cause for concern.

A wrestler who has improved his lot in this tournament in each of the past three years, Wilson went from losing in the blood round in 2013 to finishing 3rd as a sophomore, and then securing runner-up honors in 2015…Avenging his 2015 Ivy finals loss (to Horace Mann’s Cavan Klinsky) in last year’s  state finals, now that he is the “one to beat”, Wilson must remain completely focused if he intends to repeat as a Private School titlist…Having pinned a pair of former/returning Ivy 4th place finishers (Collegiate’s Drew Lewis; 4th last season at 170, and HM’s Ander Legaspi; 4th in 2014 at 160) yesterday in times of 3:16 and 1:52, Wilson will have the benefit of heading into the State tournament with momentum.

At 220 pounds,  Saghie made it two weekends in a row with a victory over Quan.  The only two competitors entered in the bracket on Saturday, this 2016 Mayor’s Cup finals rematch was eerily identical to the first go-around.  Like the MC title bout in late-January, it was the Blue Devil, Quan, allowing his flare for the dramatic to cost him, as his headlock attempt would get rolled through, resulting in Saghie ending up in the top position where he held firm, maintaining the dominant position until the slap of the mat came at with 23 seconds left in regulation…Having swept both ends of the rivalry, should these two meet again for a third consecutive Saturday, the smart money has to be put on the Dalton representative…Quan’s silver medal yesterday was the second of his career, as he has now finished 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd in his sophomore through senior campaigns…Saghie has an equally impressive resume at Ivies, finishing 4th, 3rd, 3rd, and now 1st…With Poly Prep believed to be set up to challenge the records for most finalists and most champions in a single season at the Private School State tournament, should Saghie get his arm raised a third time this season, it could be the ultimate spoiler to the Blue Devils’ lofty objective.